A Brief History of the Two Churches

St Andrew's Church, Bere Ferrers

A church has occupied the site on the banks of the River Tavy from time immemorial, the earliest tradition being a Saxon building. A new building was erected after the Conquest. This stood until 1332, when a new church was built on the site by Sit William de Ferrers (the Lord of the Manor). The new church was completed in 1333, consecrated and dedicated to St. Andrew in the same year. An Arch Priest and four priests lived together across the road from the church in an Arch Presbytery connected to the church by an underground passage. Henry VIII brought about an end to that situation! The Rector still has the title Archpriest.

Sir William de Ferrers commenced building the church and in 1258 his son, Reginald, was admitted as the first rector. The church is tall, airy and cruciform, unlike its neighbouring Norman granite churches which were mostly squat and solid with massive towers and without cross aisles.

Somes seventy years later his grandson, also William, extended and completed the church. The following is taken from the Devon Local Studies page: "The church (St. Andrew) is exceptionally interesting. It was rebuilt (except the tower) by Sir William de Ferrers c. 1330-33, who established a collegiate church here for an archpriest and four other priests and a deacon living as a community. The building was altered in the 15th century by the enlargement of the Decorated S. transept into a full aisle with granite arcades. Much excellent 14th century work remains untouched, though some of the Decorated windows were altered in the 17th century (cf. the S. transept). The 14th century glass in the E. window is reputed to be the oldest in Devon except one or two windows in Exeter Cathedral. Among the other notable features of the church are the vigorously carved Norman font (late 12th century, of Hurdwick stone); the 16th century. seats, carved bench-ends, and book-rests; the 17th century fireplace in the N. transept; and the medieval tombs. The canopied tomb with effigies in the chancel is that of Sir William de Ferrers and his wife, the rebuilders of the church. In the N. transept is an earlier Ferrers tomb and (effigy, and also a handsome table tomb which is almost certainly that of the 2nd baron Willoughby de Broke (d. 1522)."

A later addition were the south aisle, porch and Lady Chapel and tower abutting on the west end.

Notable in the church's history is the fact that the artist Charles Alfred Stothard fell to his death from a ladder near the altar in the church while making drawings of the medieval stained glass window in 1821. See the Church Monuments Society page for full details. Mr Stothard is buried in the church graveyard and there is a plaque in his memory in the church.

There is also a memorial in the church to ten New Zealand soldiers who were accidentally killed at Bere Ferrers Station in 1917 during World War One. Full details of the event are at the Devon Heritage page and here.

For a list of the monuments in the church, together with some photos, visit the Church Monument Society website.

Rectors/Archpriests since 1258

1258-1279 Reginald de Ferariis

1279-1282 Walter de Ferariis

1282-1283 John de la Torre

1283-1318 Walter de Ferars

1318 Henry de Newetone

1318-1335 Reginald Pypard

1335-1349 Walter de Goodamewy

1349-1351 John de Boterworthe

1351-? Walter de Aysscheforde

?-1417 Richard Monk

1417 Roger Monk

1417-1449 John Monk

1449-1452 William Chyke

1452-? Walter Hynnecote

?-1500 James Molyneux

1500-1507 Robert Williamson

1507-1533 Owen Watson

1533-1565 William Willoughby

1565-1577 William Wakeleu

1577-1603 Thomas Summaster

1603-1629 Robert Wakeman

1629-1655 John Pyne

1655-1673 John Tyndall

1673-1721 Thomas Hurrell

1721-1743 Tomas Hurrell

1743-1772 John Snow

1772-? William Short

?-1798 Thomas Browne

1798-1844 Henry Charles Hobart

1844-1869 Frederick Shelley

1869-1875 Walter William Brabazou Ponsonby

1875-1913 Frederic Thomas William Wintle

1913-1947 James Sharpe

1947-1956 Richard Graham Crookshank

1956-1963 George Leslie Gayner Helleus

1963-1978 Arthur Josiah Comyus Beddow

1979-1985 John Henry Heath

1985-1991 Allan Wakefield

1992-1996 David James Paskins

1997- Nicholas C. Law

Holy Trinity Church, Bere Alston

The first Church of England Chapel of Ease, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was situated behind what is now The Edgcumbe public house. It was built in the reign of Edward III (1327-77) and the Episcopal Register states ‘19 October 1435 – Licence for Divine Service by suitable priests in the Chapel of Holy Trinity in the parish of Bere Ferrers.’

It was in use during the 18th century but it is not known when it ceased to be used for worship. In 1750 there is mention that it had been used as a chapel but had been turned into an almshouse for the poor, later called the poorhouse in 1790. Later still it was used as a coal store. In the cholera epidemic of 1849 it was used as a hospital. In 1874 some portions of the old chapel were used to restore Maker Church, to form three arches in the south aisle.Later it became a barber’s shop and carpenter’s with a saw pit alongside. It ceased to be used in 1961/2 and was demolished.

The present building was built in 1848 on land given by the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe. It was built as a result of private subscription and dedicated by the Bishop of Exeter on 16th July, 1848, and consecrated on 20th February, 1871 by the Bishop of Exeter, Frederick Temple, later Archbishop of Canterbury and father of the famous William Temple. It is not known why there was such a long wait for the church to be consecrated.

The church of 1848 was different inside to the present one. It had two aisles and the seating was arranged like a Free Church chapel. At the back there was a gallery over the doorway in which the musicians and choir sat; John Langman was choir-master. The font was on the left hand side (it is now on the right); the pulpit was in the same position as now. In the north transept were pews and a vestry (the present one was added later). The south transept was called the Farmers’ Aisle, since the farmers sat there, and it was entered by a door. The door was later blocked up, this being the condition demanded by the donor of the organ. When the organ was built, the gallery was taken down. In front of the pews in the centre of the church was a stove. The communion rail went round three sides of the altar. In 1871 the church and churchyard were consecrated; the churchyard was further extended in 1903.

The east window was given in 1895 by Daniel Ward of Hewton. The window has three lights; that on the left is Christ, the Light of the World, the centre is the Crucifixion and the right hand one is Christ, the Good Shepherd. On the right hand side of the sanctuary there is a window given in memory of Annie Willion, a missionary who died at Zanzibar, aged 26. On the window ledge is a beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary.

In the south transept there is a window with King David playing a harp. This window was given in memory of Thomas Symons, ‘devoted organist of this church 1888-1924’. To the left of this window is the War Memorial to the fallen in World Wars I and II. The wooden ledge beneath the memorial was made by the boys of Bere Alston School.

An altar, altar rails and cross were consecrated in 1936. The previous altar and cross are now in the Lady Chapel at the parish church. There has since been a newer altar installed and the altar from 1936 is now on the right hand side of Holy Trinity Church as you enter. The processional cross came from St James the Great Church, Plymouth, which was blitzed in the last war.