St Bartholomew, Ashperton
- On Church Lane
- OS Grid Ref: SO 643 415
- Open Access
This quiet place has been, for many centuries, a centre of Christian worship.
Here John de Grandison, Bishop of Exeter (1327–1369) was baptised, and so too was his sister Katherine, Lady Montacute, wife of the first Earl of Salisbury. Her name has been linked with the founding of the Order of the Garter in 1344 by Edward III.
It is said that her garter fell off while she danced at court. King Edward picked it up and, observing the smiles of the courtiers at what might have been considered an act of gallantry, exclaimed, “Honi soit qui mal y pense” (evil be to him who evil thinks) and so the Order of the Garter was founded.
Both John and Katherine were born in the castle,which belonged to the de Grandison family, and was situated a little way behind the church. Their mother, Sibilla de Grandison, usually gets the credit for most of the present church building.
All that now remains of the castle is the tree covered mound and the moat, now used by anglers.
The church itself, was rebuilt early in the 14th century and incorporates parts of a former chancel arch. It has been suggested that the exceptional width of the nave and the chancel is due to the walls of the present building having been erected outside those of the earlier church, which dated from the early 13th century.
A pamphlet in the church gives further details of the architectural features and also makes mention of the charming small organ case in the west gallery, which probably contained a barrel organ. The main organ, in the NW corner, was restored a few years ago and well-voiced example of a small two manual instrument.
Among the monuments to local families is one to four young men killed in the Crimean War. (The village War Memorial is on the green at the top of the lane, on the main road).
Of particular interest is the coat of arms which hangs on the wall of the north transept. The arms displayed are those of the 15th century Plantagenet monarchs reversed along the vertical axis and a number of satirical animal caricatures can be seen in the mantling which surrounds the shield. The Arms were known locally as “the Defiance” on the assumption that the Royal Arms were carved in reverse as an act of rebellion against an unpopular king. However, recent research suggests that the Arms were commissioned by Henry VI’s queen, Margaret of Anjou, to mark the disgrace of the House of York, after Richard of York and his followers were condemned as traitors by the “Parliament of Devils” in 1459. (Further information can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org)
A historical figure associated with Ashperton is Walter de Helyon who, together with three generations of his family, was steward to William de Grandison. Walter de Helyon had served in the Holy Land, and when he died he was buried in the chancel of Ashperton Church, with his effigy in carved wood forming the lid of the tomb. When the church roof was repaired in the late 16th C this precious, valuable carving was removed for safety to the family home at Hellens. It has never been returned, and now lies on a box in Much Marcle Church.
The kneelers in the pews were made by a group of ladies, starting in 1987. They are all different individual designs. The altar kneelers, at the communion rail, were made as a separate project by the same group. They were completed in 1997 and tell the history of the village from Roman times to the present.
The churchyard is a pleasant place to rest or picnic, and in spring contains a meadow full of daffodils. From it, you may choose several short walks in the woods, by the moat, or round the fishing lakes.