9th December 2019
Saintly Celebrations in Crediton in Devon
My visit to Crediton coincided with the twice-monthly Farmers Market, a delightfully local affair featuring fresh produce and artisan bread. Entertainment was provided by a small band of local musicians.
The Farmers’ Market in the town square of Crediton a historic market town in Devon. Crediton was once famous for its cattle market that took place in the High Street. In 1836 the then Lord of the Manor moved the market to another site to get rid of the clutter of cattle and stalls in the market place. Only a small area of this market remains. Today, the town square, which is relatively new is the centre of town life. The very popular Farmers’ Market promotes locally grown organic vegetables part of the local sustainability campaign here. The town square, a large open area is ringed with coffee shops and cafés. After browsing the stalls, I was ready for a coffee and headed for the unusual Crediton Coffee Company.
The Crediton Coffee Company in Crediton, Devon
Crediton Coffee Company coffee shop is unusual because it really is a shop. It is on these premises that Dan, the owner, roasts and grinds coffee beans. He then packages them to sell on the premises as well as supplying local. Amongst the coffee grinding machinery and shelves of coffee and related items the tables and chairs are full of people enjoying coffee and cakes. And the coffee really is very good. Dan imports his own beans, changing the beans he chooses according to the season. Revived by an excellent macchiato it was time to move on to visit an icon of Crediton, its parish church.
The Parish Church of the Holy Cross in Crediton, Devon
The splendid Church of the Holy Cross and the Mother of Him Who Hung Thereon is generally referred to as the Parish Church of the Holy Cross. Built during the fifteenth century it occupies the site of the first Saxon cathedral in Devon. This cathedral was built during in 909 when Crediton became part of a monastery. However, in 1050 the see was moved to Exeter. Nevertheless, the town continued to be dominated by the church and a new Norman church was built in 1130. This church was extended during the thirteenth century and its final form resulted from a re-build in the early fifteenth century. Being a Collegiate Church, it owned the tithes (a form of taxation) from large areas of land. These tithes gave the church an income. But, during the fifteenth century with the growth of the woollen industry this source of funds began to dry up and the Collegiate Church was dissolved. It was bought by the citizens of Crediton in 1547. Since the town acquired the church it has been administered by twelve governors.
The interior of the church pays tribute to St Boniface or Wynfrith who was born here in 680 and was to become the Patron Saint of both Germany and Holland. It is believed he was born at Trolleys near Mill Street and there is a plaque here. Wynfrith was educated at the monastery in Exeter before becoming a missionary and setting sail for the Netherlands to spread the gospel there. His first mission was unsuccessful but he became more successful as time went on and he was given the name of Boniface by the Pope. He became Bishop of all Germany and then Archbishop. He was eventually killed by heathen warriors while on a mission to convert the wild tribes of Frisia in 753. There is a wooden by the Polish sculptor, Witold Kawelic, of Boniface as a young man. A frieze detailing events during his lifetime in the large stained glass window forms the bottom row of the large stained glass window at the East End. There is also a replica of this in the body of the church.
The Healing of the Man Born Blind a carving in sycamore by Norman Yendell celebrates the miracle of Crediton. This event occurred in 1315 when Thomas Grey a blind fuller from Keynsham near Bristol dreamt that he should go to Crediton. He came to Crediton and miraculously regained his sight while praying in the chapel of St Nicholas (now the Friend’s Chapel). At the time the bishop was saying mass at the high altar and after testing Grey was satisfied that a miracle had occurred. Visitors are invited to touch this sculpture as a blind person would.
Every year in early December the Church of the Holy Cross holds a Christmas Tree Festival. This is in celebration of a legend that credits Boniface with the origin of the Christmas Tree. He chopped down the Oak of Thor, worshipped by heathen Germanic tribes and claimed a fir tree growing in its roots as a new symbol. He emphasised its pointed top which he said pointed to heaven. This tree was adopted by the German people of the world and has since become a universal symbol of Christmas. A sculpture depicting this legend is the focal point for pilgrims visiting the shrine of St Boniface in the Roman Catholic Church on Park Street.
The National Shrine of St Boniface in Crediton, Devon
Although the Parish Church of Saint Cross celebrates the life of St Boniface it is not the shrine to St Boniface. The national shrine of St Boniface is in the Roman Catholic Church (the religion of his time) on Park Road. This church was built in 1969 to house the relics of the saint. A relief depicting the legend of St Boniface and the Christmas Tree forms a focal point for visitors to the shrine. When the relics were given to the Roman Catholic congregation in Crediton by the then Bishop of Fulda he also presented them with the foundation stone for the church. This foundation stone can be seen in the entrance to the church.
Libbetts Well in Crediton, Devon
Close to the Parish Church of the Holy Cross is the holy Libbetts Well one of two holy wells in Crediton. Hidden away behind Priory Cottage an early eighteenth century Grade II listed building on Church Street. The well is probably a seventeenth century structure or maybe earlier. Sited in the cob garden wall of Priory Cottage it is served by a spring covered by rough stone arch with a vaulted stone roof. The water feeds a small basin before travelling through the back garden of 17 Church Street and then joining the town sewer under the road. This never ending source of water supplied St Elizabeth’s Hostel for Priests from which the name is derived. The second well is the Winfrith’s Well dedicated to St Boniface in Newcombes Meadow Park.
Winfrith’s Well in Crediton, Devon
Winfrid’s Well is a Grade II listed structure. It looks like a little stone hut. The date is difficult to ascertain as it appears to have been rebuilt during the twentieth century. It is built of local stone with a granite lintel. An inscription on the lintel states Traditional Well of Winfrith AD 680. It is situated in Newcombes Meadow Park, formerly part of the Newcombes Estate is now a public park in Crediton. It is owned and operated by the Mid Devon District Council. There is a bandstand in the park and also a statue of St Boniface close to his well. After walking through the park I emerged on the High Street and set off to find the town museum.
The Museum and Heritage Centre of Crediton, Devon
The Crediton Museum and Heritage Centre is housed in the old town hall on the High Street. This is where local people and visitors can learn about the history of the town and villages in the surrounding area. This centre, where people can also research their own family history, is run by a charity and staffed by volunteers. Every year the museum features a new, temporary exhibition using items from its own, extensive collection and often using exhibits loaned by local people.
A permanent display in the museum is a model of the High Street just before the Great Fire in 1743. When the very combustible thatched roofs in a large area of the town resulted in large-scale destruction of buildings in the town. Today most of the buildings in the town reflect the architecture that was popular after the fire. Only Dean Street has a row of houses pre-dating the fire. The museum is open from Easter to October but the Family and House History research facility is available all year. Walking around Crediton I had had glimpses of the countryside about me and decided to see I could find an access to Redvers Ramble.
Walks Around Crediton, Devon
I found an access point on to the Redvers Ramble on Four Mills Lane and followed part of this walk up to the top of a hill where I could enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. This very pleasant walk is named after General Redvers Buller who was born near Crediton and enjoyed an interesting military career. The Redvers Ramble is one of several trails in and around Crediton. They are available from the town museum or can be downloaded from the internet.
The Railway Station in Crediton, Devon
Although nicely secluded in a rural landscape Crediton is well connected on the Devon train network with regular trains to Exeter and North Devon. The pretty station has been restored to the livery of the London and South Western Railway the company that operated the line after it opened in 1861. Inside the station there is a cosy tea room and a small craft shop.
Where to Stay in Crediton, Devon
Paschoe House near Crediton is not just somewhere to stay, it is a whole experience. This grand old country house has been tastefully and beautifully refurbished. Enjoy a leisurely coffee in the elegant lounge warmed by an open fire. Treat yourself to a spectacular tasting menu with wine flight in the sophisticated restaurant. Stroll through the grounds and visit the charming walled garden. Friendly, efficient staff will cater for your every need to ensure you will have a memorable time in this unique country retreat just a few miles down country lanes from Crediton town centre.
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This article is based on the personal experience of Valery, an ExperiencedTraveller.