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Church of St Mary

A Grade I Listed Building in Bratton Clovelly, Devon

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Latitude: 50.7057 / 50°42'20"N

Longitude: -4.1772 / 4°10'37"W

OS Eastings: 246360

OS Northings: 91822

OS Grid: SX463918

Mapcode National: GBR NV.4T0L

Mapcode Global: FRA 2746.VTY

Plus Code: 9C2QPR4F+74

Entry Name: Church of St Mary

Listing Date: 22 February 1967

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1326312

English Heritage Legacy ID: 94275

Location: Bratton Clovelly, West Devon, Devon, EX20

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Bratton Clovelly

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Bratton Clovelly St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

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SX 49 SE

7/20 Church of St Mary


Parish Church. Mainly mid to late C14 although the chancel may be earlier, porch
probably early C15; various repairs made in C19 and restored in 1891-2. Granite
and slate rubble walls with granite dressings, tower is constructed of coursed
dressed granite blocks of irregular sizes. Gable ended slate roof to nave chancel
and porch, flat roof to south aisle, leanto roof to north aisle.
Present plan is nave, chancel, west tower, north and south aisles, the south aisle
extending as far as the west side of the tower, south porch and vestry to south side
of tower.
The earliest feature of the church is the late Norman font; it has been suggested
that the base of the tower and the square bases of the arcade piers are also Norman
but there is no direct evidence for this. The chancel does, however, have the
appearance of being earlier than the nave and aisles from its far more modest
proportions and slightly earlier window type - circa early C14. In 1335 or 6 the
patronage of the church was transferred to Bishop Grandisson of Exeter and it is
likely that he initiated a major rebuild of the church to lofty proportions with a
nave and 2 aisles of comparable dates from the evidence of the arcades. There is
evidence, however, that originally this rebuild was envisaged on a larger and more
ambitious scale with transepts and possibly an extension of the nave to the west of
the tower. This is suggested by a blocked arch visible externally on the north side
of the tower and an arch inside the tower on the south side dividing it from the
aisle; there is no west doorway and although no comparable arch can be seen on the
west side of the tower it appears externally that some blocking has taken place
where one might have been expected. The south porch was added in circa early C15.
Internally the church was enhanced by wall paintings which appear to date mainly
from the circa early C17 although some might be medieval. The lean-to to the north
of the tower incorporates some C14 features but is more likely to be C19 re-using
earlier material. Numerous repairs were made in the C19 (detailed in the church
guide) and White's Directory of 1818 relates the windows as having been lately
restored and half the church reseated; a thorough restoration took place 1891-2.
3-stage unbuttressed battlemented tower without pinnacles. 2-light belfry openings
with arched heads to lights. Single lancet on second stage of south side. There is
no west doorway and the west wall of the tower has 3 buttresses against its lowest
stage. Also on this stage the dressed granite is interrupted at the centre by
random rubble which is roughly in the outline of a tall arch. Small 2-light window
with Decorated tracery is probably a C19 restoration. The tower has a square stair
turret on its north-west corner, the last stage of which is octagonal and rises
higher than the tower. On the north wall of the tower, extending half way up the
first stage is a blocked arch with the outline of a gable roof above it. Built in
front of it is a small leanto which reuses a C14 ogee-headed stone doorway with a
similar narrow one-light window to its right.
The north aisle has 3 late Decorated 3-light windows with reticulated tracery which
dates probably from C19 restoration. The hoodmoulds of the central and western
windows incorporate carved stone masks which may have been re-used from the Norman
Church. The western window has been reduced in length for the insertion below of a
probably C16 granite 4-centred arched doorway with roll moulding. At the west end
of the aisle against its north wall is the springing of half an arch and there is
also the trace here of a wall projecting to the north perhaps originally intended
as the foundation for the transept. The aisle has a chamfered plinth and
intermediate buttresses with a diagonal one at the east corner. Its east window is
similar to the others.
The chancel has 2 windows on either side which are 2-light cusped lancets with a
quatrefoil above - circa early C14 in style but probably restored. The east window
is 3-light with similar style tracery to those of the aisles although slightly more
elaborate. Between the 2 south windows of the chancel is a probably late C14 stone
doorway with pointed arch in rebated chamfered surround and with moulded arched
The south aisle is battlemented and to the east of the porch has 2 tall restored
windows in similar style to the north aisle. The window to the west of the porch is
2-light and slightly later in style with cinquefoil heads to the lights and
quatrefoil above. The aisle has intermediate buttresses and a diagonal one at the
east corner. At its west end is a pentagonal stair turret set on the corner. The
west end wall of the aisle contains a lancet window which may have been re-used from
the earlier fabric.
The single storey south porch is faced with granite ashlar with a 4-centred arched
granite doorway which has double hollow and roll moulding, carved spandrels and a
heavy hoodmould.
Good interior: The south porch retains its original wagon roof with ribs and
principals carved with running leaf motif and decorative carved bosses. Holy Water
stoup has arched opening and projecting bowl. The south doorway is of granite with
a round-headed arch, hollow roll and hollow moulding and carved spandrels. Heavy
studded oak door of overlapping planks with moulded edges is probably C17.
3-bay arcades of Polyphant stone with Pevsner B-type piers which have crenellated
moulded square capitals. The moulded bases rest on rough square bases which it has
been suggested were the columns of an earlier church; this cannot be proved and the
only definite explanation that can be given is of a change or projected change in
the floor level.
Tall 4-centred arches to the arcades in which the moulding of the piers is extended;
similar chancel arch. The very tall tower arch has moulded piers with high carved
capitals and cushion stops. A double-chamfered pointed arch on plain responds
connects the tower and south aisle. Surprisingly, however, it is not exactly in
line with the blocked arch on the north side of the tower.
The windows have chamfered rear arches, which to the north aisle incorporate carved
stone masks similar to those on the outside of the window frames.
Pointed arched doorway to the rood stairs through which there is a squint to the
chancel from the south aisle.
There are extensive remains of wall paintings to the north and south aisles which
are in the process of being restored. That on the north wall portrays a number of
almost life-size figures probably representing the twelve apostles. Other sections
of painting depict soldiers and an officer wearing armour and there are various
panels of Biblical text which are bordered by stylized floral and architectural
devices. The style of the armour and nature of the texts suggests an early C17 date
but earlier work could well be incorporated and more may be uncovered.
The nave has a saddle roof, the principal rafters are moulded and extend partly down
the walls to rest on corbels. The ribs are also moulded and at the intersections
are large bosses ornately carved in the design of 4 petal flowers : all but 2 of
these however are replacements. The wall-plates are carved and have flat bosses on
them. The aisles have flat panelled roofs and the chancel has a wagon roof which is
now completely plastered over.
2 sections of panelling survive from the C15 rood screen which show signs of
painting although this is likely to be restored colour. The bench ends are all
late C19.
The late Norman font is of Tintagel stone, square with marks at the corners and each
side carved with a star surmounted by a 2-headed dragon. Short stout octagonal
shaft. (Another very similar exists at Jacobstow, North Cornwall).
Three floor memorials survive at the east end of the nave, all with border
inscriptions with the dates 1603 and 1635 legible as two but otherwise much worn.
The only old glass that survives is now in the vestry having been moved twice but
originating in the south-east window and bearing the arms of the Burnby family who
were important landowners in the late medieval times. The stained glass filling the
other windows dates from the late C19 and commemorates members of the Manning family
of whom Elizabeth Manning was lady of the manor in the late C19 and a great
benefactor of the church.
This church raises interesting questions as to its projected plan in the C14, which,
if carried out as was originally apparently intended, would have made it remarkably
grand for such a small and remote village. The further importance of the building
lies in the preservation of much medieval structure enhanced by the remarkable
survival of a large amount of wall paintings.
Sources : Pevsner - "Buildings of North Devon : Beatrix Cresswell - Churches in the
Deanery of Okehampton : Church Guide ; White's Directory 1878 and Kelly's Directory

Listing NGR: SX4636391822

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