Up out of Tavistock, along the straight road,
We come now to Brentor bold like a stark thumb
As it stands above Dartmoor alone dark and brooding;
A church there for years, challenging and cheerless.
Yet climb with me stranger with stout legs and striding,
Let your boots bound on boulders till you get to the top,
And there you’ll find solace with blowing winds blasting
Against the tight granite which grips God’s home here.
Push that door smartly for it scrapes the flat stones
Of the entrance to this place which is dark inside;
Fear not the cold gloom or your eyesight in gloaming
For warm welcome breath sweet blows on your face
Of the grace and the glory of those gone before
Who made this place special to prick at your soul!
Glass of Saint Michael, great granite font,
Monuments left to those lost long ago;
Plain yet so precious these simple-formed things
Hold you in their grasp almost weeping in pain
As they tell of their stories of lives long since spent
And once lived in the cold before you were alive.
I Pray now in penitence for sport I have made
In blissful unknowing of blood shed and blown
In the tors of old Dartmoor tight-lipped and unspoken
But placed on these walls that speak now to me and
Brentor upon its rock
Is for miles like a guide
Helping travellers to unlock
That wind-blown countryside.
The church of St Michael of the Rock (St Michael de Rupe) at Brentor, Devonshire, stands 1100 feet above sea level on an extinct volcanic cone, the prominence of which has long attracted people to the site. The base of the main rock is surrounded by the remains of an Iron Age hill fort.
The church itself, diminutive by any standard and most likely some form of chantry chapel, was established by Robert Giffard in the 12th Century although much of this has long since disappeared, being enlarged and rebuilt over the centuries. Much of what we see today dates from the 13th and 15th centuries although with considerable restoration in the nineteenth century which has obscured a great deal of the early work at the site.
Elements of the original building survive in the form of the font, of plain type, which dates from the fifteenth century and the tower. The exterior also includes an unusual sun dial on the southern face of the tower; curiously the church, despite its diminutive size, retains a door on its northern and southern sides.
For more details, please see the Historic England listing here
Coming soon by the Author:
Michael Smith’s new translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight will be published in July 2018. To pre-order your special collector’s limited first edition – different to those which will appear in the bookshops – please click here