Report of the May Weekend Tour to Devon and Cornwall, 10th-12th May, 2014
Due to the rain the countryside was very green interspersed with brilliant yellow fields of rape plants. We were fortunate with the leader, John Thornton’s choice of hotel – Livermead House Torquay. The food was excellent, the service good and the rooms comfortable.
En-route we stopped at Stonehenge. The heavy rain came while we were in the shuttle buses which took about 10 minutes from the new Centre to Stonehenge.
On the 11th May we went by steam train Hercules from Paignton to Kingsware on the River Dart.
We took the ferry across to Dartmouth.
There was a good view of the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth as we crossed the River Dart in the ferry.
Our next stop was Saltram House near Plymouth, originally a Tudor mansion owned by a yeoman farmer in the 16th Century.
Salt was harvested nearby hence the name. In 1712, George Parker started the family dynasty and Robert Adam altered the Tudor house to a Georgian mansion with splendid ceilings. In 1743, John Parker’s wealthy wife, Catherine, arranged for the house to be re-designed in the Palladian style with the result as you see now. Joshua Reynolds was a Devonian and friend of the family, so there are 10 portraits by Reynolds of members of the family.
We then crossed the Tamar bridge into Cornwall to visit Port Eliot.
This was originally a priory occupied by secular canons so the area has been occupied for over 1,000 years. The house bears no resemblance to the original priory, having been remodelled by Sir John Soane in the 18th Century. The house is the seat of the Earl & Countess of St. Germans and contains masterpieces by Van Dyke and Reynolds. The Grade 1 listed landscape garden was laid out by Humphrey Repton who was responsible for the diversion of a tributary of the Tamar River which used to run near the house.
The Priory was built in the 9th century but there are no remains of the Saxon church. The Bishops of Exeter preferred to have a Norman Church, the style of which was later modified to Early English and later to Perpendicular. The West Front has three small Norman windows above the west door.
The Priory church has the usual 2 Norman towers at the west end but work was stopped during the Norman period and not resumed until the Perpendicular style was in fashion. This is clearly seen in the North Tower which was square initially and then became Perpendicular and Octagonal.
On the 12th of May on the way home we visited Wells.
The west front of Wells Cathedral has hundreds of niches only a few of which now hold statues.
The Perpendicular columns in the nave and the long lines of clerestory arches carry the eye to the reverse arches which take the weight of the Tower and were built in the 14th century. There are 3 reverse arches, 1 across each transept and 1 across the nave.
The other striking features are in the North Transept. The astronomical clock built between 1386 and 1392, the sun and the moon rotate around the earth. High up on the right hand side is a figure of a man called Jack Blandifers, who strikes bells with his heels and with a hammer in his right hand.
We were unable to see the Tree of Jesse window as it was being restored.
Vicars Close on the North side of the Cathedral was built between 1348 and 1363. The chimney shafts were added in the mid-15th century.