The Church Building

St. George’s Church, Modbury

Our church building is a wonderful, predominately 700 year-old, Grade 1 listed Anglican Church, dating from the 13th century.  It has a tall broach spire, which can be seen from afar, and that was rebuilt in its original form in 1621 after being struck by lightning.

The church in 2010 from the southern churchyard

With its typical Devon three-gabled roof, the church stands magnificently above, and is a dominant feature of the town. Its size, even majesty, owes its origins to a wealthy medieval market town and the local Benedictine Priory.

Today, the Priory is long gone, and unfortunately the town is no longer the affluent place it was. However, St. George’s is still considered to be one of the South Hams most distinctive medieval parish churches, and which forms a prominent landmark; typically for a building of its status, the church is the most imposing building in this part of the conservation area, as a result of both its elevated location and its imposing architectural form.

Inside St. George’s Church, looking from the west end.

The inside of the church has a glorious, light open interior and benefits from wonderful natural lighting and beautiful acoustics. The building contains a significant number of historic architectural features showing how architecture has responded to the various social changes and trends in Christian worship over the centuries; ranging from very rich, early 14th Century canopied tomb recesses with damaged figures, to barrel roofed chapels with decorated roof bosses, and richly carved and elaborately decorated door surrounds.

Galleries that were erected in 1716 for use by troops of cavalry stationed at Modbury throughout the 18th Century and Napoleonic Wars were removed in 1848 when the church was restored and reseated. Parts of the building pre-date the Doomsday Book and its early development was closely connected to the adjacent Benedictine Priory.

In 1441, Henry VI granted the Priory to Eton College who is still responsible for the ancient duty of keeping the chancel end of the church ‘water and wind proof’.  Steeped in history, having witnessed medieval strife and suppression, the church survived the Civil War when two battles were fought in Modbury and Parliamentarian forces and horses were billeted in the building. Pevsner/Cherry describes it as “quite a remarkable church”. (Devon (Pevsner Buildings of England) ISBN 0140710507) Over the years the church has undergone many alterations, click on the links to read about some of them.