St Andrew's Church, Moretonhampstead
St Andrew's Church, Moretonhampstead

St Andrew's Church in the historic Dartmoor town of Moretonhampstead dates to the 15th century but stands on the site of a much earlier Saxon building. You can see the roof outline of an earlier, smaller building on the east wall of the tower, inside the church.

The tower dates to around 1418, with a staircase turret built onto the south-east angle. External stair turrets are a common feature of Dartmoor churches.

Like the tower, the south porch dates to the 15th century. It has an upper chamber, called a parvise, used for storing important church documents and, sometimes, as a residence for the priest. This chamber was probably used as Moretonhampstead's first school, where local boys could be taught Latin by the priest.

The chancel screen and font
The chancel screen and font

Over the porch entrance is a very worn coat of arms, probably that of the Courtenay family of Powderham Castle, who were Lords of the Manor for centuries.

Inside the porch is a medieval holy water stoup and memorials to two French officers who died whilst on parole as Napoleonic War prisoners at Dartmoor Prison in Princetown. Leaning against the wall is a very peculiar rectangular stone carved with the figure of a strange beast that looks for all the world like a brontosaurus with a curly tail.

Inside the church, you will find a traditional Devon wagon roof supported on 14th-century granite pillars.

The King George IV royal coat of arms
The King George IV royal coat of arms, 1830

No original medieval glass remains; it was removed in a sweeping restoration during the Victorian period. There is one striking modern window that deserves special mention, however. Opposite the entrance is a stained glass window installed in honour of Dr Glynn Jones, a doctor in Moretonhampstead for 36 years. This may be the only ecclesiastical window in Britain to depict cricket stumps and a football goal, reflecting Dr Jones' dedication to working with local youths.

Look for a beautifully carved chair given to the church by Dr FG Englebach. A plaque on the back of the chair tells how Dr Englebach lost his life during the Boer War, 'Laying down his life in South Africa whilst attending the wounded under fire on 13th December 1900'.

Dr Glynn Jones memorial window
Dr Glynn Jones memorial window

A much older memorial is a wall tablet to Francis Whiddon, a former minister of Moretonhampstead who died in 1656. His effusive epitaph reads,

Lo here the watchman has fallen a sleep
The Pastor that was his flock did keep
This Jacobs labours now are done
He's gone to take his rest thereon
No planet meteor falling light
In's orb he shin'd a star most bright
Christs hand did hold him while he went
His circuit in his firmament
Weep Moreton thnke on't don't forget
Thy Cynosura now is sett
Yet he's but chang'd the saint not dies
This day star only sets to rise

Francis Whiddon memorial, 1656
Francis Whiddon memorial, 1656

On the south-east window sill is a carved fragment of the 1758 pulpit which was replaced as being unsafe in 1904.

Over the tower arch is the royal coat of arms of George IV, painted on boards in the last year of his reign, 1830. At the east end of the north aisle is a late-medieval octagonal font made of local granite. The richly carved chancel screen, the nave seating and the pulpit are all modern and all beautifully crafted.

St Andrew's is a lovely historic building, easily reached from the town centre. Immediately outside the churchyard stands the local heritage centre and around the corner are a row of medieval almshouses, now in the care of the National Trust.

The church is usually open daylight hours and was open when we visited on a sunny morning in late summer.

About Moretonhampstead, St Andrews Church
Address: Fore Street, Moretonhampstead, Dartmoor, Devon, England, TQ13 8LL
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: At the eastern end of Fore Street, by the heritage centre.
Website: Moretonhampstead, St Andrews Church
Location map
OS: SX755860
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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