- A modest charm well tucked away in the West Devon countryside
- Gorgeous Arts & Crafts church gate
- Norman south doorway
- Great hinge work
- Painting by Edward Fellowes Prynne
- A cracking aumbry in the chancel
- Good floor tiles
- Even better stained glass
Bradford church gate
Outside Bradford church of All Saints there is another church, or at least a wondrous outline of a church, in this Arts & Crafts gate, weathered wood, old ironwork, stone and tile, ensconced in green, for all the world to pass through.
A church in the community, if you will; is there any other? There surely should not be, and this is why a simple church is as important as the grandest confection ever spun; loving all, caring for all, is all.
Why, back in the 1700s a beautiful story illustrates this. Bill Basset had married a local lass, Mary Bray, and set to farming in Bradford. Mary fell badly ill, and they needed help, and the parish stepped forward.
They raised the parish rates, and spent the extra money and more on the Bassets, sending Mary off for all kinds of treatments, and feeding and clothing all, as well as families stepping up to look after the kids while Mary was away being treated. One of their daughters was sadly physically disabled too. In 1713 they spent £20 alone on the Bassets, equivalent to at least £3000 today.
This went on for many a year, with not a word of complaint written in the parish registers, just Christian support.
But there was more. The Bassets’ eldest daughter, Ardilla, was not well either and reading between the lines she was probably extremely mentally ill, poor lass.
She had three illegitimate children, who she tried to care for but kept on disappearing from the scene.
So the parishioners cared. Dilly’s (as she was called in the records, amongst other affectionate names) kids were all christened in this church, cakes and ale supplied, clothes, food and fuel bought for them all, and not a word of weariness or anger appears in the parish registers, just care.
Her children were raised by the parish folk, clothed by the parish folk, taught by the parish folk, apprenticed out by the parish folk, and when Dilly died ‘they buried her, and bade her farewell with a pint of gin’.
This here is a church, the heart of faith, love for your fellow folk.
Bradford Church of All Saints
It is a fine little building too, with a very late tower, 1550 to be exact. By this time church building and renovation had all but come to a screeching halt in most the country, what with the Reformation and the reign of the Edward VI (died 1553 at the age of 15), which was driven by the king’s deep Protestantism and ‘Council of Regents’’ eagerness to spread that over the country.
Though getting hit by lightning will tend to lead to a tower’s rebuilding, which is what happened here. It is a very clean tower too, minimal Gothicry, just a plain bit of early Brutalism if it wasn’t for those windows.
Those pinnacles are from 1891, whether replacements or additions is moot.
The priest’s door
The chancel here though, that is fourteenth century with original windows and doorway, a grand little sight for sure.
A Norman doorway
Whilst the south entrance is Norman through and through: That semi-circular arch is the giveaway, along with he narrowness and the column capitals.
The blank bit under the arch, the tympanum, should by rights have a religious carving but it has long since disappeared.
Good hinge work
And the nineteenth century flaunts its mojo with this gorgeous hinge-work, present on all the outside doors. Though to call them hinges is like calling Buckingham Palace a house; accurate but missing the point.
Probably made by a local blacksmith taking the opportunity to twirl his mastery to the whole parish.
Inside Bradford church
Inside a bit of simplicity, there is a lot of it about here, and very welcome it is too. Those open-backed Victorian pews really help to open up the space too, makes a lovely change, while the arcade of pillars draw the eye towards the main man, the altar.
Mind you, some folk moan about those Victorians coming in and replacing so much medieval work with ali their new-fangled stuff, but I’m not one of them. Take this church for example. Like a lot of churches here in Devon, it had been severely neglected in the 18th century, probably due to the quality of the priesting, and by the 19th century there were
many reports of neglect and disrepair – pigs and horses in the churchyard, decayed roofs, broken mullions (window uprights) and doors and damp
Total renovation of the nave only happened in the 1860s, which included rebuilding all the walls, but the chancel remained boarded off until a new vicar came in the 1880s and redid that too.
Without all this, what we would see today would be pile of stones. Pretty stones, quite likely, but still a pile.
And this was repeated in so many churches around Devon, the Victorians on the whole saving what they could and also making a cleaner space. After all, they were reforming the whole church too in a sort of mini Second Reformation.
And the work here is sweetly good, like these corbels, the stone bits the roof ribs are resting on. Very much of their time in style, but also very much of their age, the reimagining of medieval style that was so strong back then, and following the ‘Green Man’ tradition; beautifully carved as well.
They are said to be portraits of the two families who donated the main part of the restoration funds, which could well be true looking at them.
Bradford church chancel
The chancel nowadays is a neatly peaceful place, with that subtly coloured glass in the East Window. Good that, especially how the glass colour rhymes with the surrounding stone.
The most excellent Victorian aumbry
And in the side wall is this beauty, a Victorian aumbry to be exact, a place to store the sacred vessels of the Communion. The amount of thought that has gone into this design is astounding.
The main honey-hued stone is Ham Stone from Somerset, the other colours are Devon marbles which come in a variety of deep colours depending on where they are quarried in the county.
The front shelf is probably red serpentine from the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall.
It is for sure a grand thing to see all these local stones used together in such an artful way, and an even better thing to see such a well carved and designed creation. That Ham stone could dominate, but the little multi-coloured arch above keeps it in check.
Then geometric background of the rear (carefully chosen shades again) contrasts well with the curves of the surrounding arches as well as adding depth.
And of course the eyes are drawn to the little centrepiece of the cross; good that too, by keeping it small it increases its presence in a way.
I do so love this one.
Delightful Victorian floor tiles
There are some goodly tiles in the chancel too, these especially, very much out of the medieval by way of the Victorians.
On thing about the Victorians that is sometimes forgotten is just how romantic they were at their best; creating these without a soul of romance would be impossible, I venture. Sure they had their faults like us all, an inclination to ‘borrow’ other folks’ countries being one of them, but not all of them were the same and most all of us live in shades in grey.
Plus spiritual, a very spiritual folk too, generalising admittedly.
These lions might have been chosen to represent Christ as the Lion of Judah or just because they are the bee’s knees; not to say both came into the choosing.
A good selection of stained glass
The sweetness continues through with the stained glass like this engaging detail, pretty flowers all in a row, a delightful example of simplicity excelling itself.
A 20th century window
And then there are these roundels, daffodils and tulips and the farming scenes from long ago, another set window. A very recent one too, from 1986, designed by a local Bideford stained glass artist, James Paterson and made by his son Robert after James’ death.
A very fine memorial, not only to Mildred Trible whose family commissioned the window but also to a mighty talented father.
A beautiful lily
And this meditation of lilies, a flower of purity and the flower of the Virgin Mary, which seems just the ticket in a church dedicated to All Saints. After all, Mary is considered a saint, but she is also a saint of saints, the first and the highest.
And this delicately shaded piece of art surely does her justice.
Light and the church
It is a sweet little church this, full of little charms and enchantments, just right for visiting awhile enjoying and resting in the lights and shades.
When I first entered through that gorgeous gate and opening the south door, simplicity just said hello and simplicity can be a wonderful place to spend some time in.
At least, I find it so.