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HER Number:MDV1658
Name:St Michael's Church, Brentor


Parish church of St Michael de Rupe, located on the hill of Brent Tor. Probably largely 13th century with 15th century alterations and 15th century tower. Evidence of considerable repair. Restoration of 1889-1890. Slate sundial fixed to exterior south wall of tower dated 1642 has initials W.B. for Walter Batten and 12 zodiacal signs carved on the border.


Grid Reference:SX 470 804
Map Sheet:SX48SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishBrentor
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishBRENTOR

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Church of England HER: 5370
  • National Monuments Record: SX48SE20
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 1571744
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX48SE/5
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX48SE/5/2
  • Old Listed Building Ref (I): 92287

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PARISH CHURCH (Built, XIII - 1201 AD (Between) to 1300 AD (Between))
  • SUNDIAL (XVII - 1642 AD to 1642 AD)

Full description

Griffith, F. M., 17/09/1996, DAP/ABH, DAP/ABH 1-5 (Aerial Photograph). SDV265157.

Hine, J., 1866, St. Michaels, Brent Tor, pg 116-121 (Article in Serial). SDV262093.

A 'beacon church' built in the 13th century by the Abbots of Tavistock. Nave 11.2 metre long by 4.5 metre wide. Tower. Two small early English lancet windows and a modern window at the eastern end. Hine believes this to be the original church with later additions. Masonry is apparently ironstone with green slate dressings. Only 3.3 metre high from the floor to ridge. Massive moulded oak roof covered with lead. A single bell said to bear inscription, "gallus vocor ego, solus per omne sono". Ancient octagonal plain front.

Reichel, O. J., 1898, The Domesday Churches of Devon, pg 310 (Article in Serial). SDV863.

There is said to have been a rural oratory at Brentor at the time of the Domesday survey: it was one of those areas where Tavistock Abbey held estates.

Chanter, J. F., 1927, Sixteenth Report on Church Plate, 109-110 (Article in Serial). SDV239594.

Church plate in parish church. Chalice, an elegant little wine cup covered with arabesque scroll-work. Bowl very conical, baluster stem with a band of hit-and-miss ornamentation. Marks: maker indistinct and London hallmarks for 1596. Paten A, plain on stand, very roughly made of thin silver. No marks. Paten B, pewter on stand. Flagon, pewter, with flat lid. 17th century.

Fryer Cornelius, C., 1952, Ancient Churches of the Tavistock Deanery, Devon, pg 47-72, plates (Article in Serial). SDV18005.

Parish church of Saint Michael. Built by Robert Giffard in 1140, rebuilt by the Abbey of Tavistock in 1319. Made of volcanic stone, quarried on the hill. Earthwork of unknown purpose and date runs around the hill, well below the summit, in the form of a massive, stone-faced bank. Rev Sabine Baring-Gould wrote in the "Devonshire Little Guide" that the hill was fortified at an earlier date. The hill is 344 metres above sea level. Aisle-less rectangle without structural division between nave and chancel. Mainly 13th century with 16th century north porch. Dwarf embattled tower, possibly 14th century. Lancet window on north side of church. Font of plain octagonal granite.

Hoskins, W. G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon, pg 348 (Monograph). SDV17562.

Cambridge University Collection, 1955, CUC/QC (Aerial Photograph). SDV262091.

Oblique aerial photograph of the site taken on 25/6/1955.

Russell, P., 1955, Fire Beacons in Devon, pg 279 (Article in Serial). SDV336138.

Benson, H., 1956, Church orientations and patronal festivals, pg 212 (Article in Serial). SDV262094.

Crowley, J., 1961, Sundials in South Devon, pg 267-8, Figure 1 (Article in Serial). SDV4705.

Parish church. Earliest dial in south Devon, 1624. Of primitive design and workmanship. Brooding over the dial is a curious figure, half angel-half imp, wearing a flat cap and having outstretched wings like arms with very large feathers. The feet are out of proportion, turning outwards from the body, with no legs. Below is the sun, with an oval face and unpleasant countenance. The name Walter Batten is at the bottom of the dial, and the same initials are at the top dividing the date in two. On a border outside the figures, almost obliterated, are hieroglyphics, six on each side. Probably crude representations of the sign of zodiac.

Burton, C. K. + Matthews, G. L., 1981, The Church of St. Michael, Brentor, pg 3-13 (Monograph). SDV262026.

The church is 37 feet by 14 feet 6 inches and is the fourth smallest complete parish church in England. It consists of nave, chancel, (not developed), north porch and a low unbuttressed tower (32 feet high), probably built in the 14th century and raised to its present height and embattled a century later. The walls are low and built of volcanic stone taken from the tor with dressings of green slate stone from Hurdwick, near Tavistock. The chancel floor is raised one step, a screen probably divided the chancel from the nave. Doorways to north and south walls. The south window with a semi-circular head could be 12th century. The porch is a late addition. The roof is of simple framed rafter construction and of a very flat pitch, believed to be a copy of the original 15th century roof replaced in 1889-90. Between 1889-90 the church was restored. It now seats about 50 persons and is used for public worship during the summer months and on festivals.
There is a small wine cup covered with arabesques, i.e. the exterior of the bowl is etched with foliage etc., curiously intertwined after the manner of Arabian designs. It is London made of 1596. A footed paten, very roughly made of thin silver, has no marks but is probably early Georgian. These are not kept in the church. A 17th century "Beefeater" type flagon and a Victorian paten by Spackman were stolen from the church in the summer of 1964.
The font is an octagonal granite basin without ornament of any kind, and stands on a pedestal of the same shape. The remains of the iron fastenings for securing the cover may be seen in the rim of the bowl. The font is the only furnishing in the church which dates from before the restoration of 1890.
There is a stone sundial on the south side of the tower, one of the oldest in south Devon.

Griffith, F. M., 1984, DAP/CI, DAP/CI 11, 12 (Aerial Photograph). SDV344279.

Griffith, F., 1988, Devon's Past. An Aerial View, pg 66 photograph (Monograph). SDV64198.

Griffith, F. M., 1996, DAP/ABG, DAP/ABG 11-15 (Aerial Photograph). SDV262102.

Greeves, T. A. P., 1996, Devonshire Association Annual Meeting 1996. Field Excursion Monday 10th June. Archaeological Sites North of Tavistock, pg 1-4 (Un-published). SDV342363.

The original church may be represented by a rectilinear earthwork just below the granite steps leading to the churchyard (MDV64248).

Greeves, T. A. P., 2003, Was Brentor a Dark Age centre?, pg 8-10 (Article in Serial). SDV262088.

In about 1802 Mr Bray recorded the following legend about the church: ‘and there is a tradition among the vulgar that its foundation was originally laid at the foot of the hill; but that the enemy of all angels, the prince of darkness, removed the stones by night from the base to the summit’. The foundations of a building to the north may be the site of an earlier church, and it is a similar size to the present church.

Ordnance Survey, 2012, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV348725.

English Heritage, 2012, National Heritage List for England, 1104836 (National Heritage List for England). SDV348729.

Parish church, (formerly listed as Church of St Michael). Probably largely 13th century with 15th century alterations and 15th century tower. Evidence of considerable repair. Restoration of 1889-1890. (For full detail see Designation Record DDV2555)

Historic England, 2021-2022, NRHE to HER website, Accessed 13/04/2021 (Website). SDV364039.

Parish church. Probably largely 13th century with 15th century alterations and 15th century tower. Evidence of considerable repair. Restoration of 1889-1890. Local volcanic stone, formerly rendered, with local Hardwick stone dressings, lead roof concealed behind parapets. Small 13th century nave and chancel plan, east front masonry indicates narrow width of previous chancel. In the 15th century the tower was added and the chancel extended to the same width as the nave, and the probably steeply-pitched 13th century roof was replaced by an almost flat 15th century roof protected from the weather by tall battlemented parapets supported on the 13th century corbel table. Very exposed position and fortified appearance with 1 window only to north and south sides and deep battlemented coped parapet carried on 13th century moulded corbels, some replacement of parapet and corbels. Unbuttressed throughout (no source recorded in this record).
Related Archives/Objects:
View of Brent Tor and the church of St Michael De Rupe from the north-west

Sources / Further Reading

SDV17562Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954. A New Survey of England: Devon. A New Survey of England: Devon. A5 Hardback. pg 348.
SDV18005Article in Serial: Fryer Cornelius, C.. 1952. Ancient Churches of the Tavistock Deanery, Devon. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 15. Unknown. pg 47-72, plates.
SDV239594Article in Serial: Chanter, J. F.. 1927. Sixteenth Report on Church Plate. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 59. A5 Hardback. 109-110.
SDV262026Monograph: Burton, C. K. + Matthews, G. L.. 1981. The Church of St. Michael, Brentor. The Church of St. Michael, Brentor. Photocopy. pg 3-13.
SDV262088Article in Serial: Greeves, T. A. P.. 2003. Was Brentor a Dark Age centre?. Dartmoor Magazine. 71. Photocopy. pg 8-10.
SDV262091Aerial Photograph: Cambridge University Collection. 1955. CUC/QC. Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photographs. Photograph (Paper).
SDV262093Article in Serial: Hine, J.. 1866. St. Michaels, Brent Tor. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 1: Part 5. Unknown. pg 116-121.
SDV262094Article in Serial: Benson, H.. 1956. Church orientations and patronal festivals. Antiquaries Journal. 36. Unknown. pg 212.
SDV262102Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1996. DAP/ABG. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). DAP/ABG 11-15.
SDV265157Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 17/09/1996. DAP/ABH. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). DAP/ABH 1-5.
SDV336138Article in Serial: Russell, P.. 1955. Fire Beacons in Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 87. A5 Hardback. pg 279.
SDV342363Un-published: Greeves, T. A. P.. 1996. Devonshire Association Annual Meeting 1996. Field Excursion Monday 10th June. Archaeological Sites North of Tavistock. A4 Stapled. pg 1-4.
SDV344279Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1984. DAP/CI. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). DAP/CI 11, 12.
SDV348725Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2012. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital).
SDV348729National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2012. National Heritage List for England. Website. 1104836.
SDV364039Website: Historic England. 2021-2022. NRHE to HER website. https://nrhe-to-her.esdm.co.uk/NRHE. Website. Accessed 13/04/2021.
SDV4705Article in Serial: Crowley, J.. 1961. Sundials in South Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 93. A5 Hardback. pg 267-8, Figure 1.
SDV64198Monograph: Griffith, F.. 1988. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Paperback Volume. pg 66 photograph.
SDV863Article in Serial: Reichel, O. J.. 1898. The Domesday Churches of Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 30. A5 Paperback. pg 310.

Associated Monuments

MDV33068Parent of: Glanville chest tomb north of St Michael's Church, Brentor (Monument)
MDV33068Related to: Glanville chest tomb north of St Michael's Church, Brentor (Monument)
MDV1661Related to: Christ Church, Brentor (Building)
MDV33068Parent of: Glanville chest tomb north of St Michael's Church, Brentor (Monument)
MDV33068Related to: Glanville chest tomb north of St Michael's Church, Brentor (Monument)
MDV1669Related to: Hillfort at Brent Tor (Monument)

Associated Finds

  • FDV3066 - CHURCH PLATE (XVI to XVII - 1596 AD to 1699 AD)

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Sep 6 2022 3:25PM