As promised, I’m returning to the lovely place of Colyton in Devon, in the South West Of England where I spent some of my childhood years.
For this post I would like to invite you to step inside this lovely old church of Saint Andrews, which is in the centre of Colyton. Not only in the centre of the village but also featured centrally in my childhood. My grandparent’s cottage sat adjacent to the church path and my grandfather was Head Church Warden for a number of years.
I thought readers might like to see a little more inside this historic old church...
The original church was probably Saxon in origin dating from around 700 AD of which a large old stone Saxon Cross still remains. A more substantial church was built in Norman times from about 1166 and much of this is seen today together with some of the updates in the subsequent centuries.
An informative plaque inside the church lists the vicars dating back to 1237 that have served at Colyton Church throughout the centuries.
For me it was the vicar, Arthur Warne whom I remember most. A lovely chap, very jolly and happy and who made children especially welcome at the various village fetes...
My brother was baptised at the old stone baptismal font dating from 1880 by Arthur himself. A memorable occasion as my brother announced to the congregation in a very loud voice that Arthur ‘was a naughty man’ as ‘he put 'warty' on my face!’
Something that my poor brother had to live down for many, many, years after...
My Great Grandmother used to complain that the font was too modern whilst I always thought of it as ancient. Of course, it is only with the hindsight of years, that I realise now that she was older than the font...
Inside the church is the fabulous Great West Window which is one of the largest of any parish churches. Originally the glass would have been plain when first placed in the 14th Century. The plain glass was replaced in the 19Century by the stained glass.
The huge brass chandeliers were bought in 1796 each baring 36 candles and cost £82-a fortune in their day...
The church is very large for a rural parish church in part due to generous donations from local wealthy wool merchants in the Middle Age and later from the important families that lived nearby.
There are two chapels-one is The Lady Chapel which was once the private chapel of the Yonge family who came to Colyton in the reign of Elizabeth I.
The other is The Pole Chapel which has always been my favourite. I think it was the wonderful monuments which fascinated me as a child and still do.
The Pole family were an important local family whose family members featured widely both at the royal court and in politics. Many members were also influential in funding exploration to The New World-some even moving out there to live.
One of my favourite monuments is the colourful canopied tomb of Sir John and his wife.
Sir John Pole (1588-1658)
This life sized figure dressed in full armour, lies back to back with his wife. As a young child, I could never resist reaching out and touching it though I was always worried he would ‘wake up’ and move!
There are also two other older monuments to female members of the Pole or De la Pole family as they are also known as.
One is of Katherine Pole.
Katherine (ne Popham) died 1588 and was the daughter of The Lord Chief Justice of England, Sir John Popham., himself famous for presiding over the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots whom he subsequently sentenced to death.
Katherine married Sir William Pole (1515-1587). Her son was also called Sir William Pole 1561-1635 and he first married Mary Perham who then became Mary Pole. After her death, he married a widow, Jane How.
The second monument is of Mary Pole who died in 1605, daughter-in-law to the above Katherine.
Shown here with her children.
Amongst her children, was Elizabeth, who founded Taunton, Massachusetts in 1637.She was the first woman to have founded a town in the Americas. Another of Katherine’s children was William another influential early settler who moved to Dorchester, USA and died in 1674.
Katherine’ eldest son was Sir John- he of my favourite monument shown first.
He lies back to back with his, Elizabeth who was also his step sister as she was the daughter of his father’s second wife, Jane How.
There are many more interesting links between them and other local families and early settlements in the USA and the Caribbean.
One such is Sir Thomas Gates, Governor of Virginia, who was born in nearby Colyford. He was famously shipwrecked on the island of Bermuda and it is speculated that Shakespeare’s play The Tempest was based on this as Sir Thomas and William Shakespeare knew each other very well.
Bringing things up to more modern times, it is said that the De La Pole family in one of its branches, feature in the family ancestors of Prince William and Prince Harry through their mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
Moving on now to food!
Whilst my grandfather enjoyed being involved with the church and naturally attended the Sunday service in his role of Head Church Warden, my grandmother preferred to stay at home and rarely attended. She, when asked, said she needed to remain at home to cook the Sunday lunch...
Seen below is an old family photo probably taken about 1904 with my grandmother as a very young child seated on the ground at the front on the far left. My great grandmother is seated behind looking down at her and my great, great grandmother is behind her, dressed in black.
One of my favourite puddings to be had on a Sunday, was my grandmother’s Magic Lemon Pudding. So called because she simply threw all the ingredients in together and then ‘magically’ once cooked it turned into a wonderfully light sponge with a delicious lemon sauce hiding underneath.
When I was older my grandmother told me she had named it thus to encourage it to be eaten-not that I needed any persuading!
Meanwhile my grandfather had confided in me that he had been the one responsible for naming it as he thought it was a ‘miracle’ that my grandmother had produced something so good out of the ramshackle way she cooked...
Below is the recipe although I’ve guessed at the quantities as my grandmother never actually wrote it down but passed it verbally on to my mother who in turn passed it on to me. Eggs and lemons can vary so much in size so you may have to play around a bit with the recipe to find what works best for you.
Magic Lemon Pudding
3 large juicy lemons-grated zest and juice
4 medium eggs, separated
100g butter slightly softened
175g of sugar (caster or granulated)
50g plain flour
Icing sugar-for dusting at the end
Preheat your oven to 180C.
The pudding is going to be cooked using the Bain-marie method so make sure you have a large deep pudding dish that can sit in an even larger container so that water can come up half to two thirds up the side. I would suggest testing this out before you add the pudding mixture so you can judge if it will work then place the larger pan with the water in the oven to heat up. The alternative is to add boiling water to the larger pan once the mixture is in the smaller bowl but this can be a little fiddly.
Place the larger bowl with the water in it into the oven to warm up and grease the smaller pudding bowl.
To make the lemon pudding, cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.
Beat in the egg yolks but not the whites-place the whites in a separate large clean bowl.
Add the milk, lemon zest and juice. Don’t panic as the mixture looks curdled-this is normal!
Fold in the flour.
In the other bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
Add about a quarter of the whisked egg whites to the lemon mixture to ‘slacken’ it then gently fold in the remainder keeping the mixture light and airy.
Pour the mixture into the greased pudding basin and gently place the filled basin in the middle of the larger water filled container in the oven.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Don’t worry if there are cracks in the crust.
Once cooked, remove from the oven and dust generously with sieved icing sugar.
Serve immediately perhaps with some nice Devon Clotted Cream if you are feeling indulgent.
The pudding should have a lovely light sponge on the top with a delicious lemon sauce rather like lemon curd underneath.
Do enjoy-it is really rather magical!