Stoke Pero Church
high on the moor above Porlock is the tiny
hamlet of Stoke Pero, which has the highest church building in
England (at least in terms of altitude!). This church is only
Victorian, although it looks quite old. All the material for it
was carried up (from Porlock, I think) by one donkey. (At first,
I thought "That's some donkey!''; but it turns out it made
Pero: Stoke is Old English for 'Outlying farmstead or hamlet',
which sums up Stoke Pero perfectly! The Pero probably comes from
the Landowners in the middle ages.
Stoke Pero is reputedly the highest church in Somerset, at 300m
above sea-level. it is high up on the side of the moor, and often
approached from the steep wooded combe below, springing into view
as you come around the sharp bend in the road climbing up to Stoke
Pero Common. The Views from the common across Exmoor and to the
Bristol Channel are quite outstanding on a clear day.
The Church itself is, as you might expect, quite small and primitive.
Until recently there was no electricity on this part of Exmoor,
and the church still relys on Candles and fuel-stoves in the winter.
The building was significantly rebuilt at the end of the 19th century,
and many of the older features were lost. However, it is still worth
a visit for it's very remoteness.
TEXT FROM CHURCHES AND CHAPELS OF EXMOOR
is a high moorland parish south of Porlock consisting of 9 scattered
farms and the church. 100 years ago there was a row of a dozen cottages
nearby and another at Wilmersham half a mile to the west. Pero derives
from a family who were landowners here in the 14th century.
It is an ancient church with an unknown dedication and the list
of Rectors began in 1242 with ‘John’ Parson of Stoke.
Robert Thoryng, Rector in 1369 is reported to have kidnapped ‘Alice
of Buckethole’, wife of one of his Parishioners. The outcome
of the incident is unknown.
There were no Rectors between 1675 and 1804 and it is presumed the
Churchwardens collected the tithes and paid a curate to do duties.
A clue to the Church’s dedication may be found on one of the
3 bells cast in 1500 and inscribed Sancta Barbara .t.g. St Barbara
was martyred in Asia Minor in 235AD and is patron Saint of artillerists.
Apart from the west tower which has a saddleback roof like those
at Luxborough and Wootton Courtenay and the north porch, this small
church was completely rebuilt by Sir Thomas Acland in 1897 –
the date appears on the windows each side of the porch. The pews
seat about 40 people.
Inside Stoke Pero Church
The organ Stoke Pero Church
Stopping near the church is difficult, as the road is generally very
narrow. However, there is a space large enough for one, or maybe two
cars about 50 yards from the church. As Stoke Pero is located on the
top of Exmoor, if you are unhappy about driving up steep hills or through
fords, it is recommended that you approach the church from Exford, following
the Porlock / Luccombe roads. Information
from John C G Sturdy - John on Exmoor