The Parish Church of St Nicholas

First dated to 1257 with the appointment of the first Rector (Elyas) as recorded in the Diocese Registers. The font and chancel arch are thought to date from that period. In 1288 the Manor was owned in fief by the Wyger family and Sir John Wyger was patron of the church. He sold the Manor to Richard de Stapleton in 1319. In 1332 the Priory of Frithlestock was given the manor of Brodewodewyger by Thomas de Stapleton. The basic structure of the church is little changed from 1531 when the South Aisle was added and the arcade of granite columns and arches erected. As much as possible of the original woodwork was incorporated, which is evident in the bench ends, one of which bears the date 1529 the same date as the rood screen. Major restoration work was done in 1871 when the interior was completely refurbished and redecorated.

In 1965 the roof was found to have been severely damaged by death watch beetle and the church closed for a period while the whole roof was renewed in the old barrel-vaulted style. The re-dedication of the church took place on the 10th June 1966. It might be suggested by the dates on the bells that originally there were four bells with two bells added at later dates. The second, third, fifth and tenor are dated 1775, the fourth bell is dated 1872 and the treble 1904. In 1977 the six bells were taken to Whitechapel Foundry in London to be re-tuned and the fourth bell recast, when returned in 1978 they were installed on a steel frame. In 1997 the Upcott Arch was strengthened and in 2001 the top third of the tower was repaired. Outside of the church is an old Celtic cross found at Buddle supporting an out building and moved to its present location beneath the rare fern leaf beech in 1891. The beech tree bears both fern shaped (serrated) and normal beech leaves and is believed to be c 400 years old. Also close to the church is the site of the old ruined rectory which was given by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for the use as a school room, when the school closed, this was and is used as the Church Hall.

Extracts from a letter in 1967 reveal that it is thought that monks from Frithelstock Priory came to plant oak trees on the land they owned at Slew. In those days oak bark was used for tanning leather and the monks made part of their living by selling the bark. The fact that the woods were once owned by the monks is the reason for the little well in the wood being called “Lady well” from “Our Lady’s well”. It is also thought that the monks from Frithelstock Priory oversaw the building of the original or part of the church and lived in the valley at or close to Rexon Cross.

In 1288 the church of Bra’wodwizer was taxed £13 on its first fruits, in the deanery of Tavistock, the highest taxation of the time in the district. The name later appears as Brodewodwidger of the priory of Frithelstock. Broadwood was appropriated by this Priory and paid it annually £10.17s.6d

The church originally a chapel to St Nicholas was described in early years as St Nicholas de la More. The St Nicholas concerned is probably not he who is the patron saint of sailors and travellers, but one of those early monks who took refuge in Devon and Cornwall from the persecution in Ireland of the Christians of the early Celtic church.

The Ivyhouse Mission Hall was built in the hamlet of Westweek in the nineteenth century, as it was part of the civil parish of Lifton for a period of time. However in 1884 it was incorporated into Broadwoodwidger which completely surrounded it. In 1908 according to church magazines, it was part of the Parish church. The Hall was closed in 1937.

In Whites Directory 1850 there were two chapels in the Parish one a Bible Christian and the other Wesleyan. There are still two Chapels, Rexon Cross which dates back to 1860 and was built as a Bible Christian Church and Broadwoodwidger Chapel at Grinnacombe Moor which was built originally in 1844 and rebuilt in 1898. However in the nineteenth century other chapels were built in the Parish, Thorn Cross was built in 1881 as a Baptist Chapel and Downicary Methodist Chapel was thought to have been built in the mid nineteenth century. Thorn Cross and Downicary are both now closed and on the 2nd December 2013 Rexon Cross closed after 153 years of worship.

Compiled by A. Worden (2012)