MSO11247 - St Mary Magdalene's Church, Exford (Building)


A parish church, previously known as the Church of St Salvyn, with a tower dating to the mid 15th Century. The church was restored in 1893. A medieval screen from the church of St Audries, West Quantoxhead was reassembled here in 1929.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

The nave and chancel were almost entirely rebuilt in the 19th Century. The remainder of the fabric consists of the south aisle, built as the result of a will dated 1532, and a plain west tower. [1] The rector says that although originally dedicated to St Salvyn, the church is usually known as St Mary Magdalene's. [2] The dedication is often ascribed to St Mary Magdalene but the will of John at Courte 1534 gives it as 'the church of St Salvyn of Exford', further confirmed in the will of Richard Baron, of Cutcombe, in 1531. St Salvyn was one of a band of Celtic missionary saints who came over from Wales in the Anglo Saxon period to evangelise the West Country. He is shown with St George and St Francis in the stained glass window just east of the main entrance. The tower is a 70 foot high Perpendicular three stage west tower of about 1450 and there is also a south porch and aisle, nave and chancel. The south aisle was built with funds left by George Elsworthy (rector in 1534) and £3 the village blacksmith in the first half of the 16th Century and is a good example of late Perpendicular work. The medieval rood screen came from West Quantoxhead and was reerected here in 1929 and the choir stalls were a gift from Queen's College, Cambridge. Up to c. 1850 parts of the original Exford screen were stored in an outhouse at the rectory but they have since disappeared. The nave and chancel were largely rebuilt in 1869. The church has a Perpendicular octagonal font. The south wall has a memorial to Robert Baker, who died in 1730. There are six bells, the oldest cast in 1603 by George Purdue of Taunton. [3] Grade II* Listed building. [4,19] The cross is a listed building. An old cottage stood at the church gate. Pulled down c. 1881. It used to serve as the parish poor house. It contained parts of the wall of the church which was taken down at the time of the Reformation. [7] A white marble tablet on a black marble backboard commemorates 10 parishioners who died in World War One and has a wreath depicted on the apex of the backboard. A further white marble tablet commemorates 3 parishioners who died in World War Two. A white marble tablet with an oak frame commemorates Major Morland Greig (of the Royal North Devon Hussars) and Richard Greig, father and son, killed in 1915 in World War One and 1941 in World War Two respectively. The badge of the Royal North Devon Hussars is shown in the top centre. [8] The building was visited in June 2012 as part of the rapid condition survey of Exmoor's Listed Buildings 2012-13. It received a BAR score of 6. [11] The church appears little altered in plan since the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map was surveyed. An Ordnance Survey bench mark is depicted on the southern face of the tower of the church. [12,13] A church has stood on this site since long before the Norman Conquest. It was dedicated to St Salvyn, who is commemorated in a stained glass window to the east of the main door with St George and St Francis. The reason for the later dedication to St Mary is obscure. There is very little work left of an earlier date in the fabric as it has been rebuilt more than once. Taunton Castle Museum includes a drawing of Exford Church showing a much smaller and lower chancel than the nave. The tower is thought to be the oldest structure on the site, with parts dating to the mid 15th Century, in the form of a plain embattled three stage tower. The screen is "one of the most exquisite pieces of work to be found in this part of the country," originally from the church of St Audries near Watchet and dating to the 15th Century. The screen was rededicated in its current position in 1929 by the Bishop of Bath and Wells. It is characteristic of the West England type, bring probably made in Dunster. The choir stalls came from Queen's College, Cambridge. N.B. The source includes a basic plan of the building. [14] The church is dedicated to St Mary Magdalen and is a good gothic structure, consisting of a nave, chancel, and south aisle, all covered with tile. It has a western enbattled tower, seventy feet high and containing four bells. The font is octagonal and sculptured. [15] The organ features paintings of harps, horns, serpents and cymbals. It was designed by Sir Ninian Comper and given in 1924 to commemorate Stanley Harris of Dunster. In 1929 the Reverend AC Carne replaced three high barriers of Bath stone by a 15th Century rood screen, found stored in a barn near St Audries. Queen's College, Cambridge paid for the work and repairs to the screen and it was dedicated by the Bishop of Bath and Wells. A white stone pulpit was also removed and replaced by wooden one provided by the parents of Miss May Aston, of Court House, to celebrate their golden wedding. [16] St Salvyn was the son of Geraint ap Erbin, Prince of Devon. The church is referenced as St Salvyn in 1534 in the will of John at Courte de Exford. General information on the church and its fittings is given in "A history of Exford". [17] [SS 8575 3850] St. Mary Magdalene's Church (NAT) [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. [20]

Sources/Archives (20)

  • <1> Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1958. The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Penguin Books. 168.
  • <2> Unpublished document: PITCHER, GHP. Field Investigators Comments. F1, Ordnance Survey visit, 2 September 1965.
  • <3> Monograph: Allen, N.V.. 1974. Churches and Chapels of Exmoor. Exmoor Press. 55.
  • <4> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. M Aston, Somerset County Council, 30 November 1976.
  • <5> Map: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1965. SS83NE. 3.
  • <6> Serial: Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 1851-. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. Volume 46 (1900), part 1, 27-8.
  • <7> Website: Imperial War Museum. United Kingdom National Inventory of War Memorials. UKNIWM references 24753, 24754 and 24755.
  • <8> Index: 1906. Kellys Directory.
  • <9> Serial: Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 1851-. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. Volume 69 (1923), 43.
  • <10> Monograph: Collinson, J.. 1791 (2006). The History and Antiquities of Somerset. Archive CD Books Ltd. 21.
  • <11> Report: Lawrence, G.. 2014. Exmoor National Park: Rapid condition survey of listed buildings 2012-13.
  • <12>XY Map: Ordnance Survey. 2017. MasterMap. [Mapped feature: #44061 Church building, ]
  • <13> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <14> Monograph: Prabhu, S.S.. 1992. Churches on Exmoor. The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Croydon. 47-51.
  • <15> Monograph: Savage, J.. 1830. A History of the Hundred of Carhampton. 540-543.
  • <16> Serial: Exmoor Society. 1959-present. Exmoor Review. Volume 40 (1999), "St Mary Magdalene, Exford", p66-68 (E Holloway).
  • <17> Monograph: Hamilton, C.M.. 1953. A history of Exford. N/A. 1st Edition. 3, 9, 16-20.
  • <18> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1892-1906. County Series, 2nd Edition 6 Inch Map. 1:10560. 1904.
  • <19> Index: Department of the Environment. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest . HHR: West Somerset Dist (Exford et al) Somerset (2 January 1986).
  • <20> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 35706, Extant 21 September 2021.

External Links (5)

Other Statuses/References

  • 2012-3 Building At Risk Score (6): 1076/13/3
  • Church Heritage Record ID: 601464
  • Exmoor National Park Authority HER number: MEM24711
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO10636
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO6708
  • Local List Status (No)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 83 NE2
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 35706
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 31122
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33588



Grid reference Centred SS 8576 3850 (25m by 17m)
Map sheet SS83NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (2)

Record last edited

Sep 21 2021 3:33PM


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