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The Parish Church of Northam

by

David W. Gale

The original, which included a number of figues, was published by St Margaret's, Northam

Northam is a large Parish, but was much larger, incorporating Appledore and what is now Westward Ho! Appledore's church of St. Mary being consecrated in 1838, and Westward Ho's Holy Trinity in 1870. Because it was a large parish the church had to grow with the inevitable population growth, having major extensions in 1593 and 1613.

St. Margarets has been on its present site for at least seven centuries, the first written record of its benefice being in 1261-2 when Martin de Litlebiri was the Rector, and its patron was the Prior of Frampton in Dorset. There is a tradition that a church which predates our present one stood on what was known as the sanctuaries which were situated on the north side of Bay View Road.

When Bay View Terrace was built in 1865-6, the road was known as Sentry Road, a contraction of Sanctuary, and Century Drive was built in a field called Big Century, the next field to the west being Little Century. Some older inhabitants told the Rev. Isaac H. Gosset, when he came to Northam to take over the incumbency in 1844 that they remembered seeing the ruins of this old church.

Traditions in local communities, passed down the generations by word of mouth usually have their basis in fact, so should not be lightly dismissed. Another tradition which has no written confirmation is that part of the Burrows was enclosed to raise funds for the building of the church. This is probably based on fact, and is perfectly feasible.

The dedication of the church to St. Margaret has a bit of a mystery surrounding it, and may involve tradition again. During the last century, and probably before, it was accepted that the dedication was to the Blessed Virgin Mary, but in 1917 the then vicar, the Rev. G. G. Payne Cook, who had obviously found a contradiction, wrote to the Dioscesan Headquarters in Exeter to clarify the issue. The reply from Exeter set the written record straight- " In Episcopal Registry in Liber Regis (Henry VIII) St. Margaret was the patron saint of the church - the patron loci - though probably the B(lessed) V(irgin) M(ary) was also invoked - and perhaps other saints as well, as in several cases that have come under my notice. St. Martins church in Exeter Cathedral Close for instance was dedicated on July 6th 1065-'to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Cross, and St.Mary mother of Christ, and St. Martin Bishop, and all saints.' -sometimes dedications were altered at the Reformation period, and the name of the B.V.M. suppressed." Another example of a dedication being associated with the Virgin Mary was Frithlestock Priory, whose main dedication was to Saint Gregory Bishop, though at times the Blessed Virgin Mary was mentioned, and once the association was with St. Edmund the Confessor.

So, was the original dedication of Northam Parish Church to Saint Mary, only to be suppressed during the Reformation as the letter suggests? If so, an alternative saint, in this case Saint Margaret, would have been brought to the fore, and all written records would suggest the new patron saint; but because of jealously held traditions, the church would be known locally as St. Marys!

Northam had a religious guild, a Fraternity, founded in the 15th century, which honoured two saints, John the Baptist and George the Martyr, having their chapel of St. John in the church. This guild, in common with other religious guilds, raised money by quarterly contributions from their members, and by donations of property, or rents from land and property.

Their first benefactor was John Cole, who in 1423 ("...in the yere of the reigne of Henry the syxth the seconde...") gave all his lands and tenements at Underborough to the guild; he then donated his houses and lanes in Colehill and Willamore, and lastly the rents from houses in Northam amounting to 3s 4d per annum. To administer these assets Feoffees were elected, eight being named in the deed of 1423. Most of the deeds concerning these properties, including enfeoffment deeds, are preserved in the North Devon Record Office at Barnstaple. One such Deed of Grant dated 1468, from John Gambon to John Clyff, vicar of Northam, and the Feoffees states that the income from the premises concerned in the Deed, was to be used for building the church; presumably this was for extending rather than the initial building of the church.

Henry VIII dissolved the monastries, and his son, Edward VI, proceeded to dissolve the guilds, colleges and chantries on the grounds that their funds were put to superstitious uses, though Northam's guild seems to have continued to administer its assets for the good of the Parish, even though in name it did not exist.

One reason it was able to survive was the purposes and uses of the properties under the control of the Feoffees were well understood, so there was no need for these to be explained on the majority of the deeds; but in 1565 an inquisition was called, during which the Feoffees had to account for the uses of the rents. During this inquisition, dated 8th August 1565, properties were stated to have been "..granted and confirmed to Thomas Vallett and Philipp Braunton wardyns of the store and light of the fraternytie of seynt John the Baptist and George the Martir of Northam..." The lands were confiscated and passed to Thomas Collemore as a reward for his informing on the guild. For some, as yet unknown, reason these lands, valued at 116s 3d a year, reverted to the Queen soon after. Perhaps Thomas, who must have been local, had incurred the wrath of the villagers, so much so through his informing on them, that it made it impossible for him to administer his newly acquired property, and he was forced to exchange this for another reward.

Thomas Leigh of Northam bought these confiscated premises, and through a series of fourteen deeds dated from 1578 to 1582 held in the North Devon Record Office, we see that he granted the annuities, or rents, from these premises to the Feoffees to administer for the good of the parish.

Before the Reformation the guild probably managed the parish affairs, but when this was swept away a new method had to be devised; and so we find in the Churchwardens' account book of 1567-1719, that on December 1st 1576, 24 men were chosen for this job, the entry reading:-

"Here followeth the names of the 24 men chosen nominated and appointed the first of Decembr in the yeare of our Lord God 1576 by the consent & agremt of the Pishoners of Northam for appointinge ordering and disposing of all things and matters whatsoever concerning or in anywise appertaining to or for the church matters there and the general behoof use and commoditye of the whole Pishe. William Leighe, ffrancis Yeo, John Byshoppe, John Willett, William Clowe, John Upcott, John Dothacotte, William Blackmore, William Chaple, William Vallett, Thoms Leigh, John Braunton, Peter Boroughe, Thoms Whiston, John Tracye, Willm Wolridge, John Blackmore, Peter Collemore, John Whipton, Mark Dothecote, Willm Heard, John Titherleighe, Richard Bennett, William Bennett."

The church today consists of a Nave and Chancel with a North Aisle to each; a South Transept, South Porch, Vestry and an embattled West Tower with pennacles, containing eight bells and a clock with three faces.

The Tower used to be plastered and whitewashed, as were all the walls of the church, (Lynton church still has plastered walls) and was in this state until the middle of the last century. Being 96ft high to the top of the battlements, and painted white, it was an aid to the incoming boats, especially before the advent of lighthouses; and as such probably saved many sailors from being shipwrecked on our treacherous coastline.

In a letter dated 1859 to William Ley of Instow, George Oliver says that his friend and co-editor of Westcote's " View Of Devonshire", Pitman Jones, used to joke and "...mention that when he went to see (the church), they were whitewashing one of the 4 sides of the Tower, and said to him 'we be poor here: we never does more in the year: and so you see in 4 years all be done: and then we begins again'".

Throughout the Churchwardens' accounts mention is made of buying lime for this whitewashing of the walls, (e.g. 1770, 6 Bushlls of Lyme, 6/=) and most years during the early 1800's Richard Burch was paid £1-10-0 for 'whitewashing the tower'.

The steps to the tower are contained in a semi-octagonal projection on its south side. Tedrake, in his "Guide to Bideford and North Devon", 1895, says of the tower, "...'the tall, gray wind-swept tower', as Kingsley has happily described it - is well worth ascending. It is some 90 feet high, and stands on the side of a hill, which slopes down to the sea. You ascend by way of a narrow, winding staircase, each step of which has been worn by centuries of footsteps, and your way is lit by occasional apertures in the tower wall. Most of the staircase is as black as night, and the stranger needs to take heed to his footsteps. Horrible stories are told in Devonshire of men who, in going up towers, have missed their footing, and have rolled over and over, tumbling headlong 60 or 70 feet - never stopping, never able to stop - until they have reached the floor of the church, mangled and dead. You never think of these stories except when you are going up the tower, and then you can't get them out of your mind. But though the way be long and dreary, the reward is reached at last. A small door is opened by your guide, and you step into the full light of day. Scores of starlings fly in amazement from the battlements, and you are left in undisturbed possession of the roof of the tower. The view from the summit of Northam tower is unique." The present eight bells were rehung in 1920 by Taylors of Loughborough, having originally been cast as five bells in 1553, and recast into six bells in 1770 by Thomas Bilbie of Collumpton.

The inscriptions on the present bells are:-

1/ "To the glory and praise of God and in memory of E. Stella Temple 1919 - G. Payne Cook - vicar."
2/ "In memory of George Brayley Brayley Wellesbourne Northam 1915 - G. Payne Cook - vicar."
3/ "God save the King and prosper the Parish of Northam - Recast 1920 - G. Payne Cook - vicar."
4/ "Peace and increase of trade to Appledore. - T;C: & I:S:CW:"
5/ "The Reverend Joshua Bawden vicar of St. Mary's ch. Northam." 6/ "Churchwardens: Mr. Thomas Chappell & Mr. John Shaxson."
7/ "Thomas Bilbie Cullumpton Fecit - Five Bells cast in Six 1770."
8/ "In tuneful peals your joys I'll tell your griefs I'll publish in a knell - Thomas Bilbie fecit 1770."

Throughout the Churchwardens' accounts, the casting, recasting and hanging of the bells is recorded; a few examples will give a flavour of what can be found in this treasury of local history:-

1562 "...casting of our two bells."
1590 "£5 for recasting a bell, & a clapper bought."
1592 John Harris received 12 pence for a days work on the bells, and John Hopper 10 pence "to attend him".
1578 Bell metal was sold
1584 " " " "
1590 " " " "
1745 The peal had grown to 5.
1770 "..to Jno Yeo for timber in the Bell chamber 7/=

Ale was brewed and sold for a profit under the auspices of the church as had been done for centuries, and on certain occasions such as "Church Ales" "Brides Ales" and the most popular "Whitson Ales" merriment among the villagers, and funds for the church were the order of the day. Drunkenness was rife, as one would imagine, so much so that the Devon Justices of the Peace made an order in 1607, that no more Church Ales or similar carousels under the church auspices were to be held in that county. Doubtless any ale needed for refreshment of the ringers etc., after this order was made, would have been found in a nearby ale-house. No difficulty would have been met with in finding one in Northam, especially in the eighteenth century, as there were 60 licenses issued to the parish in 1751, (This of course included Appledore). So we find in the Churchwardens' accounts various amounts for ale bought in for the bellringers and workers on the church. e.g.:-

1715 6/6 spent on beear on Easter Monday
1717 1/6 worth of beear for the ringers on the anniversary of George the First's accession to the Throne.
1727 Oct. 11 "To meat & drink for ye ringers one the Kings crownation day...14/7 "
1730 "for drink to ye mason when ye church roof blew away...1/="
1770 "to ale about the bells...1/="
1814 "Gregory Tuplin for ringers ale...12/="
1832 "Jno Sanders - ringers ale...14/="

Many interesting entries can be found in these Churchwardens' Accounts, and a full study of these could produce a potted history of the village. A few interesting, related entries are:-

1586 12 pence for the ringers on the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's accession.
1715 6/= for the ringers on August 1st - George the First's accession anniversary.
1715 Nov. 5th 16/= for the ringers.
1715 To Mary Cornish for 3 pieces of Roop for ye bells & clock...5/6
1715 May 29th 4/6 for the ringers
1715 to ye chaimers for ye year 6/8
1715 Mary Eavens for washing ye Cirples & cleaning ye plate..11/=
1715 to putting up ye pinnacle of the tower £2.
1715 to Ephraim Dyer for keeping ye clock..8/=.
1717 To ye chaimers for ye year 6/8
1717 20th October ... ringers 2/6
1717 for Creast to putt upon ye church & carridg 2/1
1723 for masons work to cover the church and walls ... 15/10
1730 for 5 thousand of hoalm stones at 7/= tho: £1-15-0
1730 for ye carridge of the stones from boathide to Northam 8/4
1814 to the ringers at News of peace with America...6/=

The two entries of 1730 probably refer to the erection of the gallery in the Nave. This gallery projected from the west wall of the Nave, nearly reaching the South Porch. The Deed for the building of this gallery states that it was "...for the use of the parrishioners to stand sit kneel and hear Divine Service and sermons only, and not for ye use of any new and unaccustomed way of singing whatsoever or to serve for a singing gallery." The Rev. I. H. Gosset described this gallery as he found it over 100 years later; "The back seats under this gallery were raised like a flight of steps, as they were also against the west end of the North Aisle so that the floor of the highest seat must have been fully five feet above the level of the church floor...The gallery was lighted by two dormer windows in the South Roof, and by one in the North Roof of the Nave, to form which windows some of the fine roof timbers had been cut away."

There was another smaller gallery in the South Transept, called the Old Men's Gallery, which was approached from the outside by a flight of steps on to the (then) raised ground against the Transept east wall, and then by more steps to a door on the level of the gallery floor, under which was to be found the old vestry.

The North Aisle was built in 1593, as is apparent to everyone who visits the church, by the inscription on the cap of a Nave Pier. A note in the Parish Register of this year, between Sept. 15th & 16th records, "This Sommer in the year of our Lord 1593 was the North part of the church of Northam begun to be buylded and at this time the work ended and thoroughly finished." The date 27th February has been entered after "at this time". Before this North Aisle was built there was a North Transept, the ceiling of which could still be seen in the middle of the last century.

Until the Reformation all churches had a Rood Screen in or near the Chancel arch, separating the Nave from the Chancel. This screen took its name from the Rood, or Crucifix, which was usually carved in wood and located on the top; candles placed next to the Rood were reached by a spiral staircase, usually located in the wall on the north side of the screen.

Northam church was no exception in having one of these finely decorated, wooden screens; but in common with many others, it disappeared, probably during the puritanical Commonwealth period; the doorway to the staircase being plastered over during the Rev. Gosset's restoration. The large Piscina on the south side of the Altar was also plastered over at this time.

Originally churches did not have pews, the congregation having to stand or kneel; but there were stone benches along the side walls for the sick or elderly, which gave rise to the expression, "The weakest to the wall." Pews as we know them began to be installed in the 14th century, but all the ones in Northam church date from the 19th century. When the Rev. Gosset came here, the only really old pews to be found were in the South Transept, the older ones in the Nave having been disposed of within the living memory of the inhabitants of 1844 Northam. The pews Gosset did find in the Nave were, "made of Red Deal, very high, uncomfortable with narrow seats between which it was impossible to kneel and difficult to sit".

According to the Churchwardens' accounts pews were made in 1565, 1582, 1595 (to furnish the new North Aisle) and in 1603, with 8/6 being paid for seating in 1712.

The plan for the reseating of the "Parish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin" Northam dated 25th June 1864 shows a total seating of 666, the reputed Devil's number!

Of the more ancient furnishings of the church, the wooden Communion table is still in existance, though reduced in size and relegated to the vestry. The Font has an octagonal basin of probably early Perpendicular date (1348-1534), and was found in 1846 buried under the floor of the Tower. It had been broken into two pieces, possibly smashed by the Parliamentary troops during the Civil War, whilst they were reeking havoc in the churches throughout North Devon on a puritan impulse.

The modern Pulpit, a gift of F. T. Thorold Esq., in memory of his mother, is made of stone in the Decorated style, delicately carved, with Devon marble shafts. This stone pulpit replaced a wooden three-decker one of Jacobean date or earlier. Gosset decided on his arrival, that this old wooden Pulpit "harmonised badly" with the overall design of the church, so he sold it to Archbishop Benson, headmaster of Wellington College, who then proceeded to convert it into a sideboard! Mrs. Gertrude Payne Cook, whose husband was vicar of Northam from 1917-1932 set out to discover whether or not this sideboard was still in existance; but not until 1940 did she have any luck. E. F. Benson, son of Archbishop Benson, had recently died, and the sideboard was stored in an empty garage. The panels still had faint colouring showing a design of marguerites around a saint. With excitement, Mrs. Payne Cook secured the sideboard and had it transported to Exeter, where, through the skill of Mr. Herbert Read, it was converted back into a pulpit, and a new base made for it. All this work was for nought though, as the Blitz of Exeter destroyed all but one panel of it, which is now in Plymouth.

Two Gurney stoves were installed in the two aisles during the last century, this being the only form of heating at the time. The Sexton had the duty of lighting these, and was paid eight pence for each stove lit; but he had to provide the necessary wood and shavings to light them with. Today's heating system is a little less "Heath Robinson".

The Organ, one of the finest instruments in the district, was built in 1866 by J. M. Walker of London at a cost of £564-16-0, chiefly through the donation of N. Shaw Esq. Additions, including a carved end to the case cost £75 in 1883. The Organ case was designed by Mr. Cross of Exeter, and the illuminated front pipes by the Rev. Charles Boutell (author of ENGLISH HERALDRY) and his daughter, who were also responsible for the angel shield designs at the foot of the Nave roof trusses. Renovations were carried out by Mr. Percy Daniel in 1932, and in 1969 it was completely restored and cleaned at a cost of about £1,000.

The Nave and South Transept roofs are of Early Perpendicular Style and are open-timbered and exceptionally fine; the wood being of oak and sweet chesnut. The Bosses are of floral and emblematical designs, some being emblems of the Passion, more proof that there was a Rood Screen. The wall plates of the Transept are richly carved with Perpendicular Style vine leaves and grapes. The modern Chancel has a finely carved hammer-beam roof; the whole Chancel being completely restored during 1844-1865. This was probably the earliest part of the church, being Early English (1166-1266) and in a shocking state in 1844. There is a Norman "cushion" Capital of granite on the second pier from the west which suggests that the original building was earlier than the present Perpendicular Style, but the Restoration of the last century may have covered up other re-used Norman stones; it did, though, uncover on a pillar in the Chancel, the date, 1623 in cameo figures, this being the date of the building of the Chancel Aisle.

The restoration of the church to which I have alluded, was masterminded by the Rev. Isaac Gosset. It swept away many of the older features, but it must be understood that the church was in a deplorable state inside and out in 1844. From the Square entrance to the east wall of the Chancel, the earth rose until it was up to the sill of the Chancel window. I have already mentioned how the earth was high around the South Transept, this was the same all around the church, making the inside extremely damp. The window frames were decayed, walls were bulging, and the carved Bosses and other decorations were in a dreadful state of repair or missing altogether. It is surprising, therefore, to read in White's 1850 Directory of Devon (published barely a year after the restoration had begun) that.."the church is a large and handsome structure with a lofty tower".

Practically the first job undertaken was the removal of the plastering on the outside to bring out the fine detail of the stonework. Only two tenders were received for the contract to remove the roughcast on the Tower and to repoint the stonework; one from Thomas Lock of Northam on 7th January 1851, for a total of £90, the other from John Burch, also of Northam on the 8th January 1851, for £98. These were considered too high, so advertisements were put in the local newspapers to attract more tenders. Four more were received, the lowest of which was for £49-10-0 from Lewis Cawsey & sons, of Union Street Bideford. Mr. Cawsey was offered £40 to execute the job, but agreed to do it for £42, completing it on 17th June 1851; the account not being settled though, until 15th October 1852!

For the extensive work on the Chancel, four tenders were received, ranging from £415 to £598. The total expenditure on all the renovations to November 1853 had amounted to £1,435-2-73/4.

The architect from the beginning was Mr. David Mackintosh of Exeter, who sadly died in 1859, aged 40, from "the effects of inflammation of the lungs". His assistant, Mr. W. F. Cross, carried on the work of the Chancel restoration; but he also died prematurely, aged 28, just after the organ had been renovated, of "the fatal effects of a fall upon the ice, causing tetanus or lockjaw". Can these events be compared with those that occurred when the tomb of Tutenkhamen was opened?!!

The window in the east wall of the Chancel was replaced with one fashioned after a window at Houghton-le-Spring in County Durham. It depicts the Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord, and replaces a "hideous" green glass one.

In the south wall there are windows to the memory of Mr. Gould of Knapp House, and of Mrs. Thorold. Forest of Dean stone was used for all the renovated windows except for three new windows in the Tower, for which Gorman Down stone was used.

In 1936 an exciting discovery was made by an "indefatigable archeologist", Miss I. D. Thornley, M.A., F.R.Hist.S. The volume of the Churchwardens' accounts for 1562 was found to be bound with a copy of the 14th century Kyrie Eleisons. These Kyries were musical settings of the Litany, and were the exact ones sung in Northam church at that time. Major C. F. Milsom made a copy of these Kyries which can be seen in the church; and a leaflet with a full description is on sale, also in the church.

The renovation of the church necessitated the removal of some memorials within it, from the south wall of the Nave to the north wall, but some resistance to this removal was met with. The Rev. Gosset wrote to the Rev. A. F. Lloyd of Instow, asking his permission to resite the memorial to his parents (Priscilla and Rev. Richard Lloyd). The Rev. Lloyd forwarded Gosset's letter to his sister Isabella, at the same time (17th March 1851) replying that he would "regret" the removal. Isabella Lloyd replied on the 21st March 1851 saying, "...it is therefore proper that I should acquaint you, that I will not consent to those monuments being removed." Gosset replied regretting her decision, and hoped that she would reconsider, as the monument would only be moved a few feet to the north wall; he went on, "...our sole object as you well know, in desiring to move any of the monuments was to improve the House of God, and to restore it as far as possible to what it was when built by the liberality of God's servants of old time....the plan approved of by the whole of the Church Restoration Committee was to remove all the monuments and rearrange them on the walls of the North Aisles".

This monument is still located on the south side of the east pillar above the "1593" inscription, in rememberance of Isabella Lloyd also, who died 24th June 1874, aged 77.

Other families raised no such objections, as illustrated by a letter from William Chappell of Diddywell, in reply to a similar request, in which he states that his brothers and sisters had no objections to the removal of the tablet in memory of their brother to a more suitable place.

I have already mentioned that Martin de Littlebiri was the first recorded incumbent; the complete list is as follows:-

1261 Martin de Littlebiri
1274 Thomas de Brweleghe
c1306 John Lukcys
1344 Roger de Cloune
1348 Adam de Lycchefeld
1363 Nicholas Wake
1374 Bryan Sloman
1406 Christopher Jacob
1419 Henry Clement
c1420 Walter Schanke
1427 Richard Lyttilton
1462 John Clere
1477 John Gepys
1524 John Smyth
1554 John Tetherly
1583 Philip Shapton
1606 John Bant
1625 Thomas Hull
1626 Thomas Larkham
1640 Anthony Downe
1663 Richard Bastard
1664 James Watson
1701 Richard Symons
1704 Thomas Earle
1726 Robert Doleman
1741 Joshua Bawden
1788 William Edgcumbe
1812 Thomas V. Mill
1844 Isaac H. Gosset
1870 Marcus Dymond Churchward
1917 Gerald G. Payne Cook
1932 Henry P. D. Pinhey
1944 E. Basil Bridger
1962 J. Michael Lucas
1977 David N. Chance

Some of the memorial stones on the floor of the Chancel and the Nave are fairly worn, and some in the North Chancel Aisle are covered by woodwork, but all the ones on the walls of the church and those in the churchyard, excepting those in the New Cemetery, have been transcribed by myself; and all are being put on a database, a copy of which will be held by the church. The transcription, indexes and database held by the church should help in the location of that elusive stone, or lost relative.

The earliest date to be found on a stone is 1680,(A1-2), though this stone is not contemporary with this date. Only two decipherable stones have survived from the 17th century, one of 1684 (A5-1a), and the other of 1690 (A6b-2).

James Cock's stone (A6-4), dated 1700, is historically important as it sets out the terms of his will in which he left £200 to the poor of Northam.

Of the more interesting inscriptions, CH1 to Robert Peak, a mariner who died on 25th March 1823, aged 30, is short and to the point:-

"My voige is made my anchor cast
In safety ship and hands
But now in faith I hoist my sail
For Canaan's happy land".

The same can be said of OE9, to Fanny Braund who died 21st April 1839, aged 37:-

"Involved in this dust to here I lie
Reader! mistake me not - it is not I
It is my dust that in this dust remains
My better part the Heaven of Heavens contains."

YJ5 is worth searching for, as it is to the memory of Benjamin Rogers, who was Guard of Honour to Napoleon on St. Helena; and who fought in the Peninsula Wars. He died 26th April 1877, aged 90 years. Another, OE8, is to the memory of William Pickard, boatswain in the Royal Navy, and who served under George III, the Regency, George IV and William IV; and yet he died young at an age of 52 on 29th January 1832.

Being a coastal parish, many stones record shipwrecks and drownings, the Thistlemor Memorial being one of these. The Thistlemor went down on December 2nd 1909 off Hartland after being struck by a succession of giant waves which tore off her ventilators and flooded her forward hold. Her 26 man crew and captain were drowned, being washed up on the shore over the next few days. The villagers told of seeing the coffins piled one above the other in the churchyard, and of the sad funeral. Two cottages being built at the time in North Street were named Thistlemor Cottages in memory of this tragedy; and the white marble memorial in the churchyard (FE3) can be seen just inside the north (Bone Hill) gates.

Many other stones are worth searching out, whether it be for their design, inscription or for the person remembered, but special mention must be made of one more, that of the Melhuish family, which is on the north wall inside the church (ICL1). This family held the Lordship of the Manor, and all the land connected with this is listed on this stone. In 1712 a dispute arose between the villagers and the Lord of the Manor as to whether the Burrows were Common Land, which would have always belonged to the community, and over which all had rights in common, or Common-of-Pasture, which belonged to the Lord of the Manor, and over which his tenants were given the right to graze farm stock; this would have been the waste of the Manor. No settlement was reached as the terms were mixed, and so the dispute continued. William Melhuish, Lord of the Manor in 1770 when he died, left the Manor of Northam and other lands to the people of Northam for 200 years, after which time they were to revert to the heirs of Thomas Melhuish, vicar of Witheridge. These terms are set out on the Memorial Plaque!

The memorial stones on the floor of the Chancel relate mainly to the Leigh, Berry and Melhuish families, all of whom were at one time or the other Lords of the Manor. They are mainly early 18th century stones recording burials as early as the late 1500's. These stones have not been transcribed.

There is a constant need for restoration, update or change to meet the needs of the community. Here are just a few of the more recent changes:-

During the 1970's the Guild Chapel of St. George, in the South Transept, was restored to use and furnished with memorial gifts. At the entrance stands the memorial to Miss Amy Facey, an Eric Collingwood sculture of St. George standing upon a plinth depicting a cliff with sea birds in cameo. The perpetual light burns here to draw attention to the Blessed Sacrament reserved to help private prayer and a sense of holiness; for Jesus is really present with his people.

The High Altar stands on a new floor of Cornish slate, and the people's kneeler takes its designs from the roof bosses.

The Lady Chapel has new additions; an Eric Collingwood statue of the Suffering Madonna and Christ Child, and an altar kneeler of our Lady's flowers.

There is a new banner in the Nave depicting the church in a setting of the rivers Torridge and Taw, and the Bideford Bay. From the church door shines the Love of God into the homes, schools and businesses of the parish.

The Upper Room was bought and made into a place of meeting in 1984, and contains a Collingwood plaque of the Last Supper.

The Tower was renovated in 1984, and the Organ in 1986.

Churches form a large part of our Heritage, and as such it is our duty to see that they are preserved for future generations to pray in, gain solace from and to enjoy. I hope that Northam Church will continue to do this for all who visit it.

Brian Randell, 14 Jul 2001

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