BERE FERRERS BERE FERRERS
SX 46 NW
7/17 Church of St Andrew
Parish Church. The principal building dates are the C13, circa 1330 and circa later
C15, restored in 1871. Rendered stone rubble walls with granite and volcanic stone
dressings. Gable ended slate roofs. 2 probably C19 lateral cylindrical stone
chimney stacks to side of north transept and north chapel and at west end of south
The church at present consists of nave, chancel, long north and south transepts,
north chapel, south aisle, west tower and south porch. The earliest feature, the
Norman font, signifies that a church existed probably on this site at that time.
Features such as the lancet windows, and the nook-shafts to some of the internal
window openings suggest some of the fabric at the church may be C13 but the church
was probably extended and partially rebuilt in circa 1333 when Sir William de
Ferrers founded an archpresbytery. The Cruciform plan may, however, date back to
the C13; it is debatable whether the north chapel and tower also do so but from the
style of its tomb the chapel is no later than early C14 and the tower is pre-
Perpendicular. The south aisle was built on in the circa late C15 and the porch is
probably contemporary. No substantial alterations were made subsequently apart
from the insertion of some very late Perpendicular windows until the church was
restored in 1871. Further restoration is at present (1985/6) taking place including
a new roof.
Small single stage unbuttressed west tower has corbel table at the top battlemented
with four crocketted finials. The west doorway is probably original, of volcanic
stone heavily moulded with a 4-centred arch. It has an arched hoodmould with
labels. Attached to the tower on the south side is a small leanto which re-uses a
similar but smaller doorway with double hollow chamfer.
At the west end of the nave on the north side of the tower is a C13 granite lancet
with cusped head. The north side of the nave has an early Decorated Y-tracery 2-
light window to the right. To its left is a very late Perpendicular 3-light granite
window with roundheaded lights, the mullions and jambs moulded, an arched hoodmould
above. The west window of the transept is of Beer stone 3-light in the geometrical
style of the Decorated period although it may have been partially restored. The
large 3-light north window of the transept has reticulated tracery of volcanic
stone. On the east side of the transept is a small volcanic stone chamfered doorway
to the right with a basket arch, which was probably inserted in the C16 or C17. To
the left is a 3-light Decorated window with trefoiled tracery and a quatrefoil above
cusped lights. The window on its left has reticulated tracery similar to that at
the north end of the transept. On the north side of the chancel are 2 identical C13
2-light windows with cusped lancets and a quatrefoil above. The north chapel
projects at right angles from the chancel and has a window on its end wall which is
made up of a mixture of granite volcanic stone and sandstone, somewhat restored,
with intersecting tracery.
Very fine early C14 east window in granite of 5 lights with intersecting tracery,
some mullions have been restored. Wide buttress with shallow offsets to either
The south aisle windows are all Perpendicular of 3 lights in granite and volcanic
stone. The aisle has blocked a window on the east side of the transept of which the
blocked arch and hoodmould are visible. In the angle between aisle and transept
part of a stair projection in granite ashlar can be seen which housed the rood
The south transept has shallow set-back buttresses at the corners. Its large south
window is similar to the north transept, of 4 lights with reticulated tracery of the
Decorated period in granite; its mullions have been restored. The west window of
the transept is very late Perpendicular with 4 round-headed lights.
The 2-storeyed south porch has a wide 4-centred arched granite doorway, triple-
chamfered. Above it is a small granite-framed round-headed light.
Very fine interior with features surviving from all main building phases. The
porch has a good wooden ribbed ceiling, richly moulded with carved bosses, and
showing the arms of the Ferrers family: three horseshoes. The south doorway is of
granite with an acute 4-centred arch and hollow, double roll and hollow moulding.
The internal walls are covered with C20 render.
The nave has a 6-bay granite arcade to the south aisle with 2 arches to the chancel
considerably lower. All have 4-centred heads. The piers have Pevsner type-A
mouldings which run up into the arches and deep moulded capitals. Similar 4-centred
chancel arch. The north transept arch is probably early C14 built of Roborough
stone with a lower more acute 4-centred arch heavily moulded and with jambs
consisting of three shafts, each with a shallow moulded capital.
In the chancel the east window has nook shafts inside with a moulded 4-centred arch
above. The windows on the north side of the chancel have chamfered rear arches.
Also on this wall is a heavily moulded 2-centred granite arched doorway. On the
south wall of the sanctuary is a trefoil-headed piscina adjoining which is a sedilia
of 2 sewats with chamfered 2-centred arches above. In front of the altar is a
marble slab with carvings on its edge of Tudor roses interlaced with leaves; this
dates probably to the late C15 and may have formed part of an altar.
The north transept also has nook shafts to its east and north windows. The stone
course under the east windows indicates the former position of an altar. Also on
this wall is a piscina with cinquefoiled head. At present standing in the transept
is a large stone slab carved on one side with hexagonal tracery at the centre of
which are 3 daisy-like flowers; its original position and function are not known.
Just inside the transept on the west wall is a circa early C17 stone fireplace with
basket arch, recessed spandrels and roll hollow and roll moulding. A squint in the
east corner of the transept gives a view of the altar. Of the C15 rood screen only
2 sections of the panelling survive on which traces of painted figures survive.
The benches with carved bench ends date probably from the arly C16. The front pew
on the south side is carved with shields at either end, that on the aisle side has
the coat of arms of the Willoughby de Broke family, 4 horseshoes and 5 rudders.
The arch-braced timber roof dates from the restoration in 1985-6.
The church has several fine memorials of varying dates. The most impressive is in
an arch on the north side of the sanctuary separating it from the chapel. It
consists of 2 stone effigies of a knight and a lady under an ornate arched canopy.
It is debatable whom the effigies represent; Sir William de Ferrers and his wife
Matilda who founded arch-presbytery would seem the most likely but as Beatrice
Cresswell points out the clothing is of a different style to that of their
representation in the C14 window and may well be older. This could suggest the
first William de Ferrers, living in 1243, and his wife Isolda. The arch above is
cusped under a crocketted gable, the cusps end in fine heads. In the gable are 2
censing angels. Stylistic elements of this tomb appear in the St James' Chapel of
circa 1320 in Exeter Cathedral.
At the east end of the north transept is the stone effigy of a knight in mail with
crossed legs whose head rests on his helmet. It has been suggested that this
represents Sir Reginald de Ferres who died probably early in the C14. Also in this
transept is a fine chest tomb of Purbeck marble; its panelled sides bear shields
within wreaths. Its inscription appears to have been erased but it is reputed to be
that of Robert, Second Baron Willoughby de Broke who died in 1522.
The church is also notable for its C14 stained glass in the east window which among
other things depicts Sir William de Ferrers holding a church, and his wife Matilda
with the Latin inscription "Wills Fereys me fecit". (For a detailed description of
the glass see "A History of Bere Ferrers Parish"). This glass is reputedly the
oldest in Devon except for a few of the windows in Exeter Cathedral.
The girdle tub font is circa late Norman built of Hurdwick stone. The girdle is low
set and decorated with nail-head ornament. Above are 4 projecting volutes one of
which has broken; below is a leaf ornament.
This is a particularly early church for South Devon, little altered since the C15
with the considerable survival is C13 and C14 fabric. As well as preserving a
variety of early windows it also contains some particularly fine internal features.
Source: Pevsner: Building of South Devon; Beatrix Cresswell: Churches in the Deanery
of Tavistock; White's Directory 1878; Rev A J C Beddow: A History of Bere Ferrers
Listing NGR: SX4593663406