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St. John the Baptist's Church

The most ancient relic at Plymtree Church is the great yew tree in the churchyard which experts tell us is some 1,100 years old! It probably replaced a ritual tree of the pagan Saxons, perhaps even the Celts and the village is, almost certainly named after it. The adjoining church was erected on the site of a previous building in 1261, though much of the present building is 14th century. Note the medieval statue of Madonna and Child on the tower which escaped destruction at the Reformation.

Within this petite church, the visitor is immediately drawn to the striking rood screen. A fine example of a 15th century fan-vaulted Devonshire screen, it sparkles golden in the sunshine. Look down and over thirty panels showing colourful little saints greet your eyes: some are biblical, some local. Every attribute tells a story. Note St. Sidwell with the scythe that removed her head and St. Joseph of Arimathea with the two cruets containing Christ's blood and sweat. In days gone by, Plymtree was a stop-off point for pilgrims travelling to Glastonbury from the Devon ports. St. Joseph's image must therefore have been a welcome addition to the church. An old story tells how the screen may not have arrived here until after the Reformation, having been removed from Dunkerswell Abbey during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. However, modern opinion tends to dismiss this idea. It fits its slot extremely well and the built-in stair shows the church always did have a rood screen.

Other interesting features include 15th century carved bench ends and an alabaster panel of 16th century Flemish sculpture showing the risen Christ. It was removed from the altar at the turn of the last century when the new east window was put in.

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