Next year, our parish church, St Margaret’s, celebrates its 750th anniversary, and no doubt there will be a few events to mark this great landmark in time.
St Margaret’s is full of history and there are lots of things about the place that you might not know. So we thought we’d list a few of them now, as a sort of run-up to next year.
First – can we be sure that 1268 was when the church was built? Well, no…
Historians argue a bit about this, and some are sure that a wooden church must have been on the site before the current stone one. Whoever made the church sign (see picture below) certainly believed there was something before!
However, the first actual documented record is the one saying that a rector (priest) took office here in 1268, so, until some other papers are found, 1268 has to be the founding date.
(Incidentally, back then it was called St Peter’s, only changing name to St Margaret’s some 300/400 years later).
The oldest living creatures in Draycott are to be found in the churchyard. The yew trees there are around a thousand years old! (see article)
The church also holds the oldest manmade object found in the village. The strange ‘Draycott sink’ which is stored there is around two and half thousand years old, ie way back in the Early Iron Age.
It’s called strange because even archaeologists are not sure what was used for. Best guess is that it was used for grinding corn or barley or some like.
However, even the old ladder (still used today) which is kept in the tower is thought to be 500 years old….
Up in the top of the tower, in the belfry, you will find some ancient, and very heavy, bells. One of them, created in the seventeenth century, weighs nearly half a ton; and interestingly has an inscription on its rim. The inscription reads: “I, sweetly tolling, men do call / to taste on meats that feed the sole (soul)”.
The most famous historical pieces in the church are the medieval Draycott Family tombs, the earliest of which is almost as old as the church itself; generations of the family rest here.
It’s fun to observe that, on the effigies of two ladies – who lived years apart -, you can see the same piece of jewellery carved – a rose ornament on a chain hanging from a belt. So, it must have been a family heirloom, and also a symbol that whoever wore it was the chief lady of the house.
Talking of women, the Draycott war memorial is one of the few in the country to feature a woman’s name – Joyce Atkins. But who was Joyce exactly? And what was her role in the war and how did she die? None of that is recorded anywhere.
There are over a dozen ‘listed’ structures in the district – but not all of them are buildings. In fact, two of the large tombs in the churchyard are listed; for example, Jane Hancock’s memorial is grade-2.
And finally, staying in the graveyard, and only steps from the Hancock monument, lies Hannah Barnes in her grave. Although the words carved on her stone are worn away and impossible to read today, we know something about her from records. Everyone thinks that people died young 300 years ago, but it’s not quite true – Hannah lived to be 100!
Of course, there are many more strange-but-true and significant facts about St Margaret’s – these are just a very few of them.
And many more will come to light, we are sure, as the 750th birthday celebrations get under way…