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Looking for the past

10 May 2007

by Margaret Duggan

Ed Rossmiller

Ed Rossmiller

CREDITON has a proud and ancient Christian history. It is traditionally the birthplace of St Boniface, and a monastery was founded there in 739. In 909, Crediton Cathedral was consecrated. Until 1050, it was the heart of Christianity in Devon, before Bishop Leofric moved the see to Exeter. So 2009 will be the 1100th anniversary of the founding of Crediton Cathedral, and already plans are being made to celebrate it.

The Rector of Crediton, the Revd Nigel Guthrie, first raised the idea of a festival in January 2006, and it was followed by a suggestion from Dr Michael Fennessy that a search might be made for the site of the Saxon cathedral that they would be celebrating. It might be done, he said, using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to look beneath the present 12th-to-15th-century church and its surrounding churchyard (above) without disturbing the ground.

The idea was agreed by Frances Griffith, the County Archaeologist, the governors of the church, and the PCC, but none of them had any money for such a project. So they turned to the Heritage Lottery Fund that “encourages communities to identify, look after, and celebrate their heritage”. The PCC has just heard that the appeal has been successful, and the Lottery Fund has awarded a grant of £44,100 to search the ground with GPR for the early cathedral, and possibly for the 739 monastery, medieval housing, tunnels leading into the church, and the pits used for casting bells.

In addition, there will be a programme of activities for all ages, say Keith Barker and Penny Little, the PCC members who are organising the events. Tombstones and gravestones will be surveyed and recorded; there will be talks and guided tours; interpretation boards will keep visitors up to date; and the Crediton Photography Club will keep a complete photographic record.

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