Preserving your Past for the Future




The 13th century church which was almost completely destroyed in the bombing in 1943 was considered to be a fine example of the Early English period.
Pevsner, in the Devon volume of his “Buildings of England” considered the architectural details of the windows "the grandest in Devon" (except for Exeter).

The church was unusual in that an aisle was added to either side of the sanctuary making the chancel more than twice the size of the nave with its single aisle.
A rood screen and loft separated the chancel from the nave, and parclose screens separated the chancel aisles from the sanctuary. One expert considered that these screens were carved by the same craftsman whose work can be seen in St Edmund`s Church in Kingsbridge.



The church is approached via a lychgate, under which bodies were rested before being taken up to the church for a burial service. To the right of the gate is a mounting block, an aid for equestrian church-goers in years gone by.

The church has a rather unusual circular tower (5) with a conical roof at the south west corner of the main tower. This gives access to what was the ringing loft of the main tower. The churchyard has many interesting gravestones, the oldest dating from 1706 has been placed on a buttress at the west end of the church. (1)
The porch (3) is the only part of the church not badly damaged in the bombing. The porch arches are very fine examples of "Early English" style and fine Purbeck marble shafts can be seen by the inner doorway.

A chamber over the porch is reached by a stairway in the right hand wall. Just inside the church are photographs of the church before and after the bombing.
Looking up you can see the hand carved wooden bosses of the high arched ceiling - behind each of the 144 bosses is a coin placed by there by the craftsmen who helped to rebuild the church in the 1950`s.

The font (4) which dates from the 14th century stands at the western end of the church; though overturned it was not badly damaged in 1943. The font is carved from granite and is octagonal in form. The carved panels show grotesque human faces, two with protruding tongues perhaps to exorcise the devil at baptism. The font is considered to be one of the best examples of that period in the country. It is thought that the stone came from Roborough.

The replacement west window was designed by Marion Grant and represents the "Te Deum", a hymn of praise.
The niche (6) in the arch supporting the north east corner of the tower contains a figure representing Bishop Walter de Stapleton, rector here in 1300, who became Bishop of Exeter and subsequently Lord High Treasurer of England. He was murdered by a London mob in 1326.

The ornamentation along the top of the screens across the transepts is all that survives of the finely carved mediaeval screens destroyed in 1943.
The chancel has a piscina in its southern wall (7) where sacred vessels were washed after mass.
The altar of Portland stone was presented to the church by the Women`s Institute of Aveton Gifford and is of an interesting modern design.
The east window is also designed by Marion Grant and represents Jesus Christ Triumphant; it is considered one of the finest in a parish church in Devon.
The two chancel aisles were not rebuilt after the war, but their foundations can be seen at the east end of the church. 
The one on the south side (2) was a chantry chapel for Andrew de Cardinan, and the first chantry priest was appointed in 1284.




1257 The first rector was Richard de St Goran .
1284 A chantry was set up for the soul of Andrew de Cardinan. This was probably when the southern aisle was added to the chancel. A priest, Henry de Lynton, was appointed to say prayers for the souls of the departed.


1432 An inspection of the church by the Archdeaconry of Totnes noted many defects including the fact that the Rectory "has much decayed and can hardly be repaired or renewed for 40 pounds." The very fine carved octagonal granite font dates from this period.


1407 Isabella Damarel who had inherited the lordship of the Manor of Aveton Gifford was buried in the church, and she left 100 shillings and her best set of vestments to the church.
She left £50 and £100 for the hire of two chaplains to serve for 10 years after her death, including the saying of 30 requiem masses.


1534 Henry V111 renounced papal supremacy and became head of the Church of England. Monasteries were suppressed, and forms of worship were simplified.
1535 In the reign of Edward V1 chantries were suppressed and church land which provided income was sold. Fields at Aveton Gifford were bought by Anthony Honeychurch the son of a former chantry priest. He renamed his estate Chantry, formerly known as Lewton.
1549 The introduction of the Book of Common Prayer.
1553 The Church goods commission recorded the four bells in the tower. The rood screen and loft were probably removed in the reign of Elizabeth 1st.


Documents survive listing glebe lands, and a little detail of the parsonage house mentioning a pound to make cider!
1642 At the time of the civil war William Lane was rector and declared strongly for the king.


Box pews were introduced.These were rented by the rich enabling them to sit at the front of the church, the poor standing at the back!
Many accounts survive from this period detailing transactions between the church wardens and the rectors, not all amicable. There are details of burials including in 1784 Mary Brown “clerk drunk”
Churchwardens reports give detail of expenses of maintaining the church and curtilage. Stone was brought up river by barge and horse for the repair of walls and the laying of a path from Tree Corner to the door at Court Barton.
The practice of erecting tombstones was started, the earliest surviving stone is dated 1706.


During this century there were only three long serving rectors.
1824 Archdeacon Froude who was born at Wakeham Farm undertook an inspection of the church and ordered considerable work including reglazing of all windows.
1835 A secret closet containing a chest was found behind a lathe and plaster screen at the top of the rood loft stairs. This contained a suit of Spanish armour dated 1580.
1842 saw the production of the Tithe map which gives us a detailed picture of the parish, ownership of land, occupiers, crops and field names etc.
William Parr Pitman who served from 1847 for 26 years had a new rectory built, a grand Victorian Gothic building with 13 bedrooms.
He then took steps to have the school built, completed in 1857 and a reading room completed in 1858. At this time extensive restoration work was undertaken in the church. Some of this work was of questionable value.
The finely carved mediaeval screens were removed, but luckily they were stored in the rectory cellars and were restored and replaced in 1876.
William Parr Pitman was succeeded by his son William Daniel a bachelor, who was a man of enormous energy and dedication.
During his ministry great improvements were made to the church.
He funded a clock for the tower where the bells, now eight, were hung.


 St Andrews Church, lychgate, mounting block & Court Barton  circa 1905  Church screens destroyed in the bombing  pre WW2



William Daniel Pitman guided the church into the next century.
The churchyard was extended in 1934.
The January 1943 saw the devastating bombing of the village by 7 Focke Wulf 190 fighter bombers. The church and the rectory were left in ruins and there was extensive damage to houses in the village .One little girl Sonia Weeks aged 5 years who was a refugee from Plymouth staying at the rectory lost her life.

Bombed church showing the devastated sanctuary (altar area) 1944 The rector surveys the damage


With the permission of the Bishop church services, baptisms and publication of banns took place in the village school. In 1949 the nave was given a temporary roof, but it was not until 1957 that the church was rebuilt. This was not an end to the problems; due to faulty construction the tower was completely rebuilt in 1970.

A full account of the bombing can be found in the recently revised book "The Bombing of Aveton Gifford" published by the Aveton Gifford Parish Project Group.



The 19th century saw a movement away from the established church, and Aveton Gifford was no exception. At one time there were four different sects represented.



As early as 1811 there is a record of a room in a cottage being set up for worship and another in 1817. A Baptist Chapel was established near the Fore street end of Townswell lane.

The Wesleyan Methodist movement owed its growth to the influence of Welsh militiamen stationed in the barracks at Kingsbridge in 1804.
In 1836 a committee was set up to consider the building of a Wesleyan Chapel in Aveton Gifford on Bakers Hill. There are detailed records of the fundraising, tenders for the work from stonemasons and the costs of pews etc.

Another chapel was built by the Bible Christians in the middle of the 19th century at the lower end of Rock Hill. The masons were the Edgecombes a well established family of masons who remained well known into the 21st century.

A new Wesleyan chapel was built in Fore street near the old Post Office, the laying of the memorial stones took place on the 12th August 1901. this building was much grander than previous chapels and boasted a stove with pipes for heating under the floor and oil lamps for lighting.


Bible Christian Chapel  Weslyan Chapel


Older members of the parish remember remember the “local preachers” who gave sermons in the chapel.

The old Chapel on Bakers Hill was sold and converted into a house ( Belle Vue).

By 1932 the various congregations united to form the United Methodists based in the Fore Street chapel; this was converted into a private residence in 1998.