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English Church Architecture -

Devon.

 

LODDISWELL, St. Michael & All Angels (SX 721 487)     (March 2015)

(Bedrock:  Lower Devonian, Meadfoot Group)

 

Although this church (seen above from the south) displays many of the standard Perpendicular elements one encounters time and again in Devon, it is a more interesting building than some because most of the surviving building is earlier, its historical development seems reasonably clear or is at least open to a fair attempt at interpretation, and the admittedly rough stonework has not been marred by a much more unpleasant rendering in cement or plaster, as is the case, for example, at Malborough to the south.  The older parts of the church are constructed of grey sandstones and siltstones while the Perpendicular work has been largely executed in granite.  The roofs are of slate.

 

Contrary to what is usually the best procedure, it is more revealing to begin an examination of St. Michael & All Angels' inside, where the building plan is immediately clear and where the Perpendicular and pre-Perpendicular work can more easily be distinguished.  The church today consists of a chancel with independently-gabled chapels of equal length, a four-bay nave with a N. transept and an independently-gabled S. aisle, and a W. tower flanked to the south by a porch, which presents itself to the world as a western continuation of the aisle.  An examination of the arches thrown up by these constituent parts within, shows the chancel arch, the arches from the chancel, N. transept and S. aisle to the chapels, and the arches from the nave to the N. transept and the easternmost bay of the S. aisle, to be stylistically very similar, formed of semi-octagonal responds supporting double-flat-chamfered arches above. This is a basic Early English form, implying the thirteenth century church had transepts and chancel chapels but, as yet, no aisle to the nave.  However, there are some differences to be seen even amongst this work for the arch from the chancel to the N. chapel is taller than its southern counterpart, suggesting it is not exactly contemporary, and the chancel arch, which more nearly matches the N. chapel arch in height, has capitals at two levels which, to heap speculation on speculation, might possibly imply it was originally intended to spring from the lower level when the chancel and S. transept were first built together, but that with the decision to add a N. chapel also, and to make it taller, it was thought better to raise the height of the chancel arch correspondingly.  Subsequently, the E. respond of the aisle arcade and the S. respond of the chancel arch were cut through to provide a squint from the (former) S. transept (shown left), and the N. respond of the chancel arch was severely mutilated higher up to create an exit for the former rood stair.

 

However, be all this as it may, the rest of the S. arcade (i.e. the three western bays) - with piers formed of four shafts separated by hollows with capitals to the shafts only, and arches above carrying two wave mouldings - takes the only too predictable late fifteenth or early sixteenth century form of, perhaps, a hundred or more church arcades in central and southern Devon, suggesting the granite pier sections and arch voussoirs were being mass produced around that time, at a central location. (See the photograph, right, taken from the southwest corner of the aisle.)  The integral S. porch is a less usual feature deriving from this period of modest prosperity that led to this spate of church building across the county.  Its internal dimensions are striking, being equivalent to one whole bay of the independently-gabled aisle.  The inner doorway is set at right angles to the wide, segmental-arched outer doorway, leading the visitor into the west end of the aisle.

 

Returning outside the church once more, the modest W. tower is part of the thirteenth century building:  rising in two stages supported by diagonal buttresses, it has only the simplest one-light bell openings and outwardly projecting battlements that appear to be held up by a corbel table below.  A large rectangular stair turret rising up the lower stage of the tower only, projects prominently from the N. wall.

 

As for the windows around the building, the aisle windows assume the usual, uncusped, untraceried form associated with the Perpendicular arcade within (again, cf. Malborough), but the westernmost, four-light window in the S. chapel (left) is more distinguished, with supermullioned tracery, subarcuation of the lights in pairs and through-reticulation, while following this to the east, a smaller two-light window with a straightened reticulation unit in the head, may possibly be indicative of the late fourteenth century. The east windows of the church are difficult to view as there is only the narrowest passageway around this side of the building but the chapel windows are both three-light with two squashed and straightened reticulation units above, while the chancel window is five-light with strong mullions, intersecting subarcuation of the lights in threes and through-reticulation.  The N. transept N. window is modern and a very poor effort indeed, but the easternmost and westernmost three-light N. windows to the nave, which are similar to the chapel E. windows, and the central window of conventional supermullioned form, are old inside, even though they have been "repaired" externally in concrete in what must be one of the most ham-fisted attempts at restoration conceivable.

 

This just leaves church furnishings to be described and only two items need to be mentioned here. The simple rounded font (above left) is Norman in origin, featuring a frieze of carved saltires around the top and shallow spiral patterns lower down on the bowl, above a plain stem.  However, better by than this is the High Victorian pulpit (right), dated 1867, and constructed of coloured marbles.  A book rest in pinky-brown marble is supported on a drum decorated with trefoil-cusped arches  separated by black marble shafts with carved leaf capitals in stone and a frieze of inlaid marble roundels around the base.  Unfortunately, the artist seems to be unknown.  The inscription in one of the arches reads, "This pulpit is erected by surviving relatives to the beloved memory of Richard Peek of Hazelwood, born 3rd October 1782, died 7th March 1867.  After rising by integrity and perseverance to high estate and office in London, he returned to his native parish where for many years he was an active and honoured county magistrate and a wise and tender friend to the poor".