A family response to a theft of national treasures


The superb Gothic Perpendicular church in Torbryan, Devon. Photo: The Churches Conservation Trust.
The superb Gothic Perpendicular church in Torbryan, Devon. Photo: The Churches Conservation Trust.

On Monday, I spotted on the BBC News website that thieves had targeted Holy Trinity Church in Torbryan, Devon, stealing two fifteenth century panels from the screen which had survived the puritanical zeal of the English Reformation. The screen was considered the most complete screen of the period left in England, making it truly a national treasure.

Now, unlike some other members of my family, I have never been to Torbryan, I think I was staying with another family friend when my parents visited with my brothers. Torbryan Church is, as you can see from the photographs on the website of The Churches Conservation Trust, a wonderful example of the Gothic perpendicular. It was constructed in one 20-year span of building.

But why is there a family response? 

My grandfather W.J. Rawles at his 90th birthday party in Harrowbarrow Hall, near Calstock, Cornwall. Photo © Michael Carchrie Campbell
My grandfather W.J. Rawles at his 90th birthday party in Harrowbarrow Hall, near Calstock, Cornwall. Photo © Michael Carchrie Campbell

Quite simply, my great-great-great grandfather, Cornelius Bovey was the landlord of the Church House Inn. In the words of my uncle, Stephen Rawles,

The church is gorgeous, although redundant, and, because of the foresight of the incumbent in whitewashing out the images on the approach of Cromwell’s soldiers, is almost unique in having a pre-reformation screen with all the images of the saints intact. That is until some nasty individuals nicked a couple of them.

His wife, my aunt, Alison Rawles, had the fantastic idea of sending donations to The Churches Conservation Trust in memory of my grandfather, William John Rawles. My grandmother is supportive of this idea. Money is not particularly in plentiful supply just at the moment for me, but I will be sending a donation come the end of the month.

Donate to The Churches Conservation Trust

If you would like to donate some money to aid the investigation / restoration of the panels, please visit the link below.

http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/Donate/

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