St Mary's Church, Dunsford
St Mary's Church, Dunsford

There has been a church in the Dartmoor village of Dunsford since Saxon times, but the present church was built around 1420 in Perpendicular style. It was restored twice in the 19th century, in 1822 and again in 1846 when the chancel was rebuilt.

History

We do not know exactly when the church was erected, but the original 15th-century font no longer in use, bore the arms of Bishop Lacy, who served from 1420-1455. The church incorporates a 12th-century east window from an earlier building on this site.

In the chancel is a beautifully carved 17th-century bishop's chair brought here from Culver House in Holcombe Burnell. There is an early 18th-century west gallery and organ loft supported on Tuscan columns. The pulpit dates to the 18th century while the nearby eagle lectern was installed in 1846.

The chancel screen
The chancel screen

The octagonal font, just inside the south door, was made in 1846 but is a copy of the original medieval one. There is a 16th-century tower screen of three bays, with very finely carved tracery panels.

Fulford Tombs

At the east end of the aisle is the Fulford family pew. One side of the pew is made from a 17th-century panelled screen. Nearby is a wall monument to Thomas Fulford (d 1610) and his wife, with recumbent effigies of the couple on a carved chest. Figures of their seven children kneel at the back of the tomb.

On the wall is a memorial to Francis Fulford (d 1700) with a cartouche below it to his wife Margaret (d 1689). On the east wall is a memorial to yet another Fulford, Baldwin (d 1847). On the wall is a brass plaque to another Baldwin Fulford, presumably his son, who died in 1871.

Francis Fulford memorial, 1700
Francis Fulford memorial, 1700

On the north wall of the nave is a 16th-century tomb recess, though no tomb survives. The coats of arms in the recess spandrels suggest that it was the final resting place of another member of the Fulford family.

There are fragments of medieval glass remaining in the head tracery of several windows in the north aisle and the nave. These are all thought to have been painted by a school of glass painters based in Doddiscombsleigh, just outside Exeter. You can make out the figures of several saints and a variety of seraphim.

One other item of historical interest is a section of a medieval cross beside the churchyard path. The remains include the head of the cross shaft and one arm. Te granite cross was discovered being used as a wheel stop at a cottage opposite the Royal Oak Inn.

Medieval glass, north aisle
Medieval glass, north aisle

A Tragic Murder

Also in the churchyard is the grave of Jonathan May, tragically killed as a result of a mugging gone wrong on 16 July 1835 while returning from the fair in Moretonhampstead. Two men were arrested for the murder and put on trial in Exeter. One man, named Longley, or 'Buckingham Joe' was hanged, while the other, Edmund Galley, was transported to Australia.

Galley's case became a national scandal when it was revealed that 'Buckingham Joe', standing at the gallows, had admitted his own guilt but swore that Galley was innocent. For the next 44 years influential people tried to get Galley's case overturned but were rebuffed by a succession of Home Secretaries. It was only after a high-profile debate in the House of Commons that Galley was pardoned in 1879.

St Mary's Church is a delightful historic building in a picture-perfect Dartmoor village. The church was open when we visited.

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About Dunsford, St Mary's Church
Address: Dunsford, Dartmoor, Devon, England, EX6 7DA
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Opposite the thatched village shop in the centre of Dunsford. Parking along the road.
Website: Dunsford, St Mary's Church
Location map
OS: SX813891
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express

Best of Britain Express Art Prints

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