Wednesday, 23 September 2009


Today I particularly want to put the Tower of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lympstone into my blog because tomorrow is that tower’s birthday. It is to be six hundred years old and much is being made of that. Its connections, however, with the Estuary are pretty tenuous.

True, the tower can be seen by boats on the Estuary from as far down channel as Cockwood but these days it can hardly be said to be a landmark. It nestles rather than looms! But six hundred years ago it would have been more evident and the most significant building between Topsham and the sea and would have served to guide boats from the main channel into Lympstone Lake, always a tricky turning.

The stone to build the body of the old, fourteenth century, church which is now replaced by the new church of 1864 came sailing along the coast and up the Estuary from the quarries at Beer but the great stones for the tower which is all of the old church that still stands were quarried in a field only a somewhat smaller stone’s throw away.

The tower carries a fine peal of bells, six of them, and when the tide is in and the bellringers ring the changes the sound floats across the water and fills the Estuary and delights the passing boatman.

And let us not forget that in the shadow of this tower lie buried the bones of many dead mariners: smugglers, pirates, fishermen and yachtsmen.

That will have to do!

Tomorrow is being celebrated this tower’s six hundredth birthday, or rather is being celebrated the precise day six hundred years ago (did anybody allow for the Old Calendar?) when it was consecrated by the then Bishop of Exeter, one Edmund Stafford. It would be nice if the bishop floated up with the tide and stepped ashore from an episcopal barge. (Well, he mitre but he didn't. He had been towerconsecrating in Woodbury only the day before!) and the pretty verses that I was pleased to be asked to compose for this grand occasion will be ceremoniously delivered tomorrow morning to the sound of a Royal Marine fanfare.

And I shall publish them tomorrow.

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