Church of St Nectan Barnstaple
Stoke Village
North Devon EX39 6DU
In Stoke Village in north-west Devon stands a 14th century church with the highest tower in Devon. Standing at 128 feet (39 metres) tall, for centuries it has been a landmark for shipping coming up the Bristol Channel.
The Cathedral of North Devon
The church is dedicated to the 6th century Celtic Saint Nectan who lived and died in Stoke. The size of the church and its tower reflects the importance of this holy man in medieval times. The church is sometimes known as ‘The Cathedral of North Devon’.
The monastery at Hartland Abbey was established in 1160 to replace the collegiate church built at Stoke in 1050. The monks would trudge a mile (1.6 Kms) up the hill to the church six times in a 24 hours period to provide the religious care of the community.
This 1360 Church contains an 1170 font
The current church was built around 1360 to replace the earlier Saxon church and it is full of beauty and history. The oldest object in the church is the font which dates from 1170. A 14th-century trefoiled piscina in the chancel was probably created at the time of the rebuild. The elegant arched nave is capped with a stunning barrel vaulted wagon roof. Each segment is brightly painted in pale blues, reds and gold.
The church is large - 137 feet (42 metres) long. A magnificent wooden rood screen, carved in 1450 stretches across the width of the church. It is a massive structure with 11 bays and is 12 ft 6 inches (3.8 metres) high. Once upon a time the organ and organist sat on top of the screen!
Medieval Tomb-Chest
The many monuments include an elaborate medieval tomb-chest, a small memorial brass of 1610 and a metal-inlaid lid of a churchyard tomb of 1618. The stained glass windows celebrate some interesting subjects too – King Arthur and King Alfred the Great as well as St Nectan.
The Tower 
The tower was probably built around 1460 in four stages, and is late Perpendicular in style. It has a peal of six bells weighing practically 3 tons.
The arch of the tower, once housed a musicians' gallery where the 'church orchestra' of fiddles, double bass, flute and clarinet played for services. This musical tradition continues to be upheld today with concerts and musical events organised during the summer months.
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Pope's Chamber
One last surprise is a little room above the north porch, called the Pope’s Chamber. Inside can be found an unusual collection of artefacts. Amongst them is the barrel mechanism of an older organ which enabled a selection of hymn tunes to be used when a musician was not available. The old stocks are also on view.
St Nectan’s is a functioning parish church with services held on Sunday and Wednesday.
A little path leads off the road, 100 yards down the hill, to a freshwater spring bubbling out of the earth - this is reputed to be St Nectan’s well.
Tea Rooms at Hartland Abbey
If you are seeking refreshment we recommend a visit to the Hartland Abbey & Gardens Tea Rooms. All proceeds from the tea rooms support St Nectan’s.
Getting There
Follow the directions on this website for Stoke Village.
Google Maps - Stoke  


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