StokeBarnstaple
Hartland
Nr Bideford
North Devon EX39 6DU 
 
 
Stoke is a tiny hamlet, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west of the small town of Hartland on the road to Hartland Quay.
 
It is just a few houses dominated by the astonishing Church of St Nectan known as the “Cathedral of North Devon”. The church’s tall Perpendicular tower is a landmark for shipping coming up the Bristol Channel.
 
Four churches in Devon and Cornwall are dedicated to St Nectan but this 6th century Celtic saint actually lived in Stoke. It is believed that he built a hermitage beside St Nectan’s Well which can be found just 1000 yards (914 metres) down the hill below the church.
 
The Legend of St Nectan
There are many legends associated with this holy man, some rather gory. Nectan was believed to have come from Wales with a vocation to be a monk. He wandered through north-west Devon, finally settling in Hartland Forest, beside a spring.
 
Nectan lived in solitude but he helped a swineherd recover some lost pigs. In gratitude, the swineherd gave him two cows. Some bandits stole his cows and when Nectan caught up with the thieves, he tried to convert them to Christianity.
 
The bandits attacked Nectan and cut off his head. Nectan picked up his severed head and returned to his spring where he collapsed and died. According to tradition, one of the thieves died and the other went blind. It is claimed that, full of remorse, the thief later returned to bury Nectan's body.
 
The legend says that wherever Nectan's blood fell, foxgloves will grow. Visitors will find the lovely purple foxgloves growing in light shade and flowering in midsummer.
 
St Nectan's Well
A little stone shelter with open doors and a padlocked grill protects the holy spring which bubbles out of the ground. Just follow the footpath off the road to find St Nectan’s Well.
 
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St Nectan's Church 
Following Nectan’s death a cult grew up around his shrine and Bishop Lyfing of Crediton allowed a substantial church to be built. In 1050 it was turned into a collegiate church by Gytha, wife of Godwin, Earl of Wessex and holder of the royal Manor of Hartland. In 1160 a monastery was built half a mile away to house an Order of Augustinian cannons established to serve St Nectan’s Church. The Lord of the Manor, Lord Dynham funded the monastery. Today, the remains of this monastery are incorporated into nearby Hartland Abbey.
 
Accommodation
This delightful little hamlet of Stoke has a Farm Campsite and B & B accommodation. More information is available on the North Devon Accommodation page on this website.
 
Getting There
Take the A39 from Barnstaple, through Bideford and pass through Higher Clovelly.
 
Just after Higher Clovelly, turn right along the B3238 towards Hartland Quay. Pass through Hartland and take the road to Harland Quay. Stoke is on this road about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from Hartland.
 
Google Maps - Stoke