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A Short Guide to St Mary's Parish Church
Appledore, North Devon
The site of St Mary's is believed to have been used for Christian worship since the earliest of times, and certainly during the Middle Ages a chapel dedicated to St Anne (thought to be the mother of Mary, Our Lord's mother) stood on the land in front of the present Church: this area is still known as Chapel Fields.
In 1834 the Rev Thomas Mill of Northam wrote to the Bishop of Exeter asking for permission to build a new Church in Appledore. It was to seat 600 people, and on Thursday 23 June 1836, the foundation stone was laid. On 25 September it was consecrated, this being three months after the coronation of Queen Victoria.
£1,804-12s-2d was collected towards the cost of the building and this, in addition to some grants and the sale of materials from the old chapel, paid for the work. There was £3-0s-2d left when everything had been completed!
The first parish priest at Appledore was the Rev Edward Reynolds. He died in 1896 aged 78 years, his grave being at the top of the churchyard.
Originally the Church did not look quite as it does today. In 1899 a centre aisle was added to the two side aisles and the choir stalls put at the east end. A new floor was laid, the Church decorated and a small vestry built at the back. At the dedication of these alterations, the bishop reminded the congregation that "they must help the Vicar in his work, because clergymen needed brightening at times"!
The next vicar was the Rev George Scholey. He was remembered as being an excellent preacher and it was often necessary to be at the Church half an hour before even prayer in order to get a seat!
In 1909 the Church was again altered. The gallery was removed and the west end enlarged. The tower was also built at this time from stone quarried from Cornborough (along the Abbotsham Cliffs) and houses a ring of 8 bells.
The bells were given in 1911 by W J Tatem, later Lord Glanely, in memory of his father, Thomas Tatem, and his son, Thomas Shandon Tatem, and were cast by J Warner of Spitalfields, at a cost of £485-15s-0d. The tenor bell was inscribed "1911 / George Scholey - Vicar / W A Valentine G H Cork - Churchwardens / Cast by John Warner & Sons, London 1911" and weighed 10 cwts 26 lbs. Records show that in the 1920s an enthusiastic team of ringers was formed including a Ladies team! Nearly unheard of in those days! The bells were recast and rehung in 1962 by Taylor's of Loughborough at a cost of £1297, and are still rung regularly by our own band of ringers.
The new tower contains a clock which had previously belonged to the United Services College at Westward Ho! where Rudyard Kipling, author of "The Jungle Book" among other works, had received part of his education. The clock itself is a well constructed machine and a good example of the flat-bed form of tower clock design, and was made by Gillett & Bland. The escapement of the clock is a good example of the famous double three-legged gravity escapement which had not long before been invented for use in the great clock in the tower of the Houses of Parliament and is well-known for accurate time-keeping.
It had been planned to build a vestry at the south-east corner of the Church, but for some reason this was not carried out. Instead, a coke-burning boiler with 1430 feet of wrought iron pipes was installed in 1915. The heating system was converted to gas in the 1990s.
Over the years, various alterations have occurred: such as the removal of some pews at the front of the Church and behind the choir stalls, enabling the Chapel of St Anne to be created un the the Lundy Window in the south-east corner of the Church sometime in the 1980s. From 1996 to 2003 there was a programme of Restoration for St Mary's. There was a tremendous response to the Restoration Appeal in that time: as with all such work, extra problems came to light only after a project had been started, but all has practically been completed with the building of a much needed lavatory a few yards from the North door of the Church.
Since the Church was first built, the churchyard has gradually filled - unfortunately by many who were drowned crossing the Bar in the old sailing ships that Appledore was famous for both building and manning. So the churchyard has gradually been extended onto land kept specifically for that purpose - being used as allotments until required.