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HER Number:MDV9950
Name:St Margaret's Church, Topsham


Parish church with a 14th century tower, the rest rebuilt 1869-78.


Grid Reference:SX 965 880
Map Sheet:SX98NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishExeter
Ecclesiastical ParishTOPSHAM

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Church of England HER: 4861
  • National Monuments Record: 899733
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX98NE/22
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II*): 89155

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PARISH CHURCH (XIV to XIX - 1301 AD to 1900 AD (Between))

Full description

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV177625.

Parish church of st. Margaret. The tower is 14th century, sandstone, but all the rest rebuilt 1869-78 (pevsner).

Whitley, H. M., Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV23372.

Architectural drawings of topsham church made by a. W. Everett in 1963 are in devon record office. Episcopal visitation made in july 1330. Church found to be in reasonable state or repair (whitley).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV23375.

Pevsner, n. /buildings of england: s. Devon/(1952)288.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV23376.

Doe/hhr: exeter district/(1974)107.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV23377.


Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV23378.

Whitley, h. M. /tda/42(1910)472/visitations of devonshire churches.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV23379.

Reichel, o. J. /tda/30(1898)307/the domesday churches of devon.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV23380.


Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV242.

It is thought that the bishop and canons of exeter had a rural oratory at topsham at the time of the domesday survey (reichel).

Department of Environment, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV326703.

White limestone in early english style.(doe).

Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N., 1989, The Buildings of England: Devon, 820 (Monograph). SDV325629.

Fletcher, M. J., 2009, St. Margaret's Church, Topsham. Archaeological Watching Brief for a Foundation Trench Located in the Organ Chamber of the Church (Report - Watching Brief). SDV348178.

An archaeological watching brief undertaken during the excavation of a foundation trench for a new partition wall in the organ chamber. Removal of the existing timber floor exposed the extent of the blower chamber connected with the previous church organ and the position of the new wall was moved in consequence. Finds comprised pottery dating from the 17th-early 20th century, clay pipe and some human bone fragments which were re-interred.

Fletcher, M. J., 2009, St. Margaret's Church, Topsham. Archaeological Watching Brief for a Foundation Trench Located in the Organ Chamber of the Church (Report - Watching Brief). SDV348178.

National Monuments Record, 2011, 899733 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV348262.

14th century tower. Norman font. Other details: SX98NE42. Record last updated: N/A.

English Heritage, 2011, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV347072.

St. Margaret's Church, Fore Street, Topsham. Perpendicular tower, the rest rebuilt 1874-6 by Edward Ashworth.
Materials: Random squared grey limestone, red sandstone tower, diaper-patterned slate roofs.
Plan: Deep cruciform plan with four-bay nave and two-bay chancel. Unusually, the tower is attached to the west side of the south transept, and the main porch is east of the north transept.
Exterior: Facing the street is the east front, with gabled chancel and a lower gabled chapel to its north. A low lean-to chapel and porch sit further back to the south side. The style generally is Geometric Gothic circa 1300, with complex picturesque roofs of patterned slate. The tower is barely visible from the street, and is revealed only from the churchyard to the south. It is low, without buttresses or clear division into stages. It has a three-light window above a door, and a small square-headed bell opening with louvres. The embattled parapet was stepped-up in the centre to accommodate clock faces in 1887. To the east of the tower, the south transept gable has an imposing five-light window with flowing Dec tracery. The nave has lean-to aisles and a clerestory of small oculi with varied tracery (foiled, star-pattern or spheric triangles).
Interior: The chief decorative focus is the chancel roof, of boarded wagon vault form overlaid with a fine net of cusped diaper ribs in rectangular panels. Over the nave, more conventional roofs with arch-braced collar trusses on small hammerbeams. Aisle roofs with unorthodox Y-trusses. The nave arcades have circular piers with moulded capitals and arches, running into heavy plain square piers at the crossing, with big leafy corbels on the responds. Similar corbels support the chancel arch. The western two bays of the nave were cleared and screened off in the 1970s for use as a social area. The north transept was screened off from the nave to serve as an entrance vestibule in 2007; part of a phased reordering of the whole church by Oliver West & John Scott (plans dated 2003). The south transept has in its east wall a row of four upper windows like a clerestory. The north chancel chapel houses the organ loft and a vestry, while the small south chapel is currently still furnished as such (but due to be cleared). Geometric black and white stone floors at the chancel steps, and encaustic tiled chancel. Much of the stone carving was executed by the Exeter workshop of Harry Hems.
Principal fixtures: Stone reredos of five crocketed gables with some red marble shafts. The backdrop is stencilled with a brocade design. Oak chancel furnishings, Neo-Perp, carefully designed and of good workmanship, 1935. Similar pulpit, perhaps of the same date. The Norman font has a circular bowl with big conical flutes, and on one side a large standing beast or dragon holding an apple (?) in its mouth. The font cover is of spire form, of cut and pierced brass, 1880. In the north transept is a wall clock made by Cuthbert Lee, London, circa 1760, with octagonal face and a Chinoiserie lacquered and gilded case. Dutch brass chandelier with two tiers of eight branches, given circa 1700. Good Royal arms of carved and painted wood with Baroque mantling; arms of the version current 1603-49, 1660-89 and 1702-7. Probably late 17th century. There is good Victorian stained glass: east and west windows by F. Drake, 1876-7. The south transept south is by Burlison & Grylls, 1907, 'one of their best in Devon' (Pevsner). North transept north by Beer & Driffield, 1876. In the south transept, two fine Greek Revival tablets of black and white marble, by Sir Francis Chantrey, to Lt. Col. George Duckworth (died 1811, standing figure with an angel of Victory) and to his father Admiral Sir John Duckworth, Bart., died 1817, including a noble bust and a fine relief of a naval battle.
History: Topsham served as Exeter's port from Roman times. It was a considerable settlement by circa 700, and had a manse associated with the living by 937. The church was re-consecrated in the mid 15th century, possibly about the time the tower was built. The church was rebuilt after a fire in 1676, and again in 1874-6, at a cost of £8,550. The architect for this scheme, Edward Ashworth (1814-96), was articled to Robert Cornish of Exeter and was later a pupil of the London architect Charles Fowler. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1842 and practised in Auckland until January 1844. He returned to his home country in 1846 and practised in Exeter where he established a reputation for himself as a church architect.
Reasons for designation: St Margaret's Church, Fore Street, Topsham, Exeter is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * A thoughtfully designed Gothic Revival church by Edward Ashworth, 1874-6 * Picturesque massing and siting, on a shallow clifftop overlooking the Exe estuary * Surviving C15 century tower * Fine Norman font with crude but vigorous carving of a dragon or beast * Two striking Greek Revival monuments by Chantrey * Good collection of fittings (glass, Royal arms, chandelier, font cover etc). Date listed: 30th June 1961, amended 27th January 2011.

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

Pink, F., 2014-2015, South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Desk-Based Assessment (Interpretation). SDV357736.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV177625Migrated Record:
SDV23372Migrated Record: Whitley, H. M..
SDV23375Migrated Record:
SDV23376Migrated Record:
SDV23377Migrated Record:
SDV23378Migrated Record:
SDV23379Migrated Record:
SDV23380Migrated Record:
SDV242Migrated Record:
SDV325629Monograph: Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N.. 1989. The Buildings of England: Devon. The Buildings of England: Devon. Hardback Volume. 820.
SDV326703Migrated Record: Department of Environment.
SDV347072National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2011. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV348178Report - Watching Brief: Fletcher, M. J.. 2009. St. Margaret's Church, Topsham. Archaeological Watching Brief for a Foundation Trench Located in the Organ Chamber of the Church. Martin Fletcher Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV348262National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 2011. 899733. National Monuments Record Database. Website.
SDV355681Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2014. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #110394 ]
SDV357736Interpretation: Pink, F.. 2014-2015. South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Desk-Based Assessment. AC Archaeology Report. Digital.
Linked documents:1

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV5586 - Watching Brief at St. Margaret's Church, Topsham

Date Last Edited:Jan 4 2018 10:34AM