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The Lethbridge Memorial in St Mary's Church, Pilton

The Lethbridge Memorial in St Mary's Church, Pilton /media/flashcomm?action=mediaview&context=normal&id=223

This immense and sumptuous monument was erected in St Mary's Church, Pilton, in memory of Christopher Lethbridge, who died in 1713. It commemorates Margaret Bowchier, his wife, who is reported elsewhere as having erected it, and also her son and her nephew.

It is located on the south wall and is carved largely in soft limestone which has been polychromed with embellishments of polished Ashburton limestone. It consists of an oval inscription with an elaborate frame including four roundels flanked by Corinthian columns and side brackets and set on a gadrooned sill. Below the sill are three corbels and a huge apron bearing an heraldic achievement. The columns carry an entablature with segmental pediment, another huge heraldic acheivement carried by putti, torches and curly palm decorations. The effect of the whole is highly impressive, if possibly a little overbearing.

By far the largest and most impressive wall-mounted monument in the church, it is part of a group from the late 17th and early 18th Century. It is characterised by monument experts as 'Barnstaple work' and fits into an historically important North Devon tradition. It suggests that there was a thriving and artistically ambitious workshop in Barnstaple at the time. This may have been related to the Jewells of Barnstaple, as Thomas Jewell the Elder undertook a number of works at Tawstock for the Bouchiers around this time.

Christopher Lethbridge was the son of a clergyman, John Lethbridge, who was ejected as Rector of Ashprington in South Devon for being a Royalist. The Lethbridges were local landowners who lived at Westaway House in Pilton.

Along with the other monuments of this period in the church, the Lethbridge monument is undergoing significant refurbishment in the autumn of 2012 including dismantling, cleaning and re-erection.

Many thanks to Torquil McNeilage of McNeilage Conservation for this information taken from his report of May 2012. Photograph by Martin Haddrill.

In another archive item we have recorded the translation of the Latin inscription by the Rev William Henry Morris Bagley, Vicar of Pilton from 1892 until 1927, taken from his 1907 book 'Some Account of Pilton Priory and Church'. There is a certain amount of conflict between the accounts:

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