Alphington Church Outside

The Original Church Yard Entrance
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

The Churchyard

The first extension was made in 1870 when the Eight Bells Inn (Shaddyford House) and cottages that stood in front of the church were demolished. In 1878 when major renovations were made to the church the churchyard was extended once more. The original wall and gateway can still be seen halfway up into the churchyard. The cemetery off the Dawlish Road was provided from glebe land by Revd. Edward John Gore Dupuis in 1903.

The cobbled path in the old part of the churchyard was laid in 1844. If you look carefully there are black stones laid in the cobbling that read "1844".

In 1937 Miss Veitch gave a number of flowering shrubs for the church yard.

In 1962 Miss McGarey had the path from the Lychgate to the steps asphalted in memory of her brother.

The Tower

Sums of £50 and £40 were spent on the church tower in 1697–8 and 1706.

The tower of the church was repaired in 1852 and repointed in 1897.

In 1946 The Church Council ordered the steps of the tower to be repaired as many of them were very worn and made of crumbling stone.

In 1960 scaffolding was going up round the church tower so that an inspection could be carried out by Messrs Dart and Francis and the architect Mr. J. W. Challice. Repairs were completed in September.

During the Winter of 1969 and 1970 after an architect's inspection it was stated that about £2,000 needed to be spent on repairs to the tower, organ etc. A pinnacle had fallen off the church on to the path below during the autumn. Also the organ required cleaning. A tower appeal fund was set up and by July 1970 the fund stood at £316 11s 11d. A further inspection took place in October when the fund was estimated to be over £500. Work started in November when the total funds raised had reached £575. The work on the tower finished in December and it was stated that it had been in fair condition except for a small crack of 2 ft. This crack had a huge cavity inside, that had been worked out by rain entering it from a weak joint.

In 1972 the church flag did not fly from the top of the tower at Easter or on St George's Day as the north–east winds during April had cut the halyard. The flag could not be flown until there was a windless day and plenty of man power to take the flag pole down to ground level for repair.

Leaning against the wall of the church tower is the original shaft of the head of the War Memorial that stands on the green in front of the church. This shaft was discovered in the garden of Fairfax House.

Lightning Strike

Beside the cobble path is the weathered commemorative tablet/grave stone of George Coles who died in 1826 at the age of 14. This stone was originally fixed over the Belfry door but was later moved to this position. The words on the stone were thought to have been written by William Ellicombe and read:

Pause Sinner! And reflect on these remains . .
This spot . . this little spot of earth . . contains
A youth, by lightning struck! No moment given
To raise one thought . . one pious prayer to heaven!"
This might have been thy fate. Oh, then, beware,
Reflect in time, and give thy soul in prayer:
Entreat thy pardon at the Heavenly Throne,
Since not one moment canst thou call thine own.

In 1826 elections had been held in the City of Exeter. Squire Buck had been returned as a member of Parliament and at such times it was customary to ring the bells of St. Peter's. For some reason on this occasion on 10th June 1826 it was decided to ring the bells at Alphington instead. Six bell ringers had gone into the belfry of Alphington Church and a 14 year old boy called George Coles, the son of the Sexton, was standing by the belfry's outside door.

It had been a very hot and sultry day and a violent thunder storm had just started in Alphington. The bell ringers had rung one peal and were still in the belfry sheltering from the heavy rain. There was a violent flash of lightning and a loud clap of thunder. It was as if a ball of fire had struck the vane on the top of the church tower and then travelled to the top part of the bell chamber, it then ran right down an iron spine that runs through the tower from top to bottom. Stones were dislodged from the walls surrounding the tower stairs. Dust and dirt was coming from the belfry door.

Mr. Coles, Mr. Wright, Mr. Taylor and another Mr. Coles were struck down and lay senseless on the belfry floor for some time. George Heard, who had been leaning against the open glass door that led from the belfry into the church, was lifted up and he landed several yards inside the church. The shoes of three of the bell ringers and the coat of another were torn to shreds. They were carried into the school room on the opposite side of the road. Dr Calder found them severely shaken and their clothes burnt but otherwise not too badly hurt. A gentleman who was passing by on the road opposite the church at the time of the lightning strike was knocked from the centre of the road into a shop's doorway. He was stunned and confused but otherwise unhurt. Young George Coles was found with his coat and shirt burning, his mouth was open but he never spoke, he had died instantaneously.

This lightning strike did considerable damage to the church, chancel and tower. Mr. Rowe, a builder, and Mr. J. T. Chapple, a bricklayer, were employed to survey the damage and produce a report. The report dated 13th June 1826 stated:
Chancel: the walls had been damaged and sundry places had received "shock". Plastering should be taken off at each place, the walls secured and made good. No serious damage had been caused to the structure.
Tower: the turret over the tower staircase is "much shattered". It requires taking down and made good to the height of the tower battlements. The vane should be taken down and refixed.
Clock room: new leaded glass should be placed in the window and the clock repaired. Plastering was knocked off on the outside of the tower where the iron span is and the walls should be examined. There was not too much serious damage.
Belfry: the glass should be taken out of the Gothic lead windows and repaired with cement. The glass should be made good.
Under the belfry and the entrance to the gallery: The Gothic head to the doorway appears to have been "shocked" this should be examined and repaired.

It was also recommended that the loose stones at the top of the turret should be immediately removed as they were very dangerous and to stop more damage being done while the other repairs were being worked on or when the church or bells were in use.

The Old Cross Shaft
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

In February 1931 Mr. William Charles Sibley erected an illuminated cross on top of the church tower turret in memory of his wife, Fanny Ethel Sibley. At the time there was only one other illuminated cross in England. The cross completed the scheme for the electric lighting. He also gave a new gown to the verger and new gowns and berettas to the lady members of the choir. These were worn for the first time on the Sunday of the dedication. The cross was removed during World War Two. He also presented a water colour of Alphington in memory of his father who was born in the Parish in 1846. The painting was hung in the Vestry.

The Clock

The first clock was put in place in 1710 at a cost of £16 1s 5½d and a clockmaker was paid 15/- per year to make sure it kept good time.

A second new clock was installed in 1798, which cost £12 12s 0d.

Mr. Henry Savory Way of London gave the church a new clock in 1882 to replace this second one.

The clock was dismantled and had to have a thorough cleaning in 1939 because dust had settle between the cogs after the bells were removed for recasting. This took a complete week.

In 1947 the striking mechanism broke and a consultant, Mr. E. R. Lisle said this it would be an expensive repair probably best performed by a London firm. Also at about this time Mr. Rumbelow had fixed up the lighting over the church clock.

In May 1971 Jack Heggadon and Harry Brewer were thanked for curing the syncopated chimes of the church clock.

In June 1974 it had been over six months since the church clock was working and it was missed by everyone in the Parish. The estimate for the repair was almost £200.

At the end of January 1993 the clock fell silent. The clock itself was still working but the mechanism which triggered the clock bells to chime the quarters and strike the hours had become jammed because of a build up of general dust and grime. It was advised that a complete overhaul, for example, a clean, oil and replacement of worn parts was urgently required. The cost was £1800 and by June of that year about £1000 had been raised. Also, in about March 1993 the spotlight that illuminated the clock was replaced.

In 1999 funds were being raised for the automation of the clock. In June over £2,000 had been raised towards the required sum of about £4,250.

/the Lych Gate, Apple Loft and Church Tower
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

Lych Gate

At the entrance to the churchyard from the Chudleigh Road stands the Lych Gate, which was erected by Miss Mitchell in memory of her family.

The Apple Loft

The Heavitree-stone building that can be seen bordering part of the top of the churchyard is the Apple Loft, which as its name suggests was used to store apples from the numerous apple orchards, which once covered a vast area of Alphington.

The building was also used for clerical teaching and it is thought that Charles Babbage was taught here. During the Crimean War gentleman of the village met up on a Sunday afternoon to hear the latest news from the battlefield.

The Old Rectory

The Old Rectory, which was built in 1609, can be seen from the gateway leading from the churchyard into Rectory Drive.



Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick