Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:


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Statutory Address:

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

West Devon (District Authority)
Bratton Clovelly
National Grid Reference:
SX 46360 91821



7/20 Church of St Mary 22.2.67


Parish Church. Mainly mid to late C14 although the chancel may be earlier, porch probably early C15; various repairs made in C19 and restored in 1891-2. Granite and slate rubble walls with granite dressings, tower is constructed of coursed dressed granite blocks of irregular sizes. Gable ended slate roof to nave chancel and porch, flat roof to south aisle, leanto roof to north aisle. Present plan is nave, chancel, west tower, north and south aisles, the south aisle extending as far as the west side of the tower, south porch and vestry to south side of tower. The earliest feature of the church is the late Norman font; it has been suggested that the base of the tower and the square bases of the arcade piers are also Norman but there is no direct evidence for this. The chancel does, however, have the appearance of being earlier than the nave and aisles from its far more modest proportions and slightly earlier window type - circa early C14. In 1335 or 6 the patronage of the church was transferred to Bishop Grandisson of Exeter and it is likely that he initiated a major rebuild of the church to lofty proportions with a nave and 2 aisles of comparable dates from the evidence of the arcades. There is evidence, however, that originally this rebuild was envisaged on a larger and more ambitious scale with transepts and possibly an extension of the nave to the west of the tower. This is suggested by a blocked arch visible externally on the north side of the tower and an arch inside the tower on the south side dividing it from the aisle; there is no west doorway and although no comparable arch can be seen on the west side of the tower it appears externally that some blocking has taken place where one might have been expected. The south porch was added in circa early C15. Internally the church was enhanced by wall paintings which appear to date mainly from the circa early C17 although some might be medieval. The lean-to to the north of the tower incorporates some C14 features but is more likely to be C19 re-using earlier material. Numerous repairs were made in the C19 (detailed in the church guide) and White's Directory of 1818 relates the windows as having been lately restored and half the church reseated; a thorough restoration took place 1891-2. 3-stage unbuttressed battlemented tower without pinnacles. 2-light belfry openings with arched heads to lights. Single lancet on second stage of south side. There is no west doorway and the west wall of the tower has 3 buttresses against its lowest stage. Also on this stage the dressed granite is interrupted at the centre by random rubble which is roughly in the outline of a tall arch. Small 2-light window with Decorated tracery is probably a C19 restoration. The tower has a square stair turret on its north-west corner, the last stage of which is octagonal and rises higher than the tower. On the north wall of the tower, extending half way up the first stage is a blocked arch with the outline of a gable roof above it. Built in front of it is a small leanto which reuses a C14 ogee-headed stone doorway with a similar narrow one-light window to its right. The north aisle has 3 late Decorated 3-light windows with reticulated tracery which dates probably from C19 restoration. The hoodmoulds of the central and western windows incorporate carved stone masks which may have been re-used from the Norman Church. The western window has been reduced in length for the insertion below of a probably C16 granite 4-centred arched doorway with roll moulding. At the west end of the aisle against its north wall is the springing of half an arch and there is also the trace here of a wall projecting to the north perhaps originally intended as the foundation for the transept. The aisle has a chamfered plinth and intermediate buttresses with a diagonal one at the east corner. Its east window is similar to the others. The chancel has 2 windows on either side which are 2-light cusped lancets with a quatrefoil above - circa early C14 in style but probably restored. The east window is 3-light with similar style tracery to those of the aisles although slightly more elaborate. Between the 2 south windows of the chancel is a probably late C14 stone doorway with pointed arch in rebated chamfered surround and with moulded arched hoodmould. The south aisle is battlemented and to the east of the porch has 2 tall restored windows in similar style to the north aisle. The window to the west of the porch is 2-light and slightly later in style with cinquefoil heads to the lights and quatrefoil above. The aisle has intermediate buttresses and a diagonal one at the east corner. At its west end is a pentagonal stair turret set on the corner. The west end wall of the aisle contains a lancet window which may have been re-used from the earlier fabric. The single storey south porch is faced with granite ashlar with a 4-centred arched granite doorway which has double hollow and roll moulding, carved spandrels and a heavy hoodmould. Good interior: The south porch retains its original wagon roof with ribs and principals carved with running leaf motif and decorative carved bosses. Holy Water stoup has arched opening and projecting bowl. The south doorway is of granite with a round-headed arch, hollow roll and hollow moulding and carved spandrels. Heavy studded oak door of overlapping planks with moulded edges is probably C17. 3-bay arcades of Polyphant stone with Pevsner B-type piers which have crenellated moulded square capitals. The moulded bases rest on rough square bases which it has been suggested were the columns of an earlier church; this cannot be proved and the only definite explanation that can be given is of a change or projected change in the floor level. Tall 4-centred arches to the arcades in which the moulding of the piers is extended; similar chancel arch. The very tall tower arch has moulded piers with high carved capitals and cushion stops. A double-chamfered pointed arch on plain responds connects the tower and south aisle. Surprisingly, however, it is not exactly in line with the blocked arch on the north side of the tower. The windows have chamfered rear arches, which to the north aisle incorporate carved stone masks similar to those on the outside of the window frames. Pointed arched doorway to the rood stairs through which there is a squint to the chancel from the south aisle. There are extensive remains of wall paintings to the north and south aisles which are in the process of being restored. That on the north wall portrays a number of almost life-size figures probably representing the twelve apostles. Other sections of painting depict soldiers and an officer wearing armour and there are various panels of Biblical text which are bordered by stylized floral and architectural devices. The style of the armour and nature of the texts suggests an early C17 date but earlier work could well be incorporated and more may be uncovered. The nave has a saddle roof, the principal rafters are moulded and extend partly down the walls to rest on corbels. The ribs are also moulded and at the intersections are large bosses ornately carved in the design of 4 petal flowers : all but 2 of these however are replacements. The wall-plates are carved and have flat bosses on them. The aisles have flat panelled roofs and the chancel has a wagon roof which is now completely plastered over. 2 sections of panelling survive from the C15 rood screen which show signs of painting although this is likely to be restored colour. The bench ends are all late C19. The late Norman font is of Tintagel stone, square with marks at the corners and each side carved with a star surmounted by a 2-headed dragon. Short stout octagonal shaft. (Another very similar exists at Jacobstow, North Cornwall). Three floor memorials survive at the east end of the nave, all with border inscriptions with the dates 1603 and 1635 legible as two but otherwise much worn. The only old glass that survives is now in the vestry having been moved twice but originating in the south-east window and bearing the arms of the Burnby family who were important landowners in the late medieval times. The stained glass filling the other windows dates from the late C19 and commemorates members of the Manning family of whom Elizabeth Manning was lady of the manor in the late C19 and a great benefactor of the church. This church raises interesting questions as to its projected plan in the C14, which, if carried out as was originally apparently intended, would have made it remarkably grand for such a small and remote village. The further importance of the building lies in the preservation of much medieval structure enhanced by the remarkable survival of a large amount of wall paintings. Sources : Pevsner - "Buildings of North Devon : Beatrix Cresswell - Churches in the Deanery of Okehampton : Church Guide ; White's Directory 1878 and Kelly's Directory 1902.

Listing NGR: SX4636391822


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

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Books and journals
Church of St Mary Church Guide
Cresswell, B F, Notes on Devon Churches in the Deanery of Okehampton, (1906)
Pevsner, N , The Buildings of England: Devon North, (1952)
'Whites Directory' in Whites Directory, (1878)
'Kelly's Directory' in Kelly's Directory, (1902)


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: 29 Jul 2004
Reference: IOE01/13035/03
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Graham Kirkpatrick. Source Historic England Archive
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