Just down the road from the village of Torcross, which we had just visited, you will find the charming settlement of Slapton, which is famous for Slapton Sands beach as well as its historic centre…
Status: South Hams District, Devon, Village, England
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Slapton Sands, American War Memorial, St James Church, Chantry Church Tower, The Tower Inn etc
As I mentioned in my earlier Torcross post, which you can read here, Slapton Sands is a beach separated from the Slapton Ley, the largest fresh water lake in the South West of England, by a spit of land which the local main road runs over. It was also the scene of a tragedy in the form of Exercise Tiger, a rehearsal for the Normandy Landings in 1944. A number of boats left Portland Harbour in Devon to land here on the beach, but were intercepted by German U-boats en route. The boats that survived continued on, and were supposed to advance on the beach after a series of explosions had gone off, to acclimatise them to a war situation. This was mistimed, so many of the surviving soldiers where instead killed by the barrage on the beach which was late. The vast majority of the soldiers were American, and a number of memorials stand in their memory, from the Torcross Tank and plaque, to this War Memorial on at the Slapton end of the beach.
Moving into the village centre, there are a few historic sites of interest you can visit, starting with Slapton Tower, the only surviving remains of the Collegiate Chantry Church, founded here by Sir Guy de Bryan (1319 – 1390) in 1373. Guy was a notable figure of the time, and fought for the English against 1st Scotland in 1332, and then against the French a few years later during the 1st part of the Hundred Years War.
The tower stands 80 ft high, and is in a strategic position above the rest of the town, well protected on all sides. When it was complete, Church took possession of a 10th of the holdings of the Parish Church, known as a “tithe”. In 1536 when Henry VIII dissolved the Monasteries, it also affected the Chantries and they were abolished as well. Their revenues of the Chantry were passed to the Arundel family, who remained in possession of them until being granted to the Page family. At some point prior to 1923 the Church became a ruin, and all that is left is the Tower, and the adjacent Tower Inn.
Directly to the left of the Tower is “The Tower Inn”, a stunning old building dating back to 1347. It was built for workmen who were building the adjacent College, and began life as a series of cottages. Over the years it has been amalgamated into one large building which is now an Inn. There is a small courtyard outside it, from where I took this photo as well as the one from the Tower, which looms over the Inn.
Further into the village, you will find the aforementioned Parish Church, called the Church of St James. It was this Church that ended up having to give a 10th of its income to the Chantry, as St James predated it by over a century, having been built around the end of the 13th Century.
The 1st section to be completed was the Chancel, dedicated around 1318. The tower followed by the end of the century, around the same time as the Chantry was being built. Unfortunately the Church began to suffer financial difficulty due to the money it was giving to the Chantry, but it did survive, as there were new additions at the start of the 16th Century, in the form of the North & South Aisles. The South Aisle is evident above, with the Tower at the West end of the Church. The Aisle visibly protrudes from the main portion of the building, showing it as a later addition to the original structure.
The Church is in a beautiful setting, in the centre of a historic village and surrounded by the well tended graveyard, and the Devon hills in the distance. Slapton is a stunning place to visit, and along with the neighbouring village of Torcross we had an enjoyable start to the day. Nearby places include the village of Kingswear, the town of Dartmouth and Blackpool Sands, another local beach that is popular in the area. Our next stop the harbour town of Brixham at the tip of Tor Bay, which the towns of Paignton and Torquay also inhabit.