May Weekend Tour Devon and Cornwall – 2014

, CADHAS Editor

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.

2014 May Weekend Stonehenge Sarsen Stone Circle
Sarsen stone circle with ditch and earthwork in foreground.

2014 May Weekend Stonehenge Bluestone Circle inside Sarsen Circle
Smaller bluestone circle inside the Sarsen circle.
2014 May Weekend Stonehenge Sarsen Semi-circle
Sarsen semi-circle inside the Sarsen circle. Note tall stone with tenon protruding on the top.

On the 11th May we went by steam train Hercules from Paignton to Kingsware on the River Dart.

2014 May Weekend Hercules Steam Train
Steam train Hercules.

We took the ferry across to Dartmouth.

2014 May Weekend Dartmouth Ferry
The ferry at Dartmouth

There was a good view of the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth as we crossed the River Dart in the ferry.

2014 May Weekend Royal Naval College Dartmouth
Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.

Our next stop was Saltram House near Plymouth, originally a Tudor mansion owned by a yeoman farmer in the 16th Century.

2014 May Weekend Saltram House Plymouth
Saltram House, Plymouth.

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.

2014 May Weekend Port Eliot Priory
Port Eliot Priory.

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.

2014 May Weekend Port Eliot Priory Church West front
Priory Church west front
2014 May Weekend Port Eliot Priory Church West door
This is a close-up of the splendid Norman West Door, 20 feet wide, built of a greystone called Elvan, quarried locally.
2014 May Weekend Port Eliot Priory Church North Tower
Priory Church North Tower

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.

2014 May Weekend Wells Cathedral
Wells Cathedral

The west front of Wells Cathedral has hundreds of niches only a few of which now hold statues.

2014 May Weekend Wells Cathedral arches
Wells Cathedral clerestory arches

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.

2014 May Weekend Wells Cathedral North Transcept Astronomical clock
Wells Cathedral astronomical clock

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.

2014 May Weekend Vicars Close Wells
Vicars Close, Wells

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.