About this church
East Anstey church is classed as a 15th century grade 2* building. However, could St Michael’s be an earlier church? The Terrier and Inventory of 1986 thinks so.
The building follows the traditional Norman layout of a single nave leading into a chancel, with a tower. It is reminiscent of many surviving Norman churches dating to the early 12th century. Additionally, it boasts a piece of Norman carving, possibly from an arch, and which has been reused in the south porch. Can you find it?
The perpendicular windows on the south wall include the ogee architectural shape suggestive of late 14th-early 16th century additions. In the 1870s much work was done by the Victorian church architect, Edward Ashworth, including removing a gallery on the West wall. Did Ashworth also remove an ‘ancient’ font made of moor stone referred to in the 1840s, and replace it with a Victorian gothic style font with oak lid?
More secrets to be uncovered includes a niche on the south wall which might have held an image of St Michael, and which was noticed in the Terrier of 1986. St Michael’s holds the oldest church bell in Devon. Cast in the reign of Henry VI in 1450 its Latin inscription declares that it will 'drive away all hurtful things'. Five hundred years later it successfully avoided two German bombs dropped in nearby fields!
In total St Michael’s has 6 bells. As well as the medieval bell of 1450 another bell was cast the year after Henry VIII came to the throne in 1510, and this has a Latin inscription also. A further bell was recast around 1619 by the Pennington family of Barnstaple and Exeter, and is considered a rare and fine example, since very few of these excellent castings survive today. Two treble bells were recast in 1915 from a large 11cwt bell, and a further, sixth bell, was cast to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935.
As more historical data comes to light we wonder what further secrets may be uncovered!