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Church of St Mary the Virgin

A Grade I Listed Building in Down St. Mary, Devon

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Latitude: 50.826 / 50°49'33"N

Longitude: -3.7862 / 3°47'10"W

OS Eastings: 274293

OS Northings: 104461

OS Grid: SS742044

Mapcode National: GBR L3.X8N7

Mapcode Global: FRA 26YX.BT2

Plus Code: 9C2RR6G7+CG

Entry Name: Church of St Mary the Virgin

Listing Date: 26 August 1965

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1242581

English Heritage Legacy ID: 441989

Location: Down St. Mary, Mid Devon, Devon, EX17

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Down St. Mary

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Down St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

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SS 70 SW
2/162 Church of St Mary the Virgin


Parish church. C11, possibly Anglo-Saxon origins; rebuilt in C15; nave, aisle,
chancel and vestry thoroughly renovated and much rebuilt 1878-8O by J D Gould in
collaboration with the Revd W T A Radford and chancel enrichment by G E Street.
Tower of roughcast rubble with granite dressings, and some medieval stone rubble
in chancel; C19 walls of snecked volcanic stone and muds tone with cream, red,
purple and grey sandstone detail; slate roof with grey stone embattled crested
ridge tiles which are pierced and enriched with fleur-de-lys over the chancel;
yellow sandstone roof with purple stone crested ridge to porch.
Nave and chancel under continuous roof, north aisle with east chapel and vestry at
right angles to north of chapel, west tower and south porch. Perpendicular tower,
the rest Decorated Gothic style.
C15 low and plain tower in 2 stages with low set back buttresses up to the lower
dripcourse. It has a chamfered plinth, embattled parapet and on north side stair
turret with tiny granite and volcanic stone slit windows projects square and rises
above tower with its own embattled parapet. Belfry has original granite 2-light
windows with elliptical, nearly round-headed heads. On west side volcanic 2-
centred arch doorway has chamfered surround with pyramid stops. It contains a C19
plank door on strap hinges with fleur-de-lys finials. Above is a largely original
volcanic stone 3-light arch-headed window with simple Perpendicular tracery and
soffit chamfered hood. Tiny light to ringing loft on south side of tower.
Rest of church has unified scheme of circa 1880. Decorated style windows. All
have different designs of geometric tracery. All mullions and tracery of
Bathstone but surrounds of various stone. South side of nave of purple-coloured
masonry is enlivened by 2 horizontal bands of grey ashlar, one at window sill
level and another at the springing level of the main arch-headed windows. There
is a shallow buttress at left end. Left end window is a small square-headed
single light window. The 2 main windows to right of porch are arch-headed windows
of similar size but left has 3 lights and right has 4 lights. Each has jambs of
alternate purple and red ashlar with soffit-chamfered purple arch. South porch is
gabled with front flanked by buttresses. 2-centred outer arch with double ring.
Inner ring of moulded Bathstone, outer ring of soffit-chamfered volcanic stone,
both onto grey moulded imposts and volcanic responds have external niche for small
red sandstone circular columns. Above the arch is a soffit-moulded dripcourse
with an elaborately carved arch-headed niche in the apex and containing a
terracotta figure of the Virgin and Child. Purple volcanic coping and apex
surmounted by an ornate cross. Small trefoil-headed single lights in each side.
The break between nave and chancel is marked by the projecting pulpit passage.
Projecting square with yellow stone monopitch roof and solid central gablet with
fleur-de-lys ridge. It has moulded eaves cornice. Purple volcanic front includes
blind 4-bay arcade of bands of yellow, grey and purple stone and centre 2 bays
pierced by small slit windows.
South side of chancel of possibly medieval rubble and includes a single C19 2-
light arch-headed window. East end has large 3-light window with moulded hood and
carved vine leaf labels, and another similar in recessed east end of north aisle.
Both gables have shaped kneelers and soffit-moulded coping and crosses on the
apex, an ornate Iona cross to chancel and a Botonee cross to north aisle. North
side of chancel includes a possibly C15 tiny round-headed lancet. Vestry has
simple 3-light window in north gable end with moulded hood and carved labels and
west side of roof carried down over entrance lobby which includes a shoulder-
headed doorway containing original door and twin trefoil-headed lights. Ornate
chimney shaft of different coloured stone. North aisle has 2 square-headed 3-
light windows with geometric tracery. There is a buttress between the windows and
setback buttresses on west corner. West end aisle window is 3-lights and similar
to that at east end.
Good interior with very distinctive style. Porch has open common rafter roof with
shaped collars. Sides of patterned and coloured stone. South doorway is
shoulder-headed arch, the lintel using a carved Anglo-Saxon tympanum of Salcombe
stone. Its stylised carving is well-preserved. It may represent Daniel in the
Lion's Den although more obscure subjects have been proposed such as Adam naming
beasts or the Norse myth of the god Tyr and Fenris the wolf. C19 double doors
with ornate strap hinges.
C19 tall tower arch has chamfered arch ring of Beerstone with soffit containing
contrasting bands of coloured stone and rests on plain soffit-chamfered imposts.
Inside the tower contains C15 2-centred arch doorway of volcanic stone with
chamfered surround which contains original studded plank door. No chancel arch.
Continuous open wagon roof to nave and chancel, the break marked by a bay without
purlins. Roof is heavily restored and most timbers appear to be C19. It has
moulded ribs and purlins and a series of C19 carved rose motif bosses. It retains
the 1880 scheme of painted decoration. Wall plate and soffits of the common
rafter trusses have geometric designs interrupted by stylised rose motifs and
mouldings are highlighted with gold and maroon. The paintwork is more elaborate
in the chancel. North aisle roof is an open wagon roof which appears to retain
higher proportion of C15 work including many of the varied carved bosses. The
break between the aisle and east chapel is marked by a ring of bosses representing
the Face of the Virgin Mary. It is painted like the nave roof. C15 granite 4-bay
arcade between nave and aisle with 1 bay overlapping to chancel. It has moulded
piers (Pevsners Cornish A-type) with simple capitals to shafts only. Large C19
volcanic arch with a broad bead-moulded soffit to vestry which has a boarded
vaulted roof with ribs of arch-braced trusses showing. North aisle wall of
exposed plain masonry but wall over arcade (both sides) and south wall of nave are
faced with C19 ashlar in which different coloured stone are employed to produce a
distinctive decorative effect. The nave includes small blocks of Beerstone carved
with sacred symbols and arcade has mosaic friezes over the arches. Nave arcade
and aisle inc ude projecting blocks of Beers tone which were obviously intended for
carved enrichment but were not finished. The north wall the roofs and vestsry
were designed by J D Gould. The stone patterning by Gould in collaboration with
Revd W T A Radford.
The chancel, however, was designed by G E Street. It is plastered with a rich
wainscotting of Nottingham alabaster. Wainscotting is enriched with panels of
sunken circles with chamfered surrounds to coloured marble and each circle framed
by black fleur-de-lys of inlaid marble. Ornate alabaster reredos of 3 panels.
Larger central pane with embattled cornice and carved leaf franc around delicate
pattern of polychrome mosaic and is flanked by panels with sunken quatrefoils
containing carved angels against a ground of blue mosaic. Brass alter cross also
designed by Street. On south wall is a Beerstone arch-headed piscina and
credence, the back of which is a polychrome mosaic of the Pelican in her Piety
under a Holy Grail. The alabaster and marble work was executed by Earp of Pimlico
and the mosaics by Salviati. The superior brass altar rail has double standards
filled with Gothic tracery and embellished with coloured glass and enamel designed
by Gould. Most of floor of black and red tiles but chancel has patterns of
encaustic tiles. North chapel has marble altar shelf (grey with inlaid red
lozenges and black Latin cross) resting on carved Beerstone brackets and below is
more patterned stonework including a band of alabaster with inlaid marble. The
floor below has encaustic tiles set in a mosaic pattern of tiny tiles framed with
inarbl.e. To right is a tiny tent-headed niche which may be medieval.
Chancel has C19 Gothic oak stalls. The oak rood screen includes a little C15 work
but enough to show that the rebuild is a faithful reproduction of the original.
Wainscotting has applied Perpendicular tracery with lower scenes of quatrefoils.
Windows of Pevsners A-type tracery and coving includes Gothic-only decoration.
Rich cornice of 4 bands of delicately carved and undercut foliage. Restoration
work was professionally carried out by Zacharia and William Bushell, local master
joiners who lived close by in Bushells Cottages (q.v.) and whose work is
commemorated in an inscribed plaque over south door. Magnificent pulpit by Gould
is entered from chancel by projecting pulpit passage. Stone base of different-
coloured stone includes stem of clustered shafts with moulded capitalsand bases
and has circular drum of ornate wrought iron and brasswork embellished with jewel-
like coloured glass. C19 oak lectern. All benches, including 1 in chapel, are
oak and good early C16 craftsmanship. The frontals and rear benches have blind
arcades of applied Perpendicular tracery. The bench ends are carved with frames
of wreathed foliage flowing from vases. Most are carved with 2-bay arcade of
tracery with quatrefoils at base and featuring bas relief Renaissance motifs
including faces, symbols of the Passion, etc. C19 prie dieu uses C16 carved bench
ends. C15 granite font with octagonal bowl and base and moulded stem, and C19
hood. C17 chest in chapel and organ rebuilt 1932 according to plaque.
Good C19 stained glass throughout. Chancel glass by Hardman of Birmingham, the
rest by Clayton and Bell. The finest is the Mary Thain memorial (d.1886), the
Jesse window at the west end of the aisle. Only memorial is white marble plaque
in north aisle remembering First World War dead.
Besides the Anglo-Saxon tympanum the church includes high quality C19 work. The
Revd W T A Radford determined the whole shape of the restoration. He was squire,
parson, patron and incumbent. For half a century he was one of the most important
figures in the High Church movement in the Diocese of Exeter and also had strong
and well-informed views on architecture. He was a founder member of the Exeter
Diocesan Architectural Society and his friends included G E Street and Clayton and
Sources: Devon SMR and Devon C19 Church Project.

Listing NGR: SS7429304459

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