SS 72 SE BISHOP'S NYMPTON
6/43 Church of St Mary
Parish church. C12 font, existing medieval fabric mostly C15 and C16 although the
south aisle is described as "completed" in 1621 (Tull). Chancel restoration of 1868
by Edward Ashworth of Exeter, (D.R.O.), cost £1,500; further restoration of 1877
(Tull), cost £1,090; tower restoration 1893, organ chamber, 1895 (Kelly's).
Slatestone rubble with freestone dressings, the tower masonry brought to course;
Plan: Chancel, nave, 6-bay south aisle (one bay to the chancel), west tower, south-
west porch, north-east vestry and organ chamber. Perpendicular, although the fabric
of the nave and chancel may be earlier.
Exterior: A large parish church, with a dramatically tall west tower. 4-light east
window, the tracery Perpendicular but the form of the embrasure possibly Decorated,
similar 2-light south window. 2 3-light Perpendicular traceried windows to the nave,
the tracery of different designs, the mullions and hood moulds renewed. C19 3-light
traceried Ham Hill east window to the aisle, 3-light C19 traceried west window. 4
windows on the south side with various tracery designs, largely C19; C19 moulded 4-
centred arched doorframe to the priest's door with a C19 plank and cover strip door.
Gabled porch in the first bay from the west, the late C15/early C16 mouldings of the
outer doorframe matching those of the arcade and tower arch, pair of C19 timber gates
with iron verticals above the middle rail and timber braces. C19 arch braced porch
roof, moulded 4-centred arched inner doorframe with cushion stops and a C19 plank and
cover strip door.
The west tower, "one of the stateliest !!!!!!! of north Devon" (Pevsner) is 4-stage,
battlemented, with crocketted corner pinnacles (reduced in size) and very deep set-
back buttresses with set-offs. The tower has moulded string courses and carved
grotesques below the battlementing. The west face has a depressed 4-centred arched
moulded doorframe with the remains of carving in the spandrels and a square-headed
hoodmould with carved label stops; C19 plank and cover strip door with pre C19 door
furniture. 2-light Perpendicular traceried belfry openings on all 4 faces, the south
face also has a 2-light traceried window. The east face has a large clock face,
dated 1897, in a diagonally-set frame and a decayed medieval cusped statue niche
below, the timber statue has been moved inside the church.
Interior: Unplastered walls; C19 timber chancel arch; late C15/C16 south arcade with
moulded depressed 4-centred arches, the piers with capitals to the corner shafts
only. Very tall, elegant, tower arch, the mouldings of the arch and responds
matching those on the arcade. The nave roof is a ceiled wagon, the wall plate C19
but the ribs and flat carved bosses probably early C16. The aisle roof, also a
ceiled wagon, has a C19 wall plate and more sculptural medieval bosses at the east
end, including a shield-bearing angel. The other bosses in the aisle are late C19
replacements. The chancel roof is an extremely rare example in a Devon church of a
medieval arch braced roof, rather than the common wagon. The roof has been
thoroughly restored in the C19, with new wall-plates, that on the south side carved
on brackets above the easternmost bay of the arcade. The main trusses, probably C15,
have moulded arch braces, threaded purlins and a diagonally-set ridge.
The chancel has a chamfered C19 Tudor arched doorframe to the vestry below a blocked
round-headed arch and a moulded arch of 1895 into the organ chamber; choir stalls,
probably of 1869, with poppyheads and traceried frontals. The late C19 Gothic
panelling in the sanctuary has been moved to the east end of the south aisle. A
medieval timber statue, about 1.5 metres high, formerly on the east face of the
tower, has been re-sited above the vestry door. The statue of St James is elongated
and may be of Spanish origin (Tull).
Caen stone pulpit with a memorial date of 1888 with blind traceried panels divided by
buttresses and a carved cornice. The C12 font has a square bowl decorated with
round-headed arches, the bowl on a cylindrical stem; the Purbeck marble moulded base
and corner shafts are C19. Nave benches probably late 1860s with square-headed
traceried ends. C19 commandment boards, painted slate, have been resited on the west
wall of the nave. late C18/early C19 timber benefaction boards fixed to the tower
walls, have moulded frames and one has painted decoration.
Monuments A late Perpendicular chest and recess in the north wall of the chancel,
possibly the tomb of John Basset of Whitechapel (q.v.), died 1485 (Cresswell)
although earlier scholars have asigned it to Judge Pollard of Grilstone (q.v.). The
chest is decorated with 2 tiers of quatrefoils within twisted bead moulding; the
recess has a crank-headed arch with twisted ribbon and foliage moulding, carved
spandrels and a panelled soffit. The crowning armorial shield is flanked by unicorn
supporters (Basset) but with a puzzling leopard's head crest (not Basset). Several
C19 wall monuments include a white marble Egyptian tablet in the chancel to Mary
Jones, died 1838, signed Gould, Barum; a Gothic gabled monument to the Toms family
(memorial dates 1800-1906) in the nave; a late C19 Gothic monument to the Balman
family (memorial dates 1818-1895), also in the nave, and a white marble Gothic wall
monument to John Sanger of Whitechapel, died 1834, in the south aisle. In the tower
there is a good slate wall tablet commemorating John Blackmore of Cross and recording
a benefaction. The border, decorated with fruit, flowers and representations of
death and time, is painted.
Glass East window possibly Beer of Exeter, described as "modern" in 1844 (Davidson)
south chancel window probably Alfred Beer of Exeter, memorial date of 1835 but likely
to be about ten years later; east window of the South aisle with memorial date of
1888 by Clayton and Bell.
A major north Devon parish church with a fine tower and a very unusual medieval
Tull, Christopher S, Bishop's Nympton Church and People (1986)
Creswell, Beatrix F, 'Tomb in Bishop's Nympton Church; Devon and Cornwall Notes and
Queries, 16 (1930-31), pp. 126-130.
Davidson, J, MS notes on Devon Churches (1844), held in West Country Studies Library.
Devon Nineteenth Century Churches Project.
Listing NGR: SS7576523734