Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Churches of Exmoor #3

By comparison to the earlier road to Stogumber, the road to Monksilver was broad and wide - and even had a dotted centre line marked in places! As a consequence Monksilver itself is littered with 30mph and Camera signs, which is a bit of a surprise and it must be difficult to do 30 on the bendy road which has regular lorries which force you in towards the bank and make you grit your teeth for the scraping of paintwork.......... well when the car is five days old it does!

is a Jekyll & Hyde church, from the churchyard gate (NE) this appears to be a small plain church which snuggles into the hillside behind with the ground dropping away to the east, and evidence of age is provided by a Norman window in the chancel north wall. Round the corner via the path and the south front is completely different (and completely hidden as you approach), an exuberant C15 Perp work with pierced battlements and large windows, the one west of the rood stair turret (which also has battlements) turned into square headed by traceried spandrels, and the porch a seemless continuation of the aisle at its west end. Inside much of interest, but Pevsner does not mention let at all explain the odd chancel arch within chancel arch. Lovely roofs, a simple wagon roof to the nave and a more ornate panelled ceiling in the aisle. The pulpit screen and bench ends all of the local style, but restored in part. My favourite feature was however the lectern, an oddly shaped eagle (I assume), not on a pedestal but on a swivelly scrolly iron bracket attached to the roodscreen. A closer look reveals that it is also secured by two bicycle locks to the mullions of the screen!

A church very much open and alive, yet it is tucked away on the lawn of the "big house" well away from any other houses. The Court is now a Field Studies Centre, so be prepared to give way to coaches of teenagers on the narrow road to the church - well I did three times, including a long reverse back up the road on leaving.
The church as a consequence is picturesquely situated but of unusual plan, with two transverse (and vaulted) bays off the south aisle. For the area the church is also quite large. The Victorians certainly came here and by them the clerestory for sure. The NE chapel has some old glass with complete figures, I suspect brought here from elsewhere and possibly from abroad. There is a handsome C18 pulpit and some interesting memorials, including the disintegrating effigies of early members of the Raleigh family in the outer bays of the aisle. The other prized posession is a Seven Sacraments font, one of only two outside of East Anglia (the other is in Farningham, Kent). It has been defaced but much of the carving other remains. The folklore explanation for this font being in Somerset is that it was a present to the church by the Duchess of Suffolk, whose grandmother was Lady of the Manor here. It dates from c1465-70 but only the bowl comes from East Anglia, the base is of local Ham Stone.

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