DevonINSTOWStJohnBaptist(rogerasmithCC-BY-SA2.0)1 RogerASmith

St John the Baptist

One of the highest churches on the North Devon coast, a landmark yet hidden from marauders; great views of Bideford Bay from the churchyard which is probably celtic in origin.

Instow, Devon

Opening times

Open daily 10am to 5pm.
Contacts us at the number below or Glebe Cottage (next door).


Rectory Lane
EX39 4LU

The church of is one of a group of pre norman churches on the coast of North Devon founded by Celtic missionaries and dedicated to them: St John's name was lost in translation!

The tower is 53 feet and nine inches high. The north transept has gone but was replace by a north aisle in 1547 with a fine wagon roof and a dedication to the donors on the pillars. The earliest priest was recorded in the Domesday Book. The south transept recently restored has a very fine window in the Kempe style of the Candlemas story; a fine Caroline relief memorial of a young student John Downe d1640 and another for his father a much loved parish priest and nephew of Bishop John Jewel who wrote Apologia ecclesiae Anglicanae for Queen Elizabeth I.

In 1874 a renovation by William White has left the gallery intact but little else. The organ is by a pupil of Cavaille Coll of Paris. A window is dedicated to Cornet Augustus Clevland who died aged 19 years at the battle of Inkerman; John Locke and Captain Leonard Slater who was the father of the first Commando. There are several WWI memorials and a fine Georgian marble plaque recording Humphrey Sibthorp who was an eminent botanist, Lord of the Manor and a first professor of Rural Economy at Oxford University.

The font is Norman as is stonework in the transept and some walls. The floor has several Georgian tombstones and Barnstaple clay tiles. There are interesting early slate gravestones outside near the church walls. The churchyard path rises steeply upwards with fine views over Bideford Bay and Lundy Island. Records inside the church give details of all the known names and locations of graves and memorial plaques on the old stone walls.

There is a fine war memorial in the centre of the lower yard inscribed with names of all those who died in WWI and WWII. There are three Commonwealth war graves elsewhere. If it rains there is a lych gate and a porch. Over a set of exterior steps is an arch set on pillars which forms a memorial to Lt RC Beckwith d1942 who refused to leave his men behind in their boat when escaping from Singapore. All the crew and their officer were shot by the Japanese.

  • Spectacular stained glass

  • Magnificent memorials

  • Glorious furnishings

  • Fascinating churchyard

  • Famous connections

  • Enchanting atmosphere

  • Walkers & cyclists welcome

  • Space to secure your bike

  • Parking within 250m

  • On street parking at church

  • Level access to the main areas

  • Dog friendly

  • Accessible toilets nearby

  • Church of England

Contact information

Other nearby churches

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.