St Maurice Church

People have St. Maurice Church have worshipped from Saxon times. The Church itself not only represents many centuries of parish life, but also recalls the early associations with the Augustinian Priory at Plympton St. Mary. A Saxon Monastery there, dating from King Alfred's time, was dissolved when the priests would not turn out the women who lived with them. In its place, a Priory was established which came to be rich and influential. It was the Priory that created the borough on Sutton Pool which became known as Plymouth. The priests established and served a chapel below Plympton Castle dedicated to St. Maurice, a Christian Centurion who was martyred in the year 290 for refusing to sacrifice to the pagan gods after a Roman victory over the Gauls in Switzerland. With the growth of Plympton, the chapel became the parish church, and its dedication was changed to St. Thomas of Canterbury (Thomas Becket), who was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. John Brackley, who lived in the Ridgeway and was a Member of Parliament in 1382, paid for a small chapel on the south side dedicated to St. Maurice. In 1446 the parishioners successfully appealed to the Bishop of Exeter to have the tower made higher. The dedication of the church reverted to St. Maurice in 1538, the year before the destruction of Plympton Priory at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, when the name of Thomas Becket was out of favour. There is a small statue of St. Thomas outside the church above the north door, placed there in 1859.

 

Inside the church, the oak screen is a reproduction, carved by Alfred Moultrie of Tavistock, of the original screen, and incorporates some of the old fragments. The Jacobean oak pulpit stood, until 1846, on the stone base which forms part of a pillar in the nave and it is probable that a stone pulpit once stood there before that. The font and its cover are Victorian, but an early seventeenth century octagonal oak cover, with doors, can be seen near the north door. There are several memorials to famous Plympton families. On the north wall is an alabaster monument in memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds, unveiled in 1904 and there is a memorial to his father, Samuel Reynolds, beneath the tower. Their very close friends, the Mudges, are commemorated by the west window of the north aisle. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, music was provided in the Church by three violins, a bass viol and two wind instruments. There is a full peal of eight bells. When one bell cracked in 1833, bell founders from Cullompton set up a furnace and mould outside the Church and recast it there. Outside the south door stands a stone cross, dating from about 1380. While making alterations to the Guildhall in 1861, workmen discovered the shaft of the cross incorporated in a wall.

 

It is thought that it had been placed there in the 1680s when the Guildhall was rebuilt. It may have been the market cross, as it is known that such a cross stood in Fore Street at the junction with Church Road up until the middle of the seventeenth century. It was placed by the south porch of the Church in 1900. The churchyard was extended in the early years of the nineteenth century by the acquisition of adjacent gardens, but earlier, in 1765, nine large elm trees there had to be felled. They were rotting and were considered to be a danger, not only to the Church itself, but to the cottages clustered around. The south-east corner of the churchyard was rounded off about 1840 after a carriage, in which Mrs. Yonge of St. Maurice House and her maid were travelling, grazed the wall and overturned, injuring the maid. A great number of infant deaths are noted in the churchyard, for example, the monument by the north wall of the church to the little son of the Reverend Grey, Curate and Headmaster of Plympton Grammar School, who died in the cholera epidemic of 1832. The parish registers record the deaths of many parishioners in 1626, 1643 and 1644 from the plague, and 40 marriages which were solemnised by proclamation in the market instead of by church ceremony during Cromwell's time.

© 2019 Plympton St Maurice Civic Association. All rights reserved.

Plympton St Maurice Ltd trading as Plympton St Maurice Civic Association (PSMCA)

Register Company in England 12182888

Registered office Howard And Over, Longbridge Road, Plymouth, United Kingdom, PL6 8LT

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