St Brendan's Church, Brendon, Exmoor
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Beautifully carved 12th century pillar piscina
The Cheriton church was begun in the latter half of the 12th century, in the reign of Henry II. The church was granted to the Hospitallers, who already had a monastic settlement at Badgeworthy Water. The Prior of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, to give the order its full name, gave the church to William Bagworthy, and it passed down through the Bagworthy family until 1399, when it was given to the lord pf the manor, Lord Harrington.
You will have noticed that the name of the church and the village are spelled differently. The church is dedicated to the 6th century Irish missionary St Brendan, the patron saint of navigators. Brendan is a very popular dedication in the south west of England.
The first church built by the monks was at Cheriton, some 2 miles away. You can still see a few overgrown stones from that early building.
Historic HighlightsThe oldest object in St Brendan's church is the simple 12th century font by the south door, probably brought from the earlier church at Cheriton. The font is made of local grit stone, with a cylindrical shaft on a square base, rising to a plain square bowl. But if the font is plain, the same canot be said for a richly carved pillar piscina standing by the north arcade, with beautifully intricate carvings on the stem and bowl.
The piscina is shaped like a goblet, with 2 bands of carvings on the bowl, depicting foliage and beasts, with a zigzag pattern above. The stem shows more carvings of foliage. There is no indication of how old the piscina is, but they style of carving suggests an early Norman date.
Over the porch is a sundial made of slate, dated 1707.
VisitingSt Brendan's Church is usually open daylight hours. There is a wide layby opposite the church, and the views from the layby and the churchyard are simply stunning.
I wasn't actually planning to visit the church; I was driving by on my way to Cheriton when I came around a corner and saw it there, lit by the late evening sunlight. I just had to stop and explore, and I'm glad I did.
The piscina, or stoup, is simply wonderful, with intricate 12th century carvings. It is fascinating to compare the richly carved piscina with the utterly plain font. Why was one so intricately carved and the other not carved at all? Its just one of those historical mysteries that makes exploring country churches so much fun!
About Brendon, St Brendan's Church
Address: Church Hill, Brendon, Devon, England, EX35 6LG
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: On the minor road between Rockford and Hillsford Bridge, well west of Brendon village. Usually open daylight hours.
Website: Brendon, St Brendan's Church
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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Nearest Accommodation to Brendon, St Brendan's Church:
Nearest Self Catering Cottages
Nearest Bed and Breakfasts
Exmoor National Park
Lynmouth National Park Centre
Tel: 01598 752 509