The church of St Michael de Rupe (of the Rock), Brent Tor, stands 1,100 feet above sea level on the remnants of a volcano. Below the tor are the remaining earthworks of an Iron Age hill fort. The first church built on Brent Tor in around 1130 was commissioned by Robert Giffard, a wealthy landowner.
Legend tells that Robert had been caught up in a storm at sea and had vowed to St Michael that he would build a church in his honour if his life was spared. Another rather more dramatic legend is that, while the church was being built, the devil would come each night to destroy the building work and hurl stones from the top of the hill onto the unfortunate parishioners below. This antisocial behaviour continued until Michael himself intervened and after a great battle, the devil was defeated and the church was named after St Michael as the victor. In fact, many churches built in high places across Britain and Europe are dedicated to Michael as chief of angels.
On 15 June 1231, Henry III granted to the abbot of Tavistock the right to hold a three-day Michaelmas fair at the church of Brent Tor. However, the event became too rowdy and was disbanded following the Reformation, when it moved to Tavistock as a forerunner of the town’s present-day Goosey Fair.
At the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 the patronage of Brent Tor and most of Tavistock Abbey were given to John, Lord Russell, who in 1550 was created Earl of Bedford. The patronage of the church was finally passed to the bishop of Exeter in 1912.
The Friends of St Michael’s was set in order to help raise funds in order to preserve this iconic building for the future.
Click here for the Friends of St Michaels brochure, which includes an application form to join the Friends.