More than a hundred attend annual Dartmoor Prison Carol Service

03 Dec 2015

Yesterday evening saw the annual Dartmoor Prison Carol Service at St Michael and All Angels Church in Princetown. Over a hundred people braved driving rain to come together for carol singing in the historic church, built between 1812-14 by French and American Prisoners of War who were among the first prisoners at HMP Dartmoor.

Proceedings were led by the Reverend Louise Cooper, Chaplain of HMP Dartmoor, with support from the Reverend  Prebendary Nick Shutt, Rector of the West Dartmoor Mission Community, and the Choir of St Paul’s in Yelverton. Since 2001, the church has been in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust. 

The service celebrated the historic connections of the building, with readings from the French Consul Honoraire in Plymouth Monsieur Alain Sibiril, as well as from HMP Dartmoor’s Governing Governor, Bridie Oakes-Richards, who Reverend Cooper joked had been volunteered to give her reading after losing out on a coin toss with her Deputy Governor earlier in the day.

Carol singing was followed by mulled wine and mince pies crafted and served by representatives of High Moorland Women's Institute, part of an impressive organisational effort coordinated by church volunteer Pamela Law.

Nearby Dartmoor Brewery sponsored a Christmas Memory Tree in the church, which was erected by The Churches Conservation Trust ahead of the service, and over the next few weeks until Christmas local people are being invited to visit and leave a message on a decoration for loved ones past and present on the tree. A separate tree has been donated by the Duchy of Cornwall.

Blair Chadwick, Community Fundraiser for The Churches Conservation Trust said:

"It was fantastic to meet so many people from Princetown and all over Dartmoor who love St Michaels and All Angels and wanted to join together on a cold December night to celebrate the season.

“The Christmas memory tree was a poignant addition to proceedings and it was particularly touching to see loved ones who couldn't be with us remembered as part of the annual Carol Service. Special thanks must go to Pam and the WI for all their work preparing for the evening, and to Dartmoor Brewery for sponsoring the tree.”

The Church of St Michael and All Angels in Princetown is open daily between 10am – 4pm for visitors to enjoy. Christmas Memory Trees can also be found at St Swithun’s in Worcester, St Lawrence's in Evesham, St Saviour’s in Tetbury and St Thomas' in Bristol.