04 February 2018

Church of St Mary Magdalene, Barwick

St Mary Magdalene’s is a small church with a big history. Built of the local Ham stone, the main body of the church dates from the 1200s, while the chancel is a 19th century rebuild that incorporated earlier building fragments.

Barwick doesn’t get a mention in the Domesday Survey but, in 1228, Henry III granted the locals the right to hold a fair here and, in 1231, granted the right to hold a market at the local manor to William de Cantilupe, who held the local estate. St Mary Magdalene's was presumably founded around the same time and was originally a chapel of ease, providing a welcome resting place for travellers along the busy London to Exeter road.

Inside, the church has some lovely old Oak furnishings – the wonderful Jacobean carved panels on the pew ends caught my eye – and a very impressive, colourfully decorated organ. Though I doubt they were particularly old, the symmetric lines and patterns of the old floor tiles were lovely, as were the clean simple lines of the stained glass windows.

The building’s heritage value is recognised in its Grade II listing but the building is in need of major restoration work. According to the Historic England website, ‘The tower roof is in poor condition, the bell frame needs work undertaken and the nave and aisle roofs are also in poor condition.’ Because of this, the church has been placed on the Heritage at Risk Register, yet the congregation was unsuccessful in its 2017 application for a Listed Places of Worship Roof Repairs Grant. I hope the repair money is found soon as this wonderful old parish church is definitely worth saving.

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