In all corners of Devon, not only will you find quaint villages and exquisite cream teas, you’ll also find tremendous examples of history. With ancient abbeys and historic churches to explore, enjoy a great day out discovering local heritage and humble beginnings in Devon. Be warmly welcomed and discover local heritage and craftsmanship in churches, chapels and meeting houses of all ages and architectural styles. Here are just a few to wet your whistle.

A lavish treasure house

St James is built on ‘holy ground where the saints of old worshipped untold centuries ago’. The church is best known for its uncommonly lavish furnishings. It is a treasure house of gothic and renaissance carvings and memorials. They include a 15th century carved rood screen described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘glorious’ and an extraordinary carved font from the renaissance period. The church is also home of the 'Sporting Parson', Reverend John Russell, better known as Jack. His passion for sporting pursuits led to his favourite breed of terrier being named 'Jack Russell’.

St James, Swimbridge

Astronomical atmosphere

Ottery St Mary is a delightful town steeped in centuries of history. Visit the former collegiate church of St Mary of Ottery, built in 1342 and walk streets once trodden by the town’s most famous son, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. St Mary’s is a magnificent scaled down version of Exeter Cathedral. It contains many treasures including a minstrel gallery on pillars, and a wonderful 14th century astronomical clock, and is an atmospheric setting for recitals and concerts.

St Mary, Ottery St Mary

Angels and skulls

Discover the ancient and glorious 15th century church of St Andrew. With its magnificent blue, crimson and gold waggon roof, angels, carved medieval rood screen and wonderful Jacobean gallery it is well worth a visit. However, the truly exceptional feature is the ‘Golgotha’, the rood screen base carved with skulls, rocks and crossbones. It is at least 500 years old and is thought to be the only one in the country and possibly the world.

St Andrew, Cullompton

A holy well and a sea view

St Nectan's Chapel was one of the many medieval chapels in the vast parish of Hartland. It lies in unspoiled country with views down the combes to the Atlantic. It was founded near a holy well associated with St Nectan, who lived and was martyred here in the mid 5th century. This splendid medieval church is known as 'The Cathedral of North Devon', an apt description as the tower is visible for miles around.

St Nectan, Hartland

Georgian time capsule

To find the delightful church of St Petrock, follow signs to the 'Old Church'. Climb narrow lanes, into the countryside and find the church a clearing surrounded by trees. St Petrock is of medieval origin, but the interior is a Georgian delight; a time capsule of 18th century decoration and furnishings that have remained unchanged. From a row of simple hat pegs to the box pews lining the nave and aisle, it feels like you've stepped back in time.

St Petrock, Parracombe

Glorious memorials

Discover this unusually large 14th century church. The church contains a fine collection of memorials, particularly those to the Earls of Bath and their family and other connections.

St Peter, Tawstock

Ancient and beautiful

This beautiful and fascinating church is dedicated to Saint Winifred, a Welsh saint. It is among the oldest and most architecturally significant parish churches of Devon. It probably dates back as far as about 995, but records on the vicars only go back to the 13th century. There is architectural and archaeological evidence to suggest an earlier Saxon building, including Saxon carving on stones hidden in the turret staircase.

St Winifred, Branscombe

What’s in a name

This is one of the finest historic churches in the south west of England, built on the site of a Saxon minster and cathedral dedicated to St Boniface. Holy Cross has a long, varied and interesting history of at least 1100 years. Today, not many churches can match both its story and its long dedication; The Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross and the Mother of Him who hung thereon'.

Holy Cross, Crediton

An ancient yew

Find eleven centuries of history at the church of St John the Baptist. The 1100 year old yew tree was growing when a stone Saxon church was built. Discover parts a Saxon building, rebuilt from 14th century. Unusual windows flood the church with light to reveal one of the finest rood screens in Devon, remarkable pew ends and 400 year old Flemish carvings. All in all a gem not to missed.

St John the Baptist, Plymtree

A grand wedding march

Tiverton parish church is one of the grandest parish churches in Devon. Described by Pevsner as 'a gorgeously ostentatious display of civic pride' this mostly 15th century church includes the outstanding late Perpendicular Greenway chapel and porch. The church is noted as being the place of the first performance of Mendelssohn's ‘Wedding March’ which was played by Samuel Reay at the wedding of Dorothy Carew and Tom Daniel on 2nd June 1847.

St Peter, Tiverton

Devon Historic Churches Trust

The Devon Historic Churches Trust is dedicated to funding repairs and maintenance to places of Christian worship throughout Devon. This list has been compiled by John Mills, Honorary Secretary of the Trust. These ten are only a taster of the many wonderful churches to visit in Devon. Walking and cycling are particularly fantastic ways to explore the unspoilt natural and cultural heritage. Visit and find that there is more to this spectacular and diverse county than you might have thought. The Trust’s website has some church histories and details of Devon Historic Church day, held in September every year.

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