Manaton Church

Manaton Church from early 15th century with the medieval Church House

Manaton is a village and parish on the eastern side of Dartmoor with lovely view all around from the village. In the valley below runs the River Bovey (see my post about North Bovey with images from the river) and on the other side of the river is the village of Lustleigh. Within the parish is Hound Tor with the now deserted medieval village of Hundatora and the peculiar rock formation called Bowerman’s Nose. Also nearby is Grimspound, the best preserved Bronze Age settlement on Dartmoor.

Manaton itself is really two villages, the original upper village developed around the village green, and the lower village that is centred around the modern pub and that now has grown to outsize the original part. The image above of the church is taken from the village green. Next to the church is the Church House, which is medieval and must be one of the oldest houses in the village.

The church itself, St. Winnifred’s Church, is located next to the green. It was build in the early 15 C and the south and north aisles were added later in the same century. The church tower has six bells of which three are from medieval times.

The image above is from late March before any leaves had appeared. I loved the shadows that the trees and branches above and behind me created. The following image is from the south side in late August captured from the churchyard.

St Winnifred’s Church, Manaton parish Church

And the image below shows the lych gate (that can be seen at the top image too). And to the left of the gate is the back side of the medieval Church House and to the right the village War Memorial, erected in 1921. Later the names of those from the parish who fell in the Second World War were added to the memorial.

The lych gate with the Church House to the left and the War Memorial to the right
The interior of St Winnifred’s Church. Notice the medieval Rood Screen

Entering the church the most remarkable (in my opinion) is the rood screen from about 1500. See details below. The bottom of the screen was painted with the images of different saints (see also my post about St Pancras’ Church at Widecombe-in-the-Moor, the Cathedral on the Moor). But when the Reformation came to England a decree from the Privy Council (during the reign of Edward VI) ordered all superstitious images to be taken down or defaced. So as you can see on the images below (especially the right one) the faces of the apostles have all been defaced.

Originally it would have been a platform of some kind above the rood screen and it would have decorated with statues, but that has now gone. But the stairs leading up to that platform still remains (see the image below to the left). I tried myself to climb up, but the stairs were too small and narrow and winding for my taste, so I backed down again.

Outside the church, where the path leads out the cricket field, stands a medieval cross (see the image below to the right). Originally another cross stood here. Reverend Carwithen was appointed vicar in 1841 and he noticed an unusual custom: At a funeral, before the burial the coffin was carried three times around the cross, possibly for good luck in the deceased’s afterlife. Reverend Carwithen regarded it as superstitious and did his utmost to persuade the parishioners to stop the habit. When he didn’t succeed, he (according to the story) went out one dark night and took the cross and smashed it to pieces.

But in 1908 a local man working on the church bells discovered on a walk an unusual stone used to carry a bridge across the stream and he could see a small cross incised into the stone. It was identified as a cross and must originally have been erected outside the village, probably as a way marker. One arm of the cross is completely missing and the other is shortened. The Rector at the time had the stone installed on the socket of the original cross that disappeared. The new cross is certainly medieval and quite crude in its appearance, but makes for a nice story to tell and image to publish!