CAPTION: Steph and Chris are one of the first couples to have got married in Devon since weddings were permitted again

Exeter church believed to have hosted first wedding since World War Two

Posted: 10th July, 2020

A wedding has taken place at one of Exeter’s oldest churches for, what’s believed to be, the first time in 80 years.

Steph Selway married her fiance Chris Stokes at St Olave’s Church on Wednesday 8 July.

Theirs was also one of the first weddings to take place in Devon since the Government allowed them to resume on July 4.

The 1940 wedding between two amateur actors was featured in The West newspaper

The vicar, the Reverend Shiela Swarbrick, said the couple had discovered a newspaper article from 1940 describing a wartime wedding at the 14th Century church on Fore Street.

They had not been able to find any evidence of weddings since then, although Rev’d Swarbrick said they had not yet checked the official records.

According to the newspaper, the 1940 wedding featured Mendelsohnn’s Wedding March, which Steph and Chris also had at their wedding.

Steph said they had originally planned to get married on 4 July this year and were delighted their wedding could go ahead with 10 guests.

Before the wedding she said: “We’re so excited and our children are excited too.

“Lockdown has made us realise what is really important.

“It’s lovely to feel that the church will be alive again with candles and flowers.”

Steph said she had always loved the ancient churches of central Exeter, particularly St Olave’s.

“It’s always been a bit of a secret place,” she added.

She said she was disappointed she would not be able to share it with her wider friends and family because of the restrictions on numbers, but that instead the wedding was being filmed for others to see.

Reverend Swarbrick said “I was delighted when last autumn Chris and Steph started attending the small, fortnightly services in St Olave’s church in preparation for their wedding.

“This was exciting for us at the parish of Central Exeter as we have very few weddings.

“With no physical church services during lcokdown, the calling of the wedding banns could not take place.

St Olave’s is dedicated to a Viking king who became a Christian

“Fortunately in March, Chris and Steph had quickly gone to the Registrar to obtain a Common Licence, which is specific to a particular location but can last for 12 months.

“It was strange with so few of us but we could all be in the chancel area which made the service very intimate and special.

It’s amazing to think that the last wedding in St Olave’s was probably in February 1940 at the beginning of the Second World War and now this has been one of the first in Devon as the country emerges from lockdown.

St Olave’s Church was founded in 1053 by Lady Gytha, the mother of King Harold.

It is dedicated to Saint Olaf, a Viking king who converted to Christianity, and was rebuilt in the 14th century.

For more information about weddings at St Olave’s, please contact the parish of Central Exeter.

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