The man behind the monument - Patteson's Cross

PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 December 2016

Patteson's Cross. Ref ehr 41-16TI 9864. Picture: Terry Ife

Patteson's Cross. Ref ehr 41-16TI 9864. Picture: Terry Ife


David Lanning takes a look at Patteson's Cross following the restoration work on the landmark to return it to its former glory

Patteson's Cross. Ref ehr 41-16TI 9858. Picture: Terry IfePatteson's Cross. Ref ehr 41-16TI 9858. Picture: Terry Ife

Strictly speaking, Patteson’s Cross is the geographical location of where the Ottery St Mary to Feniton road crosses the A30 – specifically the ‘old A30’ now called the B3177.

It was originally known as Spence Cross, having its name changed to Patteson’s Cross some time after the erection of the wayside monument in 1873. The appellation is used nowadays for both the crossroads and the monument.

Few local residents can be unaware of this unique monument, which has resided on its roadside site for the past 143 years.

Due to its location and visibility, it has become very useful when giving directions for local journeys.

Although many of us see it frequently, the reason for its existence may not be known to everyone.

David Lanning, a churchwarden at St Andrews Church in Feniton, tells the Resident about the man behind the monument...

The monument was erected in 1873 by the then Sir John Coleridge, who went on to become the first Lord Coleridge and Lord Chief Justice of England.

His sister, Frances Duke Coleridge, married Sir John Patteson, of Feniton Court.

Their eldest son was born in 1827 and named John Coleridge Patteson.

He was educated at The King’s School, in Ottery St Mary, and at Eton College, then graduated from Balliol College, Oxford.

John was ordained at Exeter in 1853, becoming curate of Alfington church for two years before a chance meeting with the Bishop of Auckland – who was visiting Feniton Court – led the young priest to accepting an invitation to undertake missionary work in the South Pacific.

His commitment and success led to his appointment as the first Bishop of Melanesia in 1861.

After ten years in this post, what should have been a routine visit to the island of Nakupa in the Solomon Islands ended in tragedy.

John and his companions were mistaken for a raiding party who routinely abducted islanders for indentured work, mostly in Fiji and Queensland.

They were attacked, mainly with bows and arrows, and three of them, including the Bishop, were killed.

John was buried at sea, and memorials to him exist in Alfington church, Exeter Cathedral and by the monument at Patteson’s Cross.

The column was seriously damaged in a collision with a vehicle in 1991, but was rebuilt by Devon County Council the next year at a new site, further away from the highway.

Although rebuilt, and surrounded by a protective railing, it was not fully restored, so over the years its condition has shown increasing signs of deterioration.

It took the keen eye of a local resident who was not familiar with the landmark to bring this to the attention of the Ottery St Mary Heritage Society.

It was thought that a reasonable degree of refurbishment could be carried out for a relatively modest outlay. Interest in the proposed refurbishment project was encouraging, and nobody in officialdom actually raised any objection. The monument has now been thoroughly cleaned, and has had minor repairs made to its brick and stonework.

A section of inscription where the lettering had been eroded has been replaced, while all of the inscriptions have been highlighted in black paint.

The protective railings have also been repainted.

As the monument is grade II listed, Listed Building Consent authorisation had be sought before any work could be carried out

The lack of any address or identified ownership of the land and monument made the form filling an interesting exercise.

A specialised stonemason carried out the work during September, following a fundraising event held at Feniton Church earlier that month.

The evening featured a short film made by the BBC Blue Peter producer Alex Leger during the visit this year to the Solomon Islands by members of the Melanesian Mission of UK from Feniton.

The Mission is the real legacy of Bishop Patteson, and his memorial provides a tangible reminder of his life which all visitors from the Pacific Islands in particular always wish to visit.

The aim of this project was to provide a new lease of life for many years to come for this very special memorial to Bishop Patteson – a memorial of which the local area can be proud to show to visitors as well as local residents.

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