Stratton, St Andrew
The Parish Church of St Andrew is Grade 1 Listed and stands on high ground in the centre of the historic and picturesque market town of Stratton, approximately 1 mile from the coast and the seaside town of Bude.
It is believed that the original Norman building, which may have had an apsed east end, was enlarged in the 13th century with transepts (as found in 1888 excavations). By the middle years of the 14th century the north transept was being superseded by an aisle, a gift of Sir Ralph de Blanchminster. Part of the decorated style arcade of Polyphant stone still survives from this time.
Next came the building of the tower with set-back buttresses, in the 1490s to 1500s with a market clock (long lost) added in 1512. High Cross wardens’ accounts start in this year and show that the south aisle and porch were then being built. The south aisle arcade is in the Perpendicular style with granite piers, contrasting with the earlier Polyphant stone piers of the north aisle.
In the 1530s a roodscreen with loft was erected across the full width of the church, replacing an earlier screen and loft. Its construction involved the widening and heightening of the north aisle. A major reconstruction of the chancel and north chapel was undertaken as late as 1544 to 1546. By this time the plan of the church was much as we see it today. The parishioners of Stratton fought hard to save their rood screen and loft, but their battle was over by 1580.
The next significant occurrence was in 1888 when a major restoration commenced to halt the cumulative dilapidations of the previous centuries. This was undertaken by the prolific Victorian architect J P St Aubyn. This work included the underpinning of failing foundations and the almost complete rebuilding of the north aisle and the south side of the chancel. Most of the church windows were replaced at this time but appear to be copies of the original.
In 1900 a faculty was granted for the erection of a new vestry, now known as the Upper Room, immediately to the north of the Lady chapel and in 1907 the current chancel screen and rood was completed. In 1998 a new enclosure in the northwest corner of the church was added as a second vestry but in 202o this became a kitchen beside a new social area at the back of the church. A toilet was provided in a new extension at the side of the tower beside it.
St Andrews church is a fascinating historic building, full of architectural features that date from all periods of history. Items of particular significance and interest in and around the church include:
- The 12th century font, a simple tub-shaped granite bowl with a single encircling band of rope-twist. This is the only definitely Norman feature still to be seen by a visitor to the church. The bowl sits on a 19th century octagonal granite pedestal.
- On a windowsill in the north aisle lies a cross-legged effigy of an armoured knight, his right hand grasping the hilt of his sheathed sword. This is almost certainly 13th century and suggests that the purpose of the north transept was as a burial place. It is thought most likely to be a monument to the father or grandfather of Sir Ralph de Blanchminster, whose will provided for the building of the north aisle in the 14th century.
- The roofs within the church are good examples of the typical Cornish wagon roof, installed in the early and mid-16th century. The square frames had lath-and-plaster infilling added in the 18th century. One of the bosses appears to be an example of the mysterious Green Man.
- Some of the carved bench ends probably date from the mid-16th century. These were incorporated into the modern oak pews in the nave in 1961.
- The ornately carved wineglass pulpit is an example of early 17th century woodwork. This is now mounted on a modern wooden base.
- On the north wall of the Lady chapel is the Royal Arms in finely moulded plaster work, dating from the Stuart period. This is typical of the moulded arms put up in many Cornish churches on the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II, but the Stratton example was overpainted with the Hanoverian Arms a century later.
- The wooden rood screen, completed in 1907 and executed in a late medieval style in plain oak, stands where the 16th century screen would have stood. It is a fine example of the work of the Pinwill sisters, whose work can be found in over 180 churches in Devon and Cornwall. Other woodcarving in St. Andrew’s carried out by the Pinwill sisters includes the belfry screen war memorial, the Sanctuary and St. Andrew’s chapel panelling and the lychgate lintel inscription.
- There is no surviving medieval glass in St. Andrew’s, but there are several Victorian pictorial windows. Of particular significance is the east window, depicting the four evangelists, which was inserted in 1874 by the William Morris company to a design by Edward Burne-Jones. This is the only example in Cornwall of this companies work during the 1870s and 80s, when the firm produced much of their most important work.
- Various items of local historical interest are displayed in the church. These include the old town stocks and the stoutly studded door from Stratton Gaol, with iron nails outlining the word CLINK. A display case contains battlefield relics from the Civil War, found at nearby Stamford Hill. Also on show is a copy of a letter sent by Charles 1 to the people of Cornwall, thanking them for their support against parliament.
- Externally the churchyard contains a large number of gravestones of the 18th and 19th centuries of interest and importance for the details they give of the lives and aspirations of past parishioners. The Lychgate was erected in 1932 using oak from the last wooden warship, HMS Defiance.