Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

St Mary at the Cross Chapel, Whitford, Devon

Whitford is part of the parish of Shute, and this tiny but lovely church was built in 1908 as a chapel of ease so that the villages weren't obliged to travel to Shute's church of St Michael.

I really enjoyed this visit. The doors were locked, and therefore I couldn't take interior photos, but nevertheless it is a charming building and a delightful spot...especially on a mid June afternoon with only the sight and sound of a tractor carting loads of hay along the lane. 

At first I thought the chapel may have been left abandoned, but the notice board information shows that the chapel is used just once a month as, like many rural parishes, one of the clergy often has more than one church under their care. In the photo below, what looks like a grass path is actually a concrete one, but the grass had recently been cut and the clippings left strewn across the path. I love the gate and railings. 

Small churches and chapels, such as this, usually have a bellcote rather than a much larger bell tower. This one comprises two sections with a bell in each opening, on top of a stack above the west gable. Three central lights sit above the porch entrance. 

The portico is topped with three small gables. Quoins surround the entrance and windows, leaving the odd brick exposed, which gives a charming and slightly quirky look to the frontage. A lovely old step of diagonally placed square tiles sits in front of the door.

Although built during the Edwardian era, there are still traces of the popular Victorian Gothic style, against a background of beautifully faded red brick.

There must have been difficulty in squeezing everything in, as the buttress has been built into the architrave of the already tiny side door. I'm not sure why that was done. I can think of a couple of reasons...neither of them very academic, though. One, because they didn't want to spoil the symmetry of the buttress spacing by moving it slightly to the left and there was nowhere else for the door to go, or because someone had made a mistake in the calculations. Maybe it was neither of these at all...or both! ;)

Whilst doing some research, I came across a wonderful document containing the findings of the Shute Parish Biodiversity Audit. Here's a bit...

"The churchyard ground to the west and south is higher than the lanes beyond... There are a couple of trees, one deciduous and one conifer, a couple of saplings to the edge and an ornamental bush within the churchyard. The vegetation in the main area was short and appeared to be managed by mowing in the summer months."

Considering the audit was done during the month of February, it was nice and apt for the time that I visited. 

And to round off a lovely visit, here are some more descriptions of the flora to be seen...

"There is a fairly small churchyard with no gravestones, surrounded by hedges.  The hedges support a mix of woody species including hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn, field maple, hazel and English elm. The hedge bank flora seen during the parish site visit included ivy, hart’s-tongue, dog’s mercury, cow parsley, wood avens, Yorkshire-fog, cleavers, hedge-bedstraw, greater stitchwort, common nettle, primrose, ground ivy, wood false-brome, bush vetch, lesser celandine, a geranium, broad-leaved dock, red campion, polypody and honeysuckle...

There was a diverse range of plant species here (in the churchyard), with frequent to abundant ribwort plantain, primrose, cat’s-ear, lesser celandine, Yorkshire-fog and common sorrel, with betony, cock’s-foot, wood-rush, sweet vernal-grass, barren strawberry and bulbous buttercup seen during the visit. There is also a nice herb-rich bank at the south-west entrance. Here ribwort plantain, betony, germander speedwell, yarrow, hedge-bedstraw, barren strawberry, bush vetch, creeping buttercup, wood-rush, oxeye daisy, cat’s-ear and mosses were growing."

These and some more photos can be seen in the Photo Gallery album.

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