MDE20045 - St John the Evangelist Church, Countisbury (Building)


The church is an 18th and 19th Century rebuilding of an earlier church. It contains a reset medieval bench end with crowned swan and arms and a screen dating to c.1700. Some of the internal architectural features are Perpendicular.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

Parish Church of St John. 18th and 19th Century rebuilding of an earlier church. Nave rebuilt and porch probably added in 1796. Nave also probably further remodelled in the mid 19th Century. The tower is dated to 1836. In 1846 the chancel was rebuilt and vestry and north aisle were added at the expense of the Revd Walter Stevenson Halliday of Glenthorne. [1] Parish church of St John the Baptist. Rebuilt and enlarged at various times between 1796 and 1846. It contains a post-Reformation chancel screen upon which a late 17th Century classic pediment is superimposed. [3] St John the Evangelist. Very high up, with views on all sides, at the start of the path to Foreland Point. Tower rebuilt in 1835, with obelisks and balls instead of pinnacles. Nave 1796, chancel 1846. North arcade also 1846, with one octagonal pier and low arches. The furnishings are still pre-ecclesiological, with texts under Perpendicular arches on the east wall flanking a Perpendicular east window with stained glass only as coloured borders. One reset medieval bench end (chancel south wall) with crowned swan and arms. The only other feature of real interest is the screen with big long balusters, a fully developed cornice and a broken pediment above, all well carved, about 1700. [4] Unbuttressed west tower of 3 stages. Base of south-east pinnacle inscribed: "RVD WS/HALLIDAY/1836", southwest pinnacle inscribed: "RVD W S/H/1836" and northwest pinnacle inscribed: "W R/BUILDR". Renewed slate sundial above entrance, with inscription : "TIS TIME TO SEEK THE LORD". Interior of porch with stone floor, stone side benches and plaster barrel vaultl. Old organ at east end of aisle: "CASSON'S PATENT/POSITIVE ORGAN CO. LTD/LONDON/OP. 127". Painted Royal Coat of Arms (George IV) on west wall of nave with date (1837) at corners of wooden frame and painted inscription: "GUEIELMUS IV BRITT REX". Below coat of arms is carved wooden Prince of Wales feathers mounted on board with motto and date, 10th March 1863. . In 1832 the old chancel and tower still survived. The Revd W S. Halliday began Glenthorne (q.v), his house nearby in 1829 and carried out much work on the estate in the following years including the virtual rebuilding of the Church. [5-7] Parish Church of St John the Baptist, rood screen. Probably of no great interest or antiquity. Renewed slate sundial above entrance, with inscription: 'Tis time to seek the Lord'. [8] Fine chancel screen of around 1700 with panelled lower part, turned balusters above, chamfered square posts with scrolled stops, top rail with carved egg and dart ornament, small turned urns above balusters and large urns above posts, and wide open triangular pediment above with carved acanthus modillions alternating with carved square pateral, egg and dart enrichment etc. [9] Parish Church of St John the Baptist, sundial. Dial shows clear indications of having been heavily painted in gold and black. Gnomon made of solid metal. Motto: 'My times are in thy hands'. Undated. [10] Gunner Basil Pennicott of the Royal Artillery was killed in August 1940 and is buried in the churchyard. His headstone is maintained by the CWGC. [11] The building was visited in April 2012 as part of the rapid condition survey of Exmoor's Listed Buildings 2012-13. It received a BAR score of 5. [12] This is depicted on the 1840 Lynton Tithe map, where a side view is drawn, rather than it being visible in plan. It is visible in plan on the c. 1841 Countisbury Tithe map. [13, 14] Modern MasterMap data simply describes the site as St John's Church. An e-mail to the HER confirms that the dedication of the church is to St John the Evangelist. [15,16] The Exmoor Review contains information on a medieval bench end carved as a chained swan, which may have been purchased with the screen, which came from Chittel Hampton church and was purchased by Walter Halliday in c.1846 when he rebuilt the chancel. The bench end was thought to date to the late 15th Century by the Curator of Antiquities at the Royal Albert Museum, Exeter. [17] 18th and 19th century rebuilding of an earlier church. Nave rebuilt and porch added in 1796, further remodelled in the mid 19th century. West tower of 1836. Plan of 3-bay nave with north aisle and south porch, chancel with lean-to north vestry, and west tower. [18] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [19]

Sources/Archives (20)

  • <1> Index: Department of Environment. 1988. Countisbury. Historic Houses Register. 13. 24-5.
  • <2> Article in serial: Chanter, J.F.. 1906. The Parishes of Lynton and Countisbury. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 38. 114-224. 219-21.
  • <3> Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954. A New Survey of England: Devon. Collins. 378.
  • <4> Monograph: Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N.. 1999. The Buildings of England: Devon. Penguin Books. 2nd Edition. 292.
  • <5> Cartographic materials: Ordnance Survey. 1903/1938. 3NW & SW* 6".
  • <6> Unassigned: Cresswell, B. F.. Notes on Devon Churches, Deanery of Shirwell.
  • <7> Index: English Heritage. 1965. Countisbury. Historic Houses Register LBS No 397606. LBS No 397606.
  • <8> Article in serial: Bond, F. B.. 1903. Devonshire Screens and Rood Lofts Part II. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 35. 453.
  • <9> Index: Department of Environment. 1988. Countisbury. Historic Houses Register. 13. 24.
  • <10> Article in serial: Crowley, J.. 1957. Sundials in North Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 89. 180, 182, 185.
  • <11> Website: Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website.,%20BASIL.
  • <12> Report: Lawrence, G.. 2014. Exmoor National Park: Rapid condition survey of listed buildings 2012-13.
  • <13> Map: 1840. Lynton and Lynmouth Parish Tithe Map and Apportionment.
  • <14> Map: <1841. Countisbury Tithe Map and Apportionment.
  • <15>XY Map: Ordnance Survey. 2017. MasterMap. [Mapped feature: #38390 Extant Church building, ]
  • <16> Unpublished document: Gurney, J.. 2017. St John Countisbury.
  • <17> Serial: Exmoor Society. 1959-present. Exmoor Review. Volume 34 (1993), "The chained swan in Countisbury Church", p18-21 (E Mold).
  • <18> Index: Department of the Environment. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest . District of North Devon (25 February 1965).
  • <19> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1431261, Extant 16 December 2021.
  • <20> Index: Charterhouse Environs Research Team. 2012. The CHERT Index of the Drawings and Sketches of the Reverend John Skinner. Vol 18 (1836 Devonshire), page 155.

External Links (2)

Other Statuses/References

  • 2012-3 Building At Risk Score (5): 1549/3/30
  • Church Heritage Record ID: 615473
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 678
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 679
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 680
  • Devon SMR: SS74NW/13
  • Devon SMR: SS74NW/13/1
  • Devon SMR: SS74NW/13/2
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20043
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20044
  • Local Heritage List Status (Rejected)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 NW95
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1431261



Grid reference Centred SS 7471 4976 (22m by 14m)
Map sheet SS74NW

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Record last edited

May 18 2023 6:18PM


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