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HER Number:MDV7297
Name:St Mary's Parish Church, Diptford


St Mary's parish church in Diptford was built in the 13th century with later alterations and additions and restored in 1870


Grid Reference:SX 727 567
Map Sheet:SX75NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishDiptford
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishDIPTFORD

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Church of England HER: 5162
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX75NW/4
  • Old Listed Building Ref (I): 101147

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PARISH CHURCH (Early Medieval to XIX - 1066 AD to 1900 AD (Between))

Full description

Hoskins, W. G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon, 388 (Monograph). SDV17562.

St. Mary's parish church. Mainly 15th century, restored in 1870, it is one of the few Devon churches to possess a Medieval spire.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1961, SX75NW4 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV341871.

The core of St Mary's church is 13th century but the fabric was largely rebuilt in the 15th century. The tower has a broached spire and is 13th century.
The church is still in use for religious services.

Slater, T. R., 1991, Controlling the South Hams: The Anglo-Saxon burh at Halwell, 71 (Article in Serial). SDV155659.

St Mary's may have been the minster church for the royal estate of Diptford.

Council for the Care of Churches, 1992, North Huish, St Mary (Report - non-specific). SDV341872.

The west tower is similar to that at North Huish but without battlements and with broaches to spire. Nave has north and south aisles of 4 bays with typical long, low Devon proportions and wagon roofs. Screen very much restored. Lavish wall monument of 1763 with carving and coloured marbles. Other details: In North Huish parish file.

Allan, J. + Wakeham, C., 2007, An Archaeological Study of the Tower and Spire of Diptford Church (Report - Watching Brief). SDV341881.

The tower and spire of Diptford parish church were examined in 2007 when they were stripped of modern render. The study concluded that the tower and spire had been built together probably in the 14th century. The western Perpendicular style window and the label above the western doorway were found to be subsequent insertions.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2007, Diptford (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV341870.

St Mary's parish church in Diptford. Probably some 13th century fabric with much rebuilding in the early 14th century. The aisles are possibly 15th century and the vestry of circa 1840. Building was restored in 1870 and 1908. Local slate rubble with 19th century granite windows except for the 19th century east window which is limestone. Rendered west tower with concrete clad spire. Welsh slate roofs with gabled ends.
Plan: Nave and chancel in one; narrow north and south 4-bay arcades each only one bay from the east end. West tower with stair turret in the east angle on the south side. Porch at the west end of the south side of the south aisle. Vestry on the south side of the west tower in the angle with the north aisle. organ chamber on the north side of the chancel in the angle with the north aisle.
Development: The first rector was in 1226. In 1336 Bishop Grandisson dedicated the high altar which suggest the chancel had been rebuilt but the chancel may well have 13th century fabric judging by the south window. therefore in the early 14th century there must have been considerable rebuilding of the early 13th century church. The early 13th century church would have comprised a nave and chancel and possibly a west tower as well. the present west tower may be of 13th century origin or early 14th century with an integral spire, for the broach spire is certainly 14th century but owing to the rendered internal masonry it is difficult to see whether it is coeval with the tower itself. There is also a problem in dating the aisles because although they are thought to be 15th century the arcades with their octagonal piers and 2-centred arches seem to be earlier and perhaps part of the early 14th century rebuilding - see also the later perhaps late 15th century carving on some of the capitals and the buttresses on the north and south sides of the aisles. Furthermore the capitals of the piers between the nave and chancel have been cut away possibly in the 15th century to accommodate the rood loft. A church with 2 aisles would have been unusually large for this part of Devon in the 14th century which raises considerable doubt about a date earlier than the 15th century for the aisles. The date of the south porch is also uncertain for although it looks early it must have been built after the aisles. If the aisles were not 15th century additions they seem to have been reroofed together with the nave and chancel in the 16th century. In 1848 the Exeter Diocesan Architectural Society describes it as "an interesting Decorated church in a state of dilapidation chancel is destroyed and an unsightly vestry on the north west". So the vestry 'north of the west tower' was probably added in circa 1840. The church was restored in 1870 but the seating inside appears to be mid 19th century. There was another restoration in 1908 when the north aisle was supposed to have been reroofed (Kellys Directory) but actually only repaired. However 1908 is probably when the organ chamber was added to the north of the chancel.
Exterior: The south aisle has 3 south windows and 1 east window; they are late 19th century granite 3-light windows with 2-centred arched with Decorated style tracery; 3 very large buttresses between the windows with slate weathered set-offs and hollow-chamfered plinth mouldings. The west end window on the south aisle has a moulded Beerstone 2-central arch and jambs, blocked in the 19th century and a lancet inserted. The south doorway has a single chamfered slate jamb and a Beerstone depressed centred arch with a relieving arch; the 19th century flush panel round-headed door has wrought iron false hinges and studs. The north porch has a narrow doorway with a 2 centred almost round, arch with dressed slate voussoirs and inputs and chamfered slate wall plate. The north aisle has 4 windows similar to those in the south aisle (but without any east and west end windows). There are 2 large buttresses at the east end of the north side of the aisle with plinths and slate weathered set-offs (the right hand (west) of the two is wider) between and immediately to the right of the buttresses there is a plinth; the rest of the north aisle is of a different character and most of the slate wall plate is missing which suggests that the wall may have been partly rebuilt and the rood stair turret demolished. The chancel has a large late 19th century Perpendicular style east window of 3 lights; the gable above has been rebuilt. there is a 19th century lancet in the large 13th century blocked window on the south side with a priests doorway to the left (west) with a 19th century volcanic stone 4-centred arch head and similarly arched 19th century flush panel door. The west tower is rendered and has a pronounced batter and diagonal buttress on the west corners with slate weathered set-offs; the buttresses reach to only just above half the height of the tower, as does the rectangular stair turret to the east of the south side; the turret has a lean-to cemented slate roof and very small square and slit windows. The tower itself has a lancet on each side of the belfry and a smaller lancet on the north and south of the ringing stage below; it has a 15th century Perpendicular 4-centred arch west window (the mullions renewed) with a hoodmould and a simple chamfered granite 2-centred arch cuvet doorway with corner stops and 19th century flush panel double doors; there is a square label set high above the doorway. The early 14th century broach spire is clad in concrete accentuating the lunettes; weathervane at the apex with ball and pennant; a wrought iron clock face on the south side of the spire.
Interior: the interior walls of the church are plastered and whitewashed; there may be some old plaster with the possibility of murals; a small piece of circa early 19th century painted text on the north wall of the north aisle. 4-bay north and south aisles with double-chamfered 2 centred arches, octagonal granite monolithic piers, moulded Beerstone capitals; one respond capital and two pier capitals in the south arcade have what looks like 15th century foliage carving and another pier prepared for carving. The tall tower arch is unmoulded and has chamfered imports. Exposed chamfered rear arches to the west end window of the north aisle and the west window on the north side of the north aisle. The 13th century south window of the chancel also has a chamfered rear arch and nook shafts with moulded capitals bases and shaft rings; the shafts are polished marble replacements. At the west end of the nave a chamfered 2-centred arch doorway into the tower stair turret which has a stone newel stair and similar doorway at the top. The north and south aisles, nave and chancel all have ceiled wagon roofs with moulded ribs and wall-plates and bosses at the intersections; as they are ceiled the roof structure can not be seen but the moulded ribs and some of the wall-plates in both the aisles appear to be 16th century; the nave also has some old ribs but many seem to have been replaced. The north aisle is said to have been reroofed in 1908. There may well be early fabric in all the roof structures. The roof has a planter vaulted ceiling concealing its roof structure entirely. The north wall of the chancel has been demolished, probably in 1908 for the organ chamber.
Furnishinqs; The carved rood screen is the work of Herbert Read, it has A-type (Pevsner) tracery with a canopy over the centre; there are small fragments of the old screen worked into the rebuilt parclose screens. Cresswell mentions a rood stair on the north side which is now blocked. The glazed classical style tower screen; 20th century and was brought from Newton House in Newton St Cyres in about 1981. The nave and aisles and choir are entirely fitted out with panelled box pews which appear to be mid 19th century or possibly 1820; the polygonal wooden pulpit is probably contemporary. The organ by Henry Bryceson of London may also be of this date. In the tower a clock of 1886 by Gillett and Co of Croydon. The carved wooden reredos altar rail and eagle lectern are 20th century. There is a restored late 17th century altar table in the chapel at the east end of the south aisle with barley-sugar legs moulded stretcher and a drawer; a new top has been placed over the old top. The-octagonal granite front has lancet-shaped panels on the sides of the bowl and Cresswell says it is "modern". The choir has 19th century patterned tiles. The nave and aisles have slate floors; a local marble ledger stone in the north aisle to Richard Hele of Sterte died 1614 and other members of the Hele family; a marble ledger stone to Charles Taylor died 1770 in the chancel is probably reset.
Monuments: The best is a wall monument to Ann Taylor of Maridge died 1763 aged 16; it is a fashionable classical design in carved white and coloured marbles with a broken pediment above containing an urn and a coat of arms below. Opposite on the north wall of the chancel a monument to W Hare of Courtisknowle (Curtisknowle) died 1820. A small brass on the east wall of the north aisle to Honor and Willikelme Vowell, dated 1595. At the west end of the nave an oval wall monument with an urn to Matilda, wife of Reverend Henry Hare of Courtisknowle, died 1823; and a wall monument to Robert Dawson, died 1876, with a laurel wreath tablet superimposed over crossed standards.
Stained Glass: all the glass is clear except for the mid 19th century glass in the east window south chancel window and the west window of the south aisle. The easternmost north window of the north aisle is dated 1919. The west window in the tower seems to have some Medieval glass in the tracery; the rest of the glass is mid 19th century in this window. The 6 bells were recast in 1822. Other details: LBS Number 101147.

Allan, J. + Wakeham, C., 2007, The Tower and Spire of St. Mary's Church, Diptford, 105-121 (Article in Serial). SDV344685.

Detailed description of tower and spire given including a study of the geology of the stone used in their construction together with information on earlier restoration works. The recent study concluded that the tower and spire were built at the same time, probably in the early 14th century, and that the western window and label above the western doorway were later insertions.

Ordnance Survey, 2010, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV344030.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV155659Article in Serial: Slater, T. R.. 1991. Controlling the South Hams: The Anglo-Saxon burh at Halwell. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 123. A5 Paperback. 71.
SDV17562Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954. A New Survey of England: Devon. A New Survey of England: Devon. A5 Hardback. 388.
SDV341870List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2007. Diptford. Historic Houses Register. Website.
SDV341871Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1961. SX75NW4. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV341872Report - non-specific: Council for the Care of Churches. 1992. North Huish, St Mary. Council for the Care of Churches Report. PM 1610. A4 Stapled.
SDV341881Report - Watching Brief: Allan, J. + Wakeham, C.. 2007. An Archaeological Study of the Tower and Spire of Diptford Church. Exeter Archaeology Report. 07.79. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV344030Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2010. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #100363 ]
SDV344685Article in Serial: Allan, J. + Wakeham, C.. 2007. The Tower and Spire of St. Mary's Church, Diptford. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 65. Paperback Volume. 105-121.

Associated Monuments

MDV7299Parent of: Church Plate, St Mary's Parish Church, Diptford (Find Spot)
MDV7298Parent of: Sundial, St Mary's Parish Church, Diptford (Monument)
MDV7298Related to: Sundial, St Mary's Parish Church, Diptford (Monument)
MDV7300Related to: Church House and Church Cottage, Diptford (Building)
MDV75070Related to: Foss Chest Tomb, St Mary's Parish Church, Diptford (Building)
MDV75074Related to: Gateway, St Mary's Parish Church, Diptford (Building)
MDV75073Related to: Huxham Headstone, St Mary's Parish Church, Diptford (Building)
MDV7291Related to: St Mary's Parish Church, North Huish (Building)
MDV7298Parent of: Sundial, St Mary's Parish Church, Diptford (Monument)
MDV7298Related to: Sundial, St Mary's Parish Church, Diptford (Monument)
MDV46690Related to: The Old Rectory, Diptford (Building)
MDV75071Related to: Unidentified Chest Tomb, St Mary's Parish Church, Diptford (Building)
MDV75072Related to: Unidentified Chest Tomb, St Mary's Parish Church, Diptford (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4436 - Archaeological Study of the Tower and Spire of St Mary's Parish Church, Diptford

Date Last Edited:Dec 8 2017 9:55AM