The Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross and the Mother of Him who hung thereon is a spacious and beautiful parish church. Crediton became the seat of Devon’s first diocesan Bishop in 909 and after the cathedral was moved to Exeter in 1050 a collegiate church was established here. At the Reformation Holy Cross was bought back from King Henry VIII to serve as a parish church and was vested in a board of twelve Governors whose successors still care for the church building.
Crediton was probably chosen to be the centre of Devon’s first diocese because St. Boniface was born here c. 680. He became a very significant figure in the Christian history of Europe and is still regarded as ‘the apostle to the German people’. Boniface was martyred c. 754 at Dokkum, in the Netherlands, and was buried at Fulda, in Germany. Today the church enjoys many international friendships through our connection with Boniface.
By the middle of the thirteenth century, the Vicars Choral had been reduced to twelve in number – one for each canon of the Church, but the music they sang was still no more adventurous than plainsong. Bishop John de Grandisson, appointed Bishop of Exeter in 1327, was an enthusiastic advocate of the use of polyphonic music, music with melody. In 1334 he expanded Crediton’s choir by the addition of four secondary clerks (young men with adult voices) and four singing boys. Little of the music which they produced would have been for the enhancement of the worship of the Parish Church, then confined to the nave of the building, but was for the Glory of God and the benefit of the senior clergy. The pattern of worship in the Collegiate Church probably followed closely that observed in Exeter Cathedral, and the music, too, would have been very similar; the choir would have been capable of tackling polyphonic music in several parts and in structure was identical to that of the bishop’s own foundation at Ottery St Mary. All members of the choir were expected to attend the whole round of daily services (whether choral or not), from “morrow mass” of the wee small hours through to Mattins at around midnight.
With Grandisson’s measures of 1334, membership of the choir effectively had three levels: the Vicars Choral, the secondary clerks and the choristers. From 1365 the vicars and the clerks were housed in a sort of hostel called Kalenderhey, which was built to the north of the Church (on the western side of the present car park) and which was only fully demolished in the middle of the nineteenth century.
The choir currently has about 50 members aged from 8 to over 80 and is open to anyone who is prepared to rise to the challenge. Many young people have gained a formative experience and training here within the Anglican Christian tradition of church music. The choir is led by the Director of Music and the Assistant Organist. Additionally, Holy Cross has a well-established tradition of choral and organ scholars who gain valuable experience and training in church music and who contribute significantly to the life and worship of the church. The choir sing weekly at the Eucharist or Choral Evensong, and often travel to cathedrals to sing Evensong and make tours abroad, most recently to Avranches (France), Dokkum (Netherlands), Fulda (Germany), and Sarasota (Florida U.S.A.).
The choir has also sung live and recorded services for the BBC at national and local levels, made a number of CDs and gives regular concerts at Holy Cross. The church has a very fine three manual Harrison and Harrison organ installed in 1921. Holy Cross also serves as a venue for concerts held by the Boniface Concert Society and other local groups.