History of St Andrew’s Church, Buckland Monachorum
There has probably been a church at the heart of Buckland Monachorum since Saxon times. This section charts the development of St Andrew’s as a place of worship and also as a focus for community life.
The story starts a very long time ago….
c.900AD It is thought that a small wooden church was built in the centre of the village.
1271 Odo de Arundelle became the first of forty-six recorded vicars.
1280 Buckland Abbey was established. The Abbot had the monks living at nearby Buckland Abbey oversee the activities of the church and it was probably they who chose St Andrew as the patron saint. The Abbot had the right to appoint the Vicar straightaway.
1305 A vicarage with forty acres of land was built at Lovecombe. The ruins of this can still be seen in the beautiful grounds of ‘The Garden House’ which is well worth a visit.
1342 During the Archdeacon’s visitation it was noted that the chancel was too dark. The princely sum of forty shillings and two quarters of oats were given to the new Vicar for the ‘defects to the Vicarage’.
1349 Vicar Walter Weyridge died of the Black Death.
c.1350 The wooden building was replaced by a more substantial cruciform stone structure which was used for one hundred and forty years.
1490 The present building was erected during the reign of Henry VIIth. Much of the stone used was salvaged from its predecessor and examples can still be seen in the tower today.
1557 Following the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539, John Toker, the last abbot, became Vicar of Buckland Monachorum 17 years later in 1557.
1581 Sir Francis Drake, the renowned Elizabethan mariner bought Buckland Abbey. The Drake Seat with its carving of the Golden Hind is probably late C19, made for the Drake Chapel when the family sat there.
1646 Joseph Rowe became vicar. His sixty-two year tenure spanned the Civil War, the Commonwealth and no less than four royal reigns. He died at the grand old age of ninety…no mean feat for the time! Rowe’s tombe stone is set in the wall of the porch at the west end of the church.
1710 The vicarage was enlarged to include seven bedrooms, a study, parlour, hall, kitchen, dairy, cellar and last but not least; a brew house.
1723 4 Bells were cast into 5 and the 6th bell is thought to be a gift as it doesn’t appear in the accounts. Unfortunately their weight and vibration fractured the weakened tower and emergency repairs were needed to avert disaster! The bells were cast by a famous bell founding family, the Pennington’s if Stoke Climsland & Legant. The initials JP & CP fare on the bells; John & Christopher Pennington.
1753 Music was provided by singers and a ‘church band’ consisting of a violin, cello, flute and bassoon.
1785 The church decided to hire a professional music teacher, feeling perhaps that the singers and instrumentalists needed a little help! Organist and composers, William Bennet, was paid 6s a day for ‘teaching the singing’. One month’s board and lodging for him and his horse cost the parish 2 guineas.
1802 A musicians gallery was added to the west end of the church.
1815 Armed with a barrel of beer, the bell-ringers broke into the church one Saturday and rang to their heart’s content all through the night. For this “mutinous and riotous” behaviour they were dismissed and banned from both ringing and singing in the church forever! This story is told in a page of the Church Warden’s accounts.
1826 Vicar, Charles Barter, decided to demolish the vicarage and build a replacement….all without permission! This house is now ‘The Garden House.’ He got a retrospective faculty,’church speak’ for planning permission. It was about the only thing he did for Buckland, as he was an absentee Vicar with another parish when he lived for over 60 years. Buckland was cared for by curates and it seems that things went downhill. The church became very neglected, The Vicar who succeeded Barter left in despair. Then came Richard Hayne who pulled everything together and was one of three longest serving Vicars.
1830 Church meetings were noted always to terminate in the ‘Horse and Jockey’ or ‘Crown Inn.’ Perhaps this ancient tradition should be revived!
1849 Organ music arrived at St Andrew’s and its designer, Dr L G Hayne, composed the well known hymn tune “Buckland.” sung to Loving Shepherd of thy Sheep.
1897 A cross was erected in the churchyard to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. At its unveiling, prayers were said for the Queen, children waved flags and the Buckland Brass Band led a parish procession to Pound for a grand celebratory tea. A restoration of what remained of the much older village cross with new parts added in 1897.
1906 A new tower clock was installed amidst great celebration. It was set going on Easter Sunday.
1920 Vicar Richard Hayne died aged ninety-six. During his sixty-four years at Buckland, this popular character restored St Andrew’s, built a church at Milton Coombe and also oversaw the construction of local schools. He even declined the opportunity to become a bishop, preferring to remain within his idyllic rural parish. He and his wife are buried at the east end of the churchyard. Mrs Hayne was older than her husband. Within living memory there were people who remembered being taught to curtsy to Mrs Hayne when they were children.
1924 The current vicarage was built. Although smaller than its predecessors, this building enjoys superb views across rolling fields towards the hills of Cornwall.
1930 Candlelight was finally superseded by electricity in the church
1947 All six bells were re-cast and re-hung. Two new treble bells were added. On the Sunday before Christmas a service of dedication of the bells took place. Newspaper cuttings are preserved in the parish records. The Church was packed to overflowing. Ringers came from other parishes. ‘Two hundred year old bells ring out again’ said the Tavistock Times. In WWII church bells were silent. They were only rung to warn of enemy invasion. To be able to ring in peace was an occasion for rejoicing.
1966 St Andrew’s became a musical centre for choirs, choral festivals and organ recitals. The Buckland Chamber Orchestra and Festival Chorus gave many performances to packed audiences.
1984 The current vicar, Graham Cotter, arrived at Buckland and Milton Combe.
1990 The ‘new’ church celebrated its five hundredth birthday! Buckland Church was the scene for a concert by the well known Exon singers, called ‘Thomas Hardy & Music’. The singers performed church music which Hardy would have known and played. Two members of the BBC read some of his poems. It was an honour for Buckland to have the Exon Singers.