History of St. Michael and All Angels Cornwood

The Church is built on the highest point of a low ridge overlooking the original village which, 700-800 years ago, would have consisted of a straggle of cob and thatched cottages, running from the present cross-roads down towards Langham Bridge on the road to Ivybridge, together with some ten outlying farms.

St. Michael and All Angels churchIt seems surprising that the countryside at the head of the valley of the Yealm River supported, in those days, a population who could have afforded to build such a large church. On the other hand the Parish is a large one, extending from the line of the A38 between Ivybridge and Lee Mill in the south to the moor on the skyline in the north. In particular it contained, even then, four great houses and their estates. Three of these were manors mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086 - Cornwood (the present Delamore estate), Blachford and Fardel. The fourth house, Slade, was in existence in the reign of Edward I and was important enough to be shown on its own on the first map of the County of Devon in the late 16th century.

The oldest part of the Church is the squat, slightly tapering tower. The remains of its lancet windows suggest that it dates from the early part of the 13th century. It was probably part of an earlier building whose nave and chancel may have corresponded in size with the present nave. We know that the Church and three altars were rededicated in 1336.

The addition of the final bay of the chancel, the porch, the vestry and, in 1984, a small annex against the north side of the tower, does not alter the basic design of the 14th century church in the Perpendicular style which is characteristic of so many churches in Devon.

Inside the church

The open space at the back of the Church is the Fellowship Area which has been created in the last few years by removing the pine pews which were installed about a hundred years ago. It gives and impression of how the whole Church would have appeared when it was built. The tables, chairs and other woodwork in this area have been made by a local craftsman.

Immediately on the right of the door is the memorial to the men of Cornwood and Lutton who fell in two World Wars. The font stands in front of the ringing chamber of the tower and is separated from it by a wooden screen. The archway above was glazed in 1986 by local craftsmen.

Church naveStanding with your back to the font you can appreciate the proportions of the Church: the slender granite pillars, the absence of the rood screen, the finely carved early Jacobean pulpit and the waggon roof of the nave and aisles with its carved oak bosses. The chancel roof, which is panelled in oak, is Victorian as are the six gilded musical angels. All the stained glass in the windows of the Church was installed in the late 1800's, the original glass having been removed or smashed during the Commonwealth at the same time as the rood screen at the entrance to the chancel was pulled down.

As you go down the north side of the Church you pass a memorial to Captain Benjamin Burell, a captain in Charles I's army, and the more recent memorials to members of the Treby, Hays and Parker families of Delamore. Altogether three houses have been built at various times in the area of Delamore by the Lords of the Manor of Cornwood. The Lordship was successively held in earlier days by the families of Courtney, Cole, Bellmaine, Treby and Praed. The Parkers have held it since 1857.

In the north transept is the altar from the former chapel of the ease in Lutton. A processional cross stands against the wall by the window. There is a memorial over the altar to the Fortescue family of Hanger. On the western side are the panels of the Ten Commandments removed from the sanctuary at its restoration and also an oak chest, made by local craftsmen, for altar hangings.

The organ dates from 1876 and the oak front was given by Miss M. Deare of Blachford when the organ was restored in 1910. Behind it is the doorway, which led to the stairs up to the rood loft, the doorway to which is immediately above.

The most obvious feature of the chancel is the reredos of Derbyshire alabaster and Italian marble, and the arcading round the end of the chancel and the altar rails themselves are in the same materials. This was put in by Lord Blachford in 1867 and replaced the original oak paneling. Shortly after restoration in 1875 the choir stalls were fixed and the old square pews replaced by the present pine ones. The altar replaced an original carved wooden altar. On it stand two large candlesticks and two three-branched ones, all of brass gilt. The cross is of a similar period to the candlesticks. The sanctuary lamps are Italian, probably they were originally censers, and one is dated 1538. The chancel does contain signs of the original layout in the shape of the triple sedelia and piscine of the early 14th century on the right. On the left, by the vestry door, is another of the piscinas of the three altars dedicated in 1336.

On the south wall of the chancel there is a monument consisting of two white alabaster figures in Elizabethan costume, the gentleman kneeling on a cushion at the prayer desk facing a lady kneeling opposite. The inscription describes them as Robert and Dorothy Bellmaine of Dalamore who both died in 1627.

The modern replacement of the third of the original chapels of 1336 is on the south side of the chancel. It is known as the Slade Chapel as it contains memorials to the families associated with the house, especially the Cole family who lived there from the time of Henry IV until the early 17th century. It then passed successively to the Savery, Spurrell, Pode and Martin families, the two latter being commemorated by memorial plaques. The Podes are also commemorated by some tablets on the south wall of the chancel.

Slade chapel altarThe altar in the Slade Chapel is formed by an altar tomb previously against the south wall. It has no name or inscription but is believed to be in memory of Philip Cole who died in 1596. He married Joane, daughter of Thomas Williams of Stowford, Speaker of the House of Commons in the reign of Elizabeth I, to whom there is a memorial in Harford church. His wife married again but desired to be buried in Cornwood Church. Her executors erected a framework of stone on the south wall of the Chapel about the tomb enclosing two kneeling figures in the dress of the time representing Joane and Philip. In the north east corner of the Chapel is a monument in memory of Sir John Savery of Slade who died in 1695, erected by Prudence his wife. Below it is the sculptured and painted figure of a boy lying. The Savery StatueBelow that is a verse in memory of this "matchless childe" who is believed to have been the son of William Savery of Cornwood and to have died in 1715. The Saverys are an old family originating from Totnes.

The south transept has on its east wall a number of tablets commemoration members of the Rogers family of Blachford and along the south aisle are two large memorials to Sir John Rogers who died in 1745 and to Dame Mary Rogers.

Mr. John Rogers was appointed to a position in the Customs House at Plymouth after the accession of William of Orange in 1688. In 1690 he bought Wisdome in Cornwood from John Hele and four years later bought Blachford and South Hele. The Hele family had owned South Hele since the time of Henry II and descendants of this widespread family were at various times Lords of the Manor of Blachford and Fardel. In 1699 John Rogers was created baronet and elected MP for Plymouth. He was the first of ten baronets, seven of whom were MP's, the eighth baronet being created Lord Blachford of Wisdome in 1871. Three years before he had been permanent under-secretary to the Colonial Office but he retired to devote himself to his property and to a long programme of building and restoration in the parish. After his death Blachford passed first to Miss M. Deare and then to the Passy family whose memorials are on the east side of the south transept.

Surprisingly there are no memorials to the families who held the Manor of Fardel. This is because Fardel has its own chapel, part of which dates from the 14th century and possibly earlier. The most famous family associated with this manor was that of Ralegh, it being held in Sir Walter's time by his elder brother Sir Carew Ralegh. It was at various times subsequently held by the familes of Hele, Pearse and Pode.

As you pass out through the porch you will see that it was restored in 1908 in memory of a former vicar. Over the door on the outside is a sundial with an inscription below.

It is worth walking first to the right to look at the tower which is now rendered on the outside. It is short in proportion to the rest of the building and lacks the pinnacles at the corners which characterise other Perpendicular churches such as those at neighbouring Harford and Shaugh Prior. Return to the lych-gate, given by Lord Blachford. In the graveyard running to the south are the older graves near to the Church and in the middle the railed enclosures of the Parker and Marin families. The land for the enlarged graveyard was given by the Parkers. In the outer wall of the south aisle is a 17th century memorial which includes a skull and crossbones, typical of that period.

By the lych-gate is a fine 17th century chest tomb in granite. It commemorates John Mason of Langum (Langham) who died in 1639. A similar tomb, about 25 yards to the south west, is in memory of Rich, the daughter of Mr. William Cholwich, who died in 1655. The path to the left from the lych-gate leads round the back of the church where there are some of the oldest graves, particularly the enclosed burial place of the Rogers family and the raised tomb of Admiral Trefusis. Forming the boundary of the churchyard to the north is the Church House, which was a Dame school before the building of the present school in the village in 1859.

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In 1783 the cost of repairing Cornwood Church was 15s. 4d. according to a Return. It now cost several thousands of pounds a year even to maintain the Church for the use of parishioners and visitors.

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Notes from the history of the church

1257
The Diocesan registers begin on this date and show John de Langford as rector. There are no records of his institution or of the previous rectors.
1336
The restored and enlarged Church was re-dedicated by Bishop Grandisson on 19th June.
1422
Bishop Lacy gave a license to Elizabeth Raleghe for her recently restored Chapel at Fardel
1432
The Rectorial tythes of the Parish were appropriated to the Cathedral Choir and the living henceforth became a Vicarage.
1576
The date of the hallmark on a chalice and paten by Jons of Exeter which are still in regular use.
1639
The date of the hallmark on another chalice, paten and flagon of Puritan style by Buckle of London given by Joane Williams of Stowford in Harford parish, daught of Thomas Williams, Speaker of the House of Commons, in memory of her first husband Philip Cole.
circa 1640
Henry Smith, who had been instituted shortly before the rebellion against Charles I "was treated in a most Barbarous and Inhuman manner… his House was also Plundered by a Party of Soldiers form the Garrison of Plymouth, who did not so much as leave him a Dish or a Spoon. At the same time they Plundered him of his books also… himself, his Wife and five or six Children were all turned out of Doors and subsited for some time by the Charity of the Neighbouring Gentry (his estate was sequestrated)… He was… sent to a Common Jayl in Exeter, where he died soon after the Martyrdon of his Prince…" Walter Shute was later intruded on the vicarage. He is said to have preached a blasphemous sermon, in which he derided Kings and Princes, on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Charles I. However he conformed at the Restoration and was allowed to continue in the living, being properly instituted on 8th November 1662. He it was who allowed the Church to be abused, the rood loft to be pulled down and the painted and stained windows to be broken.
1685
The earliest register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials begins
1695
The date of the hallmark of an alms dish by Chadwick of London given by John Rogers of Wisdome.
1700
The Rooke Charity was formed.
1734
Waltham Savery of Slade was convicted of "chiding and brawling in the Church and Churchyard" and was forbidden to enter until he asked pardon of Sir John Rogers publicly in the Church.
1770
Five bells cast by Pennington and Co. were hung.
1811
The Yonge Charity was formed.
1875
The Church was re-opened after restoration.
1882
A church was consecrated at Ivy Bridge and an Ecclesiastical District was severed from Cornwood.
1885
A sixth bell was hung.
1913
The Glebe House was sold and the vicarage built.
1952
Electricity was installed in the Church.

Much of the detailed information above is based on "Cornwood Notes" published privately in 1918.
The Parochial Church Council is indebted to:
Freddie Woodward for Compilation


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