St. Andrew's Church, Description

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Norman Font, Pulpit, Rood Screen, Organ, Reredos, Sanctuary Floor, Sedilia, Piscina, Memorials, Stained-Glass Windows, Nave, Hatchment, Door, Tower, Clock, South Porch, Sundial, Palm Cross, Weather Vane

The ancient parish of Harberton once covered the whole area between the rivers Dart and Harbourne and is thought to have included the site of the tenth century borough of Totnes. From this, several parishes have been carved during the centuries, the most recent being the parish of Harbertonford in 1860.

There has been a chapel in this area since 909 AD and a Church on the present site since about 1100 AD. St. Andrew's is in the Deanery and Archdeaconry of Totnes in the Diocese of Exeter and is a fine specimen of the architecture of the 14th and 15th centuries' decorated style.

The Valletorts anciently held the barony of Harberton, but in the Domesday Book it appears there were several ancient manors here viz. Engelbourne, Hazard and Leigh. Harberton gives the title of Viscount (1791) in the Irish Peerage to the family of Pomeroy.

The first recorded Vicar of Harberton was Geoffrey de Bismano who was collated to the benefice by the Dean and Chapter of Exeter on the 14th October 1235. A list of Vicars can be found beside the main door. Record Office Holdings are: Register of Baptisms from 1624, Marriages from 1626 and Burials from 1624.

Little remains of the original building except the NORMAN FONT on your left as you enter the Church. This is a Girdle Font, one of 12 in Devon. Note the rope-like girdle running round its centre. It is made of sandstone with almost pure Byzantine ornament. The wood cover is 19th century.

The stone PULPIT, 15th Century, is octagonal and richly carved, with figures of seven Apostles (Andrew, Mark, Thomas, Peter, John and two others) on its sides, which are probably 17th Century and Flemish to replace ones lost in the Reformation. Traces of steps under the Pulpit indicate an earlier Norman one.

The 15th Century ROOD SCREEN, coloured and gilt, is a superb example of the period. Once it would have borne a crucifix and the figures of St Mary and St John under the centre arch. The vaulting and cornices are especially rich. Most of it is original, but during the restoration of 1871 the original panels were removed and replaced with metal sheets on which new figures were painted, 44 in all. The names, some still legible can be seen under each figure. The faces painted on the central gates are alleged to have been based on the daughters of a former Vicar. Some of the original panels can be seen in the glass cases on the North side of the Nave. Five of these were recovered after lying in an attic for 100 years.

The ORGAN is a fine example of the work of "Father" Willis, an outstanding organ builder, whose son also carried on his work. It was once in the Gallery at the West end of the Nave, but was re-built and moved to its present position in 1911. Prior to this, Galleries in the Church were removed and the whole Church was re-seated in 1861.

In the Sanctuary can be seen a late 19th Century REREDOS of alabaster and mosaic. The central panel is the figure of Christ enthroned with the traditional representations of the four Evangelists taken from the four winged beasts described in the Book of the Revelation, chapter 4. The side panels contain sacred monograms. The Vine on the Screen has been skilfully reproduced on the Reredos. The SANCTUARY FLOOR is of red and white Belgian and Spanish marble. Note the SEDILIA, three stone seats in the South wall of the Sanctuary, a good example of the decorated period, and the canopied PISCINA draining into earth.

The Church contains a number of interesting MEMORIALS. The Lady Chapel seems particularly associated with the Trist family and their earlier forebears, the Risdons of Sandwell manor. There is also a memorial to Lt.F.E. Farquarson and the East window in the Chapel is in memory of Major Farquarson VC, presented by the 42nd Royal Highlanders. The Farquarsons lived at Dundridge, which later became the home of the Harvey family.

The STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS in the Church are 19th century gifts from major landowners in the Parish. Of particular interest are the windows in the North wall, which mark the tragic suffering of the Harvey family, who lived for many years at Dundridge. One window is in memory of the little boy, Tito, whose effigy is in the North wall, having been brought into the Church from the family vault in 1897 following deterioration in its condition

The NAVE was completed in 1370.

High up on the South wall is a HATCHMENT, a diamond shaped coat of arms with black background signifying the death of its owner. It would have hung outside the deceased's home during the period of mourning. It commemorates the death, in 1754, of a 13 year old son of the Trist family.

Above the main DOOR are the royal arms of Queen Anne, as used from 1702-1714, and the same door has an interesting animal head latch.

At the West end of the Church is the TOWER, 78 feet high, tapering towards the top and a semi-octagonal stair turret in the middle of the South wall, a characteristic feature of many South Devon Churches. The tower holds a peal of 6 bells originally cast in 1762 by Thomas Bilbie of Cullompton. The tenor weighs 15 cwt. There is a record of Harberton tower possessing a peal of 4 bells as long ago as 1553. On two sides of the tower (Ed. South and West), outside, the hands of a fine CLOCK can be seen. This was the gift of Sir Robert Harvey in 1898, given on condition that there was no dial facing his neighbour who had displeased him (Ed. i.e. North, towards Tristford, where the owner built his own clock tower in reply. [This now appears to be misinformation as the Tristford clock mechanism is now known to be dated 1858.] The church clock mechanism is dated 1899. The clock faces were re-gilded in 1999.).

A magnificent SOUTH PORCH, embattled and surmounted by a chamber, affords entrance into the Church. The outer doorway is square-headed and the stoup remains at the West side, outside. This was where the people would ritually wash their fingers before entering the Church for Holy Communion. Above the doorway is a SUNDIAL dated 1855 and inscribed with the legend: "Work while ye have light, the night cometh when no man can work." Within the Porch is a fine stone groined roof upheld by 6 pilasters. The bosses display crowned heads, perhaps of Henry IV and Joan of Navarre 1399-1413, or of Edward I and his queen.

The date of much of the building has been assigned to 1370. This is in keeping with its fine medieval architecture, and perpendicular style; it is buttressed throughout with a barrel roof with 79 bosses. Ten of these represent people in medieval dress, one is a half-profile Green Man image (with a gold stem and leaves issuing from his mouth and around the face), and two others are possibly the heads of Richard III and his wife - he wears a hat pulled down over the right ear.

Outside the South Porch door stands a magnificent PALM CROSS, one of only three surviving in Devon, and the finest. The Cross is possibly of Saxon origin; the figures on all four sides at the top are later 19th century additions. There is no record of what the figures represent, though the East side seems to depict the Nativity and the West side the Crucifixion.

St Andrew's day is the 30th November. A WEATHER VANE atop the tower aptly depicts a fish. The date 1792 is cut into the vane.

This is a Church of great historical interest, but we do not regard it as a museum. It is above all else a place where God has been and still is worshipped. We hope that you will have enjoyed your visit and that you will offer your prayer before you leave for the work of God in this place.

Thank you for coming here. May the peace of God go with you on your way.

Norman Font, Pulpit, Rood Screen, Organ, Reredos, Sanctuary Floor, Sedilia, Piscina, Memorials, Stained-Glass Windows, Nave, Hatchment, Door, Tower, Clock, South Porch, Sundial, Palm Cross, Weather Vane

(This text is taken from a leaflet available for visitors to the Church.)