Chittlehampton, St Hieritha's Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: St Hieritha's grave
St HierithaThe traditional story of her life and death says that when the village was struck by a drought, Hieritha's stepmother feared that the drought was caused by her step-daughter's new faith. She incited several haymakers to decapitate Hieritha with their scythes. On the spot where Hieritha fell, a stream burst forth from the earth and scarlet pimpernels began to blossom. The stream fed into a well, whose waters were reputed to have healing properties. A chapel was built on the site of Hieritha's murder, and became a focus for pilgrims.
Hieritha is usually depicted carrying a scythe in one hand and her own head in the other.
The roots of St Hieritha's church go back to the 8th century, when it was erected on the site of Hieritha's murder. The church was completely rebuilt from 1470, giving us the beautiful Perpendicular Gothic building we see today.
Within the belfry are some of the finest bells in the West Country, and campanologists (bell-ringers) travel for long distance to play them.
Other highlights include the ornately carved 16th century font and a worn 14th century parish chest.
The most impressive monument is in the north aisle and commemorates the Giffard family. It was erected in 1625 by John Giffard, ostensibly to remember his grandfather, but in fact it commemorates 5 generations of the family. The earliest family member on the memorial is Sir Roger Giffard, who died in 1547. His son, John Giffard, married Mary Grenville, daughter of the famous Elizabethan naval commander Sir Richard Grenville.
Sir John's son Arthur married Agnes Leigh of Burrough, a member of the family made famous in Charles Kingsley's novel Westward Ho! The Giffard memorial is really an exceptional piece of 17th century funerary art, with wonderfully intricate carving and painted panels.
Against the wall of the Giffard Chapel is a reclining effigy of Grace Giffard (d. 1667).
Opposite the Giffard Chapel is the Rolle Chapel, which occupies the entire south transept. On one wall is a large 18th century marble wall monument with a self-laudatory inscription to the Rolle family 'Whose lives have left to posterity a more expressive Menorial than can be perpetuated on the most Durable Marble'. On the east wall is a tablet to Edward Yeo of North Petherwin (d. 1636).
Most of the waggon roofs still retain their 15th century timbers, decorated with elaborate carved bosses.
St Hieritha's is a superb late medieval church, with a wealth of historic features to enjoy. Don't miss it.
About Chittlehampton, St Hieritha's Church
Address: The Square, Chittlehampton, Devon, England, EX37 9QL
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: At the top of the village square, where there are several parking spots.
Website: Chittlehampton, St Hieritha's Church
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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Tourist Information Centre
1 East Street
Tel: 01769 574 122
Fax: 01769 574 718