About this church
Originally constructed in the early 13th century, only the Norman tower survives today. It was rebuilt in the early 15th century with a larger footprint in the existing perpendicular Gothic style and provided with font, rood screen and pulpit. It was the subject of a major refurbishment by the Victorians.
Roughly equidistant from the towns of Dartmouth, Totnes and Paignton in South Devon, the rural parish of Stoke Gabriel is on the east side of the River Dart in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
The Grade I listed church is located on a steep bluff in the centre of the village at the end of a cobbled stone walk from the Church House Inn, which as its name suggests was the former church house. The church building was originally constructed in the early 13th century, of which only the Norman tower survives today. In 1268, Bishop Bronescombe of Exeter dedicated the church to St Gabriel, resulting in the name change of the parish from 'Stoke' to the more distinctive 'Stoke Gabriel'.
By the 14th century, the church building had begun to fall into disrepair, apparently as a result of the patron, the Diocesan Chancellor, using the tithed income to fund his own lifestyle rather than church repairs. But in the early 15th century the funds became available and the church was rebuilt with a larger footprint in the existing perpendicular Gothic style, also including north and south aisles. The church was provided with the font, rood screen and pulpit which survive to this day. Like many churches across the land, the 18th century was characterised by the building again falling into disrepair.
In the following century the Victorians undertook a major refurbishment including the installation of a new tiled floor, which was raised in the chancel and again in the sanctuary, windows, ceiling and roof, open access pews, and the building of a lychgate and vicar’s vestry with furnace room below. The church was rededicated at this time to St Mary & St Gabriel.
The parish is the ancestral home of the Churchwards of whom George Jackson Churchward was the famous railway engineer, and also home to the Narracotts, many of whom have been sextons of the church since at least the early 17th century. The churchyard contains an ancient yew tree.