Historic Environment Record images

MDE7975 - St Petrock's Church and Churchyard, Churchtown, Parracombe

ENPHER Number:MDE7975
Name:St Petrock's Church and Churchyard, Churchtown, Parracombe
Type of Record:Building
Grid Reference:SS 6747 4494

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The church was alledgedly founded in 525AD, with the earliest fabric of the current building dating to the 12th Century. It ceased to be the parish church in 1878 and was the first church in the country to be vested in the CCT in 1971.

Monument Types

  • CHURCHYARD (AD 6th Century to Modern - 525 AD? to 2050 AD (Possible))
  • PARISH CHURCH (AD 6th Century to Modern - 525 AD? to 2050 AD (Possible))

Designated Status

  • Listed Building (I) 1325740: CHURCH OF ST PETROCKS
  • Conservation Area: Parracombe Conservation Area


SS 67474495. St Peter's Church [TU]. [1]

St. Peter's Church (Mortuary Chapel) was formerly called St. Helen's Church. [2,3]

Formerly the parish church, until it was superceded by Christ Church nearer the village centre in 1878. [4]

St Petrock's had become structurally unsound and was in danger of collapse. [5]

"The exceptional charm of the interior of the church is that it has never been restored. It is still much as it was two hundred years ago". [4]

Of the present structure the earliest part is the tower which dates from the late 12th Century. Most of the building dates from the 15th Century. St Petrock's Church is now in the care of the Redundent Churches Fund and is used only occasionally for services. Structural work to the building was undertaken in 1969, 1971 and 1982. [6]

St. Petroc is a Cornish saint better known in the Bodmin and Padstow area. There is a tradition that St. Petroc built a small church of cob and wattle with a straw roof almost 1500 years ago.
The siting of the 12th Century church and the primary school away from the village centre is probably a reflection of the fact that they each were built to serve a large parish. Their situation was thus considered more convenient than close to the valley bottom.
The church was dedicated to St. Petrock. First church built here by St. Petrock circa 525 AD on his arrival from south wales. The original building was constructed of cob and wattle and thatched with straw. The structure has undergone many rebuildings. First stone church erected by William of Falese, a near relative of William the Conqueror; the oldest portion of the present buildings being the tower which is dated about 1180. The church contained an early english chancel built by the st. Albans, who obtained the manor of parracombe about 1200. Present church mainly 15th Century, with part of the south wall being rebuilt in the 17th Century. The church was damaged by lightning in 1906. Font found in a duck pond in a neighbouring parish and presented to the church by the churchwarden, Mr. Allison, in 1906. Interior is plastered and whitewashed, all roofs are ceiled and whitewashed. Several early sixteenth century benches; old musicians' gallery at the back; georgian pulpit; hat pegs; 18th Century screen with a wooden tympanum above; 18th Century box pews; inscribed wall plaques. New church built nearer the village in 1878, although St. Petrock repaired that same year through the efforts of preb. J.F. Chanter, the new rector. [7-8]

In 1984 extensive work carried out to the structure of the church. [9]

Church of St. Petrock. Former parish church now redundant. The chancel and probably most of the fabric of the west tower date to the 13th Century. Nave, south aisle and south porch are late 15th or early 16th Century in date. Interior fittings almost entirely 17th and 18th Century. The church was unrestored in 19th Century as new church was built on a new site nearer village.
Rood Screen: Low chancel screen, straight-headed, of four narrow lights to left, six lights to right with cusped ogee arches and traceried heads. Above is a timber boarded tympanum with the lords prayer, ten commandments and creed in four panels and the royal arms above.
Font: probably Norman with circular bowl set on four semi-circular half-shafts with engaged colonnettes at the corners. It originated at Martinhoe Church and was brought here in 1908.
Slate sundial above ceiled waggon roof.
Pulpit of 3 decker type with ministers reading desk and clerks seat attached. Pulpit has 4 principal facets with 3 fielded panels to each facet end fluted frieze door with 3 fielded panels. Octagonal sounding board above with painted soffit and verse 'we preach not ourselves but Jesus Christ the Lord' around the sides. [10]

St Peter's Church marked the Ordnance Survey 6 inch map. [12]

Chanter notes the early dedication to the Celtic saint, St. Petrock. [13]

St. Petrock, church; sundial. Dated 1726. [14]

Church of St. Petrock, rood screen. Consists of narrow rectangular lights containing tracery. Tympanum fills chancel arch over screen, displays arms of george. Rood beam extant in 1780 but later cut up for bench ends. [15-16]

Part of a churchyard cross is built into one of the tower buttresses. Copeland says that this fragment is a rectangular block of greenish stone which occupies the full width of the buttress. Of the three exposed sides, the front is plain, whilst the two sides are ornamented with panels slightly recessed. One side bears a quatrefoil and the other a cross-saltire. No definite evidence for regarding it as part of a cross. [17]

At SS 6745 4494 is a medieval cross base, possibly of a former churchyard cross, set into the southwest buttress of the tower as part of the fabric. It is of red sandstone 0.8 metres square and 0.4 metres deep with two ornamented sides exposed. [18]

A block of curved sandstone built into the southwest tower of St Patrick's Church. It measures 0.46 metres by 0.48 metres and is 0.64 metres high. Two of the visible faces have decoration on them. That facing north-west has a cross-saltire and that facing south-east has a quatrefoil. The decoration is very well preserved, suggesting that it has been concealed; traces of possible plaster or render are visible in places on the decorated surface of the stone. No other similar fragments are visible on the building and it is by no means certain that it is part of a cross base. [19]

The building was visited in September 2012 as part of the rapid condition survey of Exmoor's Listed Buildings 2012-13. It received a BAR score of 6. [20]

The former Parish Church of St. Petroc is a landmark building with a remarkable history. Some sources suggest it was founded by William of Falaise, a close relative of William the Conqueror. Much of the present structure is of 13th to early 16th Century date, in a plain Perpendicular style. Its main quality is the completeness of its 17th or 18th Century interior fittings, including a three tier pulpit, box pews , screen with tympanum above, painted text boards and mural tablets to local yeomen. It completely escaped Victorian “restoration” because it was proposed in 1879 that, owing to fears about structural stability, it would be demolished and a new church built on the site. A wave of protest was led by John Ruskin, who offered to help fund a new church elsewhere to avoid what he said would be an “act of vandalism.” It managed to weather storms and structural problems until declared redundant in 1969. At this time and again in 1982 it required extensive repairs. It was the first church in the country to be vested in the Churches Conservation Trust in 1971, and is one of the most visited of the 300 or so churches the Trust now cares for. The graveyard was also used for burials until 1971. [22]

Bulmer-Thomas, I., 1987, Guide to St Petrock's, Parracombe, Devon (Monograph). SEM8367.

<1> Ordnance Survey, 1905, 6 Inch Map: 1905 (Map). SEM7770.

<2> Various, Various, Oral Information or Staff Comments, J.F. Chanter, Rector (Verbal communication). SMO5308.

<3> BUCKLEY, MHB, Field Investigators Comments, Ordnance Survey visit, 22 August 1972 (Unpublished document). SMO7303.

<4> Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N., 1999, The Buildings of England: Devon, 624 (Monograph). SMO4764.

<5> Bulmer-Thomas, I., 1987, Guide to St. Petrock's, Parracombe, Devon (Monograph). SDE65806.

<6> Wilson-North, R., Field Investigators Comments, RCHME Field Investigation, 4 October 1993 (Unpublished document). SMO7329.

<7> Waterfield, R., 1928, Proceedings at the 67th Annual Meeting, P. 29 (Article in serial). SDE65805.

<8> Cresswell, B. F., 1924, Notes on Devon Churches (Monograph). SDE65798.

<9> Unknown, 28/02/1984, Article in the Western Morning News (Article in serial). SDE77.

<10> Department of the Environment, List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest , HHR: Parracombe (9 April 1987) 71-72 (Index). SMO5109.

<11> Pearce, S.M., 1985, The Early Church in the Landscape: The Evidence from North Devon, P. 263 (Article in serial). SEM6776.

<12> Ordnance Survey, 1903/38, 6 Inch: 1903-38 (Map). SDE65803.

<13> Chanter, J.F., 1910, Christianity in Devon before AD 909 (Article in serial). SDE870.

<14> Devonshire Association, 1862 -, Devonshire Association reports and transactions, Volume 89 (1957), Sundials in North Devon, 179, 184 (J Crowley) (Serial). SMO5393.

<15> Bond, F. B., 1902, Devonshire Screens and Rood Lofts Part I, Plate 25 (Article in serial). SDE54972.

<16> Bond, F. B., 1903, Devonshire Screens and Rood Lofts Part II (Article in serial). SDE15320.

<17> Masson Phillips, E. N., 1938, The Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon (Article in serial). SDE5785.

<18> Quinnell, N.V., Field Investigators Comments, Ordnance Survey visit, 6 September 1972 (Unpublished document). SMO7320.

<19> Wilson-North, R., Field Investigators Comments, RCHME Field Investigation, 1 October 1993 (Unpublished document). SMO7329.

<20> Lawrence, G., 2014, Exmoor National Park: Rapid condition survey of listed buildings 2012-13 (Report). SEM8060.

<21> Bulmer-Thomas, I., 2006, Church of St Petrock, Parracombe, Devon (Leaflet). SEM8174.

<22> Fisher, J., 2004, Parracombe: Conservation Area Character Appraisal, 5, 7, 8, 11-12 (Report). SEM6948.

Related records

MDE21294Parent of: 18th Century chest tomb in St Petrock's Churchyard (Building)
MDE21297Parent of: 19th Century chest tomb in St Petrock's Churchyard (Building)
MDE21291Parent of: 19th Century gravestone at St Petrock's Churchyard (Monument)
MDE21293Parent of: 19th Century headstone in St Petrock's Churchyard (Monument)
MDE21295Parent of: 19th Century headstone in St Petrock's Churchyard (Monument)
MDE1071Parent of: Church House, Churchtown, Parracombe (Building)
MDE21296Parent of: Group of chest tombs, headstones and footstones in St Petrock's Churchyard (Building)
MDE21292Parent of: Group of post-medieval chest tombs at St Petrock's Churchyard (Building)
MDE20139Related to: Christ Church, Parracombe (Building)

Other References

  • 2012-3 Building At Risk Score (6): 1544/6/122
  • Devon SMR (Devonshire): SS64SE/12
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 2074
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 2075
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 2076
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 2077
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 37660
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 37661
  • Devon SMR: SS64SE/12/3
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE1053
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE1068
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20134
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20135
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20136
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20137
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE21298
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE21299
  • Local List Status (No)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 64 SE11
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 64 SE26
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NBR Index Number: 51522
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 34702
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 34745
Date Last Edited:Nov 1 2016 9:05AM


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