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Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

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

North Devon (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SS 55651 34146



SS5534SE ST MARY'S CHURCHYARD, Pilton 684-1/2/326 (North side) 19/01/51 Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Pilton


Large parish church, formerly part of a Benedictine Priory. Founded 925-940 as a cell of Malmesbury, dissolved in 1533 (church guide) when it was acquired by the Chichester family of Raleigh. Present church partly C13 (dedicated 1259), partly C15 with some conservative repair and rebuilding of the C17. Local purple, grey and brown slatestone, sandstone dressings; slate roofs. PLAN: nave; chancel; 3-bay Early English N aisle arcade, aisle roof said to date from 1639; 4-bay Perpendicular 5 aisle and 2-bay SE chapel; large Early English NE tower; SE porch. The tower and S aisle date from the Priory, which has buildings on the E and N sides of the tower, which is described as `rebuilt' (inscription on porch) by Robert Nutting in 1696 following Civil War damage, with later rebuilding 1845-1850 (Pevsner). Most of the window tracery renewed. EXTERIOR: SE chancel chapel extends flush with chancel, both have 4-light E windows with Y-tracery. S side has 4 grand 4-light windows with deeply-moulded architraves and Perpendicular style tracery. Small moulded doorway into SE chapel with old dripstone and carved dripstone terminals; Berry sundial over door dated 1780. Tall castellated porch in first bay from W with moulded outer doorway with C19 carved dripstone terminals and 2-light square-headed Perpendicular window on E return; moulded inner doorway with C16 dripstone terminals. Stone structure on outer doorway appears to be stoup but described in church guide as a Benitier for leaving food in. Porch has C19 timber roof and inscription over outer door recording rebuilding of the tower. W end of S aisle has 4-light window with Y-tracery. W window of nave has probably original 4-light Decorated window with reticulated tracery; similar tracery to 3-light W window of N aisle. N aisle has three 3-light high-set Perpendicular windows (above the roofline of former priory buildings) with cusped lights and square-headed embrasures. C19 N doorway into churchyard towards W end. Massive NE tower, 2-stage but with evidence of former octagonal stage or spire (Pevsner), with embattled parapet, corner pinnacles and embattled 3-sided stair turret with stone belcote with crocketed spire. The tower has 3-light louvred belfry windows and evidence for former buildings attached on E and N sides. The E side has a large, blocked Early English arch; the N wall has a probably secondary doorway with a shouldered arch. INTERIOR: plastered walls. Boarded waggon roofs to nave, chancel chapel and aisles with moulded ribs and carved bosses at the intersections. S aisle roof augmented with later, braced crested tie beams. If the N aisle roof is C17 it is an important late exmaple of a roof type which dates from at least the C14 in Devon churches. Chancel roof is an undecorated waggon, presumably intended to take plaster, but of unknown date. One stone-vaulted C13 bay into the tower from the chancel. Plain chancel arch with C19 or C20 masonry. Plain, massive N arcade, the piers chamfered with some diagonal stops and carved corbels. C15 S arcade, extending to from division between chancel and SE chancel chapel, the piers with alternating shafts and hollow chamfers, carved foliage capitals and moulded arches. Steep C13 arch into tower from E end of N aisle, somewhat obscured by the organ. 10-bay crested roof screen, with evidence of reconstruction of parts. Coving missing; Flamboyant tracery fixed in spandrels, some wainscot painting revealed with others likely under existing brown paint. Fine C16 parclose into SE chapel, inscribed with a R for Raleigh and presumably post-1533. Parclose has good carving and mixture of Gothic and Renaissance detail. Perpendicular stone pulpit on stem, the panels decorated with blind arcading - some traces of ancient colour. The pulpit has a Jacobean sounding board and, projecting from the side, an unusual iron hand for an hourglass. Font has plain octagonal Ham Hill bowl on a stem and a fine font cover (Pevsner suggests it was put together in Elizabethan times) with concave sides with crockets and a pinnacle. Font stands below canopied tester made up of fragments of Gothic and Renaissance carving including linenfold, figure panels, applied barleysugar ribs and Gothic fretwork. Late C16 communion table (restored 1985) with pull-out leaves. Late C16 communion rail with bookrest on top, turned balusters and long pendants in each bay supporting arches with carved leaves in the spandrels. Chancel has C14 cinquefoil-headed piscina on S wall. 1880s crested sandstone reredos with blind Gothic arcading, designed as an ensemble with the E window and a wall plaque commemorating the Reverend William Gradoch Hall, d.1889, carved by Bryant and Son of Barnstaple. Plaque sited above very narrow moulded doorway that formerly lead to an E end chapel with adjacent chamber inhabited by a recluse in 1329 (church guide). 1707 Royal Arms, painted on boards, fixed to W end of N wall. Nave seating late C19, choir stalls late C19 or C20 with traceried panels. MONUMENTS: very fine standing sandstone wall monument to Sir John Chichester, d.1569 at W end of SE chapel with columns and strapwork cartouches. On the N wall of the chancel a fine monument with original colour to Sir Robert Chichester, d.1627 with 2 rows of kneeling figures, including children facing a double prie-dieu. The S aisle has a large wall monument to Christopher Lethbridge, d.1713 with elaborate achievement and putto heads. Numerous white marble wall plaques. STAINED GLASS: E window of chancel and SE chapel windows by F Drake and Sons of Exeter; 2 windows in S aisle late work by Heaton, Butler and Bayne (Reginald Norman, notes on the stained glass from the church guide). This is an important church with good fittings and some fine monuments.

Listing NGR: SS5565034146


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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: 21 Jul 2004
Reference: IOE01/12629/23
Rights: Copyright IoE Dr Barbara Hilton. Source Historic England Archive
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