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HER Number:MDV6854
Name:St. Michael's Parish Church, Spreyton


Fifteenth century church renovated in the 19th century. The tower is a landmark that can be seen for miles. A Latin inscription on the carved chancel roof suggests that it was built in 1451.


Grid Reference:SX 697 967
Map Sheet:SX69NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishSpreyton
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishSPREYTON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Church of England HER: 5150
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX69NE/17
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX69NE/17/14
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PARISH CHURCH (Dated, XV - 1451 AD to 1451 AD)

Full description

Thompson, A. H., 1913, Church Architecture in Devon, 480 (Article in Serial). SDV15387.

Druce, G. C., 1920, Medieval bestiaries and their influence on ecclesiastical art, 59 (Article in Serial). SDV83607.

The church contains a medieval wood carving of a sow suckling her piglets, a popular subject in Devon.

Cresswell, B. F., 1927, Devonshire Churches: The Buildings and Builders (Article in Serial). SDV124362.

Article gives Latin inscription on chancel roof.

Pevsner, N., 1952, The Buildings of England: South Devon, 269 (Monograph). SDV336217.

Ashlar granite construction, perpendicular style, wagon roofs in nave, aisle and chapel.

Hoskins, W. G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon, 479 (Monograph). SDV17562.

A 15th century building in granite with a fine tower that is a landmark for miles. It is approached by an avenue of lime-trees planted in 1802. A latin inscription in the chancel roof suggests that the church was completed in 1451.

Department of Environment, 1988, Spreyton, 202 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV350986.

Church of St Michael. Small parish church. Norman origins. Present church is all C15, much of it a major rebuild dated 1451, thoroughly renovated in the C19. The tower, north aisle are built of massive blocks of coursed granite ashlar, the nave and chancel apparently much rebuilt in C19 with local stone rubble with granite ashlar quoins; granite ashlar detail; slate roof. Tower of 3 stages with set back buttresses and embattled parapet with corner pinnacles. See DoE list for full details.

Keen, I., 1990, Fifteenth Century Floor Tiles from Spreyton and Throwleigh, 189-191 (Article in Serial). SDV350263.

The central aisle of the church comprises small pieces of stone interspersed with earthenware tiles, at least two of which are set on edge. Further tiles are located by the south doorway, behind the pews in the nave opposite the south doorway, and in the north aisle. Most are too worn to determine whether or not they were originally decorated, but 12 in the central aisle and 2 in the north aisle have complete or part designs surviving. In addition there are several loose fragments. Three loose pieces form a design (of a cleric) recorded in Exeter, in the Cathedral, Polsloe Priory, St Edmunds Church, and South Street as well as Haccombe. It is 17mm thick with a visible keying scoop, and belongs to Exeter Series 1 (early 14th century).
All other tiles, plain and decorated, belong to the same series. 135 to 140mm square, 200 or 250mm thick (decorated) 150 to 200mm thick (plain). Gravel tempered fabric. Five designs are represented - all in the body fabric - with examples of white slip, green and yellow glaze. Possibly associated with 1451 re-roofing of the chancel.

Ordnance Survey, 2017, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV359962.

Historic England, 2017, National Heritage List for England, 1171836 (National Heritage List for England). SDV359963.

Small parish church. Norman origins. However present church is all C15, much of it a major rebuild dated 1451, thoroughly renovated in the late C19. The tower and north aisle are built of massive blocks of coursed granite ashlar, the nave and chancel apparently much rebuilt in C19 with local stone rubble with granite ashlar quoins; granite ashlar detail; slate roof. Plan: nave with slightly narrower and lower chancel on a marginally different axis. North aisle with east end chapel is not quite full length. West tower with internal stair in north-west corner. South porch. Exterior: tall landmark west tower of 3 stages with set back buttresses and embattled parapet with corner pinnacles. It has 2-light belfry windows and on the west side a round-headed doorway with moulded surround and a window above missing its 2 mullions and tracery. South side of nave has a small gabled porch (probably C19) with plain outer arch towards the left end, and to right a single square-headed 4-light window with round-headed lights, sunken spandrels and hoodmould; this one is a C19 replacement. The chancel has 2 original similar 2-light windows with cusped heads and there is a much restored 3-light window in the east end. Priests doorway in south side is a tiny 2-centred arch. The north aisle has 3 similar much-restored windows and another with pointed head with Perpendicular tracery at the east end. It has corner diagonal buttresses and break between aisle and chapel marked by a semi-hexagonal rood stair turret. A straight join suggests that the chapel is an addition, probably of 1451. Interior: south doorway has probably C19. It is a chamfered segemental-headed arch but contains an ancient studded plank door with original ferramenta and oak lock housing. Best feature of the church are the roofs. All are C15. Nave has a ceiled wagon roof with moulded purlins and ribs, carved oak bosses and a moulded wall plate enriched with 4-leaf motifs. Aisle has a similar ceiled wagon roof except that here the wall plates are carved with fruiting vines. The chancel wagon roof is now open. Here the ribs and purlins are hollow-chamfered enriched with 4-leaf motifs and the large oak bosses are naively but charmingly carved and feature the tinners hares, the green man and sacred monograms. The wall plate is similarly carved with foliage and vines. However the remarkable feature here is the Latin quotations carved on the ribs and purlins. It records the names of Henry Le Maygne, vicar, "a native of Normandy who caused me to be built AD 1451" and "wrote this with own hand" and Robert of Rouen of Becedden, Prior of Cowick, near Exeter, and Richard Talbot, Lord of Spreyton, who "gave their goods to my building". Tall plain tower arch. Apart from the change in roof levels there is no break between nave and chancel. The rood stair in the north aisle is intact and has plain-granite doorways. 5-bay arcade of monolithic granite piers moulded (Pevsner's type A) with plain caps to the arcade only. The 4th arch (from nave to chancel) is much narrower than the rest and its arch is lop-sided. The 5th arch is wider and lower than the rest. Either it was built like this to accommodate the lower chancel roof or it is 2 phases. The walls are plastered and the nave and chancel includes some C18 or early C19 fielded-panel wainscotting. Many of the window embrasures have oak lintels. The floor is made up mostly of stone flags. The earliest are small and square; they are the same size as encaustic tiles and some probably C15 or C16 tiles are included amongst them. The floor also includes some graveslabs; most are C17 and C18 but a couple in the north aisle maybe medieval. C15 piscina in sanctuary. The altar comprises an enormous slab of granite ashlar of indeterminate date resting on an C20 oak table. The altar rail, stalls and low chancel screen which incorporates the pulpit are built of oak in Gothic style. Plain pine lectern and oak prayer desk. The benches are oak in C16 style with carved wreathed foliage around the bench ends. Gothic style tower screen. All this furniture is late C19 or early C20. The remains of a richly carved oak doorway from the former rood screen with delicate Perpendicular tracery is preserved at the back of the church. Good late Norman granite font with octagonal bowl, each side carved with simple geometric patterns and octagonal stem, each side carved with crude representations nevertheless recognisable for instance as the Tree of Life, Mortality, Our lady crowned etc. An apparently earlier crudely-finished circular font bowl in the north aisle. Monuments: the mural monuments are C18 and C19. The best is in the chancel and dated 1763 in memory of Thomas Hoare (d. 1746) and his wife Agnes (d.1763). Another good one in the north aisle in memory of John Cam of Fuidge (d. 1767). Painted royal aims of George III on a board in the north aisle and a painted charity board dated 1825 over the south doorway. East window has C19 glass.
Date first listed: 22th February 1967.

Fox, G., 2023, St Michael's Church, Spreyton, 5 (Article in Serial). SDV365480.

The 15th century chancel roof has carved and painted wooden bosses including a green man and one with three hares, with shared ears, perhaps representing the Holy Trinity. A Latin inscription on one of the timber ribs states that it was built in 1451 by the vicar, Henry Le Mayne. The church also has some 15th century floor tiles made in Barnstaple and a sculpted font which is probably Norman in date.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV124362Article in Serial: Cresswell, B. F.. 1927. Devonshire Churches: The Buildings and Builders. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 33. Unknown.
SDV15387Article in Serial: Thompson, A. H.. 1913. Church Architecture in Devon. Archaeological Journal. 70. Unknown. 480.
SDV17562Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954. A New Survey of England: Devon. A New Survey of England: Devon. A5 Hardback. 479.
SDV336217Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1952. The Buildings of England: South Devon. The Buildings of England: South Devon. Paperback Volume. 269.
SDV350263Article in Serial: Keen, I.. 1990. Fifteenth Century Floor Tiles from Spreyton and Throwleigh. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 48. Paperback Volume. 189-191.
SDV350986List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1988. Spreyton. Historic Houses Register. A4 Comb Bound. 202.
SDV359962Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2017. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #98886 ]
SDV359963National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2017. National Heritage List for England. Historic Houses Register. Digital. 1171836.
SDV365480Article in Serial: Fox, G.. 2023. St Michael's Church, Spreyton. Devon Archaeological Society Newsletter. 145. A4 Stapled + Digital. 5.
SDV83607Article in Serial: Druce, G. C.. 1920. Medieval bestiaries and their influence on ecclesiastical art. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 26. Unknown. 59.

Associated Monuments

MDV104407Parent of: War Memorial in St. Michael's Church (Monument)
MDV6974Related to: Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Throwleigh (Building)

Associated Finds

  • FDV4128 - FLOOR TILE (XV - 1401 AD to 1500 AD)

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:May 11 2023 5:46PM