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"We are seeking to preserve the heritage of the past and at the same time to ensure that our building serves the contemporary needs of the church family and the local community..."







St. Martin & St. Mary, Chudleigh dedicated in 1259

The 750th anniversary of the dedication of the Church took place in 2009


In 1259 Bishop Bronscombe (sometimes called Branscombe) set off on a trip round the churches under his care, dedicating them to their patron saints. On 6th November he dedicated Chudleigh Church to the Saints of St. Martin and St. Mary.

St. Martin is Martin of Tours, a 4th century soldier who famously gave half his cloak to a beggar and then dreamed that he saw Jesus wearing the half-cloak.

For further details of St Martin, click the link below.


 St. Mary is the Mother of Jesus.


Early History

There has been a place of Christian worship here since before the Norman Conquest.  At this time the Bishops of Exeter were rich and powerful and in 1080 Bishop Osborne selected Chudleigh as the site for a rural palace, the fragmentary remains of which may be seen in an orchard adjacent to Rock Road.  In 1225 Bishop Brewer granted the church and advowson[1] to the Precentor[2] of Exeter, who, in 1282 was provided with a house at Ugbrooke.

[1] Right to nominate to the Benefice, including the income

[2] clergyman i/c cathedral music

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Architectural Development

Under the influence of the Precentors, the original church, which consisted of a nave and chancel, was replaced by a more impressive cruciform building.  It was probably this church that was dedicated by Bishop Bronscombe. 

Both the original and the second church were dressed with red sandstone.  Between 1300 and 1350 a further rebuilding in the Perpendicular Style took place and this time dressings of Beer stone were used.  The sturdy tower is thought to date from this period.  The shape of the church was further changed in about 1560 when the south transept was replaced by a south aisle with mullions and dressings of granite.  In 1574 a south door and porch chamber were added at the west end of the south aisle and it was from this chamber in 1608 that “Beaton Bucketmaker and her companie were to be removed before the next visitation of my Lord Bishop …”  In order to facilitate the “more convenient meeting of the parishioners” a vestry was built alongside the south porch in 1754.

An extensive restoration was carried out in the 1840s.  The south porch and vestry were demolished and a new vestry was built at the east end of the south aisle. By 1870, due to wood rot and to the fact that the arcades were ten inches out of perpendicular, the roof was on the point of collapse.  Another major restoration followed, putting the church into essentially good order right to the present day. 

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Internal Features

The most prominent feature is undoubtedly the old ROOD SCREEN which dates from the 15th century.  It has been much restored since that time.  Twenty painted panels depict apostles and prophets, each including a Latin inscription that is either a statement from the Apostles’ Creed or an associated scripture verse.  The two concluding statements of the creed are missing.  Presumably these featured on an additional section of the screen extending to the south wall.  A large external buttress at this point marks the earlier presence of a stairway to the rood loft.  Access to the loft from the other end was probably through the low arch behind the pulpit that has since been filled with a memorial tablet

The subject matter, of Apostles and Prophets with inscriptions, is very rare and has been found in only a few churches. The Prophets stand on desert ground holding scrolls, and the Apostles on grass holding books and wearing haloes. Fur hats were associated with Jews, and therefore prophets.

 The translated inscriptions are; 

1. Peter – I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. Jeremiah – Ye shall call me my Father, who made heaven and earth.
3. Andrew – And in Jesus Christ, his only son.
4. David – God has said unto me, thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee.
5. James the Great – Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.
6. Isaiah – Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son.
7. John the Evangelist – He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.
8. Zechariah – They shall look on Him whom they have crucified.
9. Thomas – He descended into hell, and the third day he shall rise again.
10. Hosea – O death I will be thy plague, O grave I will be thy destruction.
11. James the Less – He ascended into Heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God.
12. Amos – Who builds his ascent in Heaven.
13. Philip – Who shall judge the quick and the dead.
14. Malachi – I will come to you in judgement and be a saviour to you.
15. Bartholomew – I believe in the Holy Ghost.
16. Joel – I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.
17. Matthew – The Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints.
18. Zephaniah – They shall call upon and serve him.
19. Simon – The remission of sins.
20. Micah – The Lord shall take away all your iniquities.

The missing four would have been Paul, Jude, Daniel and Ezekiel.

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In 2007 the platform in front of the Rood screen was added, replacing a smaller construction.  At the same time moveable covers were introduced on the East wall to enable the wall’s Minton tiles to be seen on request.  A low screen that had been introduced in 1959 separating off the side chapel was also removed to enable the area to be used more flexibly.

The present FONT and PULPIT both date from the 1840s’ restoration. The font is made from Ogwen limestone from Snowdonia, and is a fine example of it’s kind. It would be interesting to know what became of their earlier counterparts, both of which are referred to in the church records.

The large EAST WINDOW is of decorated style and the glass was inserted in 1847 in memory of Reverend Gilbert Burrington, who was vicar from 1785 to 1841.  He had succeeded his father who had been vicar from 1752, so between them father and son served the parish for 88 years.  The donor of the window, Mr John Williams, had been abandoned on the vicarage doorstep when a small baby, and was brought up and educated by the kind-hearted Mr Burrington.  The other stained glass windows were presented between 1840 and 1870.

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John Williams became a very rich man and was a great benefactor of the church and the poor. More of his generous acts are recorded on the stone tablets in the Fellowship Room and Porch.

 The first GALLERY at the west end of the church was erected in 1752.  It was replaced in 1843 and at this time an additional gallery was provided in the north transept.  The latter was removed in 1959 when the side chapel was made to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the dedication of the church.

 When the CHAPEL was formed, a piscina belonging to an earlier chapel was found in the east wall.  Records indicate that this earlier chapel was variously known as the Jesus Aisle and the Hunt Chapel.  The Hunt family purchased the manor farm of Hams Barton in 1552.  Their crest appears on the chapel wall and adjacent memorial stones refer to member of the family.


The most prominent memorial is that on the north wall of the chancel to Sir Piers Courtenay and his wife Elizabeth.   The names of their seven children are recorded and it should be noted that their daughter Anne married Anthony Clifford, the squire of Kingsteignton. On his death in 1552, Sir Piers left Ugbrooke Park to his daughter Anne and thus began the long association of the Clifford family with Ugbrooke that has continued to this day.




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There are many other interesting floor stones and wall tablets that reflect the life and times of those they commemorate. We hold records of these, as well as the graves in the churchyard. There is also a Stained Glass Window trail available to borrow in the Fellowship room

The first reference to a musical instrument in the church was in 1562 when four pence was “paid for corde for the orgons”.  The present two manual organ was built and installed in the West Gallery by Foster and Andrews of Hull in 1872.  It was rebuilt in 1967 by Osmonds of Taunton, at which time the action was converted from tracker to electric, enabling the introduction of a detached console.  In 1990 the organ was moved to its present position at the east end of the south aisle.

 In his will dated 1368, Bishop Grandisson bequeathed to the parish church “two large BELLS of my chapel at Chudleigh”.  The chapel referred to was at the nearby Bishop’s Palace.  The records show that in 1553 there were “IIII belles yn the tower heire”.  A treble bell was added in 1752 and in 1783 the five bells were taken to Penningtons of Exeter and recast into six.  In 1923 two additional bells were presented and all eight bells were rehung on a new steel frame.

 The present CLOCK with Chard chimes was installed in 1948, replacing an earlier timepiece made by a local blacksmith.  The clockface was completely refurbished in 2007.

 The CHURCH REGISTERS date from the first year of the reign of Elizabeth I.  Chudleigh also possesses a fine set of Parochial Records and Accounts that date from 1581.  All these valuable records are in the care of the Records Office in Exeter.

 In 1975 the need to provide a more informal space within the church was met by  the creation of the FELLOWSHIP AREA beneath the gallery at the west end of the nave.  At the same time a new south door was created and kitchen and toilet facilities provided.  These were modernised in 2005 and the west door porch area was remodelled to give an open and welcoming entrance to the building and to provide disabled access to the toilets.

 We very much hope that you will enjoy visiting to our historic church.  We are seeking to preserve the heritage of the past and at the same time to ensure that our building serves the contemporary needs of the church family and the local community.  Please join us in praying for our witness and service in Chudleigh.

 “Come and let yourselves be built as living stones, into a spiritual temple; become a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”   1 Peter 2:5 (NEB)


Updated January 2009

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The church regularly receives enquiries from relatives seeking their ancestors, and we also have a number of interesting gravestones, some of which are listed monuments. The graves were surveyed in 1970, but only the name and year of death was recorded. In 2008 a team of volunteers started recording the full inscriptions and this has now been put onto a searchable spreadsheet, with an accompanying map. With careful cleaning of the stones we were able to read some inscriptions that were recorded as ‘undecipherable’ in 1970. Conversely, some details recorded then have been lost in the intervening 38 years.


Your Chudleigh ancestor may not be in the Anglican churchyard. Burials may have taken place in;

  •  The Church itself, marked by a memorial or floor stone.

  •  Overseas, but marked by a memorial.

  •  The Baptist graveyard (now a private garden).

  •  The Free Church graveyard (previously Congregationalist and U.R.C., and now the site of a playgroup)

  •  After 1880 most burials took place in the cemetery.

  •  There is some doubt about where Catholics were buried prior to 1880, although some are in Chudleigh churchyard.

  • The Methodist church did not have a graveyard and its members were buried in the Anglican churchyard.

We have attempted to record the burials for all these sites, surveying the remaining gravestones and researching burial registers and church records. We are especially indebted to Roger Brandon and Steve Coombs of the Chudleigh History Group for so much of this work. We hope that the links below will enable you to find your ancestor. Chudleigh Church and Chudleigh History Group are happy to search their records for you.

Please feel free to contact us at: chudleigh.cofe@gmail.com

To access the CHUDLEIGH CHURCH GRAVEYARD survey click here. This is a searchable spreadsheet – please read the Instructions tab before proceeding. If you cannot visit we can often supply a photograph.

For MEMORIALS INSIDE THE CHURCH please click here.

For an index of personal and place names for INTERIOR MEMORIALS AND STAINED GLASS WINDOWS please click here. This is the index to the Stained Glass Window and Memorial Trail which is available at the back of the church, and duplicates some of the information in the Memorial spreadsheet above.

For the BAPTIST AND FREE CHURCH GRAVES & MEMORIALS the following links will take you to the relevant section on the History Group website - http://chudleighhistorygroup.uk/articles/chapels.html or  http://chudleighhistorygroup.uk/articles/burial_ground.html  This website contains a wealth of information about the town and its inhabitants, - use the ‘Articles' button at the top of the page.

For enquiries about burials in THE CEMETERY (after 1880) contact the Town Clerk’s office via the Town Council website:

http://www.chudleigh-tc.gov.uk or e-mail Clerk@Chudleigh-TC.gov.uk

If you find your relative but are unable to visit the cemetery we may be able to photograph the grave for you. Please feel free to contact us at: chudleigh.cofe@gmail.com

Good luck with your search. Even if you don’t need our help we would like to hear how you got on

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Latest Graves Information

Now that we have most of the graves on a spreadsheet, we can search the data in various ways. One is to list the deceased by age. There is a span of all ages, from infants up to Richard Stamp who died at 98. The information does not reflect trends in Chudleigh as the poorest, and therefore the shortest lived, rarely had headstones. It is clear, however, that the middle classes in the town were far from immune to infant and child death.

            Typical is the stone of the Latham family. Thomas died in 1828 aged 12, and his brothers and sisters James, Mary and June died in infancy. The stone also records three other Latham females (without ages), but it is not clear whether they were siblings. The devastation that befell this family is only too common and other stones tell more harrowing tales.

            Mary Wright was wife of William, part of a dynasty of respected maltsters in Chudleigh. She died at the age of 37 in 1815. The gravestone simply records that nearby are buried five of their children, but we have not located the graves.

            The Ellis tomb is a fine granite cross on a square base. Each side records a child’s death; Alice died in 1859 aged 3 weeks, Agnes died in 1870 aged 7 months followed twelve days later by 5 year old Roland. Alfred died in 1877 aged 16 years. There are a higher number of deaths in 1870 than most other years, spread throughout the year, so we assume that this was an epidemic year. For one family, however, the next year was devastating for them, possibly due to a harsh winter. On Dec 10th 9 year old Mary Jane Perrott died. Grandfather Septimus died on Christmas Day, and Mary’s 7 year old sister Eleanor succumbed on Dec 30th. The Victorians must have accepted infant death with some fatality but this must have shattered the family. The inscription on the tomb reads; “Be ye at all times ready.”

            More disease may be assumed when the Salter family were hit in 1866. 2 year old Annie died in February. In March father Henry died at the age of 28. His 27 year old widow Eliza left Chudleigh and went to Bristol, but died in the June. The inscription starts; “Mysterious are the ways of God, To we of human sight, But holy light is His abode, And all his actions right.” Which summarises the Victorian outlook as inscribed on many of the stones.

            The Victorian practice of naming children after their deceased siblings is nicely shown with two stones placed inches apart. The larger one is to Elizabeth Heath Saunders who died in 1877 aged 60. A child’s stone is placed against it. This is to Elizabeth H Saunders who died at the age of 6 month in 1805;- two sisters born twelve years apart, who shared a name and a grave but never met.


Please feel free to contact us at: chudleigh.cofe@gmail.com


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Previous Graves Information

As mentioned before, our survey attempts to include all the denominations and not just those in the church graveyard. One of the denominations that has caused us to scratch our heads is Catholic. Where were they buried prior to the opening of the Town Cemetery in 1880 (which includes a Catholic section)? The Cliffords are buried at Ugbrooke, but not the general congregation. It was Lord Clifford who suggested that they might be in the church graveyard along with the Anglicans, as after the 1832 Reformation Act this was permissible by law. I admit that I felt that this was unlikely, especially as there is nothing on any of the church gravestones to suggest that the deceased was a Catholic. It was Steve Coombs who found the first one. One gravestone commemorates the Weston family, including John Weston who died in 1832. We know a bit about him: he was landlord of the Clifford Arms (Old Coaching House) at the time of the Great Fire of 1809. Following this, he temporarily moved the pub into Western House on the corner of Oldway for about ten years. Steve found an obituary in the local paper saying that he was a well-known and respected Catholic. Well, that is one. Now we have to find the rest.

Changing denominations: There is an intriguing inscription in the old Congregational Chapel, now the Woodway Room in the Town Hall. When the chapel was converted the tablets on the wall were boarded over, and it was in October 2008 that the caretaker uncovered them and revealed three fine marble plaques. Two are to ministers of the chapel and one is to Mr. John Petherick and his wife Anne (both died 1856, he aged 55 and she aged 75) and their little grandson. It is not clear why John Petherick warranted such a prominent memorial. Included in the inscription is a line in small lettering, running round the bottom edge. This reads – Mourner retire, and kiss the afflictive rod. To thee their exit calls “Prepare to meet thy God.”

Enquiries as to what an ‘afflictive rod’ might be have proved inconclusive (although I can remember my teachers having them at school). Is this a quotation from another source? If anyone can shed light on the origin and meaning of this inscription I would be interested to hear it.


We had a lady researching the name Nosworthy. There was no-one of that name on the 1970 list of graves, but Steve discovered some 'lost' graves in the gully that runs along the north wall of the church, one of which was to Robert and Mary Noseworthy.

Arising out of this research we found the following account in 'The Times' of 3 September 1810:

‘A plumber being lately employed to repair the pipe of a pump belonging to Mr BOND, of Chudleigh, found the carbonate gas from the well (which had not been opened since the dreadful fire at that place in 1807), so powerful, that he would not venture in.  Two miners, who had been at work in the neighbourhood, coming by at that instant, one of them volunteered to do down, (a ladder 19 feet in length had previously been fixed), but before he had descended half that depth, fell off and sunk to the bottom, about forty feet.  His companion followed, and shared the same fate.  A joiner, named Nosworthy, caused a rope to be fixed round his waist and was let down, but on his senses going off, the noose of the rope slipped, and he was likewise precipitated to the bottom. Another man had the rope fasted between his legs and round his waist, but had not proceeded ten feet before his senses left him, and he was drawn up nearly lifeless.  After this they procured a grappling iron, by which the three bodies were extricated from the well, but the life of each was extinct.’

The well lies in the grounds of Swanston House, and was capped and built over when the house was refurbished and made into three dwellings a few years ago.


Another unfortunate incident came to light whilst researching the 'Exeter Flying Post'. This is taken from the edition of 2nd October 1822:


Yesterday afternoon, a chimney in the Ship public-house, Chudleigh, was observed to be on fire, and on the alarm being given, three soldiers, belonging to the 9th Lancers, who were returning from Plymouth, where they had escorted a deserter, entered the house to render assistance, when Mr. Windsor, the Landlord, desired one of them to discharge his pistol, which was loaded with ball cartridge, up the chimney; but the soldier, more effectually to bring down the burning soot, added a quantity of shot, and whilst in the act of ramming it down, the pistol accidentally went off, and , shocking to relate, Mrs. Windsor, who was standing opposite the soldier, received the whole contents in her body, which killed her on the spot. 


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Graveyard Legalities


As you may know, maintenance of the churchyard is the responsibility of Teignbridge District Council, with the exception of Memorials for which the grave owners are responsible.  As part of its responsibilities, Teignbridge has arranged for Welters Organisation Worldwide to inspect the memorials in closed churchyards throughout the District (see also http://www.teignbridge.gov.uk/).  If any are identified as unsafe, they may be carefully laid down to prevent accidental collapse.


If you have a memorial in the churchyard, you may wish to seek advice and/or help from a firm such as Welters Organisation who have set up a helpline on 0870 240 0915 (available between 10am and 4pm) through which advice is available.  Alternatively there are other firms of Monumental Masons who can provide advice and/or help.


Please note that making changes to Memorials, whether done by Welters Organisation or any other firm, is subject to meeting the requirements of both the Diocese and the Local Authority.


John Ponting

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Bishop Bronescom (Walter of) c.1220-1280

In 2009, Bishop Michael of Exeter came to Chudleigh on 1st November to join in celebrating the 750th anniversary of the dedication of Chudleigh Parish Church. He must have been grateful that the journey was relatively short. In several respects, the Bishop followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, Bishop Walter Bronescombe, who dedicated the church in 1259, but there were some significant differences. One of the most obvious is that on the day of the dedication, Bishop Bronescombe would have needed to travel no further than from his palace in what is now the orchard of Palace Farm, Rock Road. That palace was one of several, distributed throughout the diocese, though would not have been as ‘palatial’ as we might at first imagine. Over 750 years, times have changed a great deal, and the differences between the life and lifestyle of a bishop then and now are a reflection of those changes.

Bishop Bronescombe was born in Exeter, and is known to have attended university, presumably Oxford. Between 1245 and 1257, he held several benefices in plurality, but he was not ordained priest until 9th March 1258. In remarkable succession to that, he was on the following day consecrated as bishop, and scarcely a month later enthroned at Exeter.

Bishop Bronescombe's tomb

He was favoured by both the king (Henry III) and the pope, his time being, of course, two and a half centuries before the English church broke with Rome. In 1266 Bishop Bronescombe helped secure the election of the king’s half brother to the bishopric of Winchester, and he continued in royal service and was a frequent visitor to France on the king’s behalf until the coronation of Edward I in 1274. The bishop was apparently on good terms with Edward too, baptising his son and heir Alphonse. (Alphonse did not outlive his father, so never became king.)  Bishop Bronescombe is believed to have been ‘practical and conciliatory, a man who inspired confidence in those with whom he had dealings’ and, notwithstanding the extent to which he was diverted by royal service, ‘a vigorous and conscientious bishop, active in visiting, and often rededicating, the churches of his large diocese.’

 In his foreword to The Register of Walter Bronescombe, Bishop of Exeter 1258-1280; The Canterbury and York Society, 1995, O F Robinson writes that following Bishop Bronescombe’s installation as Bishop there was ‘An extraordinary spate of dedications carried out in 1259 and again in 1261, with a further group in Lent 1269. Twenty-seven of the fifty-two named churches or chapels are in Cornwall, two in Somerset, and the rest in Devon. Usually the notice is simply that the bishop dedicated a church; at Combeinteignhead he dedicated two altars and a high altar (the Register says a portable altar), at Kentisbeare three altars and a graveyard, and an altar at the chapel of Tregear. Of the 1269 dedications the register unfortunately gives no details, but records only that the bishop dedicated many churches throughout Devon and Cornwall. The reason for all these dedications is obscure; not many of them are likely to have been new churches, though there may have been an occasional dedication to a new saint. The Council of Westminster in 1102 had prohibited the consecration of churches until all necessities had been provided for them and their priests; on the other hand, the papal legate, Ottobuono, at the Council of London in 1268, had emphatically told the bishops of the province to remedy such situations. Some may perhaps have been built and never consecrated; in others there may have been new altars; some may have been restored after tempest, fire or collapse had made them unfit for their purpose; rededication after bloodshed, or something equally sacrilegious, may explain some others.’

It may be that there was some catching-up to do following the bishopric of Walter’s predecessor, Richard Blund 1245-1257. Richard may have left the Diocese in a state of neglect; certainly he left it with significant debt, and scandal was created as he lay dying (quite possibly already dead) as church officers and others close to him drew up and sealed letters in his name disposing of his property and conferring benefices.

Bishop Bronescombe was not afraid of travel, transacting diocesan business from the palace in Chudleigh (24 April 1259) only four days after a spate of the same in Bishop’s Nympton (near South Molton), and two days later in Paignton. He appeared to make a point of visiting all the extremities of the diocese early in his bishopric (including Bishop’s Nympton, Marazion [Penzance] and Loders [Bridport]). Perhaps some or all of those places had not seen the Diocesan bishop for some considerable time.

The timetable of dedications in autumn 1259, when the churches in both Chudleigh and Trusham were dedicated, was as follows:-

24 September to 25 October: 21 churches in Cornwall
6 November: Cheddeleg (church)
8 November: Brideford (church)
10 November: Cumb’ in Tynhide (two altars and a portable altar)
17 November: St Marie, Totton (Totnes)
21 November: Trisme (Trusham)
22 November: Aiscumbe (Ashcombe)
24 November: Pouderham
26 November: St Katerine, Exon
3 December to 10 December: six churches in East Devon

Bishop Bronescombe died in Bishopsteignton in 1280 and is buried in Exeter Cathedral. With his effigy lying on top of a stone casket, his monument is one that most visitors will have noticed.

The quotations are from the Dictionary of National Biography

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Last modified: 18/10/19