Gazing across the River Dart from Kingswear, you can see the ancient church of St Saviour.
It was built before any of the land reclamation had started in the lower town when most people who lived around this area were based in “Tunstal” as it was referred to in the Domesday Book. Townstal means “walled enclosure on the hill.”
The church is first mentioned in 1198 in deeds relating to its being given as a ‘gift’ to the Chapter of the newly-founded Abbey of Torre by Tunstal’s Lord, William FitzStephen for “the welfare of his soul and Isabel his wife”. But the real reason for the ‘gift’ was that the Premonstratensians, who ran the Abbey, had been instrumental in securing the release of Richard the Lionheart from captivity in Central Europe following his rather unsuccessful involvement in the Third Crusade. The Premonstatensians made the most of their new network of churches and, by the middle of the 16th century, Torre Abbey was one of the wealthiest in the order. The connection with the Abbey continued right up until Henry VIII came along and dissolved the monasteries.
Torre’s final Abbot was Simon Reede. Aware of what was happening, he became St Clement’s vicar just months before the dissolution and remained there until his death. He probably enjoyed life as he took a payment from the crown to become vicar of £66 13s and 4d or more than £20,000 today.
The church has many distinguishing features and its altar is unique. It is made from wood and is covered in beautiful carvings and dates from the 17th century and the reign of James I.