The Church in Devon: 400 to 1560 Paperback – Illustrated, 1 Sep 2013
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Local history can seem just a little bit parochial. With global history now all the rage, and publishers keen to produce big bestsellers on vast expanses of space and time, Nicholas Orme s decision to focus on the fortunes of a single county albeit over a thousand-year period is deliberately unfashionable. It is also brilliant. In this volume, Professor Orme, a noted medieval historian, triumphantly demonstrates the continuing importance of local history. This is a book that is essential reading for anyone interested in Devon and the West Country. More than that and more remarkably this is a book that will be of genuine use to all those who want to learn about church history more generally. The result of a lifetime s work, The Church in Devon 400-1560 vindicates the enterprise of thinking locally about the past. Take the Black Death, for example. A genuinely European-wide cataclysm, the scale of its impact not least the millions of deaths it occasioned is almost impossible to comprehend. Yet its terrifying presence is superbly captured here in a story about the little almshouse for aged priests at Clyst St Mary, on the road from Exeter to Honiton. On 25 December 1348, 11 residents celebrated Christmas. One died of the plague on 1 January 1349, another on the 2nd, another on the 6th. Three more passed away in February, and a further three in March. By the time that Easter came on 12 April, only two of the priests were alive. This book is packed with similar illuminating examples. Indeed, it is the great achievement of The Church in Devon that, far from being narrow, it is in fact a wonderful history of religious belief more generally. This may not be global history, but it opens up the world of the past to great effect. --William Whyte, The Church Times
A fascinating read suited to both scholars and social history fans alike, The Church in Devon is a very detailed and thorough tale. This book categorises churches and explains the complex organisation of rulers, bishops and clergy that evolved. It also explains how the prolific growth of both churches and villages led to the increasing influence that the church had in ordinary people's lives and the emergence of a more thoroughly Christian society in Devon... Nicholas Orme's knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject shines through this interesting and accessible book. --Barbra Taylor, Devon Life
Drawing on Professor Orme's profound knowledge of the medieval church in South-West England and his unrivalled knowledge of its archives, this fine volume will be an essential guide for everyone interested in the subject. Beautifully written and full of fresh insights, it is a joy to read. --John Allen, Exeter Cathedral Archaeologist
About the Author
Nicholas Orme has been professor of History at Exeter University and an honorary canon of Truro Cathedral. His history of the Church in Devon is a sequel to his studies of Cornwall and the Cross (Phillimore, 2007) and Exeter Cathedral: The First Thousand Years (Impress Books, 2009).
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In his preface, Orme writes that the purpose of his book “is twofold: to give a broad account of English church history, centred on Devon, for local historians and general readers, and to provide a resource for researchers who wish to know what the county’s history reveals about topics in which they are interested. It is not an archaeological study of buildings and artefacts …” Later he writes that neither is it the purpose of the book “to provide an architectural history of the parish churches of Devon. Instead, it aims to explore how they were used and what they can tell us about religion and society.”
Some speculation is presented as fact, such as the “cultural interchange” with Cornwall that supposedly saw Anglo-Saxons adopting Cornish saints as dedications of some Devon churches. Might it not have been the case that the British inhabitants themselves fostered this? And when Orme writes that churches dedicated to St Thomas Becket “must date from after 1170,” this would not be so if the dedication was made to a church that might have been established hundreds of years previously. He also write that Plymstock church was “poorly served” by the canons of Plympton Priory: well, it would be as it formed part of the estate of Tavistock Abbey. I also noticed at one point Orme has confused the Avon with the Salcombe estuary.Read more ›
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