Friends of St Thomas' Church

STOP PRESS!

MAMHEAD CHURCH Harold Hodges



Stay fast quoth the mason

As he followed Exon’s tread

This plot milord on which you walk

Will stand us in good stead,

And I for one could never find

a better site to use

To bring my team of builders here

I vouch they will enthuse.



The bishop nodded sagely

and a smile was breaking through

As he contemplated telling friends

of building plans anew.

We talk not here of grandiose halls

Cathedral or Abbey or vaulting walls,

But rather of a quiet church

Nestling into hill and sward

With no pretence but yet aware

That years of history will declare

Its faithful service to the Lord.



And so the stones were shaped and laid

And the mason’s talents were displayed

To brave effect.

A wagon roof concealing rafters

With seemly interfill of plasters

For nave and chancel, artistically starred.

A soaring turret clasps the tower

Through gallery, room and ringing chamber

Natural slate to clothe the roof

With bedded ridge of tile, forsooth

‘Tis pleasure to the eye.



The churchyard boundary is thickly hedged

Cattle proof with thorn and elm and holly,

And to make the churchyard fully fledged

A careful plant of just a few

English and Irish long-lived yew.



And the first to take a curacy

Was Nicholas de Dundas

In twelve hundred and sixty three.



Village and Hamlet are all alert

From Lizard point to Beachy Head

As plans are carried to avert

A landing by the Spaniard dread

A mighty fleet has put to sea

Bound for England’s sandy shores

But anchored in every bay and lee

Ready to die for England’s cause

Were seamen of dour ability.



High o’er the church on Haldon Hill

The fires were lit to pass the news

And many a countryman did pray

To St. Thomas for help

On this dangerous day,

To confuse the enemy

By wind and storm.

And so it happened just that way.

But the English tar thought the weather norm

And ships and captains did perform

A doughty play.

And the Spanish ships were overcome

By wind and rock and English gun.



E’en though the greatest of all sin

Is to take up arms ‘gainst kith and kin

And nought can make amends for sin

Of killing one’s own countrymen

Yet civil war once flourished here

Roundhead versus Cavalier

Friend against Friend, Friend against foe

‘tis a bitter mix as all do know

And marauding troops passed near to home

To Exeter, Powderham and Ashcombe,

And at St. Thomas by prayer and song

To stop this madness ere too long

Was silent witness.



And now doth Hitler try his hand

To conquer and subdue this land

With fearsome power and great array

And the whole of Europe

Under his sway

But a few young fellows

Could weave and spin

Their Spitfire planes

To down the enemy craft and win

The freedom of the skies



And while these doughty deeds were wrought

Young choristers from Canterbury Choir

Were sent from battle where ‘twas fought

To Devon's safer lanes.

And one such lad, Bill Franklin named

Stayed at St. Thomas vicarage

And sang with local voices here

From Mamhead village

A Methodist minister is he now

In Zimbabwe’s capital city.



Walk the churchyard and recall

The doughty named

Sir Thomas Ball

Whose fame is linked where church doth stand

To house and gardens which he planned

And still the name is carried on

By descendant Ball-Hausladen

In the vastness of the U.S.A.

The little church is known today



And so the little church has come

To face a new millennium

To see it through

New troublous times

Changing ways and sinuous trends

As in the past the folk stand firm

And clear of mind

They join the Friends

And with new found autonomy

Support Church and Benefice

Through the D.C.C.