St Michael

There are always fascinating pieces of historical evidence and secrets to be uncovered when visiting a church as old as our Norman church at East Anstey.

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!

Key Features

  • Glorious furnishings
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Fascinating churchyard
  • Social heritage stories

Visitors information

  • Bus stop within 100m
  • Train station within 250m
  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Café within 500m
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike

Other nearby churches

Blessed Virgin Mary

St Mary's is a fine village church first built by the monks of nearby Barlynch Priory in the early 13th century on the site of an old Saxon church (the manor was held in the 11th century by King Harold's mother, hence Regis).

St Mary Magdalene

St Mary Magdalene is the parish of South Molton. Visit for a service, for some quiet personal reflection, or to have a look around.

St Peter

There was probably a church on this hilltop overlooking the River Exe in late Saxon times, but the first stone church was erected shortly after the Norman Conquest and consecrated in 1073.
Very little remains of the Norman building. The church today is almost entirely a 15th century rebuilding, with tall Perpendicular windows making it spacious and light. The tower and chancel are 15th century, while the south aisle and Greenway Chapel are 16th century.

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