St Helen, Abbotsham, Devon

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Feature Sets (2)


The church is 13thc. cruciform, comprising nave, chancel, S transept and N transeptal tower of c. 1300. The church was restored in 1848 and 1870-72. The font is the only 12thc. feature.


At the time of DS (and prior to the Conquest) the manor of Abbotsham belonged to Tavistock Abbey 'The Church at Tavistock'. The church was appropriated to the abbey in 1198 (Lysons, 5).





Located in the centre of the nave in front of the N doorway.

Chalice-shaped on an octagonal stepped plinth. The base has a thick band of cable moulding above two small rolls. This is followed by a thick, round shaft with a band of nested chevron at the top, alternating roll and hollow. The bowl is fluted and has cable moulding around the rim. There is a slight step on the inner rim.

There are clearly visible vertical toolmarks on the stem, and diagonal ones on the bowl and bands of decoration. A break in the rim has been repaired. Gouges in the rim, where the lid fixings were situated have been filled with lead and large iron nails are embedded in these gouges. There are traces of red pigment on the font. Lead lined. Of grey Devonian stone.

circ. 2.13 m
diam. 0.67 m
d.of bowl 0.24 m
h. of bowl 0.39 m app.
Total h. 0.98 m


The church guide states that the font was 'thought to have been brought from the church at Pusehill', a nearby village, and that 'there was an older church at the top of Pusehill' but no ruins are left today.

The font is one of five similar fonts in this area with fluted bowls. The others are at Beaford, Bradford, Clayhanger and Parkham. The font at Beaford also has a cable-moulded rim. Beaford and Parkham have a thick band of nested chevron around the base of the bowl.


  • Anon. St Helen's Abbotsham, church guide (n.d.).

  • F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications: or, England's patron saints, London, 1899, 27.

  • N. Pevsner and B. Cherry, The Buildings of England: Devon, 1952, 2nd edition, London, 1989, 123.

  • K. M. Clarke, 'The Baptismal Fonts of Devon', part 4, Transactions of the Devonshire Association, XLVIII, 1916, 307-10.

  • C. and F. Thorn (eds) Domesday Book: Devon, Chichester, 1985, I, 5, 6.

  • S. and D. Lysons, Magna Britannia, 6, 1822, 5.

General view.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SS 424 264 
now: Devon
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Devon
medieval: Exeter
now: Exeter
now: St Helen
medieval: St Helen (pre-Reformation)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Hazel Gardiner 
Visit Date
6 June 2001