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HER Number:MDV2120
Name:St Mary's Parish Church, Down St Mary


St Mary's parish church in Down St Mary was built in the 11th century, rebuilt in the 15th century and rebuilt again in the 19th century


Grid Reference:SS 742 044
Map Sheet:SS70SW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishDown St. Mary
DistrictMid Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishDOWN ST.MARY

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Church of England HER: 4880
  • National Monuments Record: 899850
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS70SW/2
  • Old Listed Building Ref (I): 441989
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SS70SW23

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PARISH CHURCH (XI to XIX - 1001 AD to 1900 AD (Between))

Full description

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

Parish church of St Mary. This was one of the areas where Buckfast Abbey held estates so it is presumed that an oratory existed here at the time of Domesday.

T. N. B., 1901-1902, Norman Tympana in Devon, 136 (Article in Serial). SDV345930.

There is a Norman tympanum over the south door of the church.

Pevsner, N., 1952, The Buildings of England: North Devon, 81 (Monograph). SDV336196.

The exterior has little of interest, a west tower with stair turret, the body of the church thoroughly renewed in 1878-1880.

Sale, D. M., 1956 - 1958, The Rectors of Down St Mary, 70-2 (Article in Serial). SDV345931.

A list of rectors from 1284 is given. Details of improvements and especially 19th-20th century work given.

Department of Environment, 1986, Down St Mary, 111 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV345932.

Church of St Mary the Virgin. 11th century possibly with Anglo-Saxon origins; rebuilt in 15th century, nave, aisle, chancel and vestry thoroughly renovated and much rebuilt 1878-80.

Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N., 1989, The Buildings of England: Devon, 338 (Monograph). SDV325629.

National Monuments Record, 2010, 899850 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV345933.

Church of 11th century, possibly of Anglo-Saxon origin.

English Heritage, 2010, Historic Houses Register (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV154869.

Church of St Mary the Virgin in Down St Mary was Listed on 26th August 1965. Parish church built in the 11th century possibly with Anglo Saxon origins and rebuilt in the 15th century. The church consists of a nave, aisle, chancel and vestry thoroughly renovated and much rebuilt 1878-8O by J D Gould in collaboration with the Rev W T A Radford and chancel enrichment by G E Street. Tower of roughcast rubble with granite dressings, and some Medieval stone rubble in chancel; 19th century walls of snecked volcanic stone and muds tone with cream, red, purple and grey sandstone detail; slate roof with grey stone embattled crested ridge tiles which are pierced and enriched with fleur-de-lys over the chancel; yellow sandstone roof with purple stone crested ridge to porch. Nave and chancel under continuous roof, north aisle with east chapel and vestry at right angles to north of chapel, west tower and south porch. Perpendicular tower, the rest Decorated Gothic style. 15th century low and plain tower in two stages with low set back buttresses up to the lower dripcourse. It has a chamfered plinth, embattled parapet and on north side stair turret with tiny granite and volcanic stone slit windows projects square and rises above tower with its own embattled parapet. Belfry has original granite two-light windows with elliptical, nearly round-headed heads. On the west side volcanic two-centred arch doorway has chamfered surround with pyramid stops. It contains a 19th century plank door on strap hinges with fleur-de-lys finials. Above is a largely original volcanic stone three-light arch-headed window with simple Perpendicular tracery and soffit chamfered hood. Tiny light to ringing loft on south side of tower. Rest of church has unified scheme of circa 1880. Decorated style windows. All have different designs of geometric tracery. All mullions and tracery of Bathstone but surrounds of various stone. South side of nave of purple-coloured masonry is enlivened by two horizontal bands of grey ashlar, one at window sill level and another at the springing level of the main arch-headed windows. There is a shallow buttress at left end. Left end window is a small square headed single light window. The two main windows to the right of the porch are arch-headed windows of similar size but left has three lights and right has four lights. Each has jambs of alternate purple and red ashlar with soffit-chamfered purple arch. South porch is gabled with front flanked by buttresses. two-centred outer arch with double ring. Inner ring of moulded Bathstone, outer ring of soffit-chamfered volcanic stone, both onto grey moulded imposts and volcanic responds have external niche for small red sandstone circular columns. Above the arch is a soffit-moulded dripcourse with an elaborately carved arch-headed niche in the apex and containing a terracotta figure of the Virgin and Child. Purple volcanic coping and apex surmounted by an ornate cross. Small trefoil-headed single lights in each side. The break between nave and chancel is marked by the projecting pulpit passage. Projecting square with yellow stone monopitch roof and solid central gablet with fleur-de-lys ridge. It has moulded eaves cornice. Purple volcanic front includes blind four-bay arcade of bands of yellow, grey and purple stone and centre two bays pierced by small slit windows. South side of chancel of possibly Medieval rubble and includes a single 19th century two-light arch-headed window. East end has large three-light window with moulded hood and carved vine leaf labels, and another similar in recessed east end of north aisle. Both gables have shaped kneelers and soffit-moulded coping and crosses on the apex, an ornate Iona cross to chancel and a Botonee cross to north aisle. North side of chancel includes a possibly 15th century tiny round-headed lancet. Vestry has simple 3-light window in north gable end with moulded hood and carved labels and west side of roof carried down over entrance lobby which includes a shoulder-headed doorway containing original door and twin trefoil-headed lights. Ornate chimney shaft of different coloured stone. North aisle has two square-headed three-light windows with geometric tracery. There is a buttress between the windows and setback buttresses on west corner. West end aisle window is three-lights and similar to that at east end. Good interior with very distinctive style. Porch has open common rafter roof with shaped collars. Sides of patterned and coloured stone. South doorway is shoulder-headed arch, the lintel using a carved Anglo-Saxon tympanum of Salcombe stone. Its stylised carving is well-preserved. It may represent Daniel in the Lion's Den although more obscure subjects have been proposed such as Adam naming beasts or the Norse myth of the god Tyr and Fenris the wolf. 19th century double doors with ornate strap hinges. 19th century tall tower arch has chamfered arch ring of Beerstone with soffit containing contrasting bands of coloured stone and rests on plain soffit chamfered imposts. Inside the tower contains 15th century two-centred arch doorway of volcanic stone with chamfered surround which contains original studded plank door. No chancel arch. Continuous open wagon roof to nave and chancel, the break marked by a bay without purlins. Roof is heavily restored and most timbers appear to be 19th century. It has moulded ribs and purlins and a series of 19th century carved rose motif bosses. It retains the 1880 scheme of painted decoration. Wall plate and soffits of the common rafter trusses have geometric designs interrupted by stylised rose motifs and mouldings are highlighted with gold and maroon. The paintwork is more elaborate in the chancel. North aisle roof is an open wagon roof which appears to retain higher proportion of 15th century work including many of the varied carved bosses. The break between the aisle and east chapel is marked by a ring of bosses representing the Face of the Virgin Mary. It is painted like the nave roof. 15th century granite four-bay arcade between nave and aisle with one bay overlapping to chancel. It has moulded piers (Pevsners Cornish A-type) with simple capitals to shafts only. Large 19th century volcanic arch with a broad bead-moulded soffit to vestry which has a boarded vaulted roof with ribs of arch-braced trusses showing. North aisle wall of exposed plain masonry but wall over arcade (both sides) and south wall of nave are faced with 19th century ashlar in which different coloured stone are employed to produce a distinctive decorative effect. The nave includes small blocks of Beerstone carved with sacred symbols and arcade has mosaic friezes over the arches. Nave arcade and aisle include projecting blocks of Beerstone which were obviously intended for carved enrichment but were not finished. The north wall the roofs and vestsry were designed by J D Gould. The stone patterning by Gould in collaboration with Rev W T A Radford. The chancel, however, was designed by G E Street. It is plastered with a rich wainscotting of Nottingham alabaster. Wainscotting is enriched with panels of sunken circles with chamfered surrounds to coloured marble and each circle framed by black fleur-de-lys of inlaid marble. Ornate alabaster reredos of three panels. Larger central pane with embattled cornice and carved leaf franc around delicate pattern of polychrome mosaic and is flanked by panels with sunken quatrefoils containing carved angels against a ground of blue mosaic. Brass alter cross also designed by Street. On south wall is a Beerstone arch-headed piscina and credence, the back of which is a polychrome mosaic of the Pelican in her Piety under a Holy Grail. The alabaster and marble work was executed by Earp of Pimlico and the mosaics by Salviati. The superior brass altar rail has double standards filled with Gothic tracery and embellished with coloured glass and enamel designed by Gould. Most of floor of black and red tiles but chancel has patterns of encaustic tiles. North chapel has marble altar shelf (grey with inlaid red lozenges and black Latin cross) resting on carved Beerstone brackets and below is more patterned stonework including a band of alabaster with inlaid marble. The floor below has encaustic tiles set in a mosaic pattern of tiny tiles framed with marble. To right is a tiny tent-headed niche which may be Medieval. Chancel has 19th century Gothic oak stalls. The oak rood screen includes a little 15th century work but enough to show that the rebuild is a faithful reproduction of the original. Wainscotting has applied Perpendicular tracery with lower scenes of quatrefoils. Windows of Pevsners A-type tracery and coving includes Gothic-only decoration. Rich cornice of four bands of delicately carved and undercut foliage. Restoration work was professionally carried out by Zacharia and William Bushell, local master joiners who lived close by and whose work is commemorated in an inscribed plaque over south door. Magnificent pulpit by Gould is entered from chancel by projecting pulpit passage. Stone base of different-coloured stone includes stem of clustered shafts with moulded capitals and bases and has circular drum of ornate wrought iron and brasswork embellished with jewel-like coloured glass. 19th century oak lectern. All benches, including one in chapel, are oak and good early 16th century craftsmanship. The frontals and rear benches have blind arcades of applied Perpendicular tracery. The bench ends are carved with frames of wreathed foliage flowing from vases. Most are carved with two-bay arcade of tracery with quatrefoils at base and featuring bas relief Renaissance motifs including faces, symbols of the Passion, etc. 19th century prie dieu uses 16th century carved bench
ends. 15th century granite font with octagonal bowl and base and moulded stem, and 19th century hood. 17th century chest in chapel and organ rebuilt 1932 according to plaque. Good 19th century stained glass throughout. Chancel glass by Hardman of Birmingham, the rest by Clayton and Bell. The finest is the Mary Thain memorial (died 1886), the Jesse window at the west end of the aisle. Only memorial is white marble plaque in north aisle remembering First World War dead. Besides the Anglo-Saxon tympanum the church includes high quality 19th century work. The Rev W T A Radford determined the whole shape of the restoration. He was squire, parson, patron and incumbent. For half a century he was one of the most important figures in the High Church movement in the Diocese of Exeter and also had strong and well-informed views on architecture. He was a founder member of the Exeter Diocesan Architectural Society and his friends included G E Street and Clayton and Bell. Other details: LBS Number 441989.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV154869List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: English Heritage. 2010. Historic Houses Register. Historic Houses Register. Website.
SDV325629Monograph: Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N.. 1989. The Buildings of England: Devon. The Buildings of England: Devon. Hardback Volume. 338.
SDV336196Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1952. The Buildings of England: North Devon. The Buildings of England: North Devon. Paperback Volume. 81.
SDV345930Article in Serial: T. N. B.. 1901-1902. Norman Tympana in Devon. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 1 Part 1. Unknown. 136.
SDV345931Article in Serial: Sale, D. M.. 1956 - 1958. The Rectors of Down St Mary. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 27. Unknown. 70-2.
SDV345932List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1986. Down St Mary. Historic Houses Register. A4 Comb Bound. 111.
SDV345933National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 2010. 899850. National Monuments Record Database. Website.
SDV863Article in Serial: Reichel, O. J.. 1898. The Domesday Churches of Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 30. A5 Paperback. 310.

Associated Monuments

MDV2122Parent of: BENCH END in the Parish of Down St. Mary (Monument)
MDV2121Parent of: ROOD SCREEN in the Parish of Down St. Mary (Monument)
MDV104341Parent of: War Memorials in St. Mary's Churh (Monument)
MDV2123Related to: Churchyard Cross in Down St Mary (Building)
MDV2119Related to: Churchyard Cross in Down St Mary (Building)
MDV40651Related to: Hacche-Thain Headstone (Building)
MDV40652Related to: Hound Headstone (Building)
MDV40648Related to: Radford Headstone (Building)
MDV40649Related to: Radford Headstone (Building)
MDV40650Related to: Radford Headstone (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Jan 4 2018 10:57AM