St Andrew's Church Halberton - History
Outside East View

St Andrew's Church, Halberton, Devon

A Guide to its Buildings & History

On this page:    Origins of the Parish     The Present Church     The Bells     The Clock

Queen Matilda by Carle Elshoecht (1850) in Luxembourg Garden, Paris.

Queen Matilda
(Photo: Marie-
Lan Nguyen)

Origins of the Parish

The Parish of Halberton, one of the largest in area in Devon, was formerly of considerable importance, being a Hundred. In the Domesday Survey of 1086, where it was called Halsbretone, it is rated at 27 and comes under "the Lands of Queen Matilda".

Before the Norman conquest the land had been owned by Britric, Thane of Gloucester, who is said to have fallen foul of Matilda by declining her proposal of marriage. When, later, Matilda married her cousin, William of Normandy, and became Queen of England, she had her revenge. Britric was stripped of his possessions, left to perish in Winchester Castle, and his lands went to the Queen.

Church & Village After Matilda, Halberton passed into the possession of her son, William II, who bestowed it upon Robert Fitzhaman. From Robert, the land passed to his daughter and thence to the son of her marriage to Robert, Earl of Gloucester, son of Henry I. This second Earl of Gloucester eventually, about 1160, gave the Church of Halberton with the land to the Abbey of St Augustine in Bristol. At the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII and the founding of Bristol Cathedral, the advowson, i.e. the right of presenting an Incumbent to the benefice, passed to the Dean and Chapter of Bristol, where it remained until the Benefice was suspended in 1988 to join the United Benefice of Sampford Peverell, Uplowman, Holcombe Rogus, Hockworthy, Burlescombe, Huntsham and Halberton with Ash Thomas, within the Diocese of Exeter.

In the Civil War there was action in Halberton and two unknown soldiers were buried in the Churchyard. Richard Symonds, one of Charles I's Cavaliers, a diarist and antiquarian, took the opportunity of looking into the Church and writes of it in his "Diary of the Marches of the Royal Army, 1644". He mentions the monument in the SE corner to Humphrey Were Esq., Bencher of the Inner Temple, who died in 1625. Another member of the Were family, later buried in the Church in 1658, fought as an officer in Cromwell's army.

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Outside East View

The Present Church

The Parish Church, dedicated to St Andrew, is built of red sandstone and exhibits many characteristics of the Decorated style of the 14th century. It was probably built on the site of an earlier Norman church.

South Porch
The South porch is embattled with gargoyles at the corners and above the outer archway is a coat of arms, so much weathered that the charges cannot be distinguished.

Nave towards East
The interior comprises Nave, North and South Aisles and Chancel. Five bays on each side extend the length of the church and their construction poses an architectural problem. At the west end are two bays with wide pointed arches, resting upon octagonal columns with small plain capitals. Eastwards of these are three narrowed bays with similar columns but having their capitals higher up and decorated with small foliage ornament.

Pulpit Font Screen
The most noteworthy features of the interior are the square 12th century Norman Font and the 15th century Pulpit and Screen.

W.G. Hoskins in the Devon volume of the "New Survey of England" says of the rood screen, "It is fine and massive, with tracery of an early and plain variety and vaulting of an exceptionally interesting and rare type. There are few screens in England like it. Its date is c. 1420. It has 200 tiny, perfectly-carved bosses which seem to be mainly different.

Of the parclose screen (dividing the Chancel from the Chancel aisles) Mr F. Bligh-Bond in "Rood Screens and Roof Lofts" remarks that the southern parclose is of exceptional character, with tracery of a distinctly decorated type - earlier than the rood screen. The northern parclose is of a slightly different design, inferior and of a later date - probably intermediate between the date of the southern parclose and the rood screen.

The carved oak eagle lectern is in memory of Adelaide Ellen, who died in 1891, the wife of Prebendary Gregory, vicar of the Parish from 1872-1909.

East Window
The east window depicts eight scenes from the life of Christ, from the Annunciation to Ascension, with words from the Litany. The windows of the north and south walls of the Sanctuary, with pictures of the four Evangelists, are in memory of the Rev. T. W. Barlow, vicar from 1799-1821.

The High Altar and Reredos were carved by Mr Estcourt-Clack, woodwork instructor at Blundell's School and the work was completed and dedicated in 1948.

Memorial Chapel
In the north-east corner is the Memorial Chapel to those who died and those who served in both World Wars. The window was another gift in memory of Mrs Gregory and it depicts episodes connected with learning, viz., Jesus and Nicodemus, the child Jesus in the temple and Jesus with Mary and Martha. The triptych behind the altar - previously used at High Altar, was provided in 1887 to a design by Mr E. Swinfen-Harris, the painting being executed by Mr Westlake of London. Mr Harris also designed the pews in the church.

North Window
The only other window of stained glass is in the north aisle and is showing the Ascension. It is in memory of various members of the Clarke family of the 19th century. It was dedicated on Ascension Day, 10th May 1877.

In 1971 the roof parapets were rebuilt and some new grotesques or "hunky punks" replaced those too weathered to remain.

One of the more recent additions to the Church, to be found at the west end, is a list of vicars of Halberton, carved in oak by a parishioner, Mr G. Duffell. It was dedicated on the 9th December 1972, by the Bishop of Exeter, at a special service to mark the 700th anniversary of the Induction of the first recorded vicar.

The kneelers in the pews have been hand-made for the church. The designs are individual, showing Christian symbols and views or topics of local interest. There are two marking the Queen's Silver Jubilee. Each kneeler bears a St Andrew's cross and has the same colour blue background.

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The Bells

In 1553 the Church Goods Commissioners of Edward VI found in the "Parish of Halberton fyve belles yn the towre their". There are now six bells and they bear the name Thomas Mears, Founder, London, 1841. They are regularly rung by our team of ringers for many of the services and for practice sessions.

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The Clock

Clock - South Dial
The church in Halberton has had a clock since at least 1581. A dial was added in 1675 and a new clock was bought in 1709 at a cost of 9. The present clock was installed in 1861, though the date on the movement, by Weight of Malmesbury, is 1859. The coronet and initials LMD refer to Louisa Maria Dawnay, Viscountess Downe (1780-1867) who was a major benefactor to the church restoration in the mid 19th century.

There are three dials, on the South, East and West faces of the tower. In 1997 the mechanism was given a major overhaul by Smiths of Derby and an automatic electric winder added as, until then, it had always been wound by hand.

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