History of Heanton Church


It is believed a church has been on this site since 11th or 2th Century. At the time of the Doomsday Census (1086), the Lord of the Manor of Heanton (Hantone) was Robert de Pont-Chardon who came to England with King William at the time of the conquest. Robert held the tenancy as Lord of the Manor of Heanton(Hantone) from 'Baldwin the Sheriff'  (Baldwin de Meules) who became Tenant in Chief in 1068 when William made him Sheriff of Devon. Baldwin also came to England with William at the time of the conquest.

After 300 years the manor of Heanton passed through the female line and evenually to the Bassetts by marriage, who occupied it until 1852 when the estate was purchased by Sir William Williams. He almost immediately, during the remaining 1850s, recovered land at the south end of Braunton Burrows from the estury for grazing. This land is now known as Horsey Island and tremains a part of Heanton Parish (197 acres of grazing land). The original Heanton Manor is believed to have been sited to the north of the church behind the Red House and Monks Cottage.


Entrance by the South Porch:



The double chamfered south doorway is probably c13 with ancient, pointed arch ledged plank door. This inner door is probably the oldest feature of the church, being part of an earlier building of late Norman date. 

The church is built to the Celtic plan with high rectangular nave and a square chancel.



The Font:



At the foot of the pillar opposite the south door stands the font. This is an octagonal stone font with faceted base to bowl supported on squat central column and 4 corner colonettesin a square base. There is no indication of date or origin, but historical records suggest that it was in the church by the 12th century. This makes it one of the oldest objects in the church along with the south door.

On 11th April 1898 the vestry meeting resolved that "a new top be put to the font and that Mr Garner be requested to do it forthwith". Water is drained through a hole in the base.



Music in the church:

Before the introduction of an harmonium in 1868, worship was lead by a choir of about twelve boys and girls with an adult leader, accompanied by a small band of a fiddle, clarinet and trombone. The band sat in the gallery at the west end of the church, concealed by curtains until the hymn was announced. 

In 1954 the harmonium was replaced by the present organ, installed in memory of rector Rev. Arthur Desmond Shaw. 
Additional to the organ now, a keyboard is sometimes used and occaisionally a guitar. 


The Tower:

Heanton has six bells, cast in 1829 in Bideford. The treble was recast in 1891. 
A chair now at the reading desk was made from old beams when the bells were rehung on a new frame in 1908. 
All the bells were retuned and rehung in 1971. 
At the time that the screen was moved in 2000, a floor was built in the tower to enable the bellringers to ring from a platform, as they had done up to the end of the 19th century. 


On the south side at the tower base is a board of Bequeaths made at the beginning of the 18th century.

On the north side hangs a Jacobean Panel - probably one of the oldest pieces of wood in the church. This was, until the recent alterations, on the south wall of the nave and forming a part of the pulpit. Now the pulpit has been made smaller, the panel was too big to be part of it and so has been mounted on the wall of the tower.


The Rood Screen:


This screen was originally 13th century but was extensively repaired around 1900. There are some carved angels bearing shields on each upright, some old, some restored.

On March 1st 2000, the screen was moved from a position in front of the choir (in line with the screen outside the Bassett Chapel) back to what is believed to have been its original position. At this time much of the plinth was repaired due to untreatable damage. The central doors would have been central if the south wall was in its original position.






The Coffin or Resurrection Tomb

This Coffin or Resurection Tomb is a very fine c16 tabletop tomb to Richard Coffin, who was master of the Horse for Henry V!!! and was knighted in 1534. Richard was made Sheriff of Devon on 1493 and died in 1523. Richard had requested in his will that he be buried in the Chancel at Heanton Church. The vault was opened in 1889 and found to be empty. Richard and his wife Jacquet are probably buried in a vault nearby.


Above the Coffin Tomb are two wall monuments to the Ballyman family, both with colour decoration. The left monument is dated 1695. (Family trees in Kentisbeare, Ufflecombe). Research has shown that a member of the family moved to Heanton but no more is known about them or their activities within the parish so the reason of their presence in the church remains unclear.






This is not open to the public but considered to be part of a very early church, one where the incumbant lived 'above the shop'. The evidence of an upper floor is still easily seen. The date 1704 is written in the plaster of a filled in fireplace that once heated the upper floor. No exteral access route to the upper floor has been found, so access may have been internally by ladder.




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