St John The Evangelist Church

The parish church of St John the Evangelist is the second church to bear that name, not only in Ivybridge but in the same churchyard.

 

The foundations of the old chapel of St John can still be seen just above ground level to the right of the gates of the churchyard, on a large area of grass devoid of graves. Ashes from cremations are located in this portion and the stones do not follow straight lines, a consequence of having to avoid the foundations. The original entrance gates are still in evidence in the south east corner.

 

The original chapel of ease, a building of Georgian architecture, was built in 1789 at a cost of £800 on ground donated by Sir Frederick L. Rogers. Such chapels provided more accessible places of worship where existing parish churches were far away. The nearest parish churches would have entailed a walk of around 3 miles.

 

Later, in 1835 the chapel was enlarged to meet the needs of the growing population. The chapel, together with the burial ground, was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Exeter in October 1835 and officially recognised by the Diocesan Authorities. The first baptism took place on 11 October 1835 and the first burial on 14 January the following year. In 1836 the Ecclesiastical District of Ivybridge was formed from parts of the neighbouring parishes. The first marriage took place on 17 December 1837. From April 1838, it was decreed that the chapel should henceforth be known as the Church of St. John the Evangelist.

 

Due to the very low remuneration offered, Ivybridge had a series of curates during the ensuing period but the arrival of Rev. George William Anstiss in 1872 marked a period of stability. The Rev Anstiss inherited a well-appointed parsonage which had been built when Rev. Richard Pering Cornish was curate between the years 1855 and 1862. With initial financial assistance from William Cotton and built on land donated by Lady Blachford, Rev. Cornish went on to substantially improve the property, spending around £7,000, ‘the house and surrounding grounds displaying no ordinary taste’. When he resigned from his position, he was under obligation to sacrifice the property as well. George Anstiss was to remain in the village for the next 37 years, living in Station Road. Only infirmity in old age forced him to retire on 14 October 1909 and he sadly died less than a year later in August 1910.

 

The Rev. Anstiss realised that the church structure was in a poor state of repair, desperately needing a new roof, whilst the congregation believed the chapel was unsuitable for enlargement to meet the demands of the increasing population. With the strenuous efforts of Rev. Anstiss, together with the support of Lord Blachford, the Lord of the Manor, a fund was opened to finance the building of a new parish church. By 1881, with the church building fund reaching £2,000, work commenced just west of the old church. The foundation stone was laid by Lord Blachford on 8th June with the assistance of the architect Mr Hine and the builder Mr Finch. Mr Hine deposited a bottle containing the Western Morning News and the Western Daily Mercury and the order of that day’s service in a cavity under the stone. Lord Blachford using a specially inscribed trowel to mark the occasion, spread a quantity of mortar and lowered the foundation stone into place.

 

He then proceeded in making a speech which helps to paint a picture of Ivybridge at the time

‘ …  it gives me very great pleasure to be here on this occasion, and to take part in this ceremony. I feel it is the first step towards furnishing you with a building more graceful and more appropriate for the services of our Church than that building which we have just left. I do not doubt that some of you are not without affection for the unpretending, and certainly ungainly building, which falls somewhat short of what we have learnt to think appropriate for the services of our Church … Some of you may remember, or there must be those in the village who remember, what this place was fifty or sixty years ago. It then, at the beginning of the century, consisted of a gentleman’s house, an hotel, a comparatively small paper mill, one or two shops, and a few cottages. It is now very much changed … First, the manufactures have increased; next, the railway came our way, and that has brought fresh residents; villas have arisen; and in all respects the village has increased in prosperity and in comfort. No one, I think, who has known it for more than twenty years will fail to see the difference the comparatively poor street which was then the main street of Ivybridge, and the cheerful shops and the pleasant lodging-houses and cottages which now compose it. Well, since that time, or rather during that time, there has happily been the same progress in matters affecting the moral and spiritual welfare of the place. First, we had the church we see before us, not beautiful, it is true, nor yet commodious, but still a church. Then you had a clergyman slightly paid or almost unpaid; in fact, so small was the remuneration that it was almost impossible to find any person who would accept the position. Then by the liberality of a gentleman whom you remember – Mr Cotton – an endowment was provided for the church; then came the school; then a parsonage, and now, at last, I am happy to think you have followed the example of the Weslayan Methodists, who have shown you the way in this matter in erecting a building more suitable to the worship of God … ’

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Lord Blachford died in 1889 and a brass plaque in his memory can be found on the wall at the south end of the chapel porch.

Lord Blachford died in 1889 and a brass plaque in his memory can be found on the wall at the south end of the chapel porch.

George Anstiss, vicar of Ivybridge 1872-1909

George Anstiss was born in 1834. He was ordained deacon in 1864 and priest in 1866. He became curate at several places before finally making his home in Ivybridge as the vicar. He married Ellen, the daughter of Rev. G. Y. Osborne in 1881 and had a son named Cecil.

 

During this time he served on the School Board and ‘there was no institution or society in the place, whether it was for cricket or football, musical, educational, or social, in which he did not take a leading part, and he always found a ready help-meet in Mrs. Anstiss, whose Girls’ Friendly Society and Mothers’ Union were a great success.’

 

Whilst he will always be remembered for his strenuous efforts in establishing the new Church, he was also instrumental in the building of the parish room close to the church, thanks largely to the generosity of John Bayly of Highlands, the landowner.

He had no great gift of eloquence or emotional power but he was a faithful, plodding minister of the Church of England, who pursued the via media with a happy combination of both suaviter in modo and fortiter in re

via media: (latin) a middle way or compromise between extremes; suaviter in modo, fortiter in re: (latin) gently in manner, firmly in action.

A memorial brass and cross donated by Mrs Anstiss in memory of the Reverend G Anstiss is located on the wall near the altar rail.

St Johns Church colour postcard
The new church clad in ivy before it was decided to have it all removed

The consecration of the church and the graveyard was conducted by the Right Reverend Dr. Temple, Bishop of Exeter on 27 June 1882.

 

The design of the church in ‘Early English’ style, was provided by Plymouth architect’s Messrs. Hine and Odgers. It was constructed in local granite with dressings of Bath and Portland stone. The church was built by Finch and Son, a building firm also from Plymouth. Once completed it was able to accommodate 500 people.

 

The aisles of the church were separated from the nave by an arcade of four arches on either side. The nave described as ‘lofty with clerestory windows of quatrefoil shape’. As the funds raised were barely sufficient to construct the church the interior ornamentation had to wait, along with north aisle. In 1887, through the generosity of Lord Blachford the north aisle was added. One of the reasons for its speedy completion was to provide accommodation of the girls of Lady Rogers’ school which had moved from Plymouth to Ivybridge. The cost of the north aisle was recorded at £370 and was constructed by Messrs. Sincock and Blight. Meanwhile the interior received a carved stone pulpit and a stained-glass east window in the chancel. The High Altar and font, which were later replaced, were transferred from the old chapel together with a few of the wall memorials.

Prominently situated near the Old Bridge, the beautiful ivy-covered ruins of the Church stand out as a monument to link the past with the present

Charles Smallridge 1906

For many years the old chapel remained as a preserved ruin despite many attempts to have it demolished. On 28 February 1890, the surveyor of Ecclesiastical Dilapidations recommended that “the interior be cleaned out and laid to turf, that colour wash and plaster be removed from the interior walls and those parts not protected by ivy be cement rendered.”

A visitor to Ivybridge commented that

“while it may be admitted that the building possesses no architectural merit, its artistic beauty is incontestable. The walls and tower have been largely overgrown with masses of ivy, and to anyone approaching the village from the direction of the railway station, the appearance is most singularly picturesque”

The ruins were finally demolished in 1925 by a firm of local builders when the Church Council, in the interest of public safety agreed to have it taken down. The stone was used for other building projects within the village.

For many years the old chapel remained as a preserved ruin despite many attempts to have it demolished. On 28 February 1890, the surveyor of Ecclesiastical Dilapidations recommended that “the interior be cleaned out and laid to turf, that colour wash and plaster be removed from the interior walls and those parts not protected by ivy be cement rendered.”

St John's Church covered in ivy

A visitor to Ivybridge commented that “while it may be admitted that the building possesses no architectural merit, its artistic beauty is incontestable. The walls and tower have been largely overgrown with masses of ivy, and to anyone approaching the village from the direction of the railway station, the appearance is most singularly picturesque’.

 

The ruins were finally demolished in 1925 by a firm of local builders when the Church Council, in the interest of public safety agreed to have it taken down. The stone was used for other building projects within the village.

Roll of Honour

A Roll of Honour in the form of three separate lists, notes the names of those who served King and Country in The Great War. It is located near to the entrance porch. Many local men were decorated for acts of gallantry.  The list was gathered by the vicar and Frederick Rutherford, the local chemist. During the months of the war, villagers would report who had gone to war and Mr Rutherford had a list on his chemist door for all to see. As time went on, awards for gallantry were inserted by the relevant name. Another plaque listing those who died in war is on the opposite wall.

FRuthfd

Frederick Rutherford lived in Ivybridge for over 40 years before retiring and moving to Ringmore. He was churchwarden at St. Johns for 37 years and for many years, a lay reader. His chemist shop was located in Fore Street.

St Johns Church and cemetery. Aerial photograph courtesy of Red Air Drones.

The churchyard was closed for interments at the end of nineteenth century, or at least for anyone other than near relations of those already having a grave. This led to a rather arduous process in locating a suitable piece of land for a new cemetery.

 

One interesting tombstone, a few yards from the east end of the church is that of James Hawke, although he is recorded as Hawkins in the burial book. It would seem that he was a quarryman and the headstone of his grave actually killed him. The epitaph reads: –

Sacred to the memory of James Hawkins who departed this life 6th June 1846 aged 27 years

“Here on this stone I drew my last

No thought so near my death,

The hole was charged to blast this rock

That took away my breath.”

There are no vaults in the church as it became illegal for bodies to be buried in a church after 1850 unless a family vault already existed.

St John The Evangelist Parish Church. Photograph courtesy of Ivybridge Camera Club

New Cemetery for Ivybridge

Discussions to find a site for a new cemetery began in 1883. Lord Blachford, Lord of the manor made an offer of a parcel of land for a new cemetery at Woodlands, in a field known as the ‘Acre’. However, some people thought this was too far away and wanted to use a portion of Furze Park which was closer, whilst a third option was a field called ‘Dirty Meadow’. This was land with the number 164 on the tythe map which places it at the bottom of Cleeve Drive today. Eventually the decision was taken to pursue the acquisition of the land at Furze Park but a failure to agree compensation with the current lessee of the land led the project to be abandoned. Attention reverted to the Dirty Meadow and a resolution was passed to purchase a portion of the field at the rate of £200 per acre. Shortly after the decision was taken, James Hill Toms, the victualler at The King’s Arms and James Chamberlain a millwright at Stowford Paper Mill, both firmly opposed to the decision were elected on to the Local Board. They convinced the other board members that their election reflected the mood of the village to abandon the proposal and instead renew interest in the ‘Acre’, the site at Woodlands

 

During the ensuing discussions it was agreed that the vicar and church wardens apply to the Home-Office for a postponement of the order for closing the churchyard until 24 June 1886. Eventually agreement was reached and by October 1885, the Local Board sanctioned the decision to borrow £600 to acquire a new cemetery. This included the land, 1 ½ acres costing £130, financial compensation of £60 paid to the current tenant, a Mr. W. Dennis, with the remaining sum for laying out the cemetery and constructing the periphery walls.

 

A year later the local board discussed and agreed amongst themselves to have two chapels built at the new cemetery. One chapel being for ‘Church people’ on the consecrated side and the other for ‘Nonconformists’. The cost of these two chapels was £1300. On 18 May 1887 the Bishop of Exeter held a service at St. Johns Church and consecrated the new cemetery. The first burial took place on 4 September 1887.

 

In 1944 the Council was successful in acquiring a large piece of land adjoining the cemetery permitting its extension and the ground was consecrated by the Bishop of Plymouth on 15 August of that year. Each grave here is individually consecrated and not within separate sections as the older part. The first burial in the new cemetery took place on 20 April 1956.

St Johns Church

The parish church of St John the Evangelist is the second church to bear that name, not only in Ivybridge but in the same churchyard.
The foundations of the old chapel of St John can still be seen just above ground level to the right of the gates of the churchyard, on a large area of grass devoid of graves. Ashes from cremations are located in this portion and the stones do not follow straight lines, a consequence of having to avoid the foundations. The original entrance gates are still in evidence in the south east corner.
The original chapel of ease, a building of Georgian architecture, was built in 1789 at a cost of £800 on ground donated by Sir Frederick L. Rogers. Such chapels provided more accessible places of worship where existing parish churches were far away. The nearest parish churches would have entailed a walk of around 3 miles.
Later, in 1835 the chapel was enlarged to meet the needs of the growing population. The chapel, together with the burial ground, was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Exeter in October 1835 and officially recognised by the Diocesan Authorities. The first baptism took place on 11 October 1835 and the first burial on 14 January the following year. In 1836 the Ecclesiastical District of Ivybridge was formed from parts of the neighbouring parishes. The first marriage took place on 17 December 1837. From April 1838, it was decreed that the chapel should henceforth be known as the Church of St. John the Evangelist.
Due to the very low remuneration offered, Ivybridge had a series of curates during the ensuing period but the arrival of Rev. George William Anstiss in 1872 marked a period of stability. The Rev Anstiss inherited a well-appointed parsonage which had been built when Rev. Richard Pering Cornish was curate between the years 1855 and 1862. With initial financial assistance from William Cotton and built on land donated by Lady Blachford, Rev. Cornish went on to substantially improve the property, spending around £7,000, ‘the house and surrounding grounds displaying no ordinary taste’. When he resigned from his position, he was under obligation to sacrifice the property as well. George Anstiss was to remain in the village for the next 37 years, living in Station Road. Only infirmity in old age forced him to retire on 14 October 1909 and he sadly died less than a year later in August 1910.
The Rev. Anstiss realised that the church structure was in a poor state of repair, desperately needing a new roof, whilst the congregation believed the chapel was unsuitable for enlargement to meet the demands of the increasing population. With the strenuous efforts of Rev. Anstiss, together with the support of Lord Blachford, the Lord of the Manor, a fund was opened to finance the building of a new parish church. By 1881, with the church building fund reaching £2,000, work commenced just west of the old church. The foundation stone was laid by Lord Blachford on 8th June with the assistance of the architect Mr Hine and the builder Mr Finch. Mr Hine deposited a bottle containing the Western Morning News and the Western Daily Mercury and the order of that day’s service in a cavity under the stone. Lord Blachford using a specially inscribed trowel to mark the occasion, spread a quantity of mortar and lowered the foundation stone into place.
He then proceeded in making a speech which helps to paint a picture of Ivybridge at the time
 ‘ … it gives me very great pleasure to be here on this occasion, and to take part in this ceremony. I feel it is the first step towards furnishing you with a building more graceful and more appropriate for the services of our Church than that building which we have just left. I do not doubt that some of you are not without affection for the unpretending, and certainly ungainly building, which falls somewhat short of what we have learnt to think appropriate for the services of our Church … Some of you may remember, or there must be those in the village who remember, what this place was fifty or sixty years ago. It then, at the beginning of the century, consisted of a gentleman’s house, an hotel, a comparatively small paper mill, one or two shops, and a few cottages. It is now very much changed … First, the manufactures have increased; next, the railway came our way, and that has brought fresh residents; villas have arisen; and in all respects the village has increased in prosperity and in comfort. No one, I think, who has known it for more than twenty years will fail to see the difference the comparatively poor street which was then the main street of Ivybridge, and the cheerful shops and the pleasant lodging-houses and cottages which now compose it. Well, since that time, or rather during that time, there has happily been the same progress in matters affecting the moral and spiritual welfare of the place. First, we had the church we see before us, not beautiful, it is true, nor yet commodious, but still a church. Then you had a clergyman slightly paid or almost unpaid; in fact, so small was the remuneration that it was almost impossible to find any person who would accept the position. Then by the liberality of a gentleman whom you remember – Mr Cotton – an endowment was provided for the church; then came the school; then a parsonage, and now, at last, I am happy to think you have followed the example of the Weslayan Methodists, who have shown you the way in this matter in erecting a building more suitable to the worship of God … ’
Lord Blachford died in 1889 and a brass plaque in his memory can be found on the wall at the south end of the chapel porch.

George Anstiss, vicar of Ivybridge 1872-1909

George Anstiss was born in 1834. He was ordained deacon in 1864 and priest in 1866. He became curate at several places before finally making his home in Ivybridge as the vicar. He married Ellen, the daughter of Rev. G. Y. Osborne in 1881 and had a son named Cecil.
During this time he served on the School Board and ‘there was no institution or society in the place, whether it was for cricket or football, musical, educational, or social, in which he did not take a leading part, and he always found a ready help-meet in Mrs. Anstiss, whose Girls’ Friendly Society and Mothers’ Union were a great success.’
Whilst he will always be remembered for his strenuous efforts in establishing the new Church, he was also instrumental in the building of the parish room close to the church, thanks largely to the generosity of John Bayly of Highlands, the landowner.
‘He had no great gift of eloquence or emotional power but he was a faithful, plodding minister of the Church of England, who pursued the via media with a happy combination of both suaviter in modo and fortiter in re.’
via media: (latin) a middle way or compromise between extremes; suaviter in modo, fortiter in re: (latin) gently in manner, firmly in action.
A memorial brass and cross donated by Mrs Anstiss in memory of the Reverend G Anstiss is located on the wall near the altar rail.
The consecration of the church and the graveyard was conducted by the Right Reverend Dr. Temple, Bishop of Exeter on 27 June 1882.
The design of the church in ‘Early English’ style, was provided by Plymouth architect’s Messrs. Hine and Odgers. It was constructed in local granite with dressings of Bath and Portland stone. The church was built by Finch and Son, a building firm also from Plymouth. Once completed it was able to accommodate 500 people.
The aisles of the church were separated from the nave by an arcade of four arches on either side. The nave described as ‘lofty with clerestory windows of quatrefoil shape’. As the funds raised were barely sufficient to construct the church the interior ornamentation had to wait, along with north aisle. In 1887, through the generosity of Lord Blachford the north aisle was added. One of the reasons for its speedy completion was to provide accommodation of the girls of Lady Rogers’ school which had moved from Plymouth to Ivybridge. The cost of the north aisle was recorded at £370 and was constructed by Messrs. Sincock and Blight. Meanwhile the interior received a carved stone pulpit and a stained-glass east window in the chancel. The High Altar and font, which were later replaced, were transferred from the old chapel together with a few of the wall memorials.
For many years the old chapel remained as a preserved ruin despite many attempts to have it demolished. On 28 February 1890, the surveyor of Ecclesiastical Dilapidations recommended that “the interior be cleaned out and laid to turf, that colour wash and plaster be removed from the interior walls and those parts not protected by ivy be cement rendered.”
A visitor to Ivybridge commented that “while it may be admitted that the building possesses no architectural merit, its artistic beauty is incontestable. The walls and tower have been largely overgrown with masses of ivy, and to anyone approaching the village from the direction of the railway station, the appearance is most singularly picturesque’.
The ruins were finally demolished in 1925 by a firm of local builders when the Church Council, in the interest of public safety agreed to have it taken down. The stone was used for other building projects within the village.

Roll of Honour

A Roll of Honour in the form of three separate lists, notes the names of those who served King and Country in The Great War. It is located near to the entrance porch. Many local men were decorated for acts of gallantry.  The list was gathered by the vicar and Frederick Rutherford, the local chemist. During the months of the war, villagers would report who had gone to war and Mr Rutherford had a list on his chemist door for all to see. As time went on, awards for gallantry were inserted by the relevant name. Another plaque listing those who died in war is on the opposite wall.
Frederick Rutherford lived in Ivybridge for over 40 years before retiring and moving to Ringmore. He was churchwarden at St. Johns for 37 years and for many years, a lay reader. His chemist shop was located in Fore Street.

 

The churchyard was closed for interments at the end of nineteenth century, or at least for anyone other than near relations of those already having a grave. This led to a rather arduous process in locating a suitable piece of land for a new cemetery.
One interesting tombstone, a few yards from the east end of the church is that of James Hawke, although he is recorded as Hawkins in the burial book. It would seem that he was a quarryman and the headstone of his grave actually killed him. The epitaph reads: –

 

Sacred to the memory of James Hawkins who departed this life 6th June 1846 aged 27 years
“Here on this stone I drew my last
No thought so near my death,
The hole was charged to blast this rock
That took away my breath.”
There are no vaults in the church as it became illegal for bodies to be buried in a church after 1850 unless a family vault already existed.

New Cemetery for Ivybridge

Discussions to find a site for a new cemetery began in 1883. Lord Blachford, Lord of the manor made an offer of a parcel of land for a new cemetery at Woodlands, in a field known as the ‘Acre’. However, some people thought this was too far away and wanted to use a portion of Furze Park which was closer, whilst a third option was a field called ‘Dirty Meadow’. This was land with the number 164 on the tythe map which places it at the bottom of Cleeve Drive today. Eventually the decision was taken to pursue the acquisition of the land at Furze Park but a failure to agree compensation with the current lessee of the land led the project to be abandoned. Attention reverted to the Dirty Meadow and a resolution was passed to purchase a portion of the field at the rate of £200 per acre. Shortly after the decision was taken, James Hill Toms, the victualler at The King’s Arms and James Chamberlain a millwright at Stowford Paper Mill, both firmly opposed to the decision were elected on to the Local Board. They convinced the other board members that their election reflected the mood of the village to abandon the proposal and instead renew interest in the ‘Acre’, the site at Woodlands
During the ensuing discussions it was agreed that the vicar and church wardens apply to the Home-Office for a postponement of the order for closing the churchyard until 24 June 1886. Eventually agreement was reached and by October 1885, the Local Board sanctioned the decision to borrow £600 to acquire a new cemetery. This included the land, 1 ½ acres costing £130, financial compensation of £60 paid to the current tenant, a Mr. W. Dennis, with the remaining sum for laying out the cemetery and constructing the periphery walls.
A year later the local board discussed and agreed amongst themselves to have two chapels built at the new cemetery. One chapel being for ‘Church people’ on the consecrated side and the other for ‘Nonconformists’. The cost of these two chapels was £1300. On 18 May 1887 the Bishop of Exeter held a service at St. Johns Church and consecrated the new cemetery. The first burial took place on 4 September 1887.
In 1944 the Council was successful in acquiring a large piece of land adjoining the cemetery permitting its extension and the ground was consecrated by the Bishop of Plymouth on 15 August of that year. Each grave here is individually consecrated and not within separate sections as the older part. The first burial in the new cemetery took place on 20 April 1956.