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HER Number:MDV14991
Name:Northam, St. Margaret's


The main part of the church is 15th century, although the base of the tower may contain earlier fabric. The north aisle and Lady Chapel were added in 1593. The church was extensively restored in the mid 19th century and the vestry added in 1906-7.


Grid Reference:SS 448 290
Map Sheet:SS42NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishNortham
Ecclesiastical ParishNORTHAM

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Church of England HER: 5264
  • National Monuments Record: SS42NW28
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS42NW/14
  • Old Listed Building Ref (I): 90537

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PARISH CHURCH (XIII to XIX - 1201 AD to 1900 AD (Between))

Full description

Laing-Trengove, D., 11/07/2013, St Margaret's Church, Northam, Devon (Report - Survey). SDV355678.

A desk-based assessment and historic building survey was undertaken by Southwest Archaeology prior to works to the interior of the church including the removal of pews from the west end of the nave and the lowering of the raised plinths on which they stand and associated modification of the heating system.
The church is reputed to have been in a ‘deplorable’ state in the mid 19th century leading to a major restoration of the interior under the vicar at the time, Revd. Isaac Gosset. The reordering of the interior was designed and partially implemented by architect, David Macintosh. Much of the extant church interior and furniture dates from this time, forming part of a coherent and rather regimented scheme. There is no known record of the church’s interior prior to these works but it appears that the floor level of the walkways around the pew plinths was raised, leaving voids beneath the seating areas. 18th century carved slate grave stones were resent within the slabs of these paved areas. During recent times the pews were removed from the north-western, ‘Martha’s, corner and a board laid over the plinths. The plinths appear to rest on dwarf rubble stone/brick walls set into voids in the floor below. It is unlikely, therefore, that the removal of additional pews and the lowering of the plinths will have any significant impact upon earlier fabric or remains. During the removal of the base of the former seating area in Martha’s Corner a brick vault was uncovered which was found to contain members of the Wren family. A slate headstone on the west wall of the vault was engraved with the names, Delitia Montague Wren, Henry Conway Wren, Margaret Wren and Thomas Wren. Interestingly only three coffins were observed within the vault. Three of the named individuals are also remembered in memorials at this, west, end of the north aisle including the window which bears a dedication to Margaret Wren. The top of the vault has been repaired, resealed and covered over with the new flooring.
The church has a Perkins heating system, one of only 11 buildings known to retain a working system. The Perkins system, invented by Angier March Perkins (1799-1881), is a high pressure hot water system; hot water is circulated through small diameter pipes in a sealed system and utilises a patented left and right threaded joint which is capable of bearing the same pressure as the pipes. The Perkins heating system was first installed in horticultural hot houses in London in 1832 and subsequently in a range of buildings including large private houses, horticultural buildings, churches and other public buildings. The heating system at St. Margarets was installed in 1905-6, contemporary with the vestry. It is thought to have originally been gas rather than solid fuel fired. It is now powered by a modern gas boiler which replaced two Gurney Stoves formerly located in the north aisle. The pipework appears to run in a series of three circuits around the church with much of it located above ground. The proposed works will impact upon the heating system with sections of pipework being modified to fit the current reordering.

Cresswell, B. F., 1927, Devonshire Churches: The Buildings and Builders, 165 (Article in Serial). SDV124362.

Ordnance Survey, 1938, 122SW. Revision of 1933 with additions in 1938. Provisional Edition (Cartographic). SDV337460.

Pevsner, N., 1952, The Buildings of England: North Devon, 128 (Monograph). SDV336196.

St. Margaret's Church, Northam. Tall west tower with diagonal buttresses, pinnacles, and turret. Wagon-roofs in wide nave and in transept. Thirteenth century font. Five-bay north aisle added in 1593.

Hoskins, W. G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon, 444 (Monograph). SDV17562.

The church's tall tower has for centuries been a landmark for shipping entering the estuary. Twice in its history church was enlarged. Thoroughly restored in 1849-65 when many memorials to local families were removed.

Department of Environment, 1973, Northam, 1 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV17982.

Mainly 15th century, lower part of tower older. Thoroughly restored between 1849 and 1865. Fine position overlooking sea. 14th century 'Kyrie' discovered here.

Griffith, F. M., 1985, DAP/FP, 8, 9, 9a (Aerial Photograph). SDV4830.

Passmore, A. J., 2009, Archaeological Recording in the Tower of the Church of St. Margaret, Northam, Devon (Report - Survey). SDV341785.

St. Margaret's Church is first recorded in the mid 13th century and contains a font of the same date. The main fabric of the church, the nave and chancel, is believed to be of 15th century date, although the base of the tower may contain earlier fabric. The north aisle and Lady Chapel were added in 1593. The church was extensively restored in 1849-1865 during which time the two porches and the St. George's Chapel were probably added. A vestry was added to the north side of the tower in 1906-7. The church has an early 20th century heating system, served by a modern boiler. This replaced two Gurney Stoves located in the north aisle, which are shown on a plan accompanying a faculty of 1864. The current system was probably installed in 1906-7 when the vestry was built as the pipes in the tower are attached to wooden panelling that extends throughout the ground floor of the tower and into the vestry. This panelling is depicted on 1906 plans for the construction of the vestry.

National Monuments Record, 2012, 33122 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV18092.

English Heritage, 2014, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV355683.

Church of St. Margaret. Mainly C15, lower part of tower older. Thoroughly restored between 1849 and 1865. Fine position overlooking sea. C14 "Kyrie" discovered here. Parish Church.

Wapshott, E. + Boyd, N., 2020, The Church of St Margaret, Northam: Historic Buidling Recording (Report - Survey). SDV363882.

South West Archaeology were commissioned to undertake a desk-based assessment and historic building recording during a programme of renovation works to resolve issues with the roof appraisal on St. Margaret’s Church, Northam.

There has been a church in this location since at least the thirteenth century, with the potential that some of the 13th century fabric remains at the base of the tower. There have been multiple phases of rebuild, aggrandisement, repair and restoration, of varying styles, quality and sympathy.

The previous building appraisal identified inconsistencies within the roof structure and in the materials used, providing clear evidence for the different phases of repair carried out. The appraisal also concluded that much of the medieval roof remains, which raises the significance of the building. The appraisal noted many problems with the construction and covering of the roof, and how these contribute to the present and historic issues with water ingress. The historic building recording confirmed that more of the medieval fabric survives than had previously been appreciated.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV124362Article in Serial: Cresswell, B. F.. 1927. Devonshire Churches: The Buildings and Builders. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 33. Unknown. 165.
SDV17562Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954. A New Survey of England: Devon. A New Survey of England: Devon. A5 Hardback. 444.
SDV17982List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1973. Northam. Historic Houses Register. Unknown. 1.
SDV18092National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 2012. 33122. National Monuments Record Index. Website.
SDV336196Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1952. The Buildings of England: North Devon. The Buildings of England: North Devon. Paperback Volume. 128.
SDV337460Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1938. 122SW. Revision of 1933 with additions in 1938. Provisional Edition. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 6 inch Map. Map (Paper).
SDV341785Report - Survey: Passmore, A. J.. 2009. Archaeological Recording in the Tower of the Church of St. Margaret, Northam, Devon. Exeter Archaeology Report. 09.04. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV355678Report - Survey: Laing-Trengove, D.. 11/07/2013. St Margaret's Church, Northam, Devon. Southwest Archaeology Report. 130711. A4 Spiral Bound + Digital.
SDV355683National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2014. National Heritage List for England. Historic Houses Register. Website.
SDV363882Report - Survey: Wapshott, E. + Boyd, N.. 2020. The Church of St Margaret, Northam: Historic Buidling Recording. south West Archaeology. 200912. Digital.
SDV4830Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1985. DAP/FP. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 8, 9, 9a.

Associated Monuments

MDV106903Parent of: Northam World War I Memorial, St Margaret's Church (Monument)
MDV106911Parent of: Northam World War II Roll of Honour (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4425 - Archaeological Recording of the Tower of St. Margaret, Northam
  • EDV6354 - Archaeological Monitoring at St. Margaret's Church, Northam
  • EDV8670 - Historic Building Recording: The Church of St Margaret, Northam (Ref: 200912)

Date Last Edited:Mar 15 2021 3:02PM