St George & St Paul: Better together
St George and St Paul’s became a ‘United Benefice’ (which means that they would share one vicar) on 7 May 2001. In July 2007, they appointed the first vicar together: the Revd Barry Dugmore. Over the last few years the church has been working together more closely and we now see ourselves as ‘One church, two locations’ offering a wide range of services, worship styles and activities that seek to reach out to the community of Tiverton with the love of God: the good news of Jesus Christ. We are currently in the process of updating our buildings so that they continue to meet the needs of our growing congregation.
Near the main shopping centre in Tiverton stands this example of Georgian church architecture, said by some to be the finest in Devon.The church was designed by John James, Sir Christopher Wren’s chief carpenter at St Paul’s Cathedral, who went on to design a number of churches and impressive buildings.
The foundation stone of ‘St George’s Chapel’ (as it was then known) was laid on 1 December 1714 - a period of great uncertainty after the reign of Queen Anne. Led by the then Rector of St Peter’s, Tiverton, Revd John Newte, it was proposed to serve the many in the town who may face persecution should a particular act of law be passed. The law was never passed and so its urgency diminished, and after being vacant for some time it was completed in 1730, the first service taking place on January 1 1731.
The church was eventually consecrated on 11 October 1733. Another milestone in its history was in 1889 when, along with St Paul’s, it became a parish with its own vicar.
You might be interested to know....
- The stained glass window at the East end of the church, depicting St Andrew, was installed in 1845, the design being copied from a window at Wells Cathedral.
- There is a commemoration of Revd Samuel Wesley, sometime headmaster of Blundell’s School and brother of the more better-known John & Charles Wesley who founded the Methodist Church
- The grave of Hannah Cowley, an 18th Century playwright of some repute, is in the churchyard
- The churchyard also has the grave of Ann Clark, a midwife who died in 1733 having delivered some 5,000 babies!
- The graveyard was closed for burials in 1900.
The development of the Heathcoat factory around 1808 led to a substantial population growth on the West Exe side of Tiverton. In addition to a large number of houses that the factory built for its workers, by the 1850s there was an Anglican Church that began meeting. Eventually a new purpose-built building was erected, paid for, in the main by John Heathcoat’s daughter Caroline and her husband, Ambrose Brewin, the manager of the factory at the time.
Like St George’s, the church was made into a parish with its own vicar following the Act of Parliament of 1884.
You might be interested to know....
- St Paul’s doesn’t have a graveyard like many churches but a garden that surrounds the church
- The organ used to be at the back of the church but was moved to make way for a chapel to commemorate those who died in the Great War 1914-18
- The bells in the tower are named after the children of a previous vicar of St Paul’s, (Revd Eric Arnold) and installed July 20 1976
- The road, Baker’s Hill, is named after a previous vicar of St Paul’s (Revd Edward Baker: vicar 1870-1895). Both the Old and New Vicarage are up this hill.
- The Church has been struck by lightning..... twice! 1864 and again in June 1899.
- A yew tree that once stood at the East end of St Paul’s churchyard was carved into a depiction of Adam and Eve being driven from the garden by the angel (Genesis 3: 24) entitled 'The Expulsion Group' by Mr Estcourt Clack, a former master at Blundells. It was on display in the Royal Academy in 1948, Northern Galleries in 1949 and in 1963 presented to the Bishop of Bath & Wells and is now displayed in a 'tower' in the garden of the Bishop’s Palace at Wells.
- Secret Windows! There is a pair of windows in the side chapel depicting St Peter & St Paul; there are a matching pair on the other side, hidden by the organ - they were donated by the Carew family - a longstanding and distinguished Tiverton family.