Historic walls found under Sidmouth church

PUBLISHED: 21:59 19 June 2009 | UPDATED: 09:29 18 June 2010

ARCHAEOLOGICAL excavations have revealed some historic walls and burials under the flagstone floor of Sidmouth Parish Church.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL excavations have revealed some historic walls and burials under the flagstone floor of Sidmouth Parish Church.

For the past month, archaeologist Stewart Brown has been revealing early medieval and 15th century walls - some made from boulders from the beach - at St Nicholas with St Giles, which is undergoing reordering, including laying a new floor.

Stewart, from Luppitt, said: "The excavations were carried out before a development of the church interior.

"Archaeologists were lucky to find anything since the Victorians had dug away most of the archaeology when they rebuilt much of the church in 1859.

"However, they left behind enough of the old wall foundations to show how the church changed and grew over the past 900 years or so.

"The first church was a small rectangular building dating back to Norman times, probably with a small tower.

"This soon had transepts added to it on the north and south sides, so that it became a cruciform church, much like the present parish church at nearby Branscombe.

"Then the north transept was doubled in size to form an aisle.

"The church was extensively rebuilt and enlarged in the 15th century when the present tower was erected at its west end. In 1822, a south aisle was added.

"The rebuilding of 1859 saw another increase in size, including new transepts and porches to north and south, as well as a larger chancel at the east end."

Rector, the Reverend Prebendary David James said the dig had revealed some fascinating evidence; including beach boulders and shingle used for part of the Norman church.

The earliest vicar is recorded in 1174.

"It is quite exciting," said Mr James, explaining several curved brick vaults, with late 18th, early 19th century handmade bricks, had been revealed in the nave, as well as some earlier medieval earth graves on the north side.

"It was quite normal to bury people inside a church. We need to raise the stone floor by three or four inches in order to bridge the vaults and not breech them."

None of the vaults or graves has been disturbed.

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