Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

St Mary's Church, Ottery St Mary, Devon

The lovely town of Ottery St Mary takes it's name, in part, from the magnificent parish church of St Mary. Although an earlier church existed before the Conquest (benefacted by Edward the Confessor), the present church was built in the 14th century and was a legacy of John de Grandisson, Bishop of Exeter (1327-69). St Mary's is a scaled-down version of Exeter Cathedral, on which it was modelled.

The church contains ten misericords dating from the building of the church in 1350, five showing the arms of Bishop John de Grandisson. The church interior also has two carved stone green men. The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was born in the town, is commemorated in a small stone plaque situated on the south churchyard wall. Other interesting features include the tomb of Otho de Grandisson and his wife, and the altar screen and wooden eagle given by Bishop Grandisson.

The outside looks almost like a fairy-tale castle on the north side (above) and the interior is absolutely stunning. Far from being gloomy, the Mediaeval age was one of colour, and many facades which are now bare stone (such as the complex statuary on the front exterior of Exeter Cathedral) were originally highly painted in bright blues, reds, greens and gold. St Mary's conjures up, for me, the age of heraldry, and the one area where the ordinary townsfolk could enjoy a rich and wealthy interior in which to glorify their God.

Although most of the stone is left bare, as is usual these days, the ribs on the rib vaulted ceiling (above) have been picked out in blue and red with gilt on the bosses.

The sanctuary is beautifully decorated in red and gilt, with an exquisite carved reredos, below.

And, like Exeter Cathedral, there are aisles either side to access behind the sanctuary; a small ambulatory area behind the altar screen, with the Lady Chapel behind that.

The 14th century astronomical clock in the South transept bell tower (photo below) is attributed to Bishop Grandisson. It adheres to Ptolemaic Cosmology, with the Earth at the centre of the solar system, and still works to this day. It is one of the oldest surviving mechanical clocks in the country.

I have more photos and info to add at some point, but unfortunately I'm having problems with my website builder and I can't access my uploaded photos on there at the mo. Meanwhile, more photos can be seen in the Photo Gallery album, along with these.

Recent Photos