(from 'A Brief History of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Payhembury' available from the church)
St Mary the Virgin
The building of this church was begun in the 12th century and it was consecrated by Bishop Branscombe.
Until 1237 the Incumbents were Rectors, but after a dispute between Thomas Wymundshan (the Lord of the Manor?) and the Abbot of Forde, the Abbot and Convent of Forde appointed a Vicar and kept the tythes for themselves, and remained patrons of the living until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The greater part of the present building is 15th Century and the arcades are built of Beer stone. The aisle was built at a later date and Thomas Chard - the last Abbot of Forde gave a window in the chancel, his initials and Abbot's crook being carved on the stonework on the outside of the window.
At one time there was a western gallery across the tower arch, and against the north and south walls was high pewing in constrast to the seating in the central portion. The bench ends of the central pews have delightful devices carved on them.
In 1897 the church was greatly restored, the cost being met by the Vicar, Rev. George Messiter-Terry, with the exception of the cost of the lectern, which was subscribed to by the parishioners. The Vicar stated that he only wanted the parishioners to be responsible for the boarding of the workers during the alterations. A regular church attendant told how two of these workers lodged at her home and acted as her God-parents.
During the restoration the fine canopied image niche was discovered. It was carefully renewed and repainted and a figure of the Madonna and Child placed in it.
The richly carved and painted screen extends across the nave and aisle and is said to date from 1450. The Roodloft stairs are on the left. The Vestry was built in 1897.
The Altar Rail is Queen Anne period and the Priest's doorway on the south side of the chancel may be Early English. The pulpit is 17th-18th Century and the ocatgonal font is 15th Century, but the carved oak cover was made in 1897.
The chancel roof is beautifully painted and the bosses, numbering 12, show parts of the crucifixion. There are also 12 Musical Angels around the roof.
Most of the windows are modern, with the exception of the four figures at the top of the window in the north aisle, which depict four martyrs: St Blaize with a sharp comb with which wool was carded, St Lawrence with a grid iron, St Stephen with stones and St Vincent as a deacon with two cruets. This is said to be some of the oldest glass in Devon.
There are now six bells, but in 1583 there were only four, three of which have been preserved. Two more were added in 1665 and the sixth in 1853. After the Western Rebellion in 1549, as a punishment for using the bells to call parishioners to rebel, the bells were dismantled and left on the ground. The bells were taken down a second time in 1923, when the tenor bell was re-cast and the others re-tuned.