The Church Tower …the heart of the town
Dedicated to St Martin and St Mary, the parish church dates from the 13th century, with some evidence of a church on the site even before that. It is a beautiful building, mainly built in a slightly rural, not highly decorated, perpendicular style. There have been various additions and restorations over the centuries, but the building has a feeling of unity and harmony about it.
We are fortunate in being able to keep the church building open most of the time during the day. Various people drop in for a moment of quiet and in the summer Church Watch volunteers provide visitors with a welcome and a brief introduction to the building.
The church is sited at one end of Fore Street, the main shopping street. It may be exaggerating to say that the building is right at the heart of the town, but it is immediately opposite one of the pubs, a stone’s throw from the ancient playpark, and a few paces from the post office.
On entering the church you would probably be struck by two things – an open, light and airy feeling, and a lot of dark wood. The light and airiness comes from the fact that the roof is high, and the nave and south aisle do not feel separated. The arches are high and wide and supported by pillars of light coloured stone. The windows of the side chapel and those towards the rear of the church are of clear glass. The stained glass dates from 1850 to 1905 and provides examples of the work of several of the finest craftsmen of the period. The dark wood is almost everywhere – fine pews, some with 16th or 17th century carving, a very fine 15th century rood screen, and the balustrade and seating of the west gallery.
The open feeling to the church building means that most people feel “part” of a service wherever they sit.
The church has a fine set of eight bells, some dating from the 18th century, and a skilled team of ringers (all now dating from the 20th century). One of the gentle pleasures of Chudleigh is to hear the bells resound off the hills on Sundays and on Tuesday evenings, practice night. Another is to hear the church clock chime every hour on the hour.
At the back of the church, beneath the gallery, is the Fellowship Room, which is invaluable and very well used for meetings and for the youngest members of the Sunday congregation. Sliding glass doors move out of the way for the most popular services.
The church also has kitchen and toilet facilities with disabled access. There are separate choir and vicar’s vestries at the east end of the church and a committee room/parish office on the gallery.
The future challenge is likely to be concerned with capacity and versatility. Chudleigh continues to grow and we pray that the church may continue, as it has in the past, to meet the ever changing needs of the community.
Celebration altar frontal from Chudleigh
Have you, when attending a church service, or just visiting, wondered about the change of colours on the altar table? For twenty-eight weeks of the year it is green and suddenly changes to white/gold for All Saints Day, and has a number of changes from then on. These colours are not official, and never have been, although used from the Middle Ages as a visual aid or reminder of the changing season of the Church. Apart from the altar frontal, you will see the same colour on the pulpit desk and in clergy vestments. We follow tradition according to what we have: ie gold/white; green; red; purple.
Gold usually for Christmas Day, Easter Day, and other occasions for rejoicing and celebration;
White symbolising joy, celebration, light, purity, used for the Sundays after Christmas, after Epiphany and after Easter;
Green symbolising the colour of grass, foliage, fruit, a time of growth. Used for the 28 weeks of Sundays after Trinity and for Sundays between Epiphany and Lent;
Red symbolising fire and blood. Used at Pentecost (reminding us of the tongues of fire descending on the apostles), Palm Sunday (Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem), and the first 3 days of Holy Week, and between All Saints and the Feast of Christ the King. On Good Friday, the altar is normally stripped.
Purple Used in Lent and Advent seasons, to symbolise penitence and self-discipline.
[From an article by Margaret Stack in Whats On in Trusham