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It's all about Location

A walk through Lee by Richard Howard

"On the north coast of Devon between the holiday resort of Ilfracombe and Bull Point Lighthouse, strung out along and venturing up the slopes of a narrow wooded valley, lays the village of Lee which has an interesting History. A small stream runs along the length of the valley, rising on the hillside behind Lincombe. It is quickly swollen by small streams from the Shaftesborough and Borough valleys and innumerable springs, some of which flow only after strong winds, or after the rocks have been squeezed, as the locals say.

The west side of the valley is thickly wooded, as are the Borough and Shaftesborough valleys, which branch off on that side. The timber is mostly scrub oak, sycamore, ash, elm and fir, with a sprinkling of beech and chestnut.

Nine or ten years ago, the Forestry Commission planted parts of the Borough and Shaftesborough valley with conifer; these trees are now fifteen to twenty feet high. Rhododendrons abound, and must grow almost as thick and dense as they do in their natural habitat, in spite of the soil, which is very shallow on the hillsides. As if to prove this, great knuckles of rock thrust up through this thin covering.

These rocks are the Morte Slates, which run in a narrow band from Morte Point across Devon to Somerset. They form the high cliffs to the west of Lee, and have torn many a stout ship apart on the cruel reef of the aptly named Morte Point. The Morte Slates continue a little way along the coast to the east of Lee before the rocks of the Ilfracombe beds succeed them to form the magnificent cliff scenery of Lee Downs and the Torrs.

In 1829 it was felt that a church should be provided for the hamlet of Warcombe, there being a population of about 200 in the area. The church building began in 1833 on land given by Mr. Z. H. Drake. The architect was Mr. Hayward of Exeter. On St Matthew’s Day, 21 September, 1835, the building was dedicated and consecrated by the Bishop of Exeter, Henry Philipots, as a Chapel of Ease in the Parish of Ilfracombe. As already mentioned it became the Parish Church in 1869. When the Ecclesiastical Parish of Lee was formed it encompassed some 1648 acres, of which about 233 are situated in the Civil Parish of Mortehoe.

The Church is an example of a very small early Victorian church is neo-Gothic style, estimated to have cost £300, of which sum £75 was voted by the incorporated society for promoting the building of churches and chapels, on the condition that an endowment was secured. The expenses of building up an endowment of £40 per annum were estimated as £1500. Up to 4 June, 1834 the total amount subscribed was £573. 1 Os.

The woodwork in the Church, including the oak panel pulpit and carved choir gallery is very much older than the building, being of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and is said to have been collected from old buildings in the neighborhood by the squire."

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