St Petroc's, Lydford - New lighting sytem.

Since the new lighting system has been installed at St. Petroc’s it has given us a much clearer view of all the interior features of the church, particularly the wonderful wood carvings. No longer are they hidden in semi-darkness, but can be admired in all their glory. Details hitherto unnoticed have suddenly become visible, and second and third inspections reveal even more detail. In particular the new up-lighting, insisted on by the diocese, shows the oldest timber in the church to advantage.


From left to right are Christine and Graham Huggins who have cleaned the rood screen, Mary Barkell who has cleaned the carved pew ends and the Rev Adrian Brook Team Vicar at the back.

The nave roof has always been of open barrel or wagon type, but by the mid-nineteenth century was in a sorry state due to the deprivations of damp and insect infestation, but it wasn’t actually renewed until 1890 with new oak timbers. Several of the old ribs and bosses which were still serviceable were re-used. It is interesting to look up and try to discern the old from the new. Original ceiling bosses date from the thirteenth or fourteenth century when they were used to cover the junction of ribs or beams and were decorated with carvings of foliage, faces (often grotesque) or other patterns. None of those at Lydford is likely to be quite that old, although the south aisle was added in the fifteenth century, and they are not particularly ornate, but there is an interesting selection nevertheless. Compare the bosses in the north aisle, built on the 1890’s, with the others. Incidentally it is said that some of the old oak ribs were used to strengthen the roof of a barn in the village. I wonder if they are still in situ?  The chancel roof was originally of lath and plaster, but this was removed and replaced with oak to be in keeping with the rest of the church in 1889.

The steps at the east end of the south aisle indicate that a rood loft once graced the entrance to the chancel. Rood comes from the Saxon word for cross, the loft holding a statue of the crucified Christ flanked by St. Mary and St. John. The priest needed access to the loft to light the accompanying candles. After the Reformation and during the Commonwealth such artefacts were generally destroyed. The present rood screen was designed by the English architect and mystic Frederick Bligh Bond and the work reputedly executed by the Misses Pinwill of Ermington in 1904, although it is likely that as Violet had already set up business in Plymouth by this time some of the work was done by craftsmen under her supervision. The western face is adorned with birds. On the eastern face is a Latin inscription commemorating Daniel Radford’s death in 1900. Incidentally, the doors were made at the same time, but permission to actually hang them did not come until some years later. A rood has never been placed on the present screen, of course, nor is it clear whether it was intended to do so, in all probability not.

The roof bosses and rood screen (before the rood screen had been cleaned and polished by Graham and Christine)!

Box pews were removed from St. Petroc’s in 1875 and were replaced by chairs and prayer desks. It was not until 1923 that the carved oak bench ends and pews began to be installed, the work not being completed until 1926. Each one is unique and contains a central figure surrounded by an intricate border. The central figures represent “the Prophets, Martyrs, the Holy Catholic Church throughout the World and Holy and Humble Men of Heart," the first part quoted from the Te Deum, the second from the Benedicite, neither of the Holy Catholic Church throughout the World and Holy and Humble Men of Heart,” the first part quoted from the Te Deum, the second from the Benedicite, neither of which is often sung these days.

Parson Thorpe, whose brainchild this was, recounts how he was woken up in the early hours of the morning by a terrific thunderstorm and while unable to sleep the words from the Benedicite, “O ye thunder and lightning bless ye the Lord,” inspired him to spend the rest of the night working out the borders, using examples of the local flora and fauna as much as possible. All the figures were carved by the same man, while another did all the borders. Some pews have carved inscriptions, that at the front facing the lectern being in memory of Captain Charles Norman Spooner who was killed in the Holy Land in April 1918. His parents once lived at Raventor.

The carved oak reredos and riddel posts at the east end of the church also date from 1923 and were given in memory of Sarah Sophia Lansdown. She used to live at Moor Lodge and had died the previous year. The posts are topped by angels and her name is inscribed on one of the posts. One of the ten saints on the reredos is St. Petroc, depicted as a monk, with a Bible in one hand and his wolf at his feet.

The altar rails, again carved in oak, date from 1932. The four archangels, Gabriel, Raphael, Michael and Uriel are depicted holding their trumpets in various stages of readiness. Raphael is blowing his trumpet, the word “Come” is shown at the trumpet mouth. Underneath the west face of the top rail is carved that well known quotation from St. Matthew, Chapter 11, verse 28, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

The two priest’s desks and the choir stalls are slightly older and not quite so ornate, but worthy of inspection nevertheless. The stalls were given in 1908 to commemorate two young men, possibly the sons of a former Rector named Fuller. The fronts have linen-fold carving, the ends carved poppy heads.

The essential lights are now sensor-controlled, so why not pop in one day and inspect the wonderful craftsmanship on show. Better still come on a Sunday when all the lights will be turned on. If you lose the thread of the sermon there will still be plenty to keep your eyes and mind occupied! The church is open every day during daylight hours.

The PCC secured grants from the Devon Historic Churches Trust, the Balsdon Trust, the Viscount Amory Fund and All Churches Trust Ltd to help make this improvement possible.


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