SS9512 ST PETER STREET, Tiverton
848-1/6/316 Church of St Peter
Parish church. Partly C15 but incorporating re-sited C12
doorway. south porch and chapel of 1517, porch rebuilt 1825,
south chapel restored 1829 under the supervision of GA Boyce,
with Watkins as mason; very substantial rebuilding,
restoration and extension in 1853-1856 to the designs of
Edward Ashworth of Exeter.
MATERIALS: snecked and coursed rubble local purple and
volcanic masonry with Beerstone and (rare in Devon churches)
Ham Hill stone dressings to the medieval masonry and Bathstone
dressings to the C19 rebuilding. Show front of south porch and
south chapel Beerstone ashlar on local purple rubble plinth.
Roof concealed behind parapet. Cast-iron rainwater goods, with
some dated hoppers with Gothic detail, some stamped Paine and
PLAN: sited adjacent to and south of Tiverton Castle (qv) on a
cliff overlooking the River Exe to the W. 3-bay chancel with
north and south chancel chapels. 6-bay clerestoried nave with
north and south aisles and west tower. 2-bay Greenway chapel
with porch adjoining to west on south side. 2-bay organ
chamber with vestry adjoining to east on north side.
The north aisle was doubled in width in 1853-1856 by Ashworth,
who added the organ chamber and vestry, rebuilt the chancel
and rebuilt both aisle arcades in Bathstone, preserving the
Beerstone Perpendicular capitals and responds.
The church was structurally unsound before his restoration
EXTERIOR: Perpendicular in manner although most of the windows
and much of the masonry is Victorian. Described by Pevsner as
'A gorgeously ostentatious display of civic pride' including
the outstanding late Perpendicular Greenway chapel and porch
ensemble on the south side which is the show front to St Peter
The exterior has a plinth with moulded string and tall
parapets and is mostly embattled with lavish carving, not only
on the Perpendicular tower but particularly to the Greenway
chapel and porch and also to Ashworth's work which is
characterised by richly-carved corbel tables below the parapet
including outsize gargoyles.
Chancel, slightly lower than the nave, is gabled with set-back
buttresses with tall pinnacles with crocketed finials. 5-light
1850s traceried east window with intersecting tracery,
hoodmould and carved label stops. north and south chancel
windows are also Victorian, 2-light and traceried with
The South chancel chapel has a 6-light east window with king
mullion and a Ham Hill buttress alongside with set offs. The
south side is buttressed with elaborate buttresses with set
offs, carvings and pinnacles, some heavily restored and an a
frieze of carved ships etc on to the embattled parapet. 3
4-light traceried Perpendicular style windows and a brattished
Tudor arched doorway with carved spandrels, truncating the
central buttress with a probably C17 or early C18 recessed
2-leaf door with fielded panels. The 2-bay Greenway chapel
projects off the south aisle and is a tour de force of late
Perpendicular decoration, much restored. Buttresses with set
offs, 3 dimensional carvings and niches; friezes below the
stepped pierced parapet are carved with motifs appropriate to
Greenway's mercantile interests:-ships, emblems of the wool
trade etc; arms of the merchant venturers' and drapers'
companies and a string course carved with scenes from the life
The east end of the chapel has a Tudor-arched tomb recess with
a carved chest with 4 panels of angels holding heraldic
shields. Black letter carved inscriptions record Greenway's
foundation of the chapel and date of death.
The south porch projects forward slightly from the chapel with
diagonal buttresses but is part of the same decorative design.
Above the springing of the arch of the moulded doorway the
facade is carved with blank tracery, heraldic shields, texts
and niches. Figural scenes on the frieze date from 1908
The west return is local rubble rather than Beerstone ashlar
and the poor condition of the parapet carving and the carvings
on the buttresses indicate just how heavily restored the
carved work is on the show fronts of the porch and chapel.
Splendid 4-stage west tower, very tall with set-back
buttresses with set offs, decorated with sculptures of beasts,
and a Ham Hill embattled parapet and corner pinnacles. The
west face of the tower has a deeply recessed moulded arched
west door with carved spandrels and shallow niches to left and
right - Pevsner suggests that this may be part of an early C17
programme of restoration. Large, deeply-recessed 4-light Ham
Hill west window with a king mullion; tall 2-light transomed
belfry windows on the N, south and west side with stone
lattice. The south face has a deeply-recessed 2-light window
with containing what appears to be a delicate lattice of Ham
The north side of the church is wholly Ashworth and has a
plaque "restored and enlarged 1853-1856", except for the
presumably re-sited round-headed C12 doorway with dogtooth
decoration. The north side is buttressed with mostly 4-light
C19 traceried windows.
The vestry has a pierced parapet and doorway on the east side.
INTERIOR: the interior of the porch is very fine with a stone
vault panelled with ogee reticulation and carved motifs. Above
the inner doorway a tympanum shows a carved relief of John and
Joan Greenway kneeling on either side of a carving showing the
Assumption of the Virgin. Doorway into the Greenway chapel
from the porch has a remarkable door with early Renaissance
pilasters with arabesques below the middle rail and blind
Gothic tracery above.
The interior of the church has C19 timber tie beam roof
trusses with brackets on stone carved corbels; painted ceilure
to sanctuary. C19 A-frame aisle roofs. Chancel arch has blind
panelling to the responds and capitals carved with boars'
heads and a phoenix. 2-bay Beerstone arcades into the chancel
chapels are probably medieval; chapels screened off with C19
or early C20 parcloses and a NS screen to the north chapel.
The nave arcade has Perpendicular style piers by Ashworth
incorporating good carved medieval capitals. Tudor arched
clerestory windows appear to be wholly Victorian.
The Greenway chapel is screened off from the main body of the
church by a full-height 2-bay Beerstone screen with massive
open arches on a low wall decorated with blind tracery. The
roof of the Greenway chapel is a stone vault, panelled, with
twisted openwork pendants. An inscription in a niche records
Boyce's work in 1829.
Ashworth's organ chamber cum vestry has a double arch to
answer the openings to the Greenway chapel. Tall tower arch
with blind panelling to the responds and a moulded arch.
FITTINGS: chancel and choir fittings are C19 and later with
1850s floor tiles to the chancel and choir and east end dado
behind later curtains; carved choir stalls. 1853 stone drum
pulpit by Ashworth with blind panelled sides on a wineglass
stem; elaborate 1909 font by Harbottle with octagonal bowl and
stem decorated with saints under nodding ogee arches; good
late Victorian brass eagle lectern with enamel inlay. C19
benches to the nave, some with doors and numbers. north south
screen to the north chancel chapel and the reredos to the
chapel designed as First World War memorials by Sydney
Greenslade and executed by Herbert Read. Organ of 1696 by
Christian Smith and, probably John Snetzler, the case reputed
to include carvings by Grinling Gibbons; grand brass
candelabra purchased in 1709. C19 mayor's pew incorporates
good probably early C17 unicorn and lion.
MONUMENTS: Gothic carved chest tomb on south side of the
chancel to John Waldron a local merchant (qv almshouses in
Wellbrook Street) with carved inscription on top. On the other
side of the chancel a later chest tomb to another Tiverton
merchant, George Slee, founder of Slee's almshouses St Peter
Street (qv), d.1603. Chest carved with Renaissance cartouches
with caryatids at the corners. Wall monument to Roger Giffard,
d.1603 in chancel with paired columns; wall monument with open
segmental pediment to John Newte, d.1678. Numerous floor slabs
in chancel chapels and at west end.
STAINED GLASS: an important series of Victorian and Edwardian
windows representing national and local glass makers including
Hardman (s aisle); east and west windows by William Wailes and
north aisle west window by Drake of Exeter and north aisle
Sanders memorial window by Fouracre and Watson of Plymouth.
Tiverton parish church is one of the grandest parish churches
in Devon, remarkable for the architectural impact of the
mercantile interest in the town in the Greenway aisle and
HISTORY: John Greenway became an official in the Draper's
Company and is known to have traded through Kings Lyn as well
as London, where he seems to have been based for his working
life. He is reputed to have retired to Tiverton. He was the
patron of the Almshouses in Gold Street (qv).
(The Buildings of England: Pevsner N: Devon: London: 1989-:
808-810; Blaylock S: Report on the Greenway porch: Exeter:
1985-1986; Welsford A E: John Greenway 1460-1529, Merchant of
Tiverton and London: 1984-; Curtis F V: Notes on the Organ of
St Peter's Church Tiverton: 1984-).
Listing NGR: SS9541912840