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Title

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHURCH IN GEORGEHAM

by

Denise Smith and Brian Harris

Georgham PCC (2007)

For at least eight centuries the people of the Parish of Georgeham have worshipped here, cared for and left their mark upon this building and the tradition continues. Through the years this Church has undergone numerous changes and additions, financed either by patrons, benefactors, legacies or family gifts made in memory of their loved ones.

This document tries to list the work and activities which has taken place here each century from early Norman times. The information has been obtained from various local archive sources and some publications on our parish history.

11th & 12th CENTURIES

The old name for Georgeham was simply Ham, from the Saxon name Hama. Under this name it is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1087, which states that Hama belonged to Tetbald, son of Berner and it was previously held by Etmar in the reign of Edward the Confessor. Parts of the village are still known as Higher Ham and Netherham. Later the village was been known as Ham St George, George Ham and finally Georgeham. There were other manors nearby in Pickwell, Croyde, North Buckland, Putsborough, Hole and Spreacombe. Pickwell Manor has always been the most closely associated with Georgeham. The Domesday Book states that Pediccheswella Manor was held by Ulf at the time of Edward the Confessor, and in 1087 was held by Drogo on behalf of the Bishop Coutances. In 1186 it was held by Reinald. There were no distinct parishes at this time. There may have been an early church on the current church site in Saxon or Norman times but there is no evidence of this. There is a reference to two outdoor palm crosses in Georgeham and in the hamlet of Cross, near Croyde.

13th CENTURY

The founding date of the church is unknown but seems likely that a stone-built church was in existence in the 13th Century. In 1231 Robert de Edington is known to have been persona (parson) de Hamme and church patron. From this time Georgeham was separated as a parish from Braunton. In April 1261 Oliver de Tracy became rector of Ham St George, which is the first evidence of a church building here. There is record of a dispute three months later between this rector and the Prior of St Mary Magdalene Barnstaple over ownership of the Croyde tithes.

The Lord of the Manor in this period was Mauger de St Aubin. He died in 1294 and his stone effigy lies on the floor of the side chapel. It is believed this effigy has been moved from it original position, perhaps between the Chancel and Side Chapel. Old records suggest there was also once an effigy of his wife but it has long since disappeared.

StAubin

On the south wall of the chapel is a piscina with a plain pointed arch which probably dates from the 13th century.

The manors of Georgeham and Pickwell were mostly under the same ownership from this time. There is no trace of a Georgeham Manor House but successive owners of Pickwell Manor continued as patron to St Georges Church until the middle of the 18th Century, and gave the name of Pickwell Chapel to the side chapel of the church.

A stone font from this period lays to the right of the Altar. There is one iron staple of the font remaining. Such examples are rare and of a type ordered by Archbishop Rich in 1236 to enable a cover to be locked in place, and thus prevent theft of the consecrated water. It was found outside the north wall in 1966.

Font

There is also evidence that a north aisle existed possibly as part of a 13th century building. The north wall is considerably thinner than the south wall and during Victorian restorations and the digging of a grave in 1975, traces of wall and paving were uncovered 15 feet outside the present north wall. These approximate to a continuation of the line of the outer wall of the Vestry.

On the north side of the chancel is a small mutilated stone carving of the Crucifixion. It was discovered in Victorian times behind a blocked doorway to the rear of the pulpit which is believed to have originally led to a loft or rood screen. In the centre of the carving is Jesus on the Cross on His left is St Mary, and on her right is a figure holding a cup, which is the symbol of St John. In the corners are two figures representing a Knight and his Lady kneeling in prayer, possibly the donor and his wife. This carving appears to date from the 13th Century and it may have therefore been presented by Mauger de St Aubin.

14th CENTURY

The tower dates from this period and is the only part of the church largely untouched by later building work. Externally on the east side of the tower traces of alterations to the height of the Nave can be seen showing that it was loftier than at present. The tower west doorway shows a head on either side which probably of a king and queen. Above is another human head, possibly of a priest.

The only remaining feature of this period in the main part of the church is a trefoil-headed piscina in the Chancel and the small Quatrefoil window in the north wall of the chancel near the Altar.

Plan

15th CENTURY

The main arcade between Nave and Aisle with its four graceful arches is most likely 15th Century work. The southern half of the arch between the Chancel and Pickwell Side Chapel are similarly styled and is also original. It therefore seems likely that a 13th Century Nave and Chancel was rebuilt in the 15th Century adjoining the 14th Century tower.

16th CENTURY

There are no obvious architectural features or memorials in the church from this century. The Georgeham Parish Registers began in 1538 and records local marriages and burials from that year and baptisms from 1540. The original records are held in Devon County Archives, but a full transcript is available in North Devon Records Office in Barnstaple.

Interesting abstracts from Georgeham Parish Registers 16th-18th Centuries

1571 - This yeere the plague was in Georgeham - 27 buried

1660 - Collected towards the rebuilding of the Kay of Watchett in Somersett the some of six shillings and eight pence

1663 - Collected in the congregation of Georgeham towards the brieffe for the rebuilding of the town of Marleborrow the sume six and twenty shillings and nine pence

1672 - Collected then in the congregation of Georgeham towards a brieffe for thous sufferers by fier of the psh of Kingston-upon-Thames in the Countie of Surrey 5/-

1680 - The great blazing Star or comet appeared December ye 14th

1746/7 - 21 persons died by a violent pleurotic feaver or peri-pneumone most of them in 4 or 5 days

17th CENTURY

The only items in the church dating from this period are monuments on the walls. In the Pickwell chapel is a memorial to the Newcourt family. John Newcourt bought the manors of Georgeham and Pickwell in 1560. The oldest inscribed tomb in the churchyard is that of John Newcourt who died in 1602.

The monument is dedicated to his son Tobie. The carving represents different aged persons and is thought to represent Tobie, his son William and his four sons John, William Tobie and another John. The two female heads represent the wives of Tobie and his son. The inscription is now nearly illegible but was recorded many years ago as:

To the pios memorie of Tobie Newcourt of Pickwell in this parish Esqr who married Mary third daughter of Arthur Harris of Heane Esqr by whom he had one son John and three daughters Elizabeth, Jane and Margaret. John (whose effigies is here presented) was buried the 6 June 1645 he married Mary the daughter of William Fry of Yeartie Esqr, by whom he had four sonnes John, Tobie, William and John. Jane the daughter of the said Tobie survived her two sisters her brother and all his four sonnes. She married Gregorie the son of Henry Chichester of Bittadon Gent, who erected this monument A. D. 16 ??

Above the 13th century Crucifixion carving to the left of the altar is a slate panel with a Latin inscription commemorating John Berry, who was Rector 1638-1649. The words are translated as: The remains of John Berry, most faithful pastor of this church are deposited below in hope of resurrection The old rectory adjacent to the church has a wall plaque dated 1666 with the letters T C. A Thomas Colley was rector 1661-1698 so presumably the rectory was built or rebuilt for him.

Millie's Cottage, to the east of the church yard has a plaque dated 1671. This building was originally called Church House. Ale was brewed there and sold for church expenses. Later it was sold and became The Victoria Inn.

An early 17th Century record of the Church heraldry mentions several arms which are no longer on the walls of the church and must have been removed in later refurbishment. These include those for the families Carew, Talbot and Chichester some of whose members held Georgeham and Pickwell manors in the 14th or 16th centuries, also those of Bouchier and Fitzwarren, related to Sir John Dinham whose family held North Buckland Manor.

18th CENTURY

The Church porch bears a wall sundial dated 1713 which may also be the date of the porch. Two heads are carved on the doorway which are of similar design to those on the west door of the tower.

Door

BELL TOWER

Exeter diocese records show that in 1553 there were four bells in the tower. The parish register states that new bells were cast in 1714. Later records in 1727 say there were six bells. The tower now houses a splendid peal of eight bells with a combined weight of 2.8 tons. Five were cast in 1748, one in 1765 and the last two smaller ones in 1926. The bells have the following inscriptions:

Tenor
 
 
THE REVD MR CHICHESTER RECTOR
JOHN HARRIS ESQ
A.R. 1748
7th
 
WE WERE ALL CAST AT GLOUCESTER
BY ABEL RUDHALL 1748
6th
 
IN CONCORD SUCH THEYD PLEASE AS MUCH
A.R. 1748
5th
 
AS WE THAT CHEER THE LISTENING EAR
A.R. 1748
4th
 
MR JOHN RICHARDS GENT CH WARDEN
T.R. 1765
3rd
 
LET MEN AGREE AS WELL AS WEE
A.R. 1748
2nd
 
IN MEMORIUM W I PEACOCK PATRIA SUL DEO DEDIT
HELEN STUART ROBERTSON PUTSBOROUGH 1926
Treble
 
MY MORNING RING DOTH CALL THEM IN
OCTAVE COMPLETED BY PARISHIONERS

Major repairs to the bell tower where made in 1926 when the old oak frame which had become very dangerous was replaced by an iron frame. This required all bells to be lowered to the ground while this was done. Part of this frame was replaced in 1998 by galvanised steel. This refurbishment cost £11,000.

As an alternative to fully ringing the bells, they are fitted with an auxiliary set of ropes, pulleys and hammers to enable tunes to be chimed by one person. The chimes on the six larger bells were thought to be fitted in Victorian times, but the mechanisms for the two smaller bells were not added until 1998.

GEORGIAN RENOVATION

There were radical changes made to the church from 1762 when the church interior was changed to a Classic or Romanesque style and most of the windows were altered. The original wooden screen between the Nave and Pickwell Side Chapel dates from this period. New boxed seating for the congregation was installed in 1767.

The following photograph of the church interior taken in Victorian times from the gallery shows the monuments in the Pickwell Chapel, boxed pews and a pulpit with a canopy with the figure of an angel.

Photo

Faculty plans of the church drawn before the Victorian changes show a smaller vestry with its external door on the west rather than the current east door, an extra vestry window and two small windows in the chancel. The current small Quatrefoil window in the north wall of the Chancel near the Altar is not shown in these plans.

In 1771 Honour Harris of Pickwell Manor applied to the diocese for permission to erect a 12-seated gallery at the rear wall of the Church at the south side of the archway to the tower. The cost of erection was paid by her father John Harris, MP for Barnstaple There had already been a smaller gallery built by Gregorie Chichester, but John Harris replaced it with one made of oak without obtaining a faculty.

In 1776 a licence was granted to Honour Harris to erect a monument in the Pickwell Chapel to her parents John and Dorothy and three children who died in infancy. Honour Harris did not marry and lived to old age. In order to erect the monument the east window was blocked up, but its shape can be clearly seen on the outside of the building.

A memorial to William Chichester who was rector 1750-70 and his wife Mary is seen on the wall to the right of the Altar. Another 18th Century memorial on the north wall is for the Richards family, Edward Richards who died in 1751, his wife Anne who died in 1756, his son John who died in 1778 and John's wife Elizabeth who died in 1772. John Richards was a church-warden and lived in South Hole. His name appears on one of the bells and some of the communion vessels. Five years after the new church seating John Richards appealed to the Bishop of Exeter to resolve a dispute with William Smith over ownership of seats as the latter had began to regularly intrude in his space from 1770-72. John Richards claimed to have paid for and maintained 4 seats in the same position for more than 40 years and William Smith had 7 or 8 seats adjacent.

19th CENTURY & VICTORIAN ALTERATIONS

On the South side of the church near to the Pickwell Side Chapel is a memorial plaque to John Heddon of South Hole who died in 1831 and his wife Mary who died in 1853.

In 1876 there was a major restoration in typical Victorian tradition. The box pews in the Nave were replaced by the current ones and the elevated gallery taken away. The tall box pews in the Pickwell Chapel were removed and the choir stalls replaced. The Vestry was enlarged so that a small window was lost in the north wall of the Chancel. Parts of the Chancel were rebuilt, including the arch to the Nave and the south side of the arch between Chancel and Side Chapel. The impressive reredos above the altar most probably dates from this period. It is believed the oak screen between the Nave and Pickwell Chapel was removed at this time New Mintons floor tiles were laid in the Nave and Chancel.

A small window on the south wall of the Chancel was removed and a new window was made on the north side of the Altar. This was planned to be circular, but the 14th Century quatrefoil window found in the north wall during repairs was used, although much restored and with stained glass inserted. The windows of the Nave which were probably altered in shape in Georgian times were again changed to give a 15th Century look. Another new window was made on the south side of rear west wall where Honour Harris's gallery had been. A new pulpit made of Caen stone was installed. It depicts three scenes, St John the Baptist in the wilderness, The Sermon on the Mount, and St Paul in Athens. The canopy of the old pulpit found its way to St Brannocks Church Braunton.

The Victorian font is believed to be another feature of the 1876 changes, but it was only moved to its present position from the rear of the church in the 1990's

The cost of refurbishment was £3,500 and came mostly from the Hole family, particularly the church patron Thomas Hole. Family members had been patrons or rectors of Georgeham since 1783, having been granted these titles by the Chichesters of Yousldon. There are several memorial plaques to members of the Hole family in the Chancel.

There are some fine examples of Victorian stained glass in the Church also installed by the Hole family.

Tower Window
Erected in Memory of Francis Hole Rector who died in 1871 by his widow Mary Brooking Hole

Chancel South Window
Depicting The Good Samaritan. Erected in memory of George Chichester by his widow Elizabeth Chichester (Née Hole)

Altar window
Erected in memory of Francis Hole Rector who died 1866 by his widow Frances Hole. He was the father of Francis Hole and Thomas Hole. Five of this family were rectors between 1783 and 1913.

In 1874 St Mary's Chapel was built in Croyde at a cost of £500 and this remains open to this day with regular services.

THE ORGAN

The last major Victorian change was the installation of the organ. Previously there was a harmonium in a similar location. The new organ was built in 1881 by Bristol organ builder Mr G. Vowles and cost £286. It was installed in the memory of Frances Hole, wife of Reverend Francis Hole, rector of this parish 1831-1866. More than 140 people contributed to the cost but most money came from her five surviving children. The names of the contributors are listed on the side of the organ in the vestry. In 1999 it was restored at a cost of £10,000. It was originally powered by a hand pump but the wind system has since been converted to an electric pump.

It is a tracker action instrument, with five stops on the great organ, five on the swell organ, and one pedal stop. There are four couplers and four foot operated combination pedals. During the 1999 restoration the original 25-note pedal board was replaced with a full-size 32-note concave radiating pedal board with an electronic action. This and the new balance swell bring the organ up to RCO standards. Our current organist has been playing for us since 1944.

20th CENTURY

In 1912 the Pickwell Chapel screen was restored and replaced in its original 18th Century position. This work was paid for by Caroline Dene and Sarah Ann Fursdon, daughters of Reverend Francis and Mrs Frances Hole.

Screen

A new heating system was installed in 1919, comprising boiler, radiators and hot pipes below three iron vents in the Nave and Chancel. These vents are shown in the 1876 faculty, which suggests there was a previous heating system. More recently, the system was changed to an oil-fired warm-air system.

The Church Clock was installed in June 1921 in memory of those parishioners who died on active service during the First World War. The mechanism is in the bell ringing chamber and it requires winding every week. The mural paintings on either side of the Altar representing Saints Francis and George, the Archangel and the Blessed Virgin Mary are the work of Margaret Kemp Welch, who lived in the parish in the 1920's and 30's.

The screen dividing the Tower from the Nave was erected in 1948 as a World War II memorial. The World War I memorial is on the North Wall of the Nave.

The other most noticeable 20th century changes made to the church are three stained glass windows in the nave dedicated to local worshippers.

Mary & Martha in memory of Gwendoline Brown who died in 1957

Jesus with the Fishermen disciples in memory of Annie Thomas died 1972

Jesus and the children in memory of George Hedges, erected by his wife Nora who died in 1980

There are some items of wooden furniture in the church and in the porch bearing plaques, donated in memory of other parishioners during the 20th Century.

THE PARISH MAP

On the south wall of the Nave is a tapestry map of Georgeham Parish. This was unveiled in July 1995. The stitching took more than 3,000 hours to complete and was achieved by the cooperation of around 70 Georgeham and Croyde artists and embroiderers, including children from Georgeham Primary School. It commemorates the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Women's Institute in the Devon Region.

Map

GRAVEYARD MAP

The original research was by H. Stephenson Balflour and it was drawn by Meg Mounteney in 1993, the map is invaluable to visitors interested in locating the graves of friends and relatives. It includes the original churchyard and the 1930's extension to the north. Some headstones may be of general interest, such as that of Sergeant John Hill, the Waterloo man and P.C. Walter Creech, who died in the execution of his duty in 1883, aged 3l years. He was murdered when called to pacify a drunken elderly villager who was disturbing the peace in the "Kings Arms" (now The Lower House). An interesting grave mentioned in old guides has been lost. Records state it was that of Simon and Julian Gould who both died in 1817 in their 101st year following 75 years of marriage.

Two authors are buried in the churchyard. Over the stream lies Negley Farson, an American journalist and novelist who lived for some years at Putsborough, and Henry Williamson, writer of many novels, but perhaps best known for his Tarka the Otter, Life in a Devon Village and The Labouring Life, written between the wars when he lived in Georgeham. He is buried by the Tower. Also by the Tower is the grave of William Kidman, drowned in the wreck of H.M.S. Weazel off Baggy Point in 1799. Ten other members of the crew are registered as having been interred here. The oldest known marked grave is that of John Newcourt from Pickwell. It is a table tomb dated 1603. Before that time most burials were marked with wooden crosses.

The chancel vault is now sealed. Between 1649 and 1814 several Rectors and some family members are buried therein. It is believed that some of the Harris and Newcourt families of Pickwell are buried under the Side Chapel.

21st CENTURY

The main current activities concerning the church fabric is the ongoing requirement to keep this beautiful church in a good order of repair for our and future generations to enjoy. Quinquennial inspections of the church ensure that building maintenance requirements are fully noticed. Essential repairs invariably lead to fundraising needs.

The old Mortuary across the churchyard from the porch, for some time used simply as a store shed, has been redecorated and is now used by the Youth Group in contrast to its rather sad past!

Changes made to the Church have been of a practical nature such as kitchen and toilet refurbishment in the tower basement, upgrading of audiovisual systems and some re-ordering of the seating to give more flexible use of space. Plans are in progress for a further limited reordering in the Side Chapel and lower Chancel areas to give a more open and multipurpose area.

The last Rector of this parish, David Rudman left to take up a post in Exeter in 2003. He has been replaced by Brian Strange who is designated Priest in Charge, on a part-time stipend. Thus the title of Rector of Georgeham has ceased after about 800 continuous years of office.

GEORGEHAM PARISH TODAY

The stated aim of the church community of Georgeham is to be Christ centred and people focussed. St George's and St Mary's Churches together with the Baptist Chapels of Georgeham and Croyde strive to be a Christian Church reaching out to the Community. There are many outreach activities such as Youth Group, After-school Club, Senior Citizens' Lunch Club, Alpha Courses and a social event programme run jointly by these churches. Activities carried out specifically for the Anglican Church include, Junior Church, Young Peoples Fellowship, House Groups, Mothers Union and Regular Prayer meetings. The Georgeham Primary School is Church of England Voluntary Controlled and several church members are represented on its board of governors.

There are strong links with Christian Surfers and St George's House, an interdenominational Christian Trust based in the former rectory that provides a residential base for outdoor activities and Christian outreach to young people.

OUR CHRISTIAN FAITH

With all the wonder and awe of such an ancient building it must never be forgotten that the building itself points to an even greater wonder and awe. This church was created and has been sustained by people who wanted to find a place that was suitable and helpful for them to jointly spend time with God. Today people still meet for this same purpose. The building is host to a lively fellowship of Christians who week by week focus their faith around corporate acts of worship. It is hoped that visitors to the Church experience some of the awe and wonder we feel for God, who as we are reminded in the Bible:
So loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. God, who cares enough about the individual members of his creation that he came to live among us. God offers to each of us, love, forgiveness, power to live by and a promise of eternal life. To receive these things for ourselves, we only have to ask God for them. Over the centuries, and still today, many have asked and found new faith and new life in this place. We pray that you experience some of this faith and life as you spend time here and are able to take a God who cares for you into your life.

PARSONS RECTORS AND PATRONS

Incumbant

Robert de Edington
Oliver de Tracy
Sir Stephen Haym
Edmund de Knovye
William de Doune
John de Dyrworthe
Sir Andrew de Tregors    
Sir John Hope
John Lynneley
Martin Lerceddykne
Edward Leghe
Sir Richard Rawe
William Slugge
Thomas Cutford
John Chapelyn
John Gevons
John Holoway
John Gread
William Culme
John Berry
William Pyke
Thomas Colley
Carew Holblyn
William Mervyn
George Drake
William Chichester
Henry Marker
John Sandford
Nathaniel Bridges
Thomas Hole
Frances Hole
William Loveband
Thomas Hole
Francis Hole
William Morcum
Robert de Wolf
Walter Cox
William Hole
Walter Parker
Alfred Rose
Algernon Worsley
Harry Sharples
Fisher Feguson
John Manaton
John Jackson
Bernard Carr
David Rudman
Brian Strange
Date

1231
1261
1272
1308
1344
1349
1361
1374
1391
1422
1433
1450
1465
No date    
1499
1516
1528
1559
1586
1638
1649
1661
1698
1729
1744
1750
1771
1771
1782
1783
1831
1867
1869
1870
1871
1881
1883
1886
1914
1922
1930
1936
1957
1959
1967
1974
1988
2003
Patron

Robert de Edington
Sir Mauger de St Aubin
Sir Mauger de St Aubin
Sir Mauger de St Aubin
Sir Robert de Cruwes, Jordan Voutard
Sir Robert & Cecilia de Cruwes, Joan Merton
As above & Sir John Lercedekne
John Witterne
John Witterne
Henry Talbot
Sir Nicholas Carru
Thomas & Dionisia Bosse
Sir Nicholas Carew
 
Sir John Sapcit
Sir John Sarke
Sir William Carew
Sir Peter Carew
Sir Peter Carew
Richard Delbridge
Richard Delbridge
John Chichester de Raleigh
John & Thomas Hoblyn
Sir John Chichester 5th Bart.
Sir John Chichester 5th Bart.
Sir John Chichester 6th Bart. (from 1752)
Sir John Chichester 6th Bart.
Sir John Chichester 6th Bart.
Sir John Chichester 6th Bart.
Thomas Hole
Major William Hole
Mrs Elizabeth Hole (from 1859)
Mrs Elizabeth Hole
Mrs Elizabeth Hole
Rev Thomas Hole
Rev Thomas Hole
Rev Thomas Hole
Sir J. Heathcoat Amory, F. Hole, Gen Sourway
Major C. Parker
Major C. Parker
Martyr's Memorial Trust
Martyr's Memorial Trust
Martyr's Memorial Trust
Martyr's Memorial Trust
Martyr's Memorial Trust
Martyr's Memorial Trust
Church Pastoral Aid Society
Church Pastoral Aid Society

REFERENCES

1. H. Stephenson Balflour, The history of Georgeham & Croyde 1989
2. H. Stephenson, Balflour, Notes on The Parish Church of St George's Georgeham Unpublished
3. Brian A. Harris, The Hole family of Georgeham Parish Devon , A brief history 2006
4. JMC & RNB Historical & Architectural Notes on St George's Church Georgeham undated
5. H. Stephenson Balflour, An Armoury of Georgeham Church Report and transaction of the Devonshire Association Vol 101 1969
6. Lois Lamplugh, A book of Georgeham and the North West corner of Devon 1995


Published by Georgeham PCC © 2007
Made available in GENUKI/Devon by kind permission of the PCC.


Last updated: 9 Dec 2012 - Brian Randell

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