The Minster and Parish Church of St Mary
the Virgin is at the north-east corner of West Street and
Church Street in Axminster. The town is famous for its
carpet-making heritage, but long before that began in 1755,
Anglo-Saxon Christianity was focused on a 'minster' or monastic
community in AD 786 which provided the means of local worship.
The years after the Norman conquest of 1066 saw large tracts of
local land granted to the powerful de Mohun family.
It was the de Mohun family who funded the
building of the current church. It was erected near the de Mohun
castle (which was more of a fortified house than a castle). The
location of the previous, Saxon, church is unknown, but it was
presumably on the same site. The region's loyalty to the crown
saw its people brutalised during the English Civil War, and the
minster tower was damaged. That thirteenth century tower is now
the oldest part of the church.
The Parish Church of St Gregory the Martyr
is in Seaton, around eight kilometres south-west of Axminster. The
first church on this site was a wooden building, but as with many
wooden Saxon churches, this one was replaced by a stone building,
although the date is uncertain. The first mention of Seaton was in
a Papal Bull by Pope Eugenius in 1146. Before that date it was the
medieval town of Fleet, founded by a Saxon Charter of AD 1005.
At the time of Domesday Book both Fleet and
Beer belonged to the Priory of Horton, which later became a part
of Sherborne Abbey. The stone church was erected in the late twelfth
or early thirteenth century and is now a Grade I listed building.
For many years it was also the parish church for Beer, with Beer's
current church serving as a chapel-of-ease. The churchyard is the
resting place of Jack Rattenbury, the famous smuggler, born in Beer
and buried here in 1844.
The Church of St Michael in the village
of Beer faces out from a very narrow plot on Fore Street. On the
site where the church currently stands, there was a chapel from
at least 1600 until 1876, which was probably built by the Walrond
family, the lords of the local manor. According to White's
Devonshire Directory of about 1850, the village itself was
formerly notorious for smuggling, and was the birthplace of
celebrated smuggler, Jack Rattenbury, the 'Rob Roy of the West'.
The Devonshire Directory also sates that,
'great quantities of fish are caught at Beer, and many of the women
and girls are employed in making lace'. The present church was
consecrated just twenty-eight years after that passage was written,
in 1878. The cost of the building was borne by the Honourable Mark
Rolle, who was lord of the manor. It was originally built with a
spire, but this was removed in 1964 for safety reasons, and replaced
with the current tower.
One photo on this page by P L Kessler, two
kindly contributed by M Kessler, and two originally published
on Lynne's 'Echoes of the Past' blog and reproduced here with