Spires and Steeples: Art and Heritage

Scopwick to Digby

Rowston and St Clements Church

We emerge from the fields into Rowston immediately next to the old ‘National’ school of MDCCCLII (1852) and on turning towards the village centre realise that St Clements Church is rather unusual. What strikes the observer immediately is the exceptionally slender tower; indeed it measures only five feet six inches across on the inside and the spire is necessarily narrow in proportion; it has been described as like a candle with a snuffer! Nevertheless the tower is Early English in style (C12th) with the spire added some 200 years later. A fragment of Norman work survives on the north door and much of the nave is again Early English with a Perpendicular clerestory. Next door the Manor House is from 1741 and across the road is a C14th village cross.

Digby Village Cross and ‘Pepperpot’

Yet more unusual buildings greet us at Digby! First of all a huge village cross, probably C14th in origin but restored, almost blocks the main street and then a few yards away towards the church is a six-foot high stone ‘Pepperpot’. The precise function of this is in doubt; it is referred to by several sources as the village ‘lock-up’ but in official records as a wellhead. Either way it dates from the C17th and has been restored, but remains a most unusual sight.

St Thomas the Martyr Church

Then across the road is the church dedicated to St Thomas the Martyr (i.e. Thomas à Becket) and again we have a rich patchwork of history on display. A church has occupied this site since Saxon times and a small amount of Saxon ‘long and short’ masonry survives at the southeast corner of the nave. The lower section of the tower is Early English but is topped by a Perpendicular, crocketed spire; the doorway is Norman and there are Early English and Decorated arcades inside along with a Jacobean pulpit. Standing on a rise behind the inn the church makes a particularly appealing group along with the cross and the ancient inn.In 1604 at a time when the village population is estimated to have been around three hundred, Digby was badly hit by its own plague and archived parish records detail 134 burials within three months from July to September.

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