Introduction to St Michael’s Church
St Michael's is set in the heart of the village of Spreyton and we would be pleased to welcome you to join us in worship or to look around our beautiful church.
The church is perpendicular in style. A Latin inscription on the ribs of the roof records that Henry le Mayne, Priest and a native of Normandy, caused it to be built in 1451 and wrote the words with his own hand, and that Robert of Rouen, Prior of Cowick (now in west Exeter) and Richard Talbot, Lord of Spreyton, ‘gave their goods’ for the building. More on the history of the church.
The present church building (in particular the walls and windows) have been the subject of restoration work over the years, but it is unlikely that any major part of the building was erected significantly earlier than 1451. The tower and north wall of the building are of squared granite construction. The south wall and most of the east wall are of local stone and have been repaired or rebuilt in more recent times. The church is entered by means of a heavy mediaeval wooden door complete with ancient lock. There is a fine wagon roof with interesting designs on some of the bosses – including a three rabbit or hare design and a green man. The church was listed Grade II in 1967 for its special architectural interest. More on the architecture of the church.
There are a number of wall tablets and tombs in the church commemorating members of old Spreyton families - click here to see more details.
The Church is set in an attractive churchyard and has fine views towards Dartmoor. Like many other churches dedicated to St Michael the Archangel, it is set on high ground (735 feet above sea level).It was claimed in an article in the Western Times of 12 July 1889 that, before so much vegetation grew up around the church, the towers of 24 other churches could be seen that the top of the tower could be visible on a clear day from the English and Bristol channels; and that the tower was whitened in the early 19th century as a mark for mariners. White’s Devonshire Dictionary of 1850 claimed that 30 parishes could be seen. These claims all seem, however, to be somewhat far-fetched, although there is no doubt about the extensive views from the church.
The churchyard has an impressive avenue of lime trees from the lych gate to the church door. This was planted by a former rector, the Rev. Richard Holland, prior to 1856. The avenue includes an ancient and now dead hollow oak tree which perhaps bears witness to a more ancient avenue of trees leading to this church or to an earlier church or sacred site. Outside the lychgate there is an old mounting block for parishioners coming to church on horseback.
There are a number of interesting graves, mostly of granite with a few in slate or limestone. Several have been given a Grade II listing for their historical or architectural interest. More on graves.
The tower has a peal of six bells of which the earliest dates from the 17th century. More on bell-ringing.
To celebrate the coming of electricity to Spreyton in the 1950s, the Electricity Board floodlit the church just for one night.
Parish Registers and church accounts
The old Spreyton Parish registers are kept in the Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter and can be consulted on microfiche. The early ones have also been transcribed. The periods covered are:
The Devon Heritage Centre also holds the old Churchwardens’ Accounts and the Accounts of the Overseers of the Poor.
There is also an old seating plan in the Devon Heritage Centre, dating back to the time when the more important parishioners had pews reserved for their usage.
To read more about St Michael's Church in Spreyton please click on the links below.