We came across a very special village church, St Michael’s in the village of Musbury, when we were visiting Devon in 2016. Special, because of the connection to the Drake family. On entering the building you can not but notice the Drake family memorial, begun in 1611 and enlarged around 1646. The memorial is a beautiful example of 17th century Renaissance style. It is divided into 3 sections, with a pair of kneeling effigies in each section.
The left-hand figures represent Sir John Drake (d. 1558) and his wife Amy (d. 1577) In the centre are Sir Bernard Drake (d. 1586) and his wife Garthrud (d. 1601), while in the right-hand section are effigies of another Sir John Drake (d. 1628) and his wife Dorothy (d. 1631). The figures all look towards the east aisle window, dedicated to Robert Hamlyn Mervyn Drake.
The arrangement of 3 pairs of kneeling couples is extremely rare in English churches. The couples are separated by pilastered screens, and kneel atop a plinth with coats of arms below. The top section of the monument is missing, and it is interesting to imagine what the entire memorial must have looked like when new.
Although the church is 15th century, the chancel was rebuilt in 1865 and the north aisle in 1875, so really the oldest part of the of the current building is the early 15th century tower. What we are looking at is really a Victorian interior, but if the Victorians had not restored the church, would it now be a ruin, and the wonderful memorial banished into the mists of time, well…..gone for ever. To me they did seem life-size, and quite amazing to look at, as if at any moment they would rise and go about their daily duties.