Wednesday, January 14, 2015

St Pancras Church, Widecombe-in-the-Moor

This is going to be a long post with lots of photographs from our visit to Saint Pancras Church in Widecombe-in-the-Moor, which you can see in my present header photo.  That photo will change eventually but I thought I would keep it until I have shared all my photos from this very beautiful little village.  

Saint Pancras is cruciform in shape and consists of a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, north and south transepts, south porch and a 120 foot tower which contains six bells of various dates, the earliest going back to 1632.

The church was originally built in the 14th century in the late Gothic style, and was nicknamed "Cathedral of the Moors" because of its relatively large capacity for such a small village.  People would have to walk miles for services.  Thanks to the local tin-mining trade it was enlarged over the next two centuries.  Inside the ceiling is decorated with several decorative roof bosses, including the tinner's emblem of a circle of three hares (known locally as the Tinner's Rabbits).  

It was also badly damaged in the Great Thunderstorm of 1638, in which during the month of October a ball of fire passed through the church (long before lightning rods were even thought of I suppose).  Wallboards in the church tell the story.  An afternoon service was taking place at the time and the building was packed with approximately 300 worshipers.  Four of them were killed, one by a falling stone, around 60 were injured.  According to local legend the Great Thunderstorm was caused by the village being visited by the Devil. More details of this event can be found at this site.

This area is steeped in folk lore and superstition, and there are many ghost stories, one involving American actor Daniel Stern, though I could not find what this experience was about.  He said that he had 'an unsettling and possibly supernatural experience' there.  You might remember him from Home Alone 2, City Slickers, and he also narrated the TV show Wonder Years.  What I found interesting was that he had visited Widecome-in-the-Moor briefly back in 1980 when he was on his honeymoon.

I found the above picture on line, as I did the painting below, which shows the village as it was long ago.

So, who was Saint Pancras?  Pancratius was born at Phrygia in around AD290.  He was an orphan who at the age of 14 was taken to Rome by his Uncle, Dionysium, where he was converted to Christianity.  As with many saints it seems, he came to a sorry end around AD304.  You can read his whole story here if interested, which is where I got some of my information.

We were very happy that the church was open and had a good look around.  

On the old stone floor.

The following is an explanation of the above.

There were display cases with items from previous wars.

An impressive model of the church made by a local gentleman out of what looked like matchsticks. 

In Widecombe churchyard is the grave of novelist Beatrice Chase who lived for much of her life in a cottage close to the village.  Her real name was Olive Katherine Parr and she was a direct descendant of William Parr, the brother of Catherine, the sixth wife of Henry VIII.

Near the entrance of St. Pancras there is a giftshop and out front is a 15-inch naval shell.  It was donated to the village after the First World War, to thank the villages for supplying troops with sphagnum moss.  This grows in abundance in the damp Dartmoor conditions and is said to have healing properties.  It was used as an emergency field dressing for injured troops.

Lastly, a few more scenes of the surrounding countryside.

That's about it from our trip to one of Devonshire's most visited villages.  It is probably the first longest post I have ever done, and will probably be the last longest one I will ever do.  I hope you've found it interesting.  I had a wonderful time researching and finding out some of its history, and there is a lot more I have learned but it would take another dozen or so posts and I think I will stop here. 

If you have missed any of my Devonshire posts, you can click on the label "Devonshire_England" below this one.