Nostalgia looks at All Saints Church, Sidmouth

In 1801 Sidmouth s population stood at 1,252. When the infant Princess Victoria visited it had doubled and by the time she was Queen it had trebled.

In 1801 Sidmouth's population stood at 1,252. When the infant Princess Victoria visited it had doubled and by the time she was Queen it had trebled.

The Parish Church could only hold 1,080 people and Sir John Kennaway, Sidmouth's first MP, expressed concern at the inadequate number of churches in the country.

He gave the land, and with others, �2,600, to build the new church of All Saints "for the spiritual advantage of the inhabitants of the Parish of Sidmouth and of certain of the inhabitants of the adjoining Parish of Salcombe."

Designed by architect J H Taylor to seat 596, the new All Saints Church was built off All Saints Road in 1837 and had a vestry added in 1871 when general repairs were undertaken.

Local stone was used: the walls of Hook-Ebb stone and dressings of Salcombe sandstone, with some later repairs in Beer stone, particularly the pinnacles replaced in 1958.

The interior was very plain and some of the original box pews still survive in the galleries.

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Three hundred of the seats were free, but pew rents "which can be had at amounts to suit the worshipper's ability" helped.

A booklet celebrating the church's 150 anniversary - compiled by Prebendary George Bevington in 1987 - records the Reverend Charles McArthur as vicar from 1878 to 1883, followed by the Reverend Robert B Miller until 1891.

Previously the incumbent was the Reverend B Baring and the Vicarage was completed in 1877.

In the 1886 autobiography of MVG Havergal, sister of the hymn writer Frances, it says: "I cannot describe the comfort and privilege of attending All Saints services at Sidmouth.

"The orderly conduct of the whole...the thoughtful, logical Scriptural sermons; suggestive food that you must think about and be better for.

"I freely say that my church privileges at All Saints revived and cemented my love for the dear old Church of England."

The Sidmouth Observer in 1894 reported that his successor, the Reverend Robert Tapson; vicar for four years until 1895, when preaching "caused some indignation amongst the worshippers by remarking that he noticed the congregations were smaller when collections were made."

During the time of the Reverend John Nightingale as vicar (1895-1904) incandescent gas burners were placed on the gas brackets and standards. Electric light did not come in until 1926.

There was also the gift of a new pulpit, prayer desk and lectern.

Oak pews and new oak fronts to the galleries were installed when the Reverend George Litchfield was vicar (1904-1918). A good preacher, Easter communicants in 1913 were 386.

When All Saints secured the right to baptise and was allotted a marriage district, the first banns were called in July 1920 and the first wedding was on August 9 between William Liverton and Gladys Richards. William was in uniform as Able Seaman RN.

It is not known when Sunday School started, but it was well-attended and met twice on Sundays, the afternoon one finishing in 1960.

"Theophilus Channon, who died in 1928 aged 77, had been for 40 years Superintendent of the Sunday School," writes Mr Bevington. "There were Bible classes for the older children and also confirmation preparation classes each year."

In 1931 a collection of portraits of past vicars was hung in the vestry and this was the year the third church in the parish, St Francis, Woolbrook, was dedicated.

*All Saints Church is to undergo major re-ordering works next month to bring it into the 21st century.

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