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HER Number:MDV5065
Name:St George's Church, Modbury


A large parish church and prominent landmark which was formerly a dependency of Modbury Priory. The main body of the church is 14th century in date but it was refenestrated in the 15th century. The spire was struck by lightning in 1621 but rebuilt in its original form. The roof was extensively repaired in 2016-17 and tree-ring dating on exposed roof timbers indicated a major episode of reroofing in the mid 16th century.


Grid Reference:SX 656 515
Map Sheet:SX65SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishModbury
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishMODBURY

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Church of England HER: 5355
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX65SE/26
  • Old Listed Building Ref (A): 99708

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PARISH CHURCH (Built, XIV to XVII - 1301 AD to 1700 AD (Between))

Full description

BRUSHFIELD, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV102934.

Modbury parish church. The game of fives was played against the south side of the church tower up to a late period (brushfield).

J.B.R., Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV162637.

A financial account of the churchwardens in 1581 is transcribed for readers (j. B. R. ).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV162641.

Brushfield, t. N. /tda/24(1892)345/the church of all saints, east budleigh, part 2.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV162642.

Thompson, a. H. /arch. J. /70(1913)485.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV162643.

Hoskins, w. G. /devon/(1954)436.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV162644.

Pevsner, n. /the buildings of england:north devon/(1952)207.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV162645.

Copeland, g. W. /tda/81(1949)126/18th report of the plymouth branch.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV162646.

J. B. R. /dcnq/4 part1(1906-1907)60-61/a modbury churchwardens' account.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV162647.

Des=timms, s. /as above and plan in parish file.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV162648.

Whittemore, p. J. /dcnq/34(1978-1981)338/the lost monumental brasses of devonshire.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV162649.

Doe/hhr:kingsbridge rural district/(-/-/1960).

Untitled Source (Aerial Photograph). SDV162650.

Aph=dap/fw 11,12(6/3/1986).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV177625.

Nave, arcade to the aisles, and transepts are early 14th century. Aisles altered late perp, tower/spire said to have been rebuilt after having been struck by lightening 1621, though following 14th century design. Font and screen perpendicular (pevsner).

Timms, S. C., Untitled Source (Report - Survey). SDV2.

Vis=26/7/1982(griffith and timms) churchyard, which was extended on north-west side in early 20th century to take in scotts garden, contains no visible evidence of modbury priory, foundations of which were said to have been revealed during the extension. Churchyard is flat and has obviously been levelled (timms).

Department of Environment, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV326218.

Church of st. George. A large and impressive fabric in the local manner built of slate with some later granite detail. It is of c12 origin. The aisles were added in c13 and widened in late medieval period. The c13 tower has a broach spire. Plastered wagon roofs. Crypt below sanctuary. The nave arcades are late c13. Effigies c14 and c15. Two c17 mural monuments of character. Two fine late c17 heraldic ledger stones (doe).

COPELAND, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV33318.

A stone in a buttress south of the chancel shows what appears to be remains of a small 12th century window head. A possible indication of the norman origins of the church (copeland).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV335.

St. George. Mainly early 14th century but enlarged 15th/early 16th century. The n and s transepts are respectively the orcheton and champernowne chapels. An unusual feature is the medieval spire (hoskins).

Whittemore, P. J., Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV5013.

A now lost monumental brass mentioned (whittemore).

South Hams District Council, 2002, Modbury Conservation Area Appraisal (Report - non-specific). SDV356440.

The church is a landmark in the landscape. With the main body of the town out of sight within its hollow, travellors might be forgiven for thinking the church belongs to a village.

Watson, A., 2007-2017?, Devon Crosses, 642 (Vol 5), sketch (Un-published). SDV360833.

A font stands against the east wall of the church. Octagonal in shape, it has a coat of arms on one face which is undecipherable. There are two other fonts within the church.
Font: 0.68 metres (octagonal) by 0.45 metres high. Inside 0.53 metres (circular) by 0.22 metres deep.

Ordnance Survey, 2014, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV355681.

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

Anglican parish church, formerly a dependency of Modbury Priory. Mainly early C14, but refenestration in C15; spire of C14 struck by lightning in 1621 but rebuilt in original form. Coursed rubble, granite dressings, slate roofs, stone spire. Nave, west tower and spire, north and south aisles, north and south transepts, south chantry chapel, chancel with undercroft, 2-storey south porch. Square and lofty tower of severe design, buttressed to 3 offsets, but terminating at 1/4 height; corresponding offsets in west and north walls. West face has renewed 4-light uncusped without hood mould, and small cusped single light with louvres to each face of ringing chamber. Small door north side; clock face to east. Tall broach spire with small lucarne to each face, rises direct from tower without parapet or transitional feature. South side has porch with battlements and attached octagonal stair turret. 2-light window to square head with dripmould over arched opening with flush voussoirs to outer plank doors; inner door has moulded surround to C19 door. Segmental pointed ribbed barrel roof to porch, which has no intermediate floor. To right are three 4-light Perpendicular windows, the easternmost brought lower than the others, divided by simple buttresses; corbel table to eaves. Transept has 4-light uncusped window set high, to thin hoodmould. To right is wall of chantry chapel with two 4-light windows set high, uncusped except in spandrel openings. Battlements square buttress with 2 offsets, to pinnacle bases (not carried above parapet) and diagonal corner buttress. Narrow door in C16 basket-handle arch below a flat pointed arch above horizontal dripmould. East end of chapel has 5-light uncusped window in four-centred arch. South side of chancel has 3-light similar uncusped above C19 2-light in square stopped hood. Main east window is C14 design 5-light cusped above a C16 2-light with square stopped hood, and north side of chancel plan, with small embattled vestry and door. North wall has two 4-light uncusped, then rood-stair turret under swept-down roof in corner to transept which has 3-light Perpendicular window. Priest's door to basket-handle head with recessed mould between windows of north chancel chapel, and to right of transept window a richly carved C16 door surround with Tudor head but with a Jacobean frieze and some egg and dart enrichment. Below the window a projecting tomb recess with quatrefoil light. Right of transept a 4-light uncusped in brought forward wall section, then north aisle wall with a 4-light Perpendicular and 4-light round arched uncusped, with 2 buttresses with 2 offsets. West return has blocked doorway between buttresses and a small segmental-headed C14 2-light adjacent to tower. Interior: nave has 3 broad pointed bays to crude chamfered arches on plain square cavetto caps to octagonal piers without bases, plain bay before tower with attached pilaster to double chamfered arch, the outer chamfer carried down to pyramid stop; at tower end raised 3 steps. Stone flag floor, some concrete, ribbed barrel roof, continuous through crossing bay. North aisle has ribbed barrel roof same height as nave, bay 3 sets out c.l m. South aisle with ribbed barrel as nave but slightly lower, rere-arches to high-set windows, plain wall beyond arcade at west end containing C19 baptistery. At the east end a moulded granite arch carried on a corbel respond on the south side. The crossing has 3 arches with wave and hollow mould carried on trumpet capitals, decorated on the east side. South transept opens to aisle and east chapel, has two early C14 tomb niches with double cusping; one contains C15 alabaster effigy. North transept has vestry screen and organ; basket-handle arch door in east wall. Very rich C14 tomb recess with damaged figures, north wall. Chancel 2-bay 4-centred wave and hollow mould arches to 4 hollows and shafts columns with decorated capitals; plain walls to sanctuary, multi-ribbed barrel ceiling in 42 compartments. Chantry chapels both have ribbed barrel ceilings. Fittings: C19 font on 8 colonnettes; pulpit made up from panels of C15 screen, on tapered octagonal base; reading desk a very fine carved memorial to the 1914-18 war, and opposite this a simplified version of 1952 to Reuben Mears; good Eagle lectern. No glass of significance. Monuments: see transepts; also in naves, high on south side, coloured 1639 tablet, with 5 children, in north aisle several tablets, the best of these of 1690 to John de Train, in classical design; upright against south wall of south chantry, to Philip Champernown, 1684. A fine incised slab, with a signature (7) OELIVIO. (Pevsner, N, South Devon, 1952, Slader, J M, Churches of Devon, 1968).

Arnold, A. Howard, R. + Tyers, C., 2017, Church of St George, Church Lane, Modbury: Tree-ring Analysis (Report - Scientific). SDV361565.

St George's church, formerly a dependency of Modbury Priory, is a large church with a tower and spire forming a prominent landmark. The main body of the church is 14th century. The spire is reputed to have been struck by lightning in 1621 and rebuilt in its 14th century form. The church is believed to have been refenestrated in the 15th century. The nave has a wagon roof, as do the aisles, transepts, Lady Chapel, Vestry and chancel.
Listed Grade I, it was placed on the Heritage at Risk Register in 2013, the roofs being described as being in poor condition. It was awarded a Heritage Lottery grant in 2015 for an extensive programme of roof repairs and restoration.
Dendrochronological analysis was undertaken in order to better understand the historical development of the church and inform advice and significance. A total of 90 core samples were taken from timbers in the nave, north aisle, chancel, Lady Chapel and vestry as the roofs were exposed during the progressive stages of repair. The analysis was undertaken on 68 of the 90 samples, the other 22 being found to have too few rings for reliable dating. The analysis produced two site chronologies. The first which includes timbers from all five roofs sampled spanned the years AD1343-1540. Interpretation of the sapwood suggests that they are broadly coeval with the majority likely to have been felled in the mid 16th century. This indicates a major episode of reroofing of the church in the mid 16th century. The second site chronology comprising two samples could not be dated.
See report for full details.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV102934Migrated Record: BRUSHFIELD.
SDV162637Migrated Record: J.B.R..
SDV162641Migrated Record:
SDV162642Migrated Record:
SDV162643Migrated Record:
SDV162644Migrated Record:
SDV162645Migrated Record:
SDV162646Migrated Record:
SDV162647Migrated Record:
SDV162648Migrated Record:
SDV162649Migrated Record:
SDV162650Aerial Photograph:
SDV177625Migrated Record:
SDV2Report - Survey: Timms, S. C..
SDV326218Migrated Record: Department of Environment.
SDV33318Migrated Record: COPELAND.
SDV335Migrated Record:
SDV355681Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2014. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #93778 ]
SDV355683National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2014. National Heritage List for England. Historic Houses Register. Website.
SDV356440Report - non-specific: South Hams District Council. 2002. Modbury Conservation Area Appraisal. South Hams District Council. A2 Folded + Digital.
SDV360833Un-published: Watson, A.. 2007-2017?. Devon Crosses. Mixed Archive Material + Digital. 642 (Vol 5), sketch.
SDV361565Report - Scientific: Arnold, A. Howard, R. + Tyers, C.. 2017. Church of St George, Church Lane, Modbury: Tree-ring Analysis. Historic England. 70-2017. Digital.
SDV5013Migrated Record: Whittemore, P. J..

Associated Monuments

MDV106894Parent of: Modbury War Memorials, St George's Church (Monument)
MDV121640Related to: Monument in Churchstow Churchyard (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7636 - Tree-ring Analysis of Oak Timbers at St George's Church, Modbury

Date Last Edited:Nov 8 2018 12:42PM