In the summer of 2016 we visited a church I had read about, All Saints in East Budleigh, East Devon. I had read about the amazing pew ends that date from 1537 and had survived the reformation in one piece. With luck the door was unlocked and we entered a bright and welcoming interior. My eyes then fell on the pew ends, amazing
The church consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, south porch, and embattled western tower with clock and six bells – five cast in 1755 and one added in 1875. The church was probably erected between 1420 and 1425 on the site of an earlier building, and is noted for its connection with the Raleigh family, its carved bench ends and its rood screen.
The pew ends are square-headed and about 3 feet high, and from 16 to 17 inches broad. There are about sixty-three remaining, and in no two cases is the carving alike. Complete set of 16th century oak benches of high quality workmanship. All are slightly different giving rise to the impression that they were acquired over a period rather than being a single scheme. Most of the bench ends have a frame of wreathed foliage with small urn stops around a carved panel.
The Raleigh bench end dated 1537.
At the eastern end of the central aisle on the north side is the Raleigh pew, with the family arms caved on the end. It is rather remarkable that there should be no religious symbol carved on any of the pews. Presumably, because the bench ends do not carry religious iconography this aided their preservation during the Reformation
A little about Sir Walter Raleigh
Walter Raleigh (1544–1618) was a courtier, seaman and explorer in Elizabethan England. He was a pioneer in the English colonisation of North America.
Raleigh (orginally spelt Ralegh) was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I and helped defend England against the Spanish Armada. As well as being a courtier and explorer, he was also a keen philosopher, historian and poet.
He is best known for establishing an early colony in the New World and for bringing tobacco and potato plants back to England.
Sir Walter Raleigh’s father, Walter Raleigh of Fardell, was warden of the church, and Walter was born just outside in the Manor of Hayes Barton, a large house and estate nearby. owned by his father. Both of his parents are buried in the churchyard.
One little thing I found which was quite interesting, Walters father’s first wife was Joan Drake, a distance relation of Sir Francis Drake, unfortunately not Walter’s mother, who was his father’s third wife