DAWLISH ROAD (south west side)
Church of St Michael
Church of St Michael, a late C15 church with later alterations and renovations.
MATERIALS: it is constructed of roughly coursed local red sandstone, with white limestone ashlar details and a grey slate roof.
PLAN: nave with north and south aisles, two storey north porch and west tower; projecting chancel with side chapels; and a Victorian vestry extension to the south east.
EXTERIOR: Perpendicular in style. The main windows have large pointed arch openings with three main lights and Perpendicular tracery. Single windows are trefoil headed lancets occasionally set in square openings with plain spandrels. The north side forms the front facade, the two-storey porch, providing the main entrance, although the original entrance would have been by the west door in the tower. The porch is located towards the west, a tall, narrow gabled structure, with an open arched doorway. Above the door are the arms of the Courtney family, and a decorated Perpendicular niche bearing a sculpture of St Michael, flanked by two single windows. There is a floriate cross on the apex of the gable, and a small external stairwell lit by a single lancet to the right. There is a large window to the right of the porch and three large windows to the left. A stepped buttress marks the eastern end of the medieval church. To the east of the buttress is a blank wall with moulded plinth marking the 1880s extension. The gabled east end projects beyond flanking gabled side chapels, and is lit by a large window in the east end and a small single window in either side wall. The side chapels, Lady Chapel to the north and Wheatly Chapel to the south, are also gabled with slightly smaller arched windows in their east walls. There is a floriate cross on the apex of each gable. The two-storey C19 vestry projects to the south east and is lit by single and paired trefoil headed lancets set in square windows with plain spandrels. The vestry has a tall hexagonal crenellated stone chimney stack to the north and a plain side stack to the south gable. There is an external stairwell to the south, and to the north, a small projecting porch, with a narrow pointed arch doorway, with C19 plank door with decorative ironwork strap hinges. The south front of the church has four large arched windows. The west front is dominated by the tall well-built tower with diagonal buttresses with offsets, a moulded plinth and string courses at the base and above and below the belfry. The belfry has large arched, two light louvered openings with Perpendicular tracery. There is a clock below the belfry on the north face with a single lancet to light the clock chamber. The top of the tower is crenellated with crocketted pinnacles at the angles, each with a gargoyle at the base. There is an external stairwell with a crenellated turret on the north east side. The west front of the tower has a simple arched doorway with C19 timber plank door with decorative iron strap hinges, and a large, four light, arched west window above.
INTERIOR: inside the porch is a good timber ceiling and stone holy water stoup. The nave is of four bays with north and south aisles and the arcade is formed by composite fluted pillars, with elaborately carved capitals depicting angels bearing shields, with pointed arches above. The notable wagon vaulted timber ceiling, with carved gilded bosses, was restored in the 1980s following fire damage. Just inside the north door is a C11 font of carved Beer stone, with interlace carving depicting St Michael slaying a dragon; a hunter with a bow and arrow; a man returning from hunting with an axe; and several mythical beasts. The nave is paved with memorial stones of various dates. The rood screen is of oak in Perpendicular style with 32 painted panels depicting saints and bishops and was restored in 1879 by the Earl of Devon, when the paintings were discovered. The screen in the north aisle is different, possibly from an earlier church. The chancel is paved with C19 tiles and includes a medieval piscina. The elaborate oak reredos was erected in 1900, and the wall paintings on the east wall were restored in the 1980s. The Lady Chapel was restored by Herbert Read in 1930 from C17 panelling. The Wheatly Chapel was refitted in the 1980s and includes the new organ loft. There is a well carved C19 stone pulpit. The highly decorative window glass is largely C18 or later including windows by Beer and Driffield. The tower screen at the west end was constructed from C17 panels salvaged from the large upper gallery when it was removed in 1875. The tower clock dates to 1882, and there is a peal of eight bells.
SUBISDIARY FEATURES: the shaft of a medieval stone cross, reused as a gate post lies against the west front, part of the base is reset on the south side of the churchyard. There is a C19 gabled timber and slate lych gate to the west.
HISTORY: the present building is believed to date from around 1480 and is built on the site of an earlier church with possible pre-Conquest origins. The early Norman font is the earliest feature to survive: this is a notable example, with a dragon being attacked by an archer within the scrollwork: this was copied for the 1842 font in the Temple Church, London.
The Courtenays of Powderham became patrons of the church in 1403 and their arms are incorporated into the north porch to mark their contribution towards the church's rebuilding. A large upper gallery was erected at the west end in 1632 and removed in 1875-76 as part of a major restoration by Hayward & Son: the chancel was lengthened, and a vestry added. John Hayward (1808-1891) and Pearson Barry Hayward (1838-1888) were an Exeter-based practice which carried out various restorations to Devon churches. Further enrichment took place in the 1880s and after. A fire in 1986 caused severe damage to the south east of the church, necessitating a major programme of restoration including the reconstruction of the vestry, a new organ and loft, and restoration of the roof and furnishings.
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'Buildings of England: Devon' (rev ed 1989), 439-440.
Anon., 'St Michael and All Angels, Alphington Visitor's Guide (undated).
Church of St Michael is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons
* Historical interest: an imposing late medieval parish church, itself a rebuilding of an earlier church, thus representing a millenium of christian use. Its connection with the Courtenays, and with other local families, forms an important link with the parish's past, while the adaptations show the development of a church over the centuries.
* Architectural interest: a large, late medieval Perpendicular church with interesting later alterations, reflecting developments in worship and taste, as well as masonry and joinery of a high order. The Victorian restoration was careful and adds to the importance of the church, and recent restoration has been careful to preserve its special interest too.
* Archaeological interest: this 600-year-old church occupies the site of (and may incorporate the foundations of) a much earlier church, representing Christian worship on the site for over a millennium.
* Intactness: a high degree of early fabric remains.
* Fixtures and Fittings: the church retains a number of features of particular note, including the font, the rood screen, and the porch.