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Shute Church

24 April 2010 11,783 views No Comment

The Parish Church of Shute

Formerly the Ancient Chapel of St. Michael

(photos can be enlarged by left clicking on them once)

Shute Church is an ancient and beautiful small building. It is believed that there may have been a Saxon Church on this site, but as there are no written records to confirm this prior to the year 1205, the history of St. Michael’s must start there. The earliest record of the church is a Deed of Bishop Marshall (1194-1206) which refers to “ecclesia de Colinton et Cappella de Schieta” proving the early foundation of the chapel. There are other records of 1269 when a Vicar was endowed with”the whole attalage of the church of Colyton and its chapel at Shute” and July 10th 1301 when a visitation was held at Shute and a report given as to the state of the chapel and contents.

In the year 1205 the men of Devon paid 5000 marks to King John to have the County “disafforested” all but Dartmoor and Exmoor, and sometime afterwards the Manor of Shute was created out of the waste land, and given to Lucas de la Shute (or Schiete) who built a Manor House and Church. The builders of Shute Chapel, taking as their model the mother church of Colyton, erected a cruciform building with an Early English centre tower. The stone used is dressed flint, and the exterior features of the building are mainly of perpendicular style.

In the 15th Century the South Transept was widened, and the Lady Chapel erected on the North side of the Chancel, the wall being replaced by an arcade. The earliest parish register dates back to 1568 and it was rebound in red leather in 1805 (the same year as the Battle of Trafalgar).In 1811 the North Aisle was added, and the arcade replaced the Nave wall. It is probabel that the Chapel roof was raised to its present height at the same time. The fabric of the church consists of local chert, possibly quarried on Shute Hill, with Beer Stone windows, door frames, quoins and coping stones on the gables. The floor is constructed of blue lias found locally at Lyme Regis.

Medieval Scratch Sundial:

On the left hand side of the arch of the front porch is a medieval sundial. The majority of medieval sundials are the so called “scratch dials”, or also called “mass dials” because they gave the time for parishioners to attend mass – a superficially simple dial, usually carved on the walls of churches. These basic sundials, roughly scratched on the face of south walls in many old churches, consist of nothing more than groups of scratched lines radiating from a point where there is a hole in which a peg could be stuck to act as the gnomon of this very amateurish dial. Despite their primitive appearance, they have often been planned with great care, revealing a reasonable knowledge of geometry. It is not known when the medieval style of sundial was introduced into England, but most authors agree that it came from the continent as a result of the Norman Conquest. It is thought that our scratch sundial dates from between 1100 and 1200 AD. (Information obtained from Gordon Le Pard, Historical Environment Assistant, Devon County Council).

The time the scratch dial would show, with its pin back, would of course have been Local time. It was not until 11th December, 1847, that the railways in England agreed on a Standard Time, and used Greenwich (i.e. London) Time. By 1855 most public clocks had adjusted to the new times. Shute is 3 degrees, 3 minutes west of Greenwich, so its Local time is 12.4 minutes later than Greenwich. The sun revolves round the earth in 24 hours, i.e. 15 degrees an hour, so Shute’s time is 3.1×60/15 minutes after Greenwich. (C P-C)

A more modern sundial in memory of Mary Clode(1888) can be seen above the front arch of the porch doorway:

Memorial to Charles Beckford Templer:

This memorial was placed in Shute church by Sir John William Pole, in memory of Charles Beckford Templer who persihed on the 760 ton 26 cannons East Indiaman “Halsewell”, captained by Richard Pierce, on January 6th 1786. This wreck occurred on the Dorset Coast, near Worth Matravers on the Isle of Purbeck.

In January 1786 the Halsewell was returning from Madras, filled with a rich cargo and bound for London. It was to become one of the coast’s more celebrated victims. Aboard was a full complement of crew as well as a company of soldiers, and a number of passengers including the captain’s daughters. The voyage was to be Captain Pearce’s last before retiring.

Entering the English Channel, she encountered a violent winter storm. After several days battling a mixture of blizzards and hurricane-force winds the Halsewell, leaking badly, was eventually driven against the cliffs at Seacombe, close to Worth Matravers. As luck would have it, the ship was dashed broadside against a natural cave in the cliff face and many were able to scramble to what they thought was safety. The cliff above them was almost impossible to climb, especially in such atrocious conditions. Only two sailors made it to the cliff top to alert the local villagers, while those left behind gradually succumbed to cold and exhaustion and were washed away into the broiling sea. 82 were rescued and by the morning 160 people had perished in the freezing waters including the captain who chose death rather than abandoning his two young daughters.

The ship soon turned to matchwood and sank without trace. The bodies that were recovered reputedly lie buried in mass graves on the cliff tops, the only individually recorded soul appearing in the burial register of Worth Matravers having been washed up some weeks later.

Public sympathy was to run so high that George III himself, holidaying in nearby Weymouth, visited the spot to pay his respects and a reward of £100 was paid out in appreciation of the efforts of the local villagers.”

The site has since become a treasure trove of artifacts from the cargo of the ship. Everything from a pair of cufflinks, depicting one of the earliest flights by balloon, to the ship’s hourglass which miraculously survived, cushioned and entangled in seaweed. This and a number of other artifacts can be now seen in the Dorchester County Museum.

On consulting the Poles of Shute family tree, it appears that Sir John Wm Pole 6th married Ann Templer of Stover, the brother of Charles Templer. A CD of Dorset’s three shipwrecked East Indiaman ships contains the detailed history of the Halsewell’s fateful voyage and describes Charles Templer as a “youth cut off by this terrible blow”. He was the brother of James Templer, his majesty’s attorney and master of the crown office in the King’s bench.

The font: is fifteenth century, probably later re-dressed. The cover has attractive wrought iron decoration:

The stone pulpit is in imitation of Early English style:

There is “Devonshire” foliage on the fifteenth century capitals in the side chapel, and the heraldic glass in the same chapel is early seventeenth century. There were three bells in the tower in 1553 which survived until on January 7th 1760, when a licence was granted by the Bishop to cast three bells into four, and add another to make a peal of five.

(The five bells have the following inscriptions:  1. My treble voice your hearts rejoice. J.B Selwood, vicar; B. Domett, G.Cummings, Churchwardens. Re-cast by J. Warner and Sons, London 1864.      2. J.D. and J.H., Ch. wardens. T.B. fecit 1761.    3. Thomas Bilbie, Cullompton, fecit 1761.    4. Mr. John Dunning and Mr. John Harris, Ch. wardens.             5. The Reverend George Anstis; T.B. fecit 1761. )  A sixth bell was added in 1923.

In 1967 the sanctuary was refashioned and the Lady Chapel (which had been dismantled in the 16th Century) refurnished and re-consecrated. A new vestry was built in 1869 at the end of the north transept. The old high pews have been replaced by open benches in red deal.

The organ was built in 1800 for the new Shute House.

This delightful chamber organ was originally a barrel-and -keyboard instrument. The barrel mechanism has been removed, although a list of the hymn tunes it held is still pasted inside the frame.

Sir Wiiliam Pole:

The church has several handsome monuments of the Poles, one of which has a fine marble statue of Sir William Pole in full court dress, as master of Queen Anne’s household. It represents a life-size figure on a handsome pedestal with the wand of office in his right hand. “The countenance is beautifully expressive, and the drapery very skillfully arranged and exquisitely sculptured ” (George Pulman: The Book of the Axe).This exceptional statue commemorates Sir William Pole’s death at Shute on December 31st, 1741 aged 63.

Margaret Pole:

Another member of the dynasty, Margaret Pole, is commemorated with a 19th-century alabaster sculptured panel depicting her greeting her daughters at the gates of heaven.

Anne Pole:

Anne Pole was Reginald Pole’s (Sir William Templer Pole’s brother) daughter. She married Charles Cocks (first Lord Somers), a politician (the Cocks family still are politicians). She died in 1833. Also on the plaque, is her son Reginald who died aged 28. This plaque, which was erected by Anne Pole’s mother, Lady Somers, who was also Anne, is special in that it is recognised by experts as being a particularly fine example of the work of Sir Richard Westmacott, one of the best sculptors of the time (late 18th to early 19th century).


Below is a link to further photographs of all the memorials in Shute church including Sir John William Pole’s, the builder of ‘New’ Shute House:

Mousa Al-Kordi, a Moslem Artist born in Palestine in 1951, spent his formative years in Kuwait, later working as a telecommunications engineer in the Uk for 19 years. He then obtained an Honours Degree in Fine Art from Exeter School of Art, University of Plymouth, followed by an MA in Contemporary Visual Arts from College University, Falmouth. He later became a lecturer at Exeter University. His own work has been exhibited and collected widely. He was commissioned to create the Millennium Plaque on the South Chancel Wall.  The work was inspired by both the 15C Grunewald crucifixion and the nave window in Coventry Cathedral.

Stained Glass Windows:

St. Michael: an angelic warrior, fully armed with helmet, sword and shield, standing over the dragon.He also holds a pair of scales in which he weighs the souls of the departed or the book of life to show that he takes part in the final judgement.

St. Michael’s feast day (Michaelmas) is September 29th. His wings represent swiftness and his sword authority of power. He is the Patron Saint of Police and Paramedics.

Plaques and Tombstones:

Elizabeth Anstis:

Elizabeth (MS?) married to George Anstis, Clerk (meaning in the Church), died 7 August 1780. Erected by Sir John William de la Pole (J on family tree).  Nothing more known – except that Sir John William liked putting up plaques!


Abigail Purse:

Here lieth the body

Of Abigail Purse late wife

Of Daniel Purse who

Departed this life the

3d day of January in the

Year of our Lord 1731”

Nothing known about either Daniel or Abigail Purse, except that Daniel may have been born in Colyton in 1701 and was possibly a yeoman of Uplyme.

FindMyPast shows the marriage of Daniel Purse to Abigall Hill
on 13 November 1731 in Uplyme. (thanks to Steve Bray for that).


Sir James Templer:

In sacred memory of

Sir James Templer.

John William Pole, Baronet

put this here.

Died 4th March 1732”

Obviously a relation of Sir William’s wife, Anne Templer, probably her father. There are lots of Templers in this church including others than those married to members of the Pole family, for no logical reason, except that Sir John William Pole seemed to enjoy putting up plaques, and any slight connection seemed good enough.

Is this the oldest tombstone in the graveyard, dated 1665?

Consecration of the Burial Ground at Shute:

Monday 12th September 2005 at 4.00pm

By the Rt Revd Robert Evens, Bishop of Crediton


ScanScan-001Scan-002 Scan-003 Scan-005

The Sanctuary Ring:

on the main Front Door:

The Parish Church of Shute:

Open Weekend 8th & 9th September 2012:

Flower festival

(all pictures courtesy of David Vickers and Rick Wood)


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Just to let you all know that the Shute Church Easter flower festival held from 5th to 7th April 2015 in St. Michael’s Church, Shute was a huge success.

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Donations =  £344. 45p
Teas /cakes =  £328. 00p
Grand Total raised = £672. 45p

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Please tell all your friends all about it. Also a very big thank you to everyone who helped in any way. What a lovely community we live in here in the parish of Shute – Ella.

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Of course, special thanks to Ella Sweetalnd and her talented team and also to Helene Buse for the great photos. Photos can be enlarged by left clicking on them once, and then left click again for a full screen picture.


Rick Wood


The late Brian Gardner added this:

St Michael’s Church, Shute


St Mary at the Cross, Whitford

Recently each household in the Parish received a copy of the Parish Plan developed from information received following a survey asking all residents their opinion on various parish issues.

Included in the survey was a question regarding support for the Parish Church of St. Michael’s at Shute and St Mary at the Cross, Whitford. This has been followed up by an ‘Open Weekend’ held on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September enabling parishioners and visitors to view and appreciate what is, in essence, “their own”.

St Michael’s has stood for over 600 years and for it to continue, not only as a place of worship, but as a building that may be attractive for other parochial uses…it urgently needs the support of the parish. It is established as the home of Shute Theatre and Arts Guild (STAG) producing excellent drama, poetry and prose enjoyed by many. With the newly installed kitchen and toilet facilities the building becomes a real proposition for all manner of uses.

If you believe that St. Michael’s and St Mary’s at the Cross should survive in the 21st century then we ask you to consider giving financial support…however small… to enable them to do so. If everyone gives even a small amount it will enable our churches to stay open. After 600 years it would be very sad to see them close. This is a real possibility unless you, the parish, decide otherwise.

If you feel that you would like to contribute to the continuity of our churches in the parish perhaps you may wish to complete the attached forms and return them to the Honorary Treasurer.

Thank you.


Pledge Forms:

To the Parochial Church Council of St Michael’s Shute and St Mary at the Cross WhitfordI promise to make a regular, planned contribution to the work, mission and upkeep of the above churches of £…………… each week/month/quarter/year starting on ……………….(date)Full name……………………………………………..Address ………………………………………………


Post Code……………………….

I would like to pay the contribution by:

  • Standing Order from my bank (I have completed the form below and passed to my bank)
  • Regular envelopes (Details on request)
  • Cheque made payable to Shute PCC

———————————————–cut along here————————————————————

Banker’s Order

To the Manager…………………………………………………………..Bank plc


Please pay to the Parochial Church Council of St Michael’s Church Shute

At Lloyds TSB , Colyton Branch. PO Box 1000, BX1 1LT

Sort Code 30 – 90 – 37 Account number 01069136

The sum of £………………..(…………………………………………..in words)

Commencing on the …………day of ……………………2012 and a like sum every month/quarter/year until further notice and debit my account with each payment.

This order cancels any earlier instructions held in favour of Shute Parochial Church Council.


Account name………………………………..Account number……………….