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Who fired the bullets?

05 September 2014

APEX

IT WAS an artist, Steve Bower, who first noticed them. He asked the local historian James Bellchambers about the scars in the red sandstone wall at the east end of St Mary's, Totnes, in Exeter diocese. Careful inspection showed some 20 substantial bullet holes, but there was nothing in the church's history to account for them.

Were they the work of trigger-happy Roundhead soldiers who took pot shots at the church window during the time that Oliver Cromwell was in the town for a meeting with Lord Fairfax in 1646? There is certainly no medieval glass left in the 500-year-old church, which raises the possibility that it was all destroyed by Roundhead troops at the time.

Alternatively, in the church register there is the record of the burial of Toby Amyatt, in December 1659, who had been "shot by soldiers" in the last throes of the Civil War. Another possibility is that they are a legacy from the time when the town was strafed by German aircraft during the Second World War, although that seems less likely from the way the bullet holes are distributed.

Mr Bellchambers says that he has made enquiries among local archaeologists about the bullet holes, but so far without any luck. "We are hoping that somewhere there will be someone who knows about them and what happened."

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