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English Church Architecture -

Devon.

 

BRENTNOR, St. Michael de Rupe (SX 471 804)   (March 2016)

(Bedrock:  Carboniferous Dinantian Subsystem, Milton Abbot Volcanics)

 

It is the position of this church (illustrated above) rather than its architecture that makes it so memorable for it stands precariously on top of a craggy volcanic knoll, prominent on the skyline from all everywhere around.   It is a situation reminiscent of that of St. Catherine's chapel, Abbotsbury (Dorset), but here the narrowness and precipitous nature of the hill heightens the effect still further, while the church itself shares with St. Catherine's the same fortress-like quality even if the only enemy either has ever really had to repel has been six or seven centuries of inclement English weather.

 

The building itself  is entirely embattled and formed of an unbuttressed W. tower, a single attached cell to the east serving both as nave and as chancel, and an adjoining heavily-built N. porch (as seen in photograph above, taken from the north).   Although one automatically suspects a Norman origin for a church so remotely placed, the earliest work in evidence is in thirteenth century Early English style and includes several deeply splayed lancet windows and the simple N. and S. doorways, the second of which is blocked.  The tower rises in two stages to a height, according to Pevsner, of just 32' (9.8 m.).  The porch is windowless and, indeed, windows are in short supply in general, producing an interior that is inevitably very dark.  Seen in the gloom, the attractive low-pitched couple roof (shown below) seems likely to date from the church's restoration (ascribed by Pevsner to 1889-90) and this may also be the date of the glass in the chancel E. window, notwithstanding its vaguely Jacobean appearance.  In truth, however, anyone who climbs the hill to see this building will have done so for the view and the atmosphere rather than in the expectation of seeing remarkable architecture and anyone who climbs it in that spirit on a cold windy day in early spring, will have received their full share of that.