Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

All Saints' Church, Sidmouth, Devon

All Saints was built in 1837, due to an increasing population in Sidmouth and the need for another church to complement the parish church. A new build! ;)

I'd noticed it on several occasions when travelling into the town and didn't think it would be all that interesting...something for a rainy day the frontage looks quite plain. However, when I took photos of the Unitarian Meeting Chapel in the same road, the gentleman who was working there recommended it and told me that it was well worth seeing. Which I did, and which was when I saw the delightful apse on the east side.

But that wasn't the only surprise, as I found out when I entered the building...

...not typically Victorian after all! At first I was slightly disappointed not to find an interior appropriate to it's era, but that was soon overcome by the wow factor. Modernised and refurbished, the area is one of light and space, which shows off the basic construction beautifully...lifting the eyes to the simple neo-gothic windows and ceiling beams.


On this first visit there were several people inside, following the conduction of a funeral, including the vicar who kindly showed me an album of photos taken before the building work. I was also invited upstairs into the one surviving balcony by a lovely lady, who told me about the modernisation, and who subsequently sent me photos via email showing the various stages of reconstruction. Sadly, this visit was when my camera totally seized up (the film is still inside and irretrievable), therefore these photos were taken at a later date with a back-up camera.

A cruciform building, the head of the cross terminates in the delightful polygonal apse at the east where the sanctuary and altar is situated. The right and left of the cross originally contained balconies with box pews. The surviving balcony, above, is situated in the lower vertical section of the cruciform opposite the altar.

The new screen surrounding the front of the apse contains a drop-down backdrop for showing slides and video, which was in use on my first visit.  The new seating is in a circular arrangement surrounding an apron stage in front of the screen, complete with a modern lectern. As well as showing the original layout and stages of modernisation, the photos that were sent to me also show some of the fixtures that were removed and replaced. They include the original lectern and a pulpit. I haven't finished sorting them out yet, but I may include some at a later date when I've decided which ones to use.

From the photos I've seen, the eastern apse remains pretty well untouched. Below shows the lovely stone reredos, with Alpha and Omega signs picked out in gold leaf, and carved foliage.

The original tiled floor in the apse, below, is a mosaic of a maltese cross flanked by other designs and bordered with stylised vines.

The building itself was constructed using local stone. The walls comprise Hook-Ebb Stone with Salcombe Sandstone used for the dressings. Later repairs...specifically the pinnacles, which were replaced in 1958...were made using Beer Stone. Above the south entrance is a rising gable. This is echoed by a bell tower at the northern end.

Altogether a surprising and unusual building, and I have to say that it really is lovely to see how modernisation can be used sympathetically to enhance and bring out the best aspects.

The rest of my photos, along with these, can be viewed in the Photo Gallery album.

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