MORCHARD BISHOP CHURCH STREET (south side)
SS 7607 - 7707
- Church of St Mary
Large parish church. Medieval origins; rebuilt in mid C15 (Bishop Lacey granted
indulgences for church repairs in 1451); chancel refurbished in late C17, very
extensive restoration of 1887-91 included rebuilding of north and south aisles,
reroofing and reslating, scraping aisle piers and replacing windows. Roughly
coursed ashlar, predominantly volcanic trap, some mudstone, some granite quoins and
plinth; original granite and Beerstone detail, Bathstone restoration detail; slate
roofs. High west tower, nave, chancel, north and south aisles, south porch.
Perependicular. Imposing 30m high west tower mostly C15 fabric. It has 2 stages,
setback buttresses and an embattled parapet with granite obelisk pinnacles on the
corners. Chamfered granite plinth. On north side a semi-octagonal stair turret
projects and rises above tower with its own embattled parapet. It includes series
of tiny Beerstone or volcanic lights, some with trefoil heads. Original granite 2-
light belfry windows with round-headed arches and sunken spandrels on each side.
West side of tower has C15 2-centred granite arch with moulded surround and restored
hoodmoulds; 4-light Bathstone window above is restored with Decorated-style tracery;
moulded granite string course is C15; small C15 arch-headed volcanic window to
ringing loft (another on north side and round-headed granite window on south side);
and late C19 circular clockface with brass Roman numerals below belfry window.
South aisle and porch were completely rebuilt 1887-91 and feature Bathstone arch-
headed windows. Decorated-style tracery and hoodmoulds with plain square labels.
Embattled parapet and offset buttresses on each corner. C19 2-light window in west
end. On south side C19 gable ended porch with low diagonal buttresses. Its outer
2-centred arch has reused moulded volcanic sides and C19 Bathstone head. Bathstone
kneelers and coping with a fleuree cross on apex. Small Bathstone niche under gable
has cinquefoil head. Small Bathstone trefoil-headed lancets in each side contain
C19 stained, glass representations of St George and St Catherine. Porch roof has
black ridge tiles with crests cut through with small quatrefoils. C19 3-light
window to left of porch. Immediately to right a volcanic stone chimney shaft with
exaggerated cap, soffit-moulded and with low crenellated top, rises from parapet.
Two 3-light windows right of porch separated by buttress. Left window has
Perpendicular Beerstone tracery and hoodmould with carved face labels, probably
reset original C15 work.
3-light window in east end of aisle also has C15 Perpendicular Beerstone tracery but
not hoodmould. Chancel is roughcast and apparently not restored in late C19. South
side includes small volcanic stone segmental-headed priests door at left end and
late C17 round-headed window containing rectangular panes of leaded glass. East
gable end has larger late C17 round-headed window. Late C19 vestry on north side of
chancel. North aisle also rebuilt 1887-91 with embattled parapet but no buttresses.
Of north-facing windows 3 have apparently C15 Perpendicular Beerstone tracery with
C19 hoodmoulds. Window right of centre is entirely late C19 with Bathstone
Decorated-style tracery. Late C19 2-light version in west end.
Interior: porch has reused C15 unceiled wagon roof with moulded ribs and purlins and
includes 2 bosses, both carved with IHS monograms; late C19 crenellated wallplate.
Late C19 encaustic tile floor. Late C19 Bathstone arch to south door. Nave has
high 6 bay hammer beam roof of late C19 work but may be including some older moulded
timbers. Aisles have simple late C19 low pitch lean-to roofs. Plastered vault of
chancel may hide medieval roof. Very high tower arch has double chamfered surround
with late C19 painted text over featuring the Lamb and Flag motif. Inside tower has
high late C19 ringing floor and comtemporary bas relief plaster strapwork frieze
featuring moulded emblems of the Trinity, different crosses and sacred monograms
etc. Original granite arched doorway with hollow chamfered surround to stairs. The
4 bay arcades to north and south aisles both have 1 bay overlapping to chancel.
Built of volcanic and sandstone the moulded piers (Pevsner's Type B) have capitals
only to main shafts. They are largely original but were scraped and some stone
renewed 1887-91. Plastered arch to lower and slightly narrower chancel, which was
refurbished in late C17 with new round-headed windows, plastered ceiling, moulded
plaster cornice and the walls panelled with large field plaster bolection mouldings
above oak fielded panel wainscotting. East window contains C18 stained glass in
Peckham style with geometric patterns and orange predominating. Fine late C17 oak
reredos with flanking fluted Ionic pilasters, moulded cornice and central oval panel
painted with the legend 'This do in Remembrance of me'. The mahogany altar rail on
turned balusters was made by W. Stribling in 1768. Restored late C15 oak rood
screen is very fine and sumptuously decorated example similar to screen at Church of
St Thomas of Canterbury, Lapford (q.v.). Extending across both aisles and the
chancel it has Pevsners B Type Perpendicular tracery over wainscotting with applied
tracery with ogival heads and lower quatrefoils. Above the arches the ribbed coving
is enriched with Renaissance motifs and above this the cornice covered by friezes of
densely carved openwork foliage. The screen was apparently removed to nearby Beech
Hill House in the Commonwealth and in 1840 set in tiers as a tower screen. It
required extensive restoration work in 1930 by Herbert Reed & Sons before it resumed
its original position. The original work retains traces of ancient colour. North
aisle includes blocked flat-arched doorway to now-demolished stair to rood loft.
Nave and aisles have C19 tile floors and include some old worn gaveslabs, notably
one of 1690 in north aisle in memory of Julia Wheeler with an heraldic achievement.
Aisles have late C19 ceramic dado and south aisle incorporates reset C15 Beerstone
aumbry with cusped cinquefoil head. Choir stalls and pews are late C19, but seem to
include much earlier oakwork. Beerstone font of 1848. C20 timber pulpit and
lactern. 2 C15 recumbent figures in south aisle were originally in south aisle
chapel with an ogee sepulchral arch below the window. They are thought to represent
Gabriel Green (died 1485) and his wife Dorothy (died 1480) of Easton Barton. He is
in a civilian gown with burgher's cap and short sword, she with a close fitting
bodice, pyramid head dress and low girdle with rosary beads. Chancel includes 2
good late C17 mural monuments. On north side the William Tuckfield memorial (died
1688), comprising a black marble rectangular plaque flanked by Beerstone pilasters
enriched by bas relief garlands and outside strapwork; panelled head with dentil
cornice and moulded entablature surmounted by heraldic achievement in cartouche, the
whole on moulded sill with strapwork below around a heater. On south side the
Edward Pridham memorial (died 1687), comprising a black marble rectangular plaque
with bolection-moulded frame flanked by Ionic columns which support a moulded
entablature with broken pediment and central heraldic achievement in cartouche, the
whole on moulded sill on scroll-shaped brackets with bifurcated swag between.
Another good mural monument in tower, memorial to John (surname illegible) of
Southcott (died 1704) comprising a rectangular black marble plaque set in Beerstone;
flanking panels enriched with bas relief garlands between moulded entablature
surmounted by an heraldic achievement in cartouche with flaring horns, the whole on
moulded sill on brackets carved as skulls with folded wings and with an empty
cartouche between. All these memorials have traces of ancient colour but the arms
of Edward Pridham have been retouched. Tower memorial is flanked by C19 benefaction
boards. C17 oak chest in north aisle with chip-carved arcaded front.
The church has immense landscape value, the tower being visible for miles around.
It also includes a very rare late C17 chancel.
Sourcest Devon SMR, Church Guide, Devon C19 Churches Project
Listing NGR: SS7731407484