Image of South Pool Church from the East


We welcome you warmly to this church, on its lofty site where some form of worship has most probably been held for well over a thousand years and where it continues to play its central role in village life.

History of the church

The original name of the church was an earlier version of St Cyriac. At some point in the early 19th century ‘St Nicholas’ was added.  He was the fourth-century Bishop of Myra in present-day Turkey, patron saint of seamen (and children -  'Santa Claus').

The church was dedicated on 24 August 1318. It is sited on a high point above the village with a churchyard of about one acre. Its layout and siting within a clearly defined ovoid enclosure suggests that it is in what was once a defensive site for the Saxons or earlier and, as was the custom, is likely to have contained a church.

The presence of a twelfth century font indicates the existence of an earlier Norman church of which only the south porch and the nave remain. The present building dates mainly to the fifteenth century when two aisles, the two transepts and the tower were added.  At some time in the late 19th century the present pews were installed. The churchyard contains some 311 gravestones, not all visible, or burial sites.

The tower

The imposing west tower dominates the church. There are six bells, the treble and bells 2 – 5 cast and dated 1762; the tenor was re-cast in 1821. They are regularly rung by a small but enthusiastic group who also enter bell-ringing competitions across the county.

South porch and south door

Dating to the 14th century the porch, together with the nave, is the oldest part of the church fabric. Against the east wall is a wide bench - some speculate that it was an altar - and there is a blocked window, the purpose of which is uncertain, but suggests that it may have been a leper's squint. On the south wall is a stoup once containing holy water. The south door is probably seventeenth century. The latch and huge iron key are original.

The font

The Norman sandstone tub font with its simple carved decoration repeated nine times dates from the 12th century and is the oldest piece in the church.

Picture of stained glass window

The Rood Screen

The oak rood screen with its extraordinarily decorated panels for which the church is famous is of considerable importance and is perhaps the most spectacular feature of the church. The screen appears to have been built and painted in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. The whole screen is richly and delicately carved and the quality of the vaulted cornice is outstanding.

At first sight the ‘green man’ images on the screen are reminiscent of a pagan, pre-Christian, tradition. However they are found in both secular and ecclesiastical buildings for the green man is generally seen as a symbol of rebirth and it is not uncommon for Christianity to take over pre-existing customs and adopt them as its own. 

The chancel

On the south side of the altar are a small aumbry (for holding altar vessels) and a piscina (for washing them).

On the north side is a limestone Easter sepulchre, a rare and possibly unique monument showing the resurrection of Christ dating from the early part of the sixteenth century.  It has been defaced, probably during the Reformation.  The effigy of a priest that lies in it was placed there at a later date.

Image of Nave of South Pool Church

Darre chapel

The striking marble and alabaster Darre wall monument is of exceptional quality. Leonard (died 1615) and Joan Darre (died 1608), with their two sons, Leonard and George, behind their father and their three daughters, Winifride, Rebecca and Julian, behind their mother. There is a priest's door in the south wall of the chapel.

South transept

On the windowsill of the south transept lies an effigy of an early- to mid- fourteenth century lady with a dog at her feet. She is thought to be Lady Muriel de Courtenay (c.1340 - 69), daughter of Sir Thomas de Courtenay.

The roof

Whilst the nave, transepts and aisles originally had late medieval wagon roofs, the nave roof was replaced possibly in the 16th or 17th Century. Throughout, there are fine carved and painted bosses.

The Kneelers

The 65 kneelers set out in the pews with their many images of South Pool were made in 1985 when on the inspiration of Rosalind Page, (1916 - 2017), a group of village ladies (and one man!) came together and sourced the various materials at the minimal cost of £5 a kneeler.

Parish Registers

South Pool's early Parish Registers and Records are now held in the Devon Heritage Centre, Sowton, Exeter. They date back to 1664 (baptisms and burials) and 1665 (marriages).

Funding and Uses of the church

The PCC continues to pay the annual parish share to the Exeter Diocese and to maintain the fabric of the church through its own funding. We continue to depend on the efforts and generosity of parishioners and visitors, and occasional grants from charitable bodies, to maintain the church as all would wish it to be and to allow us to fulfil our duty to hand it on in good condition to the next generation of parishioners in its seven hundred-year history.

If you wish to know more, please make a visit to the church which is always open and where you can find a detailed brochure also containing a short history of the parish. For any further queries or to make a much-welcomed donation please contact Geoffrey Tantum on telephone: 01548 531938 or email: services@gulfconsultancy.co.uk

Photos courtesy of Tim Hirst (hirsttim@gmail.com)