Heritage Category:
Listed Building
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Date first listed:
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Devon (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SY 19571 88517


SY 18 NE BRANSCOMBE BRANSCOMBE 7/38 Church Living and Church - Living Cottage 22.2.55 GV II*

House and cottage in a former farmhouse. Traditionally the place has been associated with the nearby Church of St Winifred (q.v.) but it was never a vicarage. It has been suggested that it was a summer residence of the Canons of Exeter Cathedral. It is essentially late C15-early C16 but parts are earlier, maybe as early as the C13; major later C16 and C17 improvements; the main block was refurbished with a stable block extension in the late C19, and the crosswing was refurbished circa 1970. Mostly local Salcombe stone rubble but there are sections, particularly in the crosswing of coursed blocks of ashlar; stone rubble stacks, one with its original (late C16 - early C17) Beerstone ashlar chimneyshaft, the others are topped with C20 brick; thatch roof to the crosswing, but the thatch has been replaced with slate over the main block. Plan and development: house and cottage occupying an L-plan building. The long main block faces south-south-east, say south, and it is built across the hillslope. This is now Church Living. At the right (east) end there is a 2-room plan former stable block which was added in the late C19. The rest of this house has a 4-room plan adapted from a late medieval layout. At the right (east) end is the service end kitchen which has a large axial (former gable-end) stack backing onto the stable extension. Between this kitchen and a small unheated room there is the present entrance hall containing the main staircase. Left of the unheated room is a hall/parlour with an axial stack backing onto the unheated room. At the left (west) end of the main block is another small unheated room, formerly the inner room, but in the C19 it was converted to a cider house with apple loft over. At the left end is a basically 2-room plan crosswing projecting forward, and this has been divided off from the main block and is Church Living Cottage. The whole building has a long and complex structural history. Although the evidence is slight it seems likely that the C13 or C14 house occupied the crosswing. If so it was probably a first floor hall house. Also it was extensively refurbished when the main block was built in the late C15-early C16. This new main block was built with a 3-room-and-cross-passage plan. The original service end room was larger than the present kitchen since the C19 entrance hall and staircase was inserted into it. The unheated room between it and the hall was the original passage. It is not clear whether this passage went through the rear since the ground rises steeply behind. The small unheated inner room was the only section that was floored at this time. Hall, passage and service end were open to the roof, divided by low partitions and was heated by an open hearth fire. The crosswing now became the parlour wing with principal bedchamber (the solar) and maybe included a chapel. The rear gable-end stack might date from this time although it has since been much altered. There is evidence that there was a newel stair in the angle of the 2 wings from the ground floor of the crosswing (the parlour) to the first floor chamber. The later C16 and C17 improvements are concentrated in the main block. The service end was probably floored over in the mid C16 and the lower passage partition was built up to full height. The kitchen stack is probably late C16-early C17 and inserted at the same time as the hall fireplace was inserted and the hall and passage floored over. The house was then, as now, 2 storeys throughout. Exterior: the front gable-end of the crosswing includes a good deal of stone ashlar including a chamfered plinth. The ground floor window here is C20 with no glazing bars but the first floor one is a Beerstone double lancet with relieving arch over; it is this window which provides the evidence of the C13 or C14 origins of the building. The outer (west) side of the crosswing has a C20 first floor doorway and windows. A landslip has built up the ground level to first floor level here although a buried ground floor slit window is exposed inside. The inner (east) side of the crosswall shows the blocked doorway to the original newel staircase and alongside projecting into the front wall of the main block is a section of an ashlar rebate which is thought to be the remains of the newel stair. The front of the main block has an overall irregular 8-window front of mostly C20 casements and most have glazing bars. The 3-window section at the right end is to the C19 stable block and a straight join of well-dressed quoins marks the end of the old house. The inner room windows (at the left end) were converted to a doorway with loading hatch over in the C19 when it became the cider house. The hall has a late C16-early C17 Beerstone 4-light window with a hoodmould; the mullions have external hollow chamfers and internal ovolo mouldings. Although the kitchen has a C20 window there is a late C16 - early C17 hoodmould over. Immediately left of this is the front doorway; a C19 segmental-headed arch containing a plank door and overlight. There is a small gabled service porch further right. In fact there are a number of blocked features on both sides of the main block. On the front there are the ashlar jambs of what appears to have been a massive passage front doorway and others no doubt represent windows. There is a slit window in front of the kitchen stack and to rear of the hall the complete surround of a full height arch- headed window; this is blocked by a late C16 - early C17 oak 3-light window, the mullions have external chamfers and internal ovolo mouldings. Also in the rear wall the inner room chamber has an original small Beerstone arch-headed window. A doorway to right (used as an apple loft loading hatch) is thought to be secondary although it contains the remains of a late C15 - early C16 shoulder-headed door Also at the back there is an external flight of stone steps to the C19 stable hayloft loading hatch. Good interior: the large kitchen fireplace has a plain chamfered oak lintel and includes a large side oven. The ceiling was 3 bays (including the entrance hall and stair) carried on large crossbeams, chamfered with straight cut stops. The unheated room between stairs and hall/parlour is the original passage. The lower side includes an original low partition; a plaster panelled oak-framed screen which includes a 2-centred arch doorway. Above it the bottom of a secondary oak-framed crosswall is exposed, built on top of the original low partition. It is plastered over on the first floor. The hall/parlour has mostly late C16 - early C17 features but the upper crosswall is original; a full height oak-framed, small panel frame which includes a blocked shoulder-headed arch at ground floor level. The parlour fireplace is Beerstone ashlar with an oak lintel with sunken chamfer. The chamber above has a contemporary Beerstone ashlar fireplace with Tudor arch head. The hall ceiling is carried by an axial beam with broad ovolo mouldings and exagerated scroll stops. The inner room has not been modernised since it was converted to a cider house and it still contains the cider press. It was originally floored and some of the original plain joists of large scantling still remain in situ. The original late C15-early C16 roof of the main block is intact from end to end. It is 6 bays, and carried on side-pegged jointed cruck trusses with cambered collars, threaded purlins and had single sets of curving windbraces, several of which still survive. The hall/inner room was a closed truss from the beginning and the bay over the inner room is clean. The rest was open to the roof is is heavily smoke-blackened from the original open hearth fire. The crosswing was modernised circa 1970 and no carpentry detail is exposed on the ground floor. Any fireplace here is blocked. The first floor fireplace is stone rubble with plain-chamfered oak lintel; it is of indeterminate date. There is a blocked oak shoulder-headed doorway at first floor level to the main block. The roof here is probably late C15 - early C16 except for the front truss which was replaced circa 1970. The other 2 are arch-braced trusses with a very complete set of carpenters' assembly marks. This roof is clean. There is a stone wall between the main block and crosswing with an oak frame on top, a closed tie beam truss, to take the main roof. This seems to support the theory that the crosswing is earlier than the main block. The carpentry detail of the stable block is late C19 including the king post truss roof. The joinery detail throughout the building is late C19 and C20. At first floor level over the late C19 stair in Church Living, there is an ornamental plaster coat of arms. It is heavily painted over and therefore cannot be made out. It could be C17 but there are in this area a number of C19 plaster plaques bearing the arms of the Russian Tsars and were erected to commemorate a visit to the area by the Grand Duchess Helene of Russia in 1831. Church Living and Church Living Cottage make up one of the most interesting medieval houses in the area. The historic fabric of the building is remarkably well- preserved and other features certainly survive under C19 and C20 plaster. Moreover it is a most attractive building and forms part of a group with the nearby Church of St Winifred and other thatch-roofed cottages close by. Source: F C Butters Branscombe, The Parish and the Church (1949) p 10.

Listing NGR: SY1955688521


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Butters, F C , Branscombe The Parish and the Church, (1949)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Date: 12 Feb 2006
Reference: IOE01/15074/16
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Steve Beck. Source Historic England Archive
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