Places of Worship

Places of Worship

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Service Rota for Stokenham, Beesands and Sherford - November

Service Rota for Stokenham, Beesands and Sherford - December

Stokenham Parish Church, St Michael & All Angels

The site of Stokenham church was undoubtedly established by the presence of a holy well, the waters of which were used for baptism. The present church dates from 1431 and is said to be one of the largest in the county. The first church to be established was probably Norman, as indicated by the existing font and by the fact that the church was originally dedicated to St. Humbert the Confessor who died in 1188. It may be seen from the Taxatio of Pope Nicholas, issued in 1291, that the medieval church was under the jurisdiction of the Pope.

From the year 1302 registers provide a list of Vicars holding the living from the Crown, as they do today except for a short period when they were appointed by Bisham Priory. 
In 1342 the Archdeacon inspected the church and reported that "The defects of the vicarage are all is vile, inadequate, lost or in ruins, a barn excepted." Also from the registers we learn that Archbishop Courtney in 1385 visited Woodleigh Deanery on Saturday, 23rd April and Sunday. April 24th in this parish. The Rectorial tithes of Stokenham were given to Anne of Cleves in 1539 for her support after the dissolution of her marriage to Henry VIII.

During the reign of Elizabeth I it was compulsory for everyone to go to church on Sunday or pay a fine of one shilling equivalent to about £10 today! Church Houses were built from the early 16th century to provide a place of rest for people who came to church from a long distance. Here they might stay between services, bringing their own food. Drinks were available and profits from these Houses helped to defray church expenses.

The present church was begun in the late 14th century, soon after the country had recovered from the effects of the Black Death, and was completed in 1421 when the church was rededicated. In the 15th century the interior would have been ablaze with colour, the plastered walls painted with biblical pictures. After the Reformation the rood and its loft were abolished as they were thought to be idolatrous, and churchwardens were instructed to provide a pulpit for the use of the clergy.

In the middle ages the nave was used for civil as well as religious purposes and was the centre of village life. Pews had not yet been installed and here magistrates dispensed justice, folk dancing was not uncommon, and food was often provided. Arms were stored in the church and it is said that bows and arrows were found amongst its roof timbers. Folklore has it that in early times a wedding took place in the church at which the bride was held at sword point.

During the 1920s a dispute arose concerning the validity of an entry said to have been made in the register of weddings in 1673 so as to lay claim to a vast fortune- the inheritance of the Angel estate, one of the wealthiest in London, which had an annual rent roll said to be one million pounds. The Vicar and churchwardens attested that the entry was not seen by them when the register was last inspected and they signed a declaration to this effect. Further more, the vicar contended that the entry had been made with a steel pen, not a quill. Here the matter rests as far as the church registers are concerned.

It was in the church that the meeting of the whole village took place in 1943 to discuss the evacuation of the area in order that that it might become a training ground for U.S. forces. The church, as it stands today, is a fine example of the Perpendicular style of medieval architecture, built on the side of a hill so that its whole length can be seen from below. It is dedicated to St. Michael & All Angels, which was common practice for churches on an elevated position. It was, however, at one time dedicated to St. Barnabas. The area immediately in front of the church, now used as a car park, was originally the village duck pond, which received the overflow from the holy well.

The church is now approached through the gate from the car park. The finely bedded slate stone from which it was built was quarried locally. The tower, a good specimen of the South Devon type, is about 85 feet high. The main entrance to the church was formerly at the west end through the tower. On the south side of the church on the wall of the south transept is a sundial dated 1811 which has the unique distinction of possessing a hexagonal base. Returning to the south porch and upon entering the main church door, observe a cross cut in the stonework of the left-hand door jamb. This could be a votive cross made by someone in the middle ages to remind him, every time he went to church, of a vow taken.

The church has a Mothers Union and a thriving Junior Generation. Services of Worship at the church follow the traditional pattern of Anglican Churches.

For further information please contact:
The Church Secretary: Mrs Lesley Cowley, Tel: 01548 581264
The Reverend: TBC
Church Warden: John Baverstock, Tel: 01548 580041
The Rectory Stokenham Kingsbridge TQ7 2ST
The Parish Office, Tel: 01548 580860

St Andrews Church, Beesands

Information about St. Andrew's church its origin and development is to say the least very sparse and sketchy. What follows has been gleaned from a number of sources, some local people and inside the church itself.

On the site of the present church a reading room was built and paid for by the residents. At some time this reading room became it is thought a 'mission church'. Much later on the 12th August 1951 it was dedicated to St. Andrew (the first disciple and first missionary of Christ) by the Bishop of Exeter. This little church has a seating capacity of 46 people.

The village was and still is, only on a much reduced scale, a fishing village of less than 100 residents. Tourism swells this number during the holiday season four fold. The church is now part of the Benefice of Stokenham and as it now has a very small congregation only one service is held there per month. This is augmented by Taizé Ecumenical Services once every two months.

For further information please contact:
Church Warden: John Baverstock, Tel: 01548 580041
The Parish Office, The Old Exchange, Stokenham, Tel: 01548 580860

South Hams Christian Fellowship

South Hams Christian Fellowship is an independent church made up of christians of all ages and all denominations who meet for worship in Stokenham Parish Hall at 10.30am every Sunday. The church was established over 25 years ago and has links with several other local churches. It has an active Junior Church which can accommodate two age groups, from pre-schoolers to teenagers.

For further information please contact:
Gerry & Lin Matthewman, Tel: 01548 531049
Reg & Fiona Rew, Tel: 01548 581253
David & Lindsey Wibberley, Tel: 01548 561856
http://www.shcfstokenham.com/

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