St Nectan's Church - Welcombe

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Welcombe – St. Nectan’s Church Bell and Tower Restoration Project.



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A Short History

St Nectan's Chapel was one of the many medieval chapels in the vast parish of Hartland. It lies in unspoiled country, altogether Cornish in appearance and feeling, with views down the combes to the Atlantic.. Established before the Conquest, rebuilt in 1508, it’s tower was completely rebuilt in 1731. The Church was substantially restored 1883-84. It is built of random, coursed and squared local rubble with gabled slate roofs going down to the porch with a coping of concrete. The three stage tower has an embattled parapet, and there are some remains of render on the south face of the nave and on the porch.

The plan of the nave and chancel are probably pre-Conquest though little of the fabric above ground level appears of this date. The transepts were probably added circa 1508 when the church was largely rebuilt; the south porch is probably also C18, and the lean to north vestry was added in 1904. 



The square-headed screen (early 14th century) is of unique interest. It is, except for its cornice (which is later and much resembles that at Hartland) by far the earliest remaining screen in Devon. The lectern is Jacobean and the pulpit restored Tudor

 The semi-circular head bell-chamber windows are probably reused C16 material, the tower has a large weathered offset at plinth level, smaller offsets between first and second and second and third stages.

The West end of the Church has a small window with a 4-centred arch head, and a C20 4-pane casement has been inserted. The nave has a single window to the south, with a 3-centred arch head, a label of granite and granite jambs; a C20 Gothic casement has been inserted in place of earlier tracery. The South transept has a simple semi-circular headed window with 2-light granite tracery, probably renewed in 1897 when the present stained glass was inserted. The East face of this transept as a C20 9-pane casement in a hollow-moulded stone surround with a concrete cill.

There is a tall semi-circular tower arch with rubble jambs and voussoirs. The transepts have C19 wagon-roofs with tongue-and-groove board, though the wall plates are earlier at the tops of the walls, probably C16.


R S Hawker, the Cornish poet and antiquary, was curate here for 30 years, and held the living in conjunction with Morwenstow from 1851.

The Lych Gate, Stile and Short Section of Churchyard Wall , the Adjacent Cottage, and the  Well Housing at St Nectan's Well opposite are all listed grade II.



The Chancel has a semi-circular head. The East window rises to a slight point at the apex and the concrete label was renewed late C20.

 There is a gabled south porch with a plain outer door opening with rubble jambs, with stone benches inside on a flagstone floor. The inner doorway is in a C16 moulded stone frame. The interior is plastered on flagstone floors. Towards the east end a larger number of good C17 and C18 memorial slabs are inset into the floor. Under the tower there is a late C19 tile pavement.

 The nave and chancel are continuous under a C16 wagon roof with moulded ribs and carved bosses, the 5 towards the east end have gilding and colouring remaining.  Above each transept arch there is a section of richly-carved cornice, again with colouring and gilding surviving. The plaster between the ribs was replaced during the C19 restoration with tongue-and-groove board. The transepts have crude arches with squared rubble jambs and voussoirs.



The Rood screen is a composite structure maybe as early as early C14 (Hoskins); it is square-headed, the 8 flights are divided by thin shafts of rude workmanship; there is a broad central opening with the doors missing. The lower panels have been embellished by the addition of 3 carved C15 bench ends. The cornice of the screen appears to have been added in the C16, 3 richly carved friezes set one above the other. The screen probably stands eastward of its original position.

 There is a circular font on a C11 circular plinth, plain without carving.  The polygonal pulpit is made up of C16 carved panels, reassembled to their present form in the C18, repaired in the C19 when a new base and steps up were added; the C18 pulpit cornice is black- painted with gilded lettering: "Where there is no Vision the people perish Proverbs XXIX V 18". The reader and bench  are made up pieces of carved bench end of C15 with poppyheads, also some C16 or early C17 carved panels with semi-circular heads.

The West end of the nave has three C15 or C16 pews. The simple pews are of the 1888 restoration, probably also the altar rails and the altar table. There are decalogue plaques painted by Rev. Erisey John Porter, vicar, 1903 with large figures of Christ and Mary Magdalene. 3 late C19 oil lamps are hung next to electric lights.

The East window is of the Crucifixition of 1925 in C14 style. The North transept window 1929 and fine south transept window of 1897 of the Nativity.  

The tower contains 6 bells, 2 at least of the C18.

The Church Plate consists of two domestic pieces, a handle- less flat-bottom mug or beaker, used as a chalice, and a salver on three legs for a paten. The cup is marked  TC  in  monogram,  and  London marks  for  1653.   Salver,  maker's  mark  JM (James Morison), and London marks for 1751;  inscribed  "Alice  Bligh  1758",  with  the Docton arms.



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