Listed building grade 1
Church of St Thomas of Canterbury
50°46’22.1″N 4°07’17.7″W (enter these in your smartphone navigator)
Northlew Church is a beauty, a mighty interesting structure with an ocean of medieval wood carving inside. Added to this is its position, in a very pretty West Devon village.
The tower (most) and west door are Norman, unusually for Devon. The door is especially interesting, with colonettes and a pointed arch, a very early example.
The 15th century granite porch is also a fine creation, along with its later gate.
The interior is magnificent, full of golden brown woodwork rising from a soft red floor.
The 16th century bench ends are a glory, combining Gothic and Renaissance motifs to fine effect. There is even a later one with Queen Victoria on it, the only one in Devon probably.
Some fine stained glass too, not a lot but of great quality.
The Norman font is a lovely angular creation, a difference from the usual rounder ones.
The early 16th century rood screen is another treasure. It has had a lot of very careful restoration, including an addition of a rood loft, which gives a very nice indication of the original look of the whole.
Then there are the roof bosses. In the north chapel petalled flowers dot the ceiling, turning it into a beautiful garden floating on high. Elsewhere earlier bosses give their own interpretations of foliage with a few grumpy faces joining the party.
Not forgetting the medieval carved angels along the wall plates.
Outside there are a few more wonderful angels, these from the 18th century and carved on slate gravestones. Just perfect.
All in all, a very fine and enchanting church, with lots to see and enjoy.
- North and South aisles and chapels
- West tower
- South porch
- Norman tower
- Main fabric of Church from C15 to early C16
- Restored in 1885 by Fulford of Exeter
- Stone ashlar walls to aisles
- Rubble to tower
- Gable ended slate roof
- Norman, C12
- 3 stage
- Higher stage probably rebuilt in the C15
- Obelisk pinnacles
- Original roundheaded stair lights on south side of tower
- C12 west doorway
- 1 order of colonettes
- Pointed arch with double head
- Square headed belfry openings
- Early C20
- Inserted in angle between tower and north aisle
- Single storey
- 4-centre arched roll-moulded granite doorway
- East window is Perpendicular of 4 lights
- Aisle has 2 buttresses between windows
- Set-back buttresses to the corners
- Three 4-light Perpendicular windows
- Small segmental-headed stone arched priest’s doorway
- East window a 3-light Decorated style restoration
- Restored window at west end
- 4 ashlar buttresses
- Between the 2 right-hand ones is a blocked 4-centred arched moulded doorway
- With hoodmould
- Also on this side are 3 early C16 square-headed 3-light mullion windows
- 4-centred heads
- Rectangular projection for rood stairs
- Small ogee-headed light
- Tiny gable above
- 4-light Perpendicular window at east end of aisle
- No cusping to tracery
- Kelly arms in labels of hoodmould
- Possibly C12 low pointed tower arch
- Chamfered imposts
- Above the square-headed window openings to the north aisle are wooden lintels
- Quite ornate foliage and floral carving
- Square Norman tub font
- Saltire and star decoration
- Arcading to sides
- Central stem with corner pillars
- Set on square base
- Wagon roof
- High relief carving to ribs
- Carved bosses
- Some restored
- As are the wall-plates
- South doorway has basket arched head
- Hollow roll and hollow moulding
- Raised pyramid stops
- The arms of the Kelly and Trecarrel families carved in the spandrels
- Each aisle probably of slightly different dates
- Both have moulded 4-centred arches
- And Pevsner A-type piers
- South aisle has more richly moulded arches
- And 4 roll moulding to capitals
- North aisle has cup capitals
- Top of the eastern most one is carved with the Kelly arms
- And initials W. K.
- Good C16
- To nave and south aisle,
- All of various pre-Renaissance designs
- One dated 1537
- Another with the arms of William Kelly
- Bench ends in north aisle are partly restored
- One of which is dated 1897
- Good wagon to aisles
- Especially ornate to north aisle
- Carved ribs and bosses
- Those over the chapel have large spreading leaves or petals
- Carved angels at the front of each rib on the wall-plate
- South aisle has moulded ribs and simpler bosses
- Also with carved angels
- Nave roof has been restored
- Roof over the chancel is boarded
- Only the old panelling survives completely
- Cornice somewhat renewed
- Rood loft completely renewed
This is a more than usually complete medieval church with many good features both internal and external and some interesting remains of the Norman fabric.
The earliest part of the church is the C12 tower, the rest of the church was rebuilt in the C15 and north and south aisles added.
The north aisle bears the arms of the Kelly family which are also on one side of the south doorway. The family evidently contributed significantly to the refurbishing of the church since the arms of William Kelly (who died 1534) and the date 1537 are on one of the bench ends.
Throughout the C18 and into the mid C19 the church fell into disrepair until it was comprehensively restored in 1885 including repairs to the roofs and benches and the renewal of battlements to the tower.
The medieval rood screen was removed in 1810 then later restored by Herbert Read of Exeter and re-erected in 1923 – 29 in sections.
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