St Winifred

St Winifred’s is one of the finest village churches in Devon with many interesting features, in particular its interesting location, as rather than atop a hillside where it would be visible, St Winifred's is set on a terrace that cannot be seen from the sea.

About this church

It is possible that it was placed so that it could not be seen by Viking raiders, or that the church was built on the site of an earlier pagan holy place.

The 12th century square central tower is one of only four completely Norman towers in Devon. The nave is Norman, the transepts perhaps mid 13th century. The chancel is probably 14th century.
St Winifred's is one of the best churches in Devon, probably because it was owned by the monks of Exeter Cathedral. Several Bishops took an interest in funding architectural improvements.

The font, made of local Beer stone, is 15th century, and there is a finely carved Jacobean screen, early 18th century altar rails, and an Elizabethan west gallery. The wagon roof in the nave is 15th century, and is decorated with carved oak bosses.

The most impressive memorial in the church is an Elizabethan altar tomb to Joan Wadham, who died in 1583. She must have lived quite a life; she was married first to John Kellaway of Cullompton, by whom she had 14 children, then after Kellaway died she married Sir John Wadham and had 6 more children with him. She outlived her second husband, who died in 1577.

Curiously, the tomb shows a likeness of Joan behind a statue of each of her husbands. This double appearance is thought to be unique in family tombs in England.

A large slate tablet below the figures is inscribed: Here lieth intomb'd the body of a virtuous & antient gentlewoman descended of the antient house of Plantagenets sometime of Cornwall namely JOAN, one of the daughters & heirs unto John Tregarthin in the County of Cornwall, Esq.

In the chancel is a very finely crafted Renaissance Corinthian style memorial to Anne Mychell, who died in 1606 and in the south transept there is a rare 15th century Maltese Cross carved into a floor slab, thought to be 15th century.

The name Branscombe may have been derived from Brannoc. Records suggest that the church held St Brannoc's arm as a relic, though it was taken to Milton Abbey in Dorset in AD933 on the orders of King Athelstan.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Magnificent memorials
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Fascinating churchyard

Visitors information

  • Bus stop within 100m
  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Accessible toilets in church
  • Café in church

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