Church and Community.
Ugborough parish church has always played an important role in community life and in national celebrations.
From the Middle Ages onwards, the church has played a role in national celebrations. Here are some examples.
In 1606, James I declared that, to celebrate the nation’s deliverance from the Gunpowder Plot, November 5th was to be a day of thanksgiving. In 1736, there are records of payments to bellringers for their work on Guy Fawkes' Day. The ringers were also sometimes supplied with ale for this occasion.
Royal events were always celebrated by the church. Bell ringers were paid to ring on coronation days. Royal marriages and the birth of royal children also led to special church services. In 1774, when Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Streliz, wife of George III gave birth to their ninth child, Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, Ugborough church held a service of thanksgiving for the infant’s safe delivery, as they had done for the birth of his older brothers and sisters. The coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1938, and the death of George VI in 1952, were marked by special services in the church. More recently, Ugborough celebrated the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge by holding a street party in the village square.
Military victories were also celebrated in the church. In 1761, there was a special service of thanksgiving for the ‘late, glorious success of His Majesty’s Army in Germany’ and the surrender of the Pondicherry and the Islands of Belize and Dominica. In 1798, the churchwardens paid for ale to celebrate Nelson beating the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile.
World War II occasioned a regular series of special services. From September 1939, when war was declared, a weekly intercession service took place when all the names of those serving were read out in church. There were also changes to service schedules: Evensong was moved to the afternoon because of the blackout. On Christmas Eve 1939, midnight mass was held ‘for the first time in living memory or knowledge with lights on the altar only’, again because of blackout. On September 8 1940 there was a national day of prayer, with a chain of intercession held in the church from 8am to 8pm. When the war was finally declared over in 1945, the church held a special service to give thanks for Britain’s victory.
Charitable giving has always been part of community life in Ugborough.
In 1670 the parish raised £2 2s 5d towards the relief of ‘distressed captives’, part of a national effort to free English captives in Algiers, possibly taken in raids by Barbary pirates on the Devon coast. In 1731, when Tiverton was destroyed by fire for the third time in just over a century, the congregation of St. Peter’s raised £1 16s 3d, which was sent to help re-build the town. In 1781, money was raised to alleviate the distress caused by moorland fires, and a number of donations were given to other churches and chapels, including the chapel of Kentish Town, London. This donation was most likely given to help re-build the chapel as the original chapel-of-ease which stood there was demolished in 1784 and replaced with a new building.
Before 1869, the church had an important role in government and social services in the parish. One of the most important ways in which the church officials affected the parish was through their roles as agents of the poor laws. Parish officials were responsible for electing two overseers of the poor, who were men drawn from the local rate-payers and who usually served a two-year term.
Some of the men who acted as poor law overseers were John Damerell and Thomas Morris (1680), and Richard Edgcomb and Hugh Stentiford (1717). Overseers were responsible for raising the poor rate which was then distributed to poor people within the parish, sometimes as a payment or sometimes as practical goods. The expenses for poor relief could be large. For example, in 1701 the total expenditure on the poor of the parish, including legal expenses and those of the overseers totalled £201 17s 11¼ d. This came to an end with the New Poor Law of 1834 when care for the poor was passed to the secular authorities.
In the early twentieth century, Ugborough church made several donations to The Colonial and Continental Church Society which was, and still is an Anglican missionary organisation which aims to minister to people - in the English language - throughout the world. It also gave to causes closer to home. In 1895, it paid towards £5 18s 6d to foreign missions and £9 16s 10d for support of the poor.
The church clock.
The church clock has been maintained by parishioners since at least the seventeenth century. In 1662, John Kay was paid £1 6s 8d for keeping the clock and bells. In 1756, the then churchwarden Phillip Trenick paid John Stidson £3 3s for painting the clock dial. In 1901 oiling and winding the clock was one of the duties of the Sexton. The clock is still wound by parishioners today, but a handsome payment is no longer issued. The job is now voluntary!
The church and the alehouse.
Relations between church and parish could also be difficult sometimes, particularly over alehouses.
From 1841, John May, the vicar (acting as rural dean) expressed concerns that The Bell, a public house, had a door opening into the churchyard, and was using this access to dry clothes on the tombstones.