Burgh Island is a tidal island on the coast of Devon.
The church is said to have been originally built in the 14th century. It was dedicated to St Lawrence and became a conspicuous landmark for mariners out at sea. It originally consisted of chancel, nave and tower, and the Lords of the Manor were the knightly family of de Bikebury, who gave their name to the parish.
The last male representative of this family was killed in a duel at Morley Bridge, near Woodleigh, and the north aisle of the church is said to have been added by his two daughters, in memory of their slain father, and they themselves are commemorated to this day by two graceful brasses in the south transept which are believed to be more than 500 years old.
These medieval brasses, very rare in west country churches, depict headdresses not seen elsewhere and are of particular interest to specialist historians. There is an ancient carved oak pulpit said to be the work of Thomas Prideaux, a celebrated woodcarver, in the year 1509 as well as a painted carved oak lectern, also made by him.
Following a fire, the church was substantially rebuilt in 1872, but the spire and tower remain from the original structure. In 1870 a peel of five bells was hung and a sixth was added in 1879, since when St Lawrence has looked as it does today. In the porch is an oak tablet which, unusually, lists the names of all those members of the parish who served in the First World War, not just those who lost their lives. The church is also home to the ship’s bell from HMS Bigbury Bay, a Second World War frigate, presented to the church by the family of the ship’s first commanding officer.
In the Royal Navy a ship’s bell can also be inverted to serve as a font, and the names of the children baptised are engraved on the inside of the bell. The church also contains a scrapbook, on permanent display, compiled by the local Women’s Institute in 1966 which is a vignette of the life in the village at that time.