Alphington Church The Restoration and Re-opening 1876–1878

The Defects

Alphington church was described as an ancient structure, 'being one of the many fine specimens of perpendicular architecture to be found in the South-west of England but with the exception of the tower and north wall the building had for many years been in a very bad state of repair'.

The interior of the church was far worse than the outside. It was said that most of the piers and arches were 'considerably out of the upright', the timbers in the roof were decayed and in a dangerous state. The floor was so defective that the smell coming up from the vaults below was dreadful. The interior was also described as being 'gloomy, draughty, damp and unwholesome and the arrangements were so bad that decent and orderly worship was hardly possible'.

The Restoration

It was Rev. Dr Dennett who set about putting these defects right and Messrs. Hayward and Son were granted the contract. Everything was very satisfactorily carried out at a cost of £2,934.

The walls of the south aisle were almost entirely rebuilt, the chancel lengthened, the piers and arches restored so they were once more 'upright'. The roof was replaced, the floor taken up and vaults filled in and a bed of concrete laid underneath a new floor. The old gallery, which ran right across the back of the church, was removed and the tower arch exposed. A vestry was erected on the south side with a loft above it to house a large organ.

During the restoration every care was taken to preserve as much of original structure as possible. When relaying the floor all the old grave stones whose inscriptions could be deciphered were used. The interior roof was described as being a beautiful feature of the edifice and were of the old cradle form and had been changed so that they were open and not plastered. The one over the chancel was more ornamented than the others and separated from the nave by a carved ornamental rib. The steps to the sacrarium were of Devonshire marble and the floor laid with Godwin tiles.

The Windows

The east window was filled with stained glass by Ballatince and Son of Edinburgh a gift from Mrs Hart. The centre light had the subject of the Crucifixion with an almost opaque back ground. The side lights illustrated the texts 'Why seek ye the living among the dead' and 'He is not here He is risen'. On the north side of the chancel was a single light window by Mr Drake of Exeter. It contained the figure of St Michael the Patron Saint and was presented by the Architect. The two western windows by Ward and Hughes were the gift of Rev. H. T. Ellacombe of St George's Clyst. In the south west one window was a gift of a brother in memory of John William Ellicombe and the other a gift of Charles Ellicombe Esq dedicated to Rev. Richard Ellicombe The north western window was the gift of Mrs Samuel Parr in memory of her grandfather William Ellicombe The south-east window was the gift of George Bradford and Richard Rous Ellicombe in memory of their parents Hugh Myddleton Ellicombe Esq and Lucy.

Furniture and Other 'Gifts'

The old fashioned pews were replaced by open seats of pitch pine and those in the chancel were of black walnut and oak, the communion rail and lectern were constructed from the same material.

The upper part of the porch was rebuilt and as traces of the existence of a former niche were discovered it was decided to make a new one. In the new niche a statue of the Patron Saint St Michael was produced by Mr Harry Heme and designed and paid for by Lord Devon.

All the other wood and stone carving had been done by Mr Sendell of Exeter and he also temporarily cleaned the fine old rood-screen.

Lord Devon gave the credence table and litany desk and had also undertaken the restoration of the ancient caved rood screen. The altar cloth was the work and gift of Mrs Cotton and the altar linen and book markers the work and gift of the Misses Eales. A cross with five precious stones, vases and altar candlesticks were the gift of General Rainey and his niece Miss Rudd. The linen for the credence table was given by Mrs Hussey and the dossals by Mrs Head, Mrs Hart and Mr and Mrs Gray. There were numerous other contributions including surplices and matting etc.

The peal of eight bells had been re-hung in 1879 at a cost of upwards of £40.

St. Michael and All Angels Church re-opened on Thursday 25th July 1878.

Services and Celebrations

Services were held to celebrate the re-opening and this started in the morning with Holy Communion at 8 o'clock. The celebrant was Rev. Dr. Dennett, assisted by the Hon. and Rev. H. H. Courtenay and the Rev. H. A. Slack?

At 11 o'clock morning prayer was held and the Lord Bishop of Exeter gave a sermon. The Building Committee and the Church Choir walked in procession to the church, at the head procession was the Earl of Devon and Joshua Dixon Esq of Winslade. Among the clergy were the Rev. Precentor Cook, the Ven. Archdeacon Saunders, the Hon. and Rev. Prebendary H. H. Courtenay, the Rev. Prebendary Bull?, the Rev. H. T. Ellacombe, the Rev. Dr. Dennett, the Rev. W. W. Secrotan, the Rev. E. Harris (Master of Exeter Grammar School), the Rev. J. A. L. Leakey, the Rev. W. W. Goodacre, the Rev. H. M. Wellington, the Rev. R. H. Porter, Rev. F. Bullocke, the Rev. R. G. Selman, the Rev. F. W. Pulling etc. The service was described as being full choral and Anglican throughout. The prayers were intoned (recited in singing voice) by the Rev. Dr. Dennett, Curate-in-charge and the Rev. W. W. Secrotan? The Rev. H. T. Ellacombe read the first lesson and the Rev. Precentor Cook read the second lesson. Lord, Thou hast been our Refuge was sung as an anthem and To Thy Temple I repair was sung before the sermon.

Luncheon and Speeches

Luncheon was held in a large marquee in the Rectory grounds at 2 o'clock and most of the congregation that had been present at the morning service attended.

The Earl of Devon presided and some of the others were the Lord Bishop of Exeter, the Rev. Precentor Cook, the Ven. Archdeacon Saunders, the Hon and Rev. H. H. Courtenay, the Rev. Dr. Dennett, H. D. Thomas Mayor of Exeter, W. Cotton Esq Sheriff and Mrs Cotton, T. Kekewich Esq, Captain Chichester and Mrs Chichester, Messrs R. T. Head, J. Drew, P. H. Hayward, Wippell, Loram, Hussey, White etc.

After toasts had been given Lord Devon proposed the health of the Lord Bishop of Exeter who was appreciated throughout the Diocese, Alphingtonians were very much obliged to him for attending their celebrations.

After the applause had died down The Lord Bishop answered saying that he was delighted to be there that day and to witness the good work. He was surprised at the marvellous change that had taken place in Alphington Church since his last visit. He went on to say 'He did not know he could have pointed out a church better adapted for going comfortably to sleep in during the service.' Much laughter followed! He continued saying that he was sure no other church in the Diocese 'more plainly bore the marks of being cared for' than Alphington Church and Parishioners had every right to be proud. Although Alphington Church was not a large church and may be not so striking architecturally as some other churches he felt really at home in Alphington Church. He said that he was most disappointed to enter a church that was uncared for and he could only worship with entire devotion when he could see 'that all around him that people who were in charge of a church cared for it.' He was sure that an uncared for church had 'effects' on a great many people and that on the young 'it was particularly mischievous.'

After his audience had answered with 'Hear, Hear', he carried on to say 'he thought it was often one of the best and most valuable pleasures to have a church to worship in which had something in it really beautiful'. He continued that it was far cheaper and economical to build and maintain a beautiful church rather than an ugly one, people would far more readily give funds for a beautiful church and 'that it was the hardest thing in the world to screw out money from them' for the ugly church. This followed with great laughter from his audience.

He finished his speech by congratulating the Parishioners for having a church they would love and value and also for thanking them 'for the manner to which they had received his name.' Applause followed.

Lord Devon then acknowledged the Bishop's kind remarks and then proposed the health of the architects, Messrs Hayward father and son.

Mr P. B. Haywood responded by saying that the work they had 'been engaged for so long a time was a work of no common pleasure.' He said they had taken care to preserve all the church's features of interest and restore it to its original state.

Lord Devon then proposed the health of Rev. W. Butterfield who had been unable to attend through illness.

Next a letter was read from Dr Woodman who had also been unable to attend, he had enclosed a cheque for five pounds and five shillings.

Next the Mayor expressed his delight at the restored church. He had memories of worshipping in Alphington Church in his younger days with relatives who had attended the church for more than 50 years.

The Rev. Precentor Cook then proposed the health of the Earl of Devon. He said of the Earl. 'a nobleman whose assistance was given to every kind of good work in the county. He was the first to take it up and the last to lay it down and he always took care to carry it through on the best principles.'

After the applause had stopped Lord Devon answered. 'the exception to the access spoken of was that for 15 years he had in vain endeavoured to carry another railway through one part of the country.' Laughter followed. He continued 'This church as the most successful work and one of the best ever done in that immediate district.' Last, he said that a considerable debt remained but hoped it would not continue for long. He then proposed the health of the Curate-in-Charge Rev. Dr. Dennett. Rev. Dr. Dennett responded and that concluded the proceedings.

The luncheon had been provided by Mr S. L. Gifford of Exeter.



Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick