Bere Ferrers, St Andrews Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 14th-century stained glass and unusual 12th-century font
The clergymen lived across the road from the church, probably on the site now occupied by the Lanterna Hotel, with their quarters joined to the church by an underground passage. The clergy were supported by choirboys, and their job was to say daily prayers for the souls of Sir William and his wife for eternity, so that at any hour of the day or night Mass was being said at one of the 5 altars within the church. The presbytery was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1533, but even today the rector of Bere Ferrers bears the title of Arch Priest.
The 14th century building was extended in the 15th century when the south transept was enlarged to create an aisle. Despite this, and later 17th century remodelling of the interior, much of what we can see today is unaltered 14th century work. One important survival from that period is the 14th century stained glass in the east window; this is the oldest glass of any parish church in Devon (there is slightly older glass in Exeter Cathedral).
In the left panel is a portrait of Sir William de Ferrers, holding a picture of a church. Just to drive home the point, a Latin inscription above translates as 'Sir Will Ferrers made me'. On the right is a similar likeness of his wife Matilda, daughter if Sir Roger Carminow. In the centre panel is a depiction of Christ in Majesty. Below is a likeness of a pilgrim, possibly Sir William's great uncle Roger, who died while on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem about 1200AD. Or it may represent the second Sir William, who died in 1337.
The nave features early 16th century benches with beautifully carved ends, several of which bear coats of arms. These were installed by Sir Robert Willoughby (later made Lord Willoughby de Broke by Henry VII).
There are several notable medieval tombs inside the church. In the sanctuary is a canopied tomb chest to the first Sir William de Ferrers (d. 1280) and his wife Isolda (died c. 1300), builders (or, if you prefer, re-builders) of the church. Their tomb chest lies within an ornate canopy that may once have served as an Easter Sepulchre.
Between the chancel and nave are remnants of a medieval screen, with defaced likenesses of saints. As you pass through the south porch look up, and see the roof bosses, carved with the arms of Cheyney, Ferrers, Latimer, and Willoughby de Broke. over the porch is a small chamber eached by an external stair. One possibility is that the chamber accommodated pilgrims setting sail for Compostella via Plymouth.
Bere Ferrers takes some getting to; it is located at the end of a peninsula, surrounded by the estuaries of the Tavy and Tamar. You have to make a concerted effort to get here, but it is worth the effort. The location is superb, with wonderful views across the river, and the church is full-to-bursting with history.
About Bere Ferrers
Address: Bere Ferrers, Devon, England, PL20 7JH
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: In the centre of Bere Ferrers village. On street parking near the war memorial. Use satnav postcode PL20 7JH
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Buckland Abbey - 2.8 miles (Historic House)
Denham Bridge - 3 miles (Historic Building)
Garden House - 3.6 miles (Garden)
Cotehele, Chapel in the Woods - 3.8 miles (Historic Church)
Cotehele - 3.9 miles (Historic House)
Cotehele Mill - 4 miles (Historic Building)
Morwellham Quay - 4 miles (Museum)
Antony House - 5.1 miles (Historic House)
Nearest Accommodation to Bere Ferrers: