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Statutory Address:

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

Exeter (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SX 96537 88029


871/8/896 FORE STREET 30-JUN-61 TOPSHAM (West side) St Margaret's Church (Formerly listed as: FORE STREET TOPSHAM Church of St Margaret)

II* Perp tower, the rest rebuilt 1874-6 by Edward Ashworth.

MATERIALS: Random squared grey limestone, red sandstone tower, diaper-patterned slate roofs.

PLAN: Deep cruciform plan with four-bay nave and two-bay chancel. Unusually, the tower is attached to the west side of the south transept, and the main porch is east of the north transept.

EXTERIOR: Facing the street is the east front, with gabled chancel and a lower gabled chapel to its north. A low lean-to chapel and porch sit further back to the south side. The style generally is Geometric Gothic c. 1300, with complex picturesque roofs of patterned slate. The tower is barely visible from the street, and is revealed only from the churchyard to the south. It is low, without buttresses or clear division into stages. It has a three-light window above a door, and a small square-headed bell opening with louvres. The embattled parapet was stepped-up in the centre to accommodate clock faces in 1887. To the east of the tower, the south transept gable has an imposing five-light window with flowing Dec tracery. The nave has lean-to aisles and a clerestory of small oculi with varied tracery (foiled, star-pattern or spheric triangles).

INTERIOR: The chief decorative focus is the chancel roof, of boarded wagon vault form overlaid with a fine net of cusped diaper ribs in rectangular panels. Over the nave, more conventional roofs with arch-braced collar trusses on small hammerbeams. Aisle roofs with unorthodox Y-trusses. The nave arcades have circular piers with moulded capitals and arches, running into heavy plain square piers at the crossing, with big leafy corbels on the responds. Similar corbels support the chancel arch. The western two bays of the nave were cleared and screened off in the 1970s for use as a social area. The north transept was screened off from the nave to serve as an entrance vestibule in 2007; part of a phased reordering of the whole church by Oliver West & John Scott (plans dated 2003). The south transept has in its east wall a row of four upper windows like a clerestory. The north chancel chapel houses the organ loft and a vestry, while the small south chapel is currently still furnished as such (but due to be cleared). Geometric black and white stone floors at the chancel steps, and encaustic tiled chancel. Much of the stone carving was executed by the Exeter workshop of Harry Hems.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: Stone reredos of five crocketed gables with some red marble shafts. The backdrop is stencilled with a brocade design. Oak chancel furnishings, Neo-Perp, carefully designed and of good workmanship, 1935. Similar pulpit, perhaps of the same date. The Norman font has a circular bowl with big conical flutes, and on one side a large standing beast or dragon holding an apple (?) in its mouth. The font cover is of spire form, of cut and pierced brass, 1880. In the north transept is a wall clock made by Cuthbert Lee, London, c. 1760, with octagonal face and a Chinoiserie lacquered and gilded case. Dutch brass chandelier with two tiers of eight branches, given c. 1700. Good Royal arms of carved and painted wood with Baroque mantling; arms of the version current 1603-49, 1660-89 and 1702-7. Probably late C17. There is good Victorian stained glass: east and west windows by F. Drake, 1876-7. The south transept south is by Burlison & Grylls, 1907, 'one of their best in Devon' (Pevsner). North transept north by Beer & Driffield, 1876. In the south transept, two fine Greek Revival tablets of black and white marble, by Sir Francis Chantrey, to Lt. Col. George Duckworth (d. 1811, standing figure with an angel of Victory) and to his father Admiral Sir John Duckworth, Bart., d. 1817, including a noble bust and a fine relief of a naval battle. HISTORY: Topsham served as Exeter's port from Roman times. It was a considerable settlement by c. 700, and had a manse associated with the living by 937. The church was re-consecrated in the mid-C15, possibly about the time the tower was built. The church was rebuilt after a fire in 1676, and again in 1874-6, at a cost of £8,550. The architect for this scheme, Edward Ashworth (1814-96), was articled to Robert Cornish of Exeter and was later a pupil of the London architect Charles Fowler. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1842 and practised in Auckland until January 1844. He returned to his home country in 1846 and practised in Exeter where he established a reputation for himself as a church architect.

SOURCES: Cherry, B and Pevsner, N, Buildings of England, Devon, (1989) 820 Stabb, J, Some Old Devon Churches, (1908-16), vol. 3 Lambeth Palace Library, Incorporated Church Building Society, Archive file 079597, (

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: St Margaret's Church, Fore Street, Topsham, Exeter is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * A thoughtfully designed Gothic Revival church by Edward Ashworth, 1874-6 * Picturesque massing and siting, on a shallow clifftop overlooking the Exe estuary * Surviving C15 century tower * Fine Norman font with crude but vigorous carving of a dragon or beast * Two striking Greek Revival monuments by Chantrey * Good collection of fittings (glass, Royal arms, chandelier, font cover etc)


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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: 18 Aug 2002
Reference: IOE01/08336/22
Rights: Copyright IoE Mrs Jean M. King. Source Historic England Archive
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