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HER Number:MDV475
Name:Abbotsham St. Helen


Mainly 13th century re-building with contemporary addition of tower. Fine set of 16th century carved bench ends. Also 18th century monument.


Grid Reference:SS 424 264
Map Sheet:SS42NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishAbbotsham
Ecclesiastical ParishABBOTSHAM

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Church of England HER: 5249
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS42NW/6
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II*): 91324

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PARISH CHURCH (Post Roman to XXI - 410 AD to 2009 AD (Between))

Full description

NMR, SS42NW29 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV18536.

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

As this was one of the areas where Tavistock Abbey held estates, there is thought to have been an oratory at Abbotsham at the time of the Domesday survey.

Chanter, J. F., 1910, Christianity in Devon before AD 909, 491 (Article in Serial). SDV870.

Cresswell, B. F., 1916 - 1917, Sittings in Churches, 118 (Article in Serial). SDV15403.

Carved bench end depicting arms of Bishop Vesey of Exeter noted.

Shebbeare, C. E., 1920 - 1921, Abbotsham Court in Byegone Days, 292, 294 (Article in Serial). SDV18519.

There are several memorial slabs referring to members of Shebbeare family.

Watkin, H. R., 1922 - 1923, Bell Inscriptions at Abbotsham Church and Torre Abbey, 25-17 (Article in Serial). SDV18520.

An Old English inscription on a bell in the church has been repeated on a bell hanging in the Abbot's tower at Torre Abbey.

Pevsner, N., 1952, The Buildings of England: North Devon, 37-38 (Monograph). SDV336196.

Unusual position of tower at NE end. Original ceiled wagon-roofs, font, bench-ends, church plate and monument also noted.

Hoskins, W. G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon, 317 (Monograph). SDV17562.

Abbotsham, parish church. Dedicated to st. Helen, the fabric is mainly 13th century re-building with contemporary addition of tower. Fine set of 16th century carved bench ends. Also 18th century monument.

Hoskins, W. G., 1954 - 1955, Devon Parish Notes, 101-102 (Article in Serial). SDV231757.

For site of probable pre-13th century church see Monument 11728.

Lomas, H. A., 1956, Untitled Source (Monograph). SDV18578.

Department of Environment, 1958, Abbotsham (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV320587.

Anglican parish church. Early C13, with tower of c.1300; restored 1870. Coursed slatestone rubble with ashlar dressings; gabled slate roof with C19 coping and kneelers. Cruciform plan: early C13 nave and chancel; tower of c.1300 to north east and early C14 south chapel. Mid/late C19 east window of 3 graduated lancets; early C13 two-light chamfered round-arched window to north with C19 mullion and sill; C13 chamfered lancet window to south. Late Cl9 vestry to south has hoodmould over pointed chamfered doorway and lateral stack flanked by trefoiled lancets. South transept: early C14 quatrefoil light to east; hood mould over early C14 two-light south window with curvilinear tracery and C20 mullions; mid/late C19 four-light west window and two 2-light Y-tracery windows set in square-headed architraves.
Three-stage north-east tower of c.1300 has offset corner buttresses to lower-stage; c. 1300 Y-tracery 2-light window above blocked door to north; similar C19 window to east; C13 lancet window beneath string course of belfry stage, which has Y-tracery 2-light windows of c.1300; string course beneath crenellated parapet. Rood-stair projection in north-east corner of nave. In east gable of nave are label moulds over two C17 two-light mullioned windows, and a C14 trefoiled light. The nave has much C19 restoration, including the offset buttresses, hammer-dressed quoining to south west and fenestration. Mid C19 two-light Decorated-style window and Y-tracery window to south; to north side of nave is mid C19 two-light Decorated-style window and C13 lancet window flanking mid C19 porch with pointed-arched doorways and studded door. Mid C19 three-light Decorated-style west window. Interior: rendered walls. Beautifully-carved reredos, with figures of angels and central nativity scene set in crocketed canopies, in memory of Rev. E.M.W. Sealy (d. 1914) and his son (d. 1915). Piscina restored with marble basin at same time. C19 chancel arch. C15 waggon roofs with moulded ribs and foliate-carved bosses to chancel (with some C19 restoration), nave and south transept: nave roof has carved figures holding shields which have emblems of various trade guilds, including fuller's tucker (a pair of scissors), carpenter's square, hammer and axe, and anchor, spade and mason's trowel; one shield has arms of Tavistock Abbey, which was the rector of the church. Pointed chamfered arches to transepts. Fittings: chancel has late C19 choir tiles, encaustic sanctuary tiles laid by Henrietta Josepha Hatherly in memory of her sister, d.1847, and marble floor laid in memory of Rev. R.W. Sealy, d. 1914. Nave has late C19 chair and eagle lectern, and Gothic-style pulpit erected 1896. C12 font has fluted bowl set on cable-moulded stem. C15 and C16 bench ends, carved with tracery, foliate decoration and Renaissance emblems as well as Christ bearing the Cross and emblems of the Passion and the initials J.W. and the woolstapler's mark: John Willett was responsible for the plasterwork dated 1616 at Coombe House (q.v). Traceried bench front next to west door is mostly C19 but includes some C15 fragments and a vine-trail moulding. The pews, built in 1724, have brass plates fixed to them, recording names of farms in the parish and which originated in a dispute about seating: the plates mark the seats alloted by a commission appointed in 1723 by the Bishop of Exeter. Monuments: chancel has tablets to Anthony Hony, d. 1639 (with epitaph), Rev. William Walter, d. 1846, and John Walker, d. 1807, and sons; mid C19 Gothic-style tablet to Fortescues and family; heraldic achievement set above memorial to Margaretta Burges, d. 1721/2. Memorial tablets in nave dated 1835, 1916 and 1917; also in nave is memorial to John Willett of Combe, d. 1736, which has heraldic achievement set in broken segmental pediment flanked by angels set above oval panel inscription panel surrounded by drapery swags flanked by scrolls and Corinthian columns. Mid C19 and C20 brasses and tablets in north transept. Other details: LBS Number 91324.

Meade, H. M., 1988, Untitled Source (Un-published). SDV18523.

The parish church of St. Helen lies in the centre of the village at the junction of the roads from Bideford, Northam and Hartland, with the school next to the churchyard on the north side. There is no record of when the church was built but the fabric was rebuilt in the early 13th century. Cruciform plan, the north transept being in the base of the tower on the north side, and used as the ringing chamber and choir vestry. The roofs are barrel shaped, the nave having 10 bays, each 5 1/2 ft square, with 6 across from north - south, formed by wood divisions and carved bosses at all junctions. At the foot of each rafter is a carved angel, bearing a shield, with the arms of Giffard, Raleigh etc. The chancel roof is much lower than the nave, and has only 4 bays, but the bosses are larger. The walls are 30' thick. The windows are comparatively modern, but there are two mullion windows, with two lights each above the chancel arch. The bench ends are early c16 and have various devices, such as emblems of the passion etc. There are 14 on each side of the aisle. Those in the south transept were probably made in 1846.
Norman font with fluted bowl and rope moulding round the top and at the top and bottom of the base. Monuments on the north west wall of the nave is an elaborate carved and coloured (possibly marble) monument to John Willett of Coombe, lord of the manor, who dyed 29.10.1736. On the south wall of the chancel is a memorial to Margaretta Burges 1722, late wife of Samuel Burges, vicar of the church and rector of Instow. A stone plaque on the north wall of the chancel is to Antonius Hony 1639. The east wall of the sanctuary is covered by carved oak panels of worshipping angels and the reredos consists of a carving of the nativity. The whole was put up in 1916 by the Sealy family. There are 3 hexagonal shields about 1ft each side, in the centre of the chancel arch, between the mullioned windows, and one each on the east and north walls of the south transept.

Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N., 1989, The Buildings of England: Devon, 123 (Monograph). SDV325629.

Whiteaway, T., 2002, Archaeological Assessment of Proposed new Primary School at Abbotsham, North Devon, 2-3 (Report - Assessment). SDV336149.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV15403Article in Serial: Cresswell, B. F.. 1916 - 1917. Sittings in Churches. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 9: Part 1. Unknown. 118.
SDV17562Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954. A New Survey of England: Devon. A New Survey of England: Devon. A5 Hardback. 317.
SDV18519Article in Serial: Shebbeare, C. E.. 1920 - 1921. Abbotsham Court in Byegone Days. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 11.1. Unknown. 292, 294.
SDV18520Article in Serial: Watkin, H. R.. 1922 - 1923. Bell Inscriptions at Abbotsham Church and Torre Abbey. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 12. Unknown. 25-17.
SDV18523Un-published: Meade, H. M.. 1988. Parish Checklist. Worksheet.
SDV18536National Monuments Record Database: NMR. SS42NW29. NMR Index. Digital.
SDV18578Monograph: Lomas, H. A.. 1956. History of Abbotsham. Unknown.
SDV231757Article in Serial: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954 - 1955. Devon Parish Notes. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 26. Unknown. 101-102.
SDV320587List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1958. Abbotsham. Historic Houses Register. Digital.
SDV325629Monograph: Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N.. 1989. The Buildings of England: Devon. The Buildings of England: Devon. Hardback Volume. 123.
SDV336149Report - Assessment: Whiteaway, T.. 2002. Archaeological Assessment of Proposed new Primary School at Abbotsham, North Devon. Exeter Archaeology Report. 02.14. A4 Stapled + Digital. 2-3.
SDV336196Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1952. The Buildings of England: North Devon. The Buildings of England: North Devon. Paperback Volume. 37-38.
SDV863Article in Serial: Reichel, O. J.. 1898. The Domesday Churches of Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 30. A5 Paperback. 310.
SDV870Article in Serial: Chanter, J. F.. 1910. Christianity in Devon before AD 909. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 42. A5 Hardback. 491.

Associated Monuments

MDV476Parent of: Abbotsham Parish Font (Monument)
MDV43933Related to: Abbotsham Church Flagon (Find Spot)
MDV11728Related to: CHURCH in the Parish of Northam (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Dec 8 2017 1:34PM