DevonABBOTSHAMStHelen(RogerASmithCC-BY-SA2.0)1 RogerASmith

St Helen

St Helen's is a beautiful Grade II* listed church situated in the heart of the small village of Abbotsham on the north Devon coast.

Abbotsham, Devon

Opening times

The church is open from 10am to 5pm between May and October each year.


EX39 5BR

The church dates from the 13th century and boasts a number of important architectural features including a fine carved wooden reredos installed in 1921, an impressive wagon roof dating from the 15th century, 39 pews with richly decorated bench ends, an elegant set of misericords in the chancel and a beautiful Norman font. 

The church was built to replace an earlier Celtic chapel which was constructed near the coast overlooking the sea. In the early 12th century, St Helen’s was gifted by the Pope to Tavistock Abbey from where it was administered until the time of the Reformation when the Abbey was dissolved and its lands sold off. The church is unusual in that it does not conform to the traditional cruciform layout but has the tower on the north side of the building. In 1846 more pews were added to cater for a growing population and a new vestry built in 1848.  Apart from this, the church is little changed from its original form.

The magnificent bench ends probably date from the early 16th century and may have been taken from neighbouring chapels or monasteries closed at the time of the Dissolution. The bench ends are all different and display a variety of religious and secular images.

The wagon roof is decorated with bosses and at the foot of the rafters on either side of the nave is an angel bearing a shield. The shields display different devices including the arms of Tavistock Abbey.

The elaborately carved font is probably Norman in origin and may have been taken from the old chapel overlooking the sea. It is the church’s oldest treasure and links together almost a thousand years of worship in the village.

The church also boasts some handsome Victorian stained glass windows. The tower is constructed of stone and has three floors. The belfry is situated on the second floor with the ringers’ chamber on the first floor. The church has a peal of six bells, one of which was cast in 1385 and is believed to be the oldest in the county.

The church has recently become part of a single benefice which includes the parish churches of St Margaret Northam, St Mary Appledore and Holy Trinity Westward Ho! There is an excellent booklet in the church which provides much more information about this beautiful little church and it history.

  • Captivating architecture

  • Enchanting atmosphere

  • Fascinating churchyard

  • Glorious furnishings

  • Spectacular stained glass

  • Bus stop within 100m

  • Café within 500m

  • Car park at church

  • Dog friendly

  • Level access throughout

  • Walkers & cyclists welcome

  • Church of England

Contact information

Other nearby churches

Lavington United Reformed Church

Bideford, Devon

What you see today is the second chapel on this site, in 1696 the congregation built ‘The Great Meeting House’ which served the congregation for 100 years.

St Margaret

Northam, Devon

St Margaret's dates from 1250 and in years gone by its prominent position and high tower has made it a landmark for shipping in Bideford Bay.