St Matthew’s Church
Early in the 1920’s, the notable church historian, Beatrix Cresswell, puzzled why the isolated village of Coldridge had such a significant church and also why it contained one of the very few stained glass portraits of Edward V, one of the Missing Princes in the Tower. For students of the Wars of the Roses, St Matthew’s should not be missed!
The majority of the building dates from the 15th and 16th centuries when an earlier Norman Building was enlarged. It contains a Norman font. In Victorian times the building fell into disrepair and in 1877 major work commenced with the restoration of the chancel. The rest of the church was restored by the early 1900’s.
Of particular interest is a very fine medieval rood screen, claimed to be one of the best unrestored screens in the country, and also a pulpit with fine carving. Medieval bench ends are to be found in the church as well as Barnstaple floor tiles. The splendid, ancient parclose screen in the chancel is of Breton design.
A COLDRIDGE ‘ROYAL’ MYSTERY?
Sometime after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, a person named John Evans arrived in Coldridge. Thomas Grey (the eldest son of Elizabeth Woodville who was the mother of the “Princes in the Tower”) owned the Coldridge Manor, which was for some reason granted to “Evans”. John Evans was also granted the prestigious “parkership” of the deer park, which occupied the land behind the church. The tomb monument for Evans is in the Evan’s Chapel on the north side of the chancel. His chapel or chantry was completed in 1511 and the restored, Latin inscription on the prayer desk, now in the chapel to the south of the chancel, confirms this: “Pray for John Evans, Parker of Coldridge, maker of this work in the third year of the reign of King Henry the Eighth”
Since the 1920’s examination by Beatrix Cresswell, others have speculated as to why John Evans created the stained-glass window depicting Edward V and, indeed, who in fact John Evans actually was? Despite the wealth of chancery records that exist there is no reference to the grant of the manor or deer park to Evans. The crown above the Edward V image contains 41 deer as ermine spots, which is most unusual as they are usually stoat’s tails. 41 years takes us back from 1511 to 1470, the year of birth of Edward V – maybe a link between the deer parker and royalty?
It has been suggested, in two recent publications, that Evans may have been linked in some way to Edward V, and one suggests that he could even have been that royal person, maybe in hiding from either Richard III or his successor Henry VII. Alternatively, he could have been a Welsh soldier rewarded by Henry VII as a Yeoman of the Crown for services after Bosworth.
If, however unlikely it may be, Evans was actually Edward V, then it is possible that Elizabeth, the prince’s mother, struck a deal with either Richard or Henry on the basis that the prince completely disappeared. This could have been facilitated by his half brother Thomas Grey who owned lands in Devon and ‘E.V.’ then became ‘EVan’s’!
Research is currently ongoing under the leadership of Philippa Langley MBE and her Missing Princes Project, to explore the possible link between Evans and Edward V.
Philippa is very well-known for having led the successful search for the remains of Richard III at Leicester.
The church contains another mystery. Above the door, inside the chapel to the south of the chancel, is the small inverted image of a Tudor lady with a long tongue (see photo below). Recently two similar inverted images have been found in close proximity to it. It would appear that wood carvers were making a hidden protest for either political or religious reasons. The lady being vilified may have been Mary I (Bloody Mary.) She was responsible for the execution of Henry Grey, a staunch Protestant and in opposition to Mary’s Roman Catholicism. Henry was a descendant of Thomas Grey, and father of Lady Jane Grey. He owned the Coldridge land that was subsequently attained by the Crown following Henry’s execution and the images may have been a local protest at this. Strangely there is another inverted carving in the shield on the Evan’s Tomb that appears to say the word “king”.
If you love English history or you are into ‘ancient murder mysteries’, then you might wish to help us investigate this story a bit more deeply. Is ‘John Evans’ in fact Edward V? Who exactly was the ‘Parker of Coldridge’ in the 15th century? Is one of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ buried here in Coldridge? Is there a Coldridge connection with ‘Bloody Mary’? Who knows? Do you?
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