We hope that you would like to visit our church. Here we provide an introduction to the building, including how we have attempted to make it accessible to all.
See also the Feniton History Society blog
(abridged from 'St Andrew's Church, Feniton, Devon EX14 3BY: A Brief History and Points of Interest' available from the church)
Feniton (Finetone) is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, although there is no mention of Saxon church. The oldest surviving part of the church is a small part of the masonry in the north wall. There is also evidence of the existence of a Norman church here from the list of Rectors with Norman names.
The Church of St Andrew, Feniton, the majority of that visible today being 15th century, is built of at least six types of stone and was originally probably plastered and lime washed. There have been three interior restorations in relatively recent times. The first was in 1836, followed by a major one in 1877. The latest interior work was in 2010, following a flood in 2008.
There is a water stoop just inside the west door, a relic of pre-Reformation times, which was only discovered in the 1960s. The roof of the nave and north transept is of a conventional wagon roof type. The south aisle roof was timber but was covered with lathe and plaster by the Victorians.
Feniton Church Nave
In the distance in the above picture is the beautiful timber rood screen which may have come from the nearby Dunkeswell Abbey when it was dissolved in 1538. On the screen which separated the south aisle from the chancel there is some evidence of earlier painting. The church has a number of square-headed 16th century pew ends which were restored after the 2008 flood. In addition there are a number of more recent pew ends which were introduced into the church at the time of the 1877 restoration. The current benches are made of oak and were purchased as part of the 2010 restoration and help to make the church more versatile as they can be moved to different layouts or stacked, as required.
In 1707 a gallery was built the full width of the west end. This was removed in 1877 although there is still some evidence of a door in the west wall of the south aisle. A window in the roof of the nave giving light to the gallery was removed in the 2003-2010 re-roofing of the church.
On the left side of the north wall is a stained glass window dedicated to the Feniton men killed in World War 2. Nearby is the recently-carved memorial to the Feniton war dead of World War 1, carved by parishoner Bill Knollman from an unused pew end. The window nearest the pulpit commemorates Alfred Dyke Acland and his wife, Beatrice Danvers.
The porch on the south west corner was an early addition (before the south aisle) and at one time served as a vestry. It now houses the toilet and a storage area.
This was built during the 18th century and originally housed a parlour pew with a private side door and fireplace. Later it housed the organ which was severely damaged during the 2008 flood. It now houses a modern servery.
This was added in about 1500, probably to commemorate the marriage of Joan, the last of the Malherbe family, and her first husband, Richard Ferrers. The chapel at the east end was once a private pew for the owners of Feniton Court. There is a small Tudor door with a low arch which leads towards Feniton Court. In 1966 replacement seating was installed and this became the Melanesian Chapel. Seats were again removed in 2008 and the area opened up for small, intimate services. Sir John Patterson is commemorated in the stained glass window and a bus of his son, John Coleridge Patteson (consecrated as the first Bishop of Melanesia in 1861) is on a window ledge on the south side. Bishop Patterson was clubbed to death on 20 September 1871 at Nukapu in the Santa Cruz group of islands in Melanesia. This was in revenge for the loss of young men from the islands who were take as slaves from the islands to Fiji and Australia at the time.
In 1904 a zinc reredos was removed and replace with the present oak one and in 1925 the oak panelling replaced curtains that were on each side of the reredos. An interesting feature here is the transi tomb, of which there are only 37 know in the UK. These represented a shock tactic to petition prayers for the dead to lessen their time in purgatory. The figure depicted may be William Malherbe, but this is not known for certain. The stained glass window depicts St Andrew, Christ and the Bread of Life and dates from 1878.
Tower and Bells
The tower is believed to have been built c. 1550 and is low, square and unbuttressed. The parapet is castellated. A winding staircase leads to the roof where gargoyles can be seen at each corner. In 1553 there were three heavy bells. which were re-cast in 1707 into five bells. The treble was added in 1886. In 1656 there was a record of a clock on the west front of the tower.
The fine window over the west door is early Perpendicular, considerably later than the tower. The open wooden staircase to the ringing chamber was biult in 1935.
Between 2003 and 2008 the chuch was re-roofed with all of the old slates being removed and replaced with Delabole slates. While this was being done we found that the dished shape of the trusses combined with a large number of nail holes indicated that frequent battens had been used, suggesting that the roof was once thatched.
The south aisle contained timber felled in 1489-1514 which supports the late 15th/early 16th century date given to it based on it's styling.
The tomb by the south door is that of John Pring of Curscombe who died in 1620 and bears the warning 'Prepare for Death'. Close by on a buttress on the south wet corner are the marks of a scratch dial.
The lytch gate commemorates the memn of the village who fell in World War 1.
2008 Flood and Restoration
The 2008 flood was a result of a hailstorm which blocked the drains and prevented the rain from the subsequent cloudburst from draining away. The church was floded to a depth of 21" causing considerable damage to the building and contents. For three years the church could not be used. The subsequent restoration and re-ordering took just 6 months but the bureaucracy required to do this took 30 months!