Zeal Monachorum Online


Mid-Devon is, well, in the middle of the county and doesn't have a coastline; neither does Dartmoor and they're none the worse for it.

Pretty Shobroke Park is a mile or so from Crediton's town centre. The church of the Holy Cross dates from 1150. A Saxon cathedral existed until here until the relocation of the bishopric to Exeter in 1050. At the 1547 dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry v111, the people of the town bought the church for 200. The nearby Boniface centre, dedicated to St. Boniface, opened in 1991. The saint lived from 680 until his martyrdom in 754. He was born in Crediton, as Winfrith, and joined the monastery at Exminster. He died on his missionary travels in Europe, along with his 52 companions.

There is no village of Eggesford, just a scattering of dwellings and a once great manor on a hilltop. The surrounding countryside is lovely and part of the River Taw's Tarka Trail runs through it. The Church of All Saints dates from the C14th, with C19th restoration. It has a fairly benevolent-seeming grotesque; though perhaps the abundant moustache gives a sinister touch.

Towards the end of 1919 the then new Forestry Commission planted its first trees in Eggesford Forest. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 unveiled a commemorative stone there in 1956. Local people who attended the ceremony recall that there was no security and no need for it. Times change, not always for the better.

Bow's Church of St. Bartholomew is curiously distant from the main part of the village and quite difficult to find, but worth it when you do. It's thought to have been built in 1170 by Sir William de Tracey, as penance for his role in the martyrdom of St.Thomas a Beckett. Over the centuries the church was expanded from its original single celled building. It was first dedicated to St. Martin and then changed to St. Bartholomew during the C19th, for reasons unknown. If in the area do admire the lovely altar rails, which cost 5 in 1680 plus 3/- horse transport from Crediton, and wonder at inflation.

Clannaborough is a small hamlet of a dozen or so houses set in pleasant, open countryside. The church of St. Petrock dates from the C16th, though there is evidence of its existence early in the C13th. Evidence is that the site itself was used as a religious meeting place prior to the building of physical churches.

Nymet Rowland is a smallish agricultural village in Mid-Devon. Its Church of St. Bartholomew dates from the C15th. Remains of its C12th predecessor exist and can be seen in the Southern door and in the font. Behind it is the lower part of the oak prop to the Western arch, done as part of some C17th restoration. The population of the village was 76 in 1801 and 67 in 1901; it's grown substantially in recent years. On the church's Northern wall are two "grotesques", even though these two look pleasantly benign. Grotesques are purely decorative. True "gargoyles" fuction as part of the plumbing system. An extensive site featuring church gargoyles can be seen here.

Chawleigh won the Best Kept Village award in 2002. The borough of Chawleigh was on record in 1340. It is part of Mid-Devon. The Church of St. James dates from the C15th, though the site was used for such hundreds of years before. Inside is a list of all rectors since 1277. A fair was held regularly in the village between 1792 and 1822. The Earl of Portsmouth Inn serves an interesting range of local real ales and some national brands. Here is a link to the Inn with its delicious food menus.

This is a view from the churchyard of St. Mary's church in Down St. Mary. There's a lovely open feel to the village, with its green and the attractive church with its tower. Little remains of the original, C12th building. Good views of Devon hills and valleys can be seen if you walk out of the village on the Zeal Monachorum road. Down St. Mary achieved national, indeed international, fame some years ago, when an incomer to the village complained about the church bells. They rang!

Winkleigh was a settlement in Saxon times and in Domesday it was referred to as Wincheleia. Its mid C17th population was c1-thousand. The Church of All Saints dates from the C12th in its earliest part, with most building being of the C14th and C15th. It has an impressive gargoyle, from which you can see a single drop of water emerging from the tube in its mouth. Extensive restoration has taken place since the C19th. The church and its yard are surrounded by thatched properties. The old town square and narrow little streets off, also have old and charming houses and cottages.

This delightful village, which features in the Domesday Book and variously named both Edeslege and Iweslei, has long had royal connections. One of its sometime residents, Sir John de Sully KG (Knight of the Garter) died in 1387 at the age of 106. Stafford Henry Northcote was the first Earl of Iddesleigh. Its busy and atmospheric inn, The Duke of York, does excellent meals.

Local author Barry Downton has written a fascinating booklet, "Iddesleigh: A Parish In Devon". It's both informative and funny, with 30 odd pages and scads of old photographs. Barry covers life in the area from the Stone Age to now, from his own idiosyncratic perspective. The book is sold in the little craft shop opposite The Duke of York. After buying it we were told that the author himself was across the road at that moment. We found him sitting outside the Inn at the table where the Iddesleigh smokers are now forced to gather. One wonders what Sir Winston Churchill would say about that. Some extracts below will give you a flavour of Barry's book. They are quoted with the author's permission.

On the Romans running out of steam after reaching Exeter..."I'm sure they'd have gone raving mad with their road culture, if they'd discovered all that granite in Dartmoor. Next stop would have been Land's End, followed by a four-lane bridge to the Scilly Isles".

On changes in the village's name..."The name of the village recorded in 1086 was Edeslega, and by 1107 it had become Edwislega or Aedweisleghe. (I am strongly of the opinion that Aedweisleghe was the result of several pints of cider, just try saying it and you'll see what I mean.)"

On the feudal system..."The serf on the other hand had a raw deal, he was no more than a slave, and was listed as of no more importance than the Lord's beasts. These serfs and beasts lived and died working solely for the Lord. (Now it's the taxman, so not much change there then.)"

Less that 2 miles from Crediton town centre, the hamlet of Upton Hellions is a delightful little oasis of rural tranquility. Its church of St. Mary stands out on the hillside; the earliest parts date from the C12th. Upton Hellions Barton is a Tudor residence.

The village of Broadnymett was abandoned around 100 years ago, along with its church. The odd cottage is still inhabited; others stand as ruins. There's a working farm, plus a couple of lakes. This is a peaceful and pleasant rural backwater between Bow and North Tawton. It's the proposed site for a wind farm!

The Okehampton planning authority rejected the plans for the wind farm here in the Denbrook Valley. This was appealed by Renewable Energy Systems in a Public Enquiry; a single civil servant termed a Planning Inspector passed the plans. So we can look forward to the sight of migrating birds becoming mincemeat.

The small hamlet of Thelbridge is just a few miles from Witheridge. Its 4000 or so acres is largely rural and agricultural. The attractive church of St. David stands out from a distance. It's surrounded by miles of landscape views, with pretty lanes to wander through.

Bickleigh, near Tiverton, is a village with many thatched cottages, its own primary school and a famous castle. It's a wooded area and nearby is the River Exe. Bickleigh Castle is really a manor house of the C14th, complete with a moat and fortifications. An earlier house was on the site in the C12th.

A small chapel opposite the castle, complete with thatched roof and little stone cross, is said to be the oldest intact building in Devon. It makes a charming picture.

On the other side of the River Exe is the main village, rather spread out. Leaving the castle you cross a stone bridge variously reputed to be of the C14th or C16th; it was rebuilt in the C19th due to flood damage. Walking past the Devon Railway Centre and a clutch of small outlets, there is a sign pointing to Bickleigh's village church.

The Church of St. Mary dates from the C14th, with some C12th internal features. Externally are a number of "grotesques". These two are on either side of the entrance.


St. Boniface church Crediton
Shobroke Park, Crediton


Eggesford church
Eggesford grotesque


Bow church


Clannaborough, a small mid-Devon hamlet
Clannaborough church

nymet rowland

Nymet Rowland church


Chawleigh church
Chawleigh inn

down st. mary

Down St. Mary village green
Down St. Mary
view from Down St. Mary churchyard
tower of Down St. Mary church


Winkleigh church
gargoyle on Winkleigh church


Iddesleigh church
Iddesleigh Duke of York Inn

upton hellions

Upton Hellions, near Crediton
Upton Hellions church, near Crediton
Upton Hellions Barton, near Crediton


Broadnymett church
Broadnymett cottage


Thelbridge church of St. David


The keep at Bickleigh Castle
Bickleigh Castle
Bickleigh Castle
Bickleigh Castle
Chapel opposite Bickleigh Castle
River Exe near Bickleigh Castle
Church of St. Mary at Bickleigh
Ornamental grotesque on Bickleigh village church
Ornamental grotesque on Bickleigh village church
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