15th century Lady Chapel screen
15th century Lady Chapel screen

Set in hilly countryside a few miles from Honiton, the church of St Giles dates to the Norman period, though there may have been a timber church in this spot before the Norman Conquest.

The oldest features of the current church are a font of Beer stone and the south doorway arch, both dating to the Norman period. Much of the rest is 14th century, though the earliest recorded rector was Stephen Brente, who was named to the post on the eve of the Black Death in 1349.

Grotesque beast carving, south doorway
Grotesque beast carving, south doorway

The most interesting historical feature of St Giles is its rich collection of late 15th-century woodwork. The oak benches in the nave have beautifully carved ends with a variety of intricately designed carvings within foliage borders. The early 17th-century pulpit also has lovely carved panels including a traditional frieze of acanthus flowers and scrollwork.

The wooden screen separating the nave and chancel is late 15th century, as is the similar screen separating the north aisle and Lady Chapel. In the chapel is a Jacobean altar table.

In the north aisle east window are very nice pieces of medieval glass depicting St Peter and St Paul, along with a figure of an unknown bishop.

One historic highlight that you won't see when you visit is the ring of 4 medieval bells. The bells are thought to be the only complete pre-Reformation bells in Devon and one of the few remaining such rings in Britain. The oldest was cast in 1450 and the other three in 1490.

The bells are all inscribed with Latin phrases. The treble is inscribed, 'St Peter pray for us', the second carries the words, 'With my living voice I drive away all hurtful things'. The 3rd and tenor bells are inscribed 'Upon me has been conferred that beloved name Jesus'.

This is a lovely little country church, set in a beautiful area of East Devon countryside.

Figure of a cat, south doorway
Cat carving, south doorway
The Jacobean pulpit
The Jacobean pulpit

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About Northleigh
Address: Northleigh, Devon, England, EX24 6DE
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: In the centre of Northleigh village. The church was open when we visited.
Location map
OS: SY195958
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

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