Javascript Menu by Archive 05 - February 2005 - Listed Building Description & Churchwarden's Accounts
Church House, South Tawton, Devon, UK





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Archive 5 - February 2005

Thatch Samples      Pete Kilgannon 1st Feburary 2005

The next stage of the investigation gets underway on the 7th Febuary. First thing in the morning the local builder Keith Redstone will supply and erect a scaffold tower and hook ladder to provide south side (facing the square) access to truss number 1 (first from south east). John letts will then come and take a deep sample of thatch from over this area

Once the sample has been taken, Malcolm Hayes will patch in the sample with reed. Finally the ladder and scaffolding will be removed.

Listed Building Description     English Heritage 22nd February 1967
The Church House Listed Building Document (see below)
English Heritage - Listed Building Description

"Church house, still used as parish rooms. Late C1S - early C16, much altered in the mid C16. Large blocks of coursed granite ashlar. Patched here and there with granite stone rubble; granite stacks with granite ashlar chimneyshafts; thatch roof. Plan and development: the building is built down a gentle hillslope and faces south-east backing onto and terraced into the churchyard. The mid C16 church house had a 3-room plan but now the centre and left (south-western) room have been knocked together. Left end gable-end stack and an axial stack between the other rooms serves back-to-back fireplaces. Lobby entrance right of centre onto the side of the stack. External first floor access. A blocked disturbance in the left end wall behind the stack might represent the site of a former internal stair there. Originally the house was open to the roof, heated by an open hearth fire and any internal partitions were low screens. It was floored in the mid C16 when the fireplaces were inserted and is therefore now 2 storeys. [Note: Subsequent investigations during the restoration in 2005 appear to disprove this. It is now thought that the building was erected in 1490 as a two story structure] Exterior: irregular 3- window front of C20 casements containing rectangular panes of leaded glass.

Those on the ground floor occupy C16 embrasures with chamfered granite reveals, the centre one with the headpiece of a 2-light window with trefoil- headed lights. The main front doorway is right of centre and is probably original; a granite'2- centred arch with chamfered surround and contains an ancient studded oak plank door. Secondary ground floor doorway containing a C20 door left of centre. The main front doorway is flanked by the double flight of external lateral granite steps rising to the main first floor doorway; a granite Tudor arch containing a C20 door. To right a secondary first floor doorway. The steps have plain C19 iron rails. In fact the ground floor doorways also have steps from the road; these set with upended cobbles with granite kerbs. The roof is gable-ended. Thg right (north-eastern) gable end contains a good C16 first floor window; square-headed 3- light granite- mullioned window with Perpendicular tracery and a hoodmould. Interior is largely mid C16. Of the 3 fireplaces only the one for the centre room is exposed; it is granite ashlar with a plain soffit-chamfered oak lintel. The left end one, though blocked, is larger than the others. All ground floor crossbeams are of large scantling with plain soffit chamfers. There is no sign of the partition between centre and left rooms although Copeland reports an oak plank- and-muntin screen containing a shoulder-headed doorway. First floor is open to the roof. The roof structure is now interrupted by the axial stack but was formerly a continuous 5- bay roof true cruck trusses. The whole of this roof structure is smoke-blackened from the original open hearth fire. Source: G W Copeland. Devonshire Church Houses, Part 1. Trans. Devon. Assoc. 92 (1960), p.130. "

The South Tawton Churchwarden's Accounts
from Feasibility Report Cynthia Gaskell Brown 13th October 2003

South Tawton is fortunate in retaining a relatively long run of accounts. Only some 200 sets of Churchwardens accounts survive from Tudor England (Duffy, 200, p.17). These accounts are annual reports of the cost of maintaining the Church and the Church House and include inventories of the church's possessions.

The Accounts begin in 1524 when Henry VIII was on the throne and continue through the reigns of Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth I and continue on until 1613. Significantly ten pages, which covered the period from 1540 to 1555, have been cut out of the account book. This coincides with the crucial period of the establishment of the Church of England and the painful swing into extreme Protestantism under Edward VI and the reversion to Catholicism in Mary's reign.

The dates of the surviving accounts deposited in the Devon County Record Office are 1524 - 40; 1555 -1613; 1648 -1679; 1732 - 1904. The accounts were transcribed and discussed by E Lega-Weeks between 1906 -1909 (typescripts in South Zeal Village Archive and West Country Studies Library) and have been analysed in the Keystone Report for information about the building, repair, alteration and use of the Church House.

 The Tudor account books open a window onto the life of the parish as it was some five hundred years ago. Amongst much else the accounts give the names of the local people involved in constructing and repairing the building, the places where timber, stone and thatch were brought from, how much the materials and labour cost and provide many clues to the use of the building.

Extracts from the Churchwardens Account
Who built and repaired the church house?

1567 William Heywood of Spreyton was paid 8s 5d for boards and timber

1567 Roger Conebye and John Somer were paid 6s. for four days work with their meat and drink

1570 Rychard Bucher was paid 18d for footing the Church House

1572 John Roger was paid 8d for ryddyng the foundation of the Church House

When was it repaired and what did it cost?

1569 Thatching cost 12d for labour, 21d for straw, 4d for carrying straw, 6d for attending the thatcher

1589 Thatching, repairs to locks and keys

What was it used for?

Church Ales, cooking, eating, drinking, storage

1558 The inventory includes "three crocks, an old pan, a little cauldron, a spit, a table-cloth, a trestle, a plank"

The parish store of weapons

1575 The oven was thatched for 4d (the oven formerly projected from the west wall)


1663 Application to the bishop for the appointment of James Dynham as schoolmaster

1664 Benches bought for schoolhouse

Poor House

1804 First mention of Poor House

1812 Poorhouse chimneys swept

1841 Census Return lists 6 households in the Poor House including John Webber age 80, Mary Rowe age 70, William Cann age 60 and 3 families with children. The Census Returns give the names of the occupants for the next forty years.

Dairy School

c.1916 to 1930's Dairy School in Church House

Army Dormitory

1941 - 45 World War II Dormitory for soldiers from Dunkirk retreat and thereafter; the Gloucesters and Americans (0ral history)

Sunday School, Quaker Meetings, Parish meetings, Harvest Suppers, etc

1945 to present day

Further information

Please contact David Youle

Phone               01837 840418