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Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin

A Grade I Listed Building in Barnstaple, Devon

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Latitude: 51.0884 / 51°5'18"N

Longitude: -4.0625 / 4°3'44"W

OS Eastings: 255651

OS Northings: 134147

OS Grid: SS556341

Mapcode National: GBR KQ.CQPL

Mapcode Global: FRA 26C7.R5F

Plus Code: 9C3Q3WQQ+92

Entry Name: Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin

Listing Date: 19 January 1951

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1385316

English Heritage Legacy ID: 485778

Location: Barnstaple, North Devon, Devon, EX31

County: Devon

District: North Devon

Civil Parish: Barnstaple

Built-Up Area: Barnstaple

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Pilton with Ashford

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

Tagged with: Church building

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684-1/2/326 (North side)
19/01/51 Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin,


Large parish church, formerly part of a Benedictine Priory.
Founded 925-940 as a cell of Malmesbury, dissolved in 1533
(church guide) when it was acquired by the Chichester family
of Raleigh. Present church partly C13 (dedicated 1259), partly
C15 with some conservative repair and rebuilding of the C17.
Local purple, grey and brown slatestone, sandstone dressings;
slate roofs.
PLAN: nave; chancel; 3-bay Early English N aisle arcade, aisle
roof said to date from 1639; 4-bay Perpendicular 5 aisle and
2-bay SE chapel; large Early English NE tower; SE porch. The
tower and S aisle date from the Priory, which has buildings on
the E and N sides of the tower, which is described as
`rebuilt' (inscription on porch) by Robert Nutting in 1696
following Civil War damage, with later rebuilding 1845-1850
(Pevsner). Most of the window tracery renewed.
EXTERIOR: SE chancel chapel extends flush with chancel, both
have 4-light E windows with Y-tracery. S side has 4 grand
4-light windows with deeply-moulded architraves and
Perpendicular style tracery. Small moulded doorway into SE
chapel with old dripstone and carved dripstone terminals;
Berry sundial over door dated 1780. Tall castellated porch in
first bay from W with moulded outer doorway with C19 carved
dripstone terminals and 2-light square-headed Perpendicular
window on E return; moulded inner doorway with C16 dripstone
terminals. Stone structure on outer doorway appears to be
stoup but described in church guide as a Benitier for leaving
food in. Porch has C19 timber roof and inscription over outer
door recording rebuilding of the tower.
W end of S aisle has 4-light window with Y-tracery. W window
of nave has probably original 4-light Decorated window with
reticulated tracery; similar tracery to 3-light W window of N
aisle. N aisle has three 3-light high-set Perpendicular
windows (above the roofline of former priory buildings) with
cusped lights and square-headed embrasures. C19 N doorway into
churchyard towards W end.
Massive NE tower, 2-stage but with evidence of former
octagonal stage or spire (Pevsner), with embattled parapet,
corner pinnacles and embattled 3-sided stair turret with stone
belcote with crocketed spire. The tower has 3-light louvred
belfry windows and evidence for former buildings attached on E
and N sides. The E side has a large, blocked Early English
arch; the N wall has a probably secondary doorway with a
shouldered arch.
INTERIOR: plastered walls. Boarded waggon roofs to nave,
chancel chapel and aisles with moulded ribs and carved bosses
at the intersections. S aisle roof augmented with later,
braced crested tie beams. If the N aisle roof is C17 it is an
important late exmaple of a roof type which dates from at
least the C14 in Devon churches. Chancel roof is an
undecorated waggon, presumably intended to take plaster, but
of unknown date. One stone-vaulted C13 bay into the tower from
the chancel. Plain chancel arch with C19 or C20 masonry.
Plain, massive N arcade, the piers chamfered with some
diagonal stops and carved corbels. C15 S arcade, extending to
from division between chancel and SE chancel chapel, the piers
with alternating shafts and hollow chamfers, carved foliage
capitals and moulded arches. Steep C13 arch into tower from E
end of N aisle, somewhat obscured by the organ. 10-bay crested
roof screen, with evidence of reconstruction of parts. Coving
missing; Flamboyant tracery fixed in spandrels, some wainscot
painting revealed with others likely under existing brown
Fine C16 parclose into SE chapel, inscribed with a R for
Raleigh and presumably post-1533. Parclose has good carving
and mixture of Gothic and Renaissance detail. Perpendicular
stone pulpit on stem, the panels decorated with blind arcading
- some traces of ancient colour. The pulpit has a Jacobean
sounding board and, projecting from the side, an unusual iron
hand for an hourglass. Font has plain octagonal Ham Hill bowl
on a stem and a fine font cover (Pevsner suggests it was put
together in Elizabethan times) with concave sides with
crockets and a pinnacle. Font stands below canopied tester
made up of fragments of Gothic and Renaissance carving
including linenfold, figure panels, applied barleysugar ribs
and Gothic fretwork. Late C16 communion table (restored 1985)
with pull-out leaves. Late C16 communion rail with bookrest on
top, turned balusters and long pendants in each bay supporting
arches with carved leaves in the spandrels.
Chancel has C14 cinquefoil-headed piscina on S wall. 1880s
crested sandstone reredos with blind Gothic arcading, designed
as an ensemble with the E window and a wall plaque
commemorating the Reverend William Gradoch Hall, d.1889,
carved by Bryant and Son of Barnstaple. Plaque sited above
very narrow moulded doorway that formerly lead to an E end
chapel with adjacent chamber inhabited by a recluse in 1329
(church guide). 1707 Royal Arms, painted on boards, fixed to W
end of N wall. Nave seating late C19, choir stalls late C19 or
C20 with traceried panels.
MONUMENTS: very fine standing sandstone wall monument to Sir
John Chichester, d.1569 at W end of SE chapel with columns and
strapwork cartouches. On the N wall of the chancel a fine
monument with original colour to Sir Robert Chichester, d.1627
with 2 rows of kneeling figures, including children facing a
double prie-dieu. The S aisle has a large wall monument to
Christopher Lethbridge, d.1713 with elaborate achievement and
putto heads. Numerous white marble wall plaques.
STAINED GLASS: E window of chancel and SE chapel windows by F
Drake and Sons of Exeter; 2 windows in S aisle late work by
Heaton, Butler and Bayne (Reginald Norman, notes on the
stained glass from the church guide).
This is an important church with good fittings and some fine

Listing NGR: SS5565034146

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