St Mary the Virgin

St Marychurch has been a place of worship since Saxon times.  The village is an entry in the Domesday Book and the oldest register dates from 1641.   An ancient font still exists  ornamented with crude and quaint carvings of men and animals at first thought to be Saxon, now believed to be Norman.

Saint Mary the Virgin has had a difficult history, the current church being the fourth  on the site.

Legend tells how as the church was being built in the Pavor Valley, now the Teignmouth Road near the garage, the walls kept collapsing.  Our Lady appeared before them and told them to build on the hill.

The Saxon church was replaced by a larger Norman building in the early 1100’s which was damaged by fire in 1713.  All that remained of the ancient church was the low tower which dated back to King Richard the second.  The church stood delelict until it was rebuilt in 1861, the cost being £10000.  The Norman tower remained until being replaced in 1873-4 as a memorial to Bishop Philpotts of Exeter, whose grave is near the lychgate.

The present church has seating for 1000 people, the chancel, 6 bay nave, clerestory aisles and south porch.  The screen of local marble was given by the Right Honourable Beresford-Hope.  The organ was presented by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and then enlarged by his son in 1876-7.  The eight bells were cast in 1676.

On 30 May 1943 a German FW190 bombed the church.   21 children were killed together with 3 Sunday school teachers.  It affected nearly everybody locally and killed almost all of one year of the local school.  The re-building of the church started in March 1952.  The Parish hall was used for some services and others were held at the Tudor cinema.

Saint Mary the Virgin was reconsecrated in 1956, standing proudly on the hill the tower can be seen for miles in all directions along side the spire of Our Lady Help of Christians and Saint Denis.

In the graveyard, a few yards away from Bishop Philpots headstone, close to the path is a piece of a headstone in remembrance of Emma Keyse and her Mother Elizabeth Whitehead.  The Woodley family from the Marble Works are also buried a little further on.

Saint Mary’s website