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HER Number:MDV2214
Name:Church House, now the Community Centre, Combe Martin


The Church House, close association with the Church of St Peter Ad Vincula. Earliest known reference to its exisitance is in 1640.


Grid Reference:SS 587 463
Map Sheet:SS54NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishCombe Martin
DistrictNorth Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishCOMBE MARTIN

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 34104
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS54NE/8
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II): 97047

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CHURCH HOUSE (XV to XX - 1401 AD to 2000 AD (Between))

Full description

Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

Marked as a school on the 1880s-1890s 25 inch Ordnance Survey map.

Copeland, G. W., 1963, Devonshire Church Houses: Part 4, 143-144 (Article in Serial). SDV7678.

The church house chamber, completed in 1723, was built by Richard Horwood who was rector for nearly 33 years. Vestry and other meetings were held in it. A late example.

Dunkerley, T., 2005, Errors to English Heritage NMR. Combe Martin (Correspondence). SDV347584.

The will of Richard Heardinge of Bursacott, died 22nd February 1640 requests that the Church House be made into an almshouse. Suggested that the building is dated circa 1490.

Collings, A. G. + Manning, P. T. + Valentin, J., 2007, The North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Phase 1. Archaeological Survey. Summary Report, No. 1215 (Report - Assessment). SDV339712.

The 'church house chamber' completed in 1723, was built by Richard Horwood, who was rector for nearly thirty-three years. Vestry and other meetings were held in it. A late example.

National Monuments Record, 2011, 34104 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV347585.

Church House in Combe Martin was probably built in the 15th century; it was made an almshouse after 1641 as the result of a bequest in the will of Richard Heardinge. The building was altered circa 1723 when part of the building was converted for use as a vestry. It became a workhouse and was altered in the early 19th century. In the late 19th century it was extended for use as a school, the left hand range being now the older part of the building. It is now the Combe Martin Community Centre. It is built of unrendered stone rubble with ashlar dressings and has an asbestos slate roof with gabled ends. The building now has a U-shaped plan and is mainly of one storey. Other details: SS54NE11. Record last updated 2006..

English Heritage, 2011, Combe Martin (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV348459.

Application received requesting that the list description for The Community Centre, Church Street, be amended to reflect research undertaken by the applicant. The applicant claims that the building was originally built as a Church House in the mid 15th century.

History: Church houses had close associations with the church; typically being built for the brewing and selling of ales to provide church funds. It also served as the centre for the social activities of the parish. They typically date from the mid-15 to the early 17th century and were most commonly found in the West Country, and were prevalent in Devon. They typically had a large first-floor room approached by an external staircase, with a series of smaller rooms, such as stores and shops, to the ground floor; a plan form that was akin to the first-floor hall house. The church house went into decline following the Reformation, dying out as a building type in the 17th century.

The applicant claims that the community centre in Combe Martin (which is currently listed as a former workhouse with late-18th or early-19th century origins), was originally built as a mid-15th century church house. The applicant has provided a detailed report on the history of the building which sets out its chronology based on documentary sources and its historic fabric. The report suggests, but is unable to confirm, that the Harding family of Combe Martin provided the land for building the church house and that it operated as such between circa 1450-1640. The will of Richard Harding, dated 1640, provided money for the conversion of the church house to an almshouse, implying that the building’s original function as a church house had ceased by this point. This is understood to be the earliest documented reference to the church house. To the external walls of the building is evidence for a number of blocked window and door openings,
some of which may relate to its use as a church house, others to the building’s subsequent uses. There is no significant evidence in the historic fabric of the building to corroborate the mid-15th century date suggested by the applicant.

From 1662-1800 it was used as poorhouse, and from 1800-1834 as a workhouse. In 1834 it became an endowed free school, becoming a national school in 1856 until the local education authority took control of the building in 1906. From 1969 to the present day the former church house has been a community centre. An historic photograph of 1882 depicts a gabled porch and bell-turret to the west gable of the community centre. Both have since been removed. The photograph also shows the additional wing to the south forming new school rooms. This extension is depicted on the first edition Ordnance Survey (OS) map published in 1889. The current Ordnance Survey map shows that the building has been further extended to the south-west and that the footprint of the original building has been quadrupled.

Building: former Church House, now a community centre

Date: probably early 17th century, but extensively altered and extended in the 19th century.

Materials: rubble stone with ashlar dressings. Asbestos slate roof with crested ridge tiles.

Plan: an asymmetrical plan consisting of two parallel gable-end ranges with a connecting entrance block between which forms a U-shaped plan. An additional gable end range adjoins the building at the right-hand end and projects forward. Each range contains a single large room.

Exterior: single-storey building, with principal elevation to the west. To the gable ends of the two outer ranges are large tripartite, transomed, mullion windows of three lights with single sidelights. There is a bell to the gable end of the right-hand range. The gable end of the inner range has a three-light transomed mullion window set within a two-centred arch surround with ashlar impost band. The connecting range has an entrance doorway to the left of a five-light transomed mullioned window, both with pointed arch heads, beneath a hipped roof. To the north elevation of the left-hand range is a tall three-light double transomed window and a two-light mullion window which were both inserted in the 19th century. There are a number of infilled doorways and window openings to the left-hand range and evidence of a roof line of a former attached building, all of which relate to the building’s previous uses.

Interior: no internal inspection (2011), but the main ranges are understood to have arch-braced roofs.

Selected Sources Trevor Dunkerley, A definitive history of Church House, Combe Martin. Circa 1450-2011, Unpublished report, 2011

Ordnance Survey, 2011, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV346129.

English Heritage, 2011, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV347072.

The Community Centre. Late 18th or early 19th century fabric to left hand range, which was originally the workhouse, altered and considerably extended in late 19th century when it became a school. Unrendered stone rubble with ashlar dressings. Asbestos slate roofs with gable ends and crested ridge tiles. Asymmetrical plan consisting of two parallel gable-ended ranges with connecting entrance-block between forming U-shaped plan with with additional gable-ended range at right-end adjoining to and projecting forward of the right-hand range. Each range contains a single large room. Single storey. Large tripartite transomed mullion windows of 3 lights with single sidelights to gable ends of the two outer ranges. Connecting range has entrance doorway to left of 5-light transoned mullioned windows with hipped roof. Gable end of inner range to right has a stepped 3 light transoned mullion window in two- centred-arched surround with ashlar impost band. Principal windows have pointed- arched lights. Bell to gable of right-hand range. Outer wall of left-hand range has 5 infilled doorways/window openings which formed part of the original workhouse, and a tall 3-light double transomed mullion window to left of a 2 light mullion window both inserted in 19th century.
Interior: main ranges have arch-braced roofs, otherwise altered in 20th century. Date listed: 9th April 1987.

English Heritage, 2012, Combe Martin (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV348848.

Application requesting that the list description for the Community Centre be amended to reflect research undertaken by the applicant. The applicant claims that the building was originally built as a Church House in the mid 15th century.

Following detailed documentary research the applicant has suggested that the Community Centre may date from the mid-15th century. Church houses were typically constructed between the mid-15th century and early 17th century; although in the case of the Combe Martin example the earliest known reference to its existence is in 1640 when money was set aside for its conversion to an almshouse. there does not appear to be any surviving 15th century fabric within the building. That said, it is clear that the building is considerably earlier than stated in the current list description and this should be amended to reflect its earlier origins. Furthermore, the research has demonstrated that the building was originally a church house which adds to its historic interest. Church houses demonstrate the social and economic relationship between the church and their parish and are of added interest when the visual relationship between the two buildings has been maintained. At Combe Martin, the 13th century Church of St Peter Ad Vincula (Grade I) with which the church house would have been closely associated, is located 70 metres to the west of the community centre. In light of further documentary research, it is recommended that an amendment with a fuller listing description should be issued to reflect both the earlier origins of the building and its former use as a church house.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV339712Report - Assessment: Collings, A. G. + Manning, P. T. + Valentin, J.. 2007. The North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Phase 1. Archaeological Survey. Summary Report. Exeter Archaeology Report. 06.22 (rev.1). A4 Stapled + Digital. No. 1215.
SDV346129Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2011. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #83324 ]
SDV347072National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2011. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV347584Correspondence: Dunkerley, T.. 2005. Errors to English Heritage NMR. Combe Martin. Email to B. Horner. A4 Single Sheet + Digital.
SDV347585National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 2011. 34104. National Monuments Record Database. Website.
SDV348459List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: English Heritage. 2011. Combe Martin. English Heritage Report. A4 Stapled.
SDV348848List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: English Heritage. 2012. Combe Martin. Amendment to List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interes. A4 Stapled.
SDV7678Article in Serial: Copeland, G. W.. 1963. Devonshire Church Houses: Part 4. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 95. A5 Hardback. 143-144.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV5681 - Survey of The Community Centre, Church Street

Date Last Edited:Aug 17 2016 9:04AM