St John the Baptist

One of the highest churches on the North Devon coast, a landmark yet hidden from marauders; great views of Bideford Bay from the churchyard which is probably celtic in origin.

About this church

The church of is one of a group of pre norman churches on the coast of North Devon founded by Celtic missionaries and dedicated to them: St John's name was lost in translation!

The tower is 53 feet and nine inches high. The north transept has gone but was replace by a north aisle in 1547 with a fine wagon roof and a dedication to the donors on the pillars. The earliest priest was recorded in the Domesday Book. The south transept recently restored has a very fine window in the Kempe style of the Candlemas story; a fine Caroline relief memorial of a young student John Downe d1640 and another for his father a much loved parish priest and nephew of Bishop John Jewel who wrote Apologia ecclesiae Anglicanae for Queen Elizabeth I.

In 1874 a renovation by William White has left the gallery intact but little else. The organ is by a pupil of Cavaille Coll of Paris. A window is dedicated to Cornet Augustus Clevland who died aged 19 years at the battle of Inkerman; John Locke and Captain Leonard Slater who was the father of the first Commando. There are several WWI memorials and a fine Georgian marble plaque recording Humphrey Sibthorp who was an eminent botanist, Lord of the Manor and a first professor of Rural Economy at Oxford University.

The font is Norman as is stonework in the transept and some walls. The floor has several Georgian tombstones and Barnstaple clay tiles. There are interesting early slate gravestones outside near the church walls. The churchyard path rises steeply upwards with fine views over Bideford Bay and Lundy Island. Records inside the church give details of all the known names and locations of graves and memorial plaques on the old stone walls.

There is a fine war memorial in the centre of the lower yard inscribed with names of all those who died in WWI and WWII. There are three Commonwealth war graves elsewhere. If it rains there is a lych gate and a porch. Over a set of exterior steps is an arch set on pillars which forms a memorial to Lt RC Beckwith d1942 who refused to leave his men behind in their boat when escaping from Singapore. All the crew and their officer were shot by the Japanese.

Key Features

  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Magnificent memorials
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Fascinating churchyard
  • Famous connections

Visitors information

  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Accessible toilets nearby
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike

Other nearby churches

St Margaret

St. Margaret's dates from 1250 and in years gone by its prominent position and high tower has made it a landmark for shipping in Bideford Bay.

Lavington United Reformed Church

What you see today is the second chapel on this site, in 1696 the congregation built ‘The Great Meeting House’ which served the congregation for 100 years.


St Peter

St Peter’s is an unusually large church for Devon, and is sometimes known as the little Cathedral of Devon.

Become a Friend of the National Churches Trust, for people who love church buildings!