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A Guide - Compiled 1981
The parish church of Rodrnarton, dedicated to St. Peter stands sentinel over the village as a powerful symbol of the continuity of the Christian faith. In general terms it is a Norman church: but no one now really knows how old it is. Throughout the church there is interlocking of ancient, not so ancient and modern stonework, being the result of restoration over the centuries.
It is magnificent to think how it has survived the ravages of time when all around has a brief existence by comparison.
A priest is recorded in 1086, Samuel Lysons (1806-1877) a nephew of the famous antiquary, thought there were traces of a heathen temple on the site of the present church and F. W. Parkinson (Rector 1913-1940) tells us "when the wall of the west end of the church, being in a dangerous state, was opened for repairs in 1926, the remains of a Celtic Cross were discovered with interlacing carving. As it formed the coign of thewall it was impossible to remove it. No doubt this cross had formed part of a Saxon church and had been used for rebuilding in Norman times".
The church is built of rubble and rough ashlar and has a chancel with north and south chapels (the latter being the vestry) a nave and a short North aisle, a transeptal south tower with spire and a south porch. By the end of the C13 the church comprised at least a nave, a N. aisle of 1 bay and a narrow chancel. In the early C14 the chapels, tower, broach spire and porch were added to complete the plan. Completion was probably marked by dedication of the high
altar in 1340. Later medieval alterations were limited to inserting a rood screen, embattling the nave parapets, building a new arch into the S Chapel and adding several new windows in the nave, N aisle, S chapel and chancel. Much of the stonework inside the nave is C20.
On Aug. 2 1884 the church was reopened by the bishop after an important work of restoration and improvement (at a cost of about £500).
There now follows a description of points of interest beginning with the nave.
The nave contains stonework completed in several eras including C20, and there are some particularly old bits round some of the windows.
We are told the old gallery was removed from the west end in themid C19.
It is possible to see the stone doorway blocked up opposite the south door and it is reputed to have Sax on work in it.
In 1877 the plaster was taken off the walls of the nave and the old lancet window on the south side of the nave came to light. Thewindow had formerly been filled with a memorial glass to RichardWyatt, a late C14 Rector. The glass was destroyed in 1636. The companion window on the Northside was completely walled up with solid masonry but its site can easily be seen.
Also when the plaster was stripped we may have lost what may have been a beautiful fresco. At the left side of the north window facing the south door one can just see the red remains.
The flooring and joists in the nave, being rotten through age, were renewed in 1926. When digging out the soil a skeleton was discovered under 3ins. of earth, complete, with the exception of the skull, its right leg was crossed over the left, and it was lying facing S.E. How and when it came there is a mystery. During the same alterations a coffin was found in a brick grave 10 feet deep, immersed in water, the covering stone bearing the inscription RE 1604.
There is a curious gargoyle over the North window.
The font, according to the register, was "introduced into the church in the room of the old unsightly one" in 1859. The "old unsightly one" is now in Tarlton Chapel and is actually a simple but beautiful Normanfont which had no doubt been in use for 700 years at Rodmarton.
The brass lectern was purchased by subscription and was placed in the church in Queen Victoria's Jubilee year as a memorial.
The pulpit is constructed partly of pieces of oak carving found in the church. One part dating from 1554 was formerly part of the church door.
There are still to be seen what appear to be the remains of the abacus of one of the piers of the Norman chancel arch.
There was rebuilding in the chancel and N aisle in 1771 and in 1862 new arches were made into the N. aisle.
Prior to the 1884 opening a chancel screen was erected and the chancel paved with tiles and generally rearranged. At the same time as the plaster was stripped from the nave the remains of the entrance to the rood loft over the pulpit were brought to light. Insertion of a rood screen had been a medieval addition. Hangings for the screen are
still in position.
In 1875 the east window (inserted in 1872) was removed to the N aisle where it was matched by a new window. The new East window with tracery in early C14 style was inserted.
In Queen Victoria's jubilee year Mrs. Lysons senior (who had previously given the altar eloth) presented the Cross, Candlesticks and Vases.
In 1658, 10 years before his death Job Yate, a parson, placed a monument to himself in the chancel part of which reads:
Trust not the world, remember deth,
And often think of hell,
Think often on the great reward
For those that do live well.
Repent, amend, then trust in Christ,
So thou in peace shalt dy,
And rest in bliss and rise with joy,
And raine eternally. .
There is a brass in the chancel to Stephen Collier, who died 1722 having been Rector for 59 years.
Among other brasses is one by the altar rails: A translation of the inscription reads "Here lies John Edwards, formerly lord of the Manor of Rodmarton, and a true patron of the same, a famous apprentice, skilled in law, who died on Jan. 8 1461, on whose soul may God have pity".
On Apr. 8 1860 we know a new harmonium was first used in place of the old barrel organ. In 1877 a new American organ (the gift of Anna Gordon) was placed in the church and the old harmonium taken to theschool. In 1921 the 1877 organ was repaired and in 1934 was replaced by a second hand positive organ. Damp and mice took their toll and with some of the proceeds of a three day Festival (1972) an Allen computer organ was purchased in 1973.
Part of the N transept dates to C13, when there was one bay.
There was rebuilding in 1771 and in 1862 new arches were constructed, thereby opening out the N aisle making it more usable. When the N aisle was reopened it was necessary to cover over several flat tombstones. The inscriptions on these were copied into the old register. Many belonged to the Coxe family.
On the North wall there is a monument to John Barnard of Culkerton (AD 1678) an eminent bonesetter.
The fine old east window is in the north transept, with another window that matches the present east window in the Chancel.
This was at one time called the Coxe chapel and was made intoa vestry about 1877. It has a small priests door with a C14 ogee head.
The church was probably without bells before 1491 when Thomas Whittington devised forty shillings for the construction of a belfry. The tower contains 3 bells - 2 cast in 1626 and the treble in 1716. (Thomas Whittington lived in the Manor and married John Edwards' daughter and heiress Margaret, and was great nephew of Sir Richard (Dick)
In 1924, during excavations of the mortuary, a vault under the vestry was brought to light, the stone slabs covering the entrance to the same being old gravestones with inscriptions. The vault, which was a beautiful example of the mason's art contained 12 lead coffins. 2 plates were decipherable - viz. Charles Coxe 1781 and Rev. T. Shellard 1785. The cloth of a brown texture, which covered the outside shell, was in perfect condition where it had escaped coming into contact with the wet and withstood the strain of a hard pull. The cloth was affixed to the coffins with brass nails about 2ins. apart.
PLATE, REGISTER, ETC.
The plate contains chalice and patten of 1816, silver mounted glass cruet of 1918, and silver alms dish of 1890 (the latter presented by Lord Biddulph after the 1st World War).
There is an old parish register book which was copied by Job Yate (Rector 1628) from an older one. It contains a quaint note at the beginning of the book. "If you would have this book last. bee sure to aire it att the fier or in the sunne three or foure times a yea re els it will grow dankish and rott - therefore look to it. It will not bee amiss alsoe when
you fincle itt dankish to wipe over the leaves with a dry woollen cloath. This place is very much subject to dankishnes - therefore, I say, look to it." (Job Yate 1630). The first entries are for 1605.
PORCH AND DOOR.
The porch is noted for being slightly lopsided and it contains a stoup for holy water and a niche for St. Peter. The fine old door has turned nails, adze marks and a hand wrought knocker.
About 1877 the top of the spire, having been blown down in a gale
had to be rebuilt at considerable expense.
There are 2 mass dials on the outside of the church one on the South west coign, a remarkably well cut specimen of the 13-15C date. The other is on the left side of the porch and has several rays enclosed in a circle which may point to its dating from the Saxon period and that it was taken out of the original church like the Celtic cross.
One wonders how old the cross is on the end of the roof of the nave. The one at the east end of the church is much younger.
The gargoyles are worth looking at and so is the lean of the spire.
The blocked up North door looks older from the outside than from the inside.
Photo © Elaine Kemp