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HER Number:MDV7475
Name:Widecombe Church House


Medieval church house at Widecombe built in the 16th century and later used as an almshouse. The upper room served as the village schoolroom until 1932 before becoming the village hall and National Trust shop.


Grid Reference:SX 718 767
Map Sheet:SX77NW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishWidecombe in the Moor
Ecclesiastical ParishWIDECOMBE IN THE MOOR

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX77NW21
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 445079
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX77NW/48
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II*): 442037
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX77NW21

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • STOCKS (Medieval - 1066 AD (Between) to 1539 AD (Between))
  • CHURCH HOUSE (Constructed, XV to Post Medieval - 1500 AD (Between) to 1750 AD (Between))
  • SCHOOLROOM (XIX - 1830 AD to 1899 AD?)

Full description

Unknown, 1843, Widecombe in the Moor (Cartographic). SDV290272.

'Poor house and co' given for Field number 526 on the 19th century Tithe Map apportionment.

Pearson, J. B., 1900, Church Houses in Devon, 211 (Article in Serial). SDV5752.

According to the records of the charity commissioners of 1818 the house was then used as a poorhouse.

Wood, E. C., 1930 - 1931, Church House, Widecombe-in-the-Moor, 162-4 (Article in Serial). SDV345209.

Date uncertain, some say 15th century or earlier. Tenancy of house granted in a document of 1608. It became a kind of resthouse or almshouse for the poor and aged until the poor law and then a school. Devon County Council had it up for sale in 1930.
The old stocks can be seen at the extreme end, under the verandah.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1953, SX77NW21 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV345207.

Used as a dormitory by tinners who built the church tower.

Hoskins, W. G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon, 515 (Monograph). SDV17562.

A fine example of moorstone building, it dates from about 1500.

Copeland, G. W., 1960, Devonshire Church-Houses: Part 1, 136-7 (Article in Serial). SDV298102.

Spectacular church house, owned by the National Trust. Well built of granite ashlar, the roof probably thatched in the past to judge from the strings on the granite chimneys. Before the front is a cobble paved pentice supported on seven octagonal bases and plain slightly hollow sided octagonal caps. Under the pentice, to the front, are two pointed segmental granite doorways, one now a window. Further west is a chamfered single light. Near the centre is a chamfered two light granite window, and towards the east is a large later doorway with an old door. The upper windows of the front have rounded head lights; they are all of two lights, except one of three to the west. The window in the centre is transomed and is under a small triangular gable. At the rear is a double flight of lateral steps to two doorways in a kind of rectangular porch like projection with a hipped roof which merges into the main roof and by a tall two light window like the others with a string below. At the landing level is a table of moulded corbels. The flights of steps have parapets. On this side are two upper two light windows and three or four others on various levels with wooden frames. At the east is a single light, round headed, and at the west are two small rectangular granite upper lights. The ground floor has a good flat timbered ceiling with massive moulded oak beams. At the east end is a fireplace with an oven south is a second fireplace and north are two more. The upper chamber has a plastered three sided ceiling. In 1960 this was pulled down as it grew dilapidated and replaced as a poorhouse. Other details: Figure 37.

Copeland, G. W., 1961, Devonshire Church Houses, part 2, 265 (Article in Serial). SDV7456.

The church house at Widecombe in the Moor, now owned by the National Trust (SX 71837678)- OS 1:1250, 1954) is perhaps the most spectacular of all such hosues in Devon, and is very well built of granite ashlar. Before the front is a cobble-paved pentice supported on seven octagonal granite pillars (Copeland, 1960).
In 1608 the use of the church house and Butte Park (SX 77 NW15) was granted to John Baker. Afterwards it became a poor-house, and then in turn a church school and a council school (1961).

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

Beeson, M. M. R. + Masterman, M. C. H., 1979, An Archaeological Survey of Enclosed Land in Widecombe-In-The-Moor Parish, 924 (Report - Survey). SDV337078.

Possibly 15th century and definitely pre-1608 when the building is rented according to a contemporary document. The building has a verandah, protecting doors and windows, and which afforded shelter to those confined in the stocks. After being a poorhouse it later became a school.

Department of Environment, 1986, Widecombe in the Moor, 154 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV289221.

Church House and Sexton's Cottage. Village Hall and National Trust shop. Early C16th 3-room ground plan. The shop was formerly the Sexton's Cottage. The poor house occupied the ground floor and the village school occupied the upper floor. Grade II*.

Griffith, F. M., 1989, DAP/OX, 1,2 (Aerial Photograph). SDV307286.

Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N., 1989, The Buildings of England: Devon, 907 (Monograph). SDV325629.


Stanbrook, M., 1991, Old Dartmoor Schools Remembered, 72-3, 81-86 (Monograph). SDV359884.

An upstairs room in the Church House was used as the village school from at least the 1830s, and in the early 1850 the Diocesan Inspectors started to assess the school annually. The school struggled through the late 19th century with numerous mistresses (who didn't stay long) and low attendance. In 1892, Mary Wilcocks joined as assistant teacher and would stay for the next 26 years. In 1905, Mrs Carrie Bate arrived to take charge and similarly stayed a long time. There was still income from the old Dartmoor and Widecombe Charity, although there had been a school Board set up in the 1870s. By the 1930s, the Devon Education Committee who had long felt the need for a more suitable premises, had arranged for the construction of the new school in Widecombe, which opened in 1932.

National Trust, 2005, The Church House, Widecombe (Report - Assessment). SDV345210.

Early 16th century church house with front loggia on granite posts and a jointed roof structure. There are moulded beams and foists on the ground floor and fireplaces including an oven at the east end. The doorways and windows have granite surrounds and there are granite flags and cobbles in front of the building. The building was used as an almshouse in the 18th century and became a Workhouse or Poor House in the early 19th century when the first floor was used as a school. In the late 19th century the cottage was constructed at the west end to house the sexton. In 1911 the Church House apart from the Sexton's Cottage was sold to the Widecombe School Board. In 1932 the school transferred to a new building and in 1935 the Parish purchased the Church House from Devon County Council and it was subsequently presented to the National Trust. Other details: Plans and photographs.

National Monuments Record, 2010, 445079 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV345211.

Church House and Sexton's Cottage. Early 16th century.

English Heritage, 2010, Historic Houses Register (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV154869.

Church house and Sexton's Cottage in Widecombe-in-the-Moor was listed on 23 August 1955. Village hall and National Trust shop, formerly the church house. Early 16th century, somewhat restored externally and with minor additions, probably of late 19th century. Granite ashlar. Slated roof with gable-parapets and kneelers. Three granite ashlar chimneystacks, one on ridge and one on each gable, all apparently rebuilt in 19th century. A smaller chimney of same type on rear wall. Three-room ground plan, the two right-hand rooms now amalgamated; two matching rooms in upper storey. The shop, formerly the Sexton's Cottage, occupies the left-hand room on each floor. Two storeys. Five-window front with hollow-moulded plinth and chamfered granite eaves-cornice. Across the whole front of the ground storey runs an open colonnade supporting a slated pent roof. There are seven octagonal granite columns with moulded octagonal capitals; no bases, but the shafts stand on rough octagonal granite plinths. The roof structure seems to be mostly pre-19th century, apart from the common rafters; however, the four eastern trusses have heavier timbers and the collars are tenoned to the principal rafters, instead of being halved. In the ground storey the sexton's house has a narrow, hollow-moulded window with a slightly curved top to left. To right are two doorways with four-centred arches, the left-hand one converted into a window. This latter is simply chamfered but the doorway to right has a three-quarter-round moulding and carved spandrels. The village hall section has a small doorway to left, possibly a former window; the left jamb and lintel are hollow-moulded, the lintel with the head of a mullion in its centre. The left of this is an inserted 19th century window, to right a two-light mullioned window with rounded heads having carved spandrels. At the right-hand end is a wide doorway, probably a 19th century insertion. To right of it is a two-light mullioned window with a flat head. In the upper storey all the windows appear to be original, except for a 19th century gabled dormer in the centre, although some of the window-heads may have been restored. These older windows are hollow-moulded with round arches, the left-hand window of three lights, the remainder of two lights. Beneath the windows at sill-level runs a granite stringcourse which also forms a drip for the pent roof of the colonnade. The rear wall has three similar upper storey windows of two lights. In its centre is a double external staircase of granite rubble with an enclosed chamber of granite ashlar on top; this could well be a 19th century addition, although there is no sign of an original staircase elsewhere in the building. The main access to the upper storey of the village hall is by a 19th century stair wing built on at the east end.
Interior: ground storey of Church House is now occupied by one large room, but it is clear from mortices on the soffit of one of the upper floor beams that there was originally a very small room at the east end, separated from the rest by a stud-and-panel screen. The upper-floor beams of the main part of the room are of oak and finely moulded, with intersecting beams forming three compartments across the width of the room; a few timbers have been renewed, but the greater part of the 16th century structure survives. The beams have hollow ogee and three-quarter-round mouldings, these extending to half-beams along the front and back walls. The joists are arranged in chequer pattern, running in opposite directions in adjacent compartments; they have ogee mouldings on the sides and a three-quarter-round moulding on the soffit, the mouldings terminate with leaf-shaped bar-stops. The small east section has a chamfered beam and plain joists. The front door at the west end has an old wooden lintel with ogee and hollow moulding, possibly a re-used timber. In the east gable- wall is a medium-sized fireplace (surprisingly small for a building of this type) with plain stone jambs and an ornately carved wood lintel, probably brought from elsewhere; it has ogee, three-quarter round and hollow mouldings upon which at intervals rest a rose, a thistle, a fleur-de-lis, a harp and two other flowers. In the back in an oven with a round-arched stone opening having a shallow stone shelf beneath it. In the rear wall of the western section is a still smaller fireplace, apparently original, with a rectangular, hollow-moulded granite surround. In the west wall dividing Church House from Sexton's Cottage, are two plain wide fireplaces with flat, unmoulded granite lintels. The upper storey has no features, except for a small, plain granite fireplace, probably of 19th century, in the rear wall. The roof structure, which is completely exposed to the room below, is original, apart from a few replacement timbers. It consists of 11 side-pegged jointed-cruck trusses with three tiers of threaded purlins and no ridge; the collars, which are either cambered or slightly cranked, are tenoned to the principals. The undersides of the collars and the section of principal rafter below them are lightly chamfered. Some trusses carry gouged carpenter's marks. None of the trusses appears to have supported a partition. The Sexton's Cottage seems to have been altered in the19th century, but retains four jointed-cruck trusses matching those in the Church House. There is a medium-sized, plain granite fireplace with canted sides in the west gable-wall of the ground storey. The building was still in use as a Church House in 1608. In mid 19th century the poor house occupied the ground storey and the village school the upper floor. Acquired by the National Trust in 1933. Accounts show the roof was thatched until the late 1880s. (Source : R Dymond, ed., Widecombe, 1876, p.49). Other details: LBS Number 442037.

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

'Hall' shown on modern mapping.

Devon History Society, 2019, Early Victorian Schools, 15-16, 21-22 (Article in Serial). SDV363127.

Widecombe school is featured in this chapter examining the development of elementary education in rural Devon parishes, 1833-1870.
The Widecombe and Dartmoor Schools Charity had been founded in 1796 and provided support for a number of small schools. The 1833 Enquiry identified four daily schools in the parish; Dunstone, Widecombe town, Ponsworthy and Poundsgate. A National School was built at Leusdon in 1854, becoming the 'flagship of the parish' and when Leusdon separated from Widecombe parish in 1864, the Widecombe school was compelled to upgrade, becoming a National School.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV154869List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: English Heritage. 2010. Historic Houses Register. Historic Houses Register. Website.
SDV17562Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954. A New Survey of England: Devon. A New Survey of England: Devon. A5 Hardback. 515.
SDV289221List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1986. Widecombe in the Moor. Historic Houses Register. A4 Single Sheet. 154.
SDV290272Cartographic: Unknown. 1843. Widecombe in the Moor. Tithe Map and Apportionment. Map (Paper).
SDV298102Article in Serial: Copeland, G. W.. 1960. Devonshire Church-Houses: Part 1. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 92. A5 Hardback. 136-7.
SDV307286Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1989. DAP/OX. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 1,2.
SDV325629Monograph: Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N.. 1989. The Buildings of England: Devon. The Buildings of England: Devon. Hardback Volume. 907.
SDV337078Report - Survey: Beeson, M. M. R. + Masterman, M. C. H.. 1979. An Archaeological Survey of Enclosed Land in Widecombe-In-The-Moor Parish. Devon Committee for Rescue Archaeology Report. Vols I - V. A4 Comb Bound. 924.
SDV344030Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2010. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #101974 ]
SDV345207Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1953. SX77NW21. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV345209Article in Serial: Wood, E. C.. 1930 - 1931. Church House, Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 16. Unknown. 162-4.
SDV345210Report - Assessment: National Trust. 2005. The Church House, Widecombe. National Trust Report. A4 Spiral Bound.
SDV345211National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 2010. 445079. National Monuments Record Database. Website.
SDV359884Monograph: Stanbrook, M.. 1991. Old Dartmoor Schools Remembered. Old Dartmoor Schools Remembered. Paperback Volume. 72-3, 81-86.
SDV363127Article in Serial: Devon History Society. 2019. Early Victorian Schools. The Devon Historian. 88. Paperback Volume. 15-16, 21-22.
SDV5752Article in Serial: Pearson, J. B.. 1900. Church Houses in Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 32. A5 Hardback. 211.
SDV7456Article in Serial: Copeland, G. W.. 1961. Devonshire Church Houses, part 2. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 93. A5 Hardback. 265.
SDV7678Article in Serial: Copeland, G. W.. 1963. Devonshire Church Houses: Part 4. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 95. A5 Hardback.

Associated Monuments

MDV7450Related to: Cross Base south of Church House at Widecombe (Monument)
MDV114826Related to: Green Cottage, Widecombe (Building)
MDV93178Related to: Lychgate and boundary wall, St Pancras Churchyard, Widecombe (Monument)
MDV7460Related to: St Pancras Church, Widecombe-in-the-Moor (Building)
MDV117388Related to: Widecombe on the Moor Primary School (Building)
MDV103816Related to: Widecombe Shell (Find Spot)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4898 - Building Survey of The Church House, Widecombe

Date Last Edited:May 30 2022 8:59AM