History of St Marys

St. Mary’s Church - information for visitors

A church dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin has stood on this site from the 14th Century, although some parts, such as the South Transept, might be older.

The oldest parts of the present church are: The South Transept (14th Century) and The Tower and Bays on the North side of the Nave (15th Century)

The Pillars on the North side are each fashioned from a single piece of granite.

 In 1850, the Church was restored. White’s Directory of 1850 speaks of the existence of an old Screen and Rood Loft. Both were removed during restoration. The stairs to the Rood are still extant but are now sealed off. The Rood Turret can be seen on the North Side of the Church. The Foot, Pulpit and Desk in Caen stone date from this time.

Before the Church was restored in 1850, there was a Gallery in the West End which was occupied by an orchestra and choir during worship.

The South Transept

Here is found a Priscina of the Perpendicular Period (1350 – 1539). On the Eastern wall, is a Hagioscope or Squint. In pre-reformation times, Mass was often celebrated at the High Altar and in a Side Chapel at the same time. The Hagioscope was used by the celebrant at the Side Altar to enable him to synchronise the service.

The Altar in the South Transept was made, together with the ornaments, for Cannon F N Robathan, a former Rector, for his use in the last war as assistant Chaplain General 21st Army Group (1944). It is made of oak from a bomb-destroyed house on the Normandy Bridgehead.

The Sanctuary

Here stands the Altar, the focal point of the Church, where Holy Communion is celebrated. Behind the Altar is a Reredos, depicting the Four Evangelists. This was painted in 1964 by Cyril Worsley ARAA.

Also of interest, is the ancient Sedilia, moved from the South to the North side in 1891. It is unusual in having only two seats. On the South Side is a Perpendicular style Piscina, later used as a Credence Table.

The present oak Credence Table is inscribed ‘This table and green altar frontal were given in memory of Roger Seaward Saunders, Churchwarden, and Annie Louisa Christina, his wife, who both died in July 1972’.

The Organ

The present organ was installed in 1910 by Messrs Hele of Plymouth for £250. It was completely overhauled in 1974 at a cost of £809.


The Bells

The 15th Century Tower contains six bells. Before 1896, there were four bells, and, in that year, two new bells were added (the 1st and 2nd) and three of the old bells re-cast.


The Windows

The East window of Victorian glass depicts the Empty Tomb and the Risen Christ. It is inscribed ‘Behold He goeth before you into Galilee there ye shall see Him’. ‘To the glory of God and in memory of Thomas Twysden, Rector of the Parish’. A brass plate on the wall to the right of the window records that Thomas Twysden died in 1887, at the age of 86 years.

The window on the South side of the Chancel, representing the Presentation of Christ in the Temple and the Annunciation, is dedicated to the Rector’s wife, who died in 1891 aged 87 years.

In the Nave are more windows dedicated to members of the Twysden family.

The newest window is on the South Side of the Nave and depicts St. Catherine. Behind her the wheel of her martyrdom from which the firework derives its name.


Standing in this window is a model of the Church made by children of the local school from clay gathered in the area.


Rectors of Charleton

The first recorded institution to the Benefice is William de Brawode in 1309. A list of the Rectors of Charleton can be found on the North side of the Chancel.

Francis Henry Lyte, author of many hymns including ‘Abide with Me’, was Assistant Curate of Charleton from 1822 – 1824.


Hassocks and Kneelers

These were embroidered during the period 1967 – 1971 by the Church Tapestry Guild, under the direction of Miss E Parker and Mrs F Seabourne.