Explore Braunton - The Most Biodiverse Parish in England

St Brannocks Parish Church

The present parish church is Norman and was built in 1310. It has a lead-covered timber broach spire, which is one of only three in North Devon (the others being at Barnstaple and Swimbridge). It is possible that the lead was obtained locally, because the mines at Combe Martin were still operational at this time. During the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the spire seems to have been frequently in need of attention and so a special ladder was constructed especially for the purpose. 

Striking Pews

The most striking feature of the church is it’s pews, which are made of chestnut.  Church records date them to 1500 – 1600 and they are carved with figures of saints and other religious symbols. Some have been defaced, probably during the seventeenth century, others have upside-down initial carved into them, which was thought to be a sign of humility by the donor.  One pew end features a ladder – was this the one that was constructed for the spire perhaps? The pews near the alter depict St Brannock’s life and one shows him with a cow.

The cradle roof has a number of fascinating bosses – one of which shows a sow and her family. This too relates to a story of St Brannock’s early endeavours in Braunton. Another boss features the heraldic coat of arms of the Gorges family, which is similar to a whirlpool. The Gorges family owned one of the manors in Braunton and played a major role in the history of the village.

The Present Day Church

The present day church is not situated quite where you would expect it to be – in the centre of the village. In fact it was once in the centre of the village, but the village has since spread. When it was built, the Saxon community was very small but concentrated their development southwards, towards the fertile lands which they made into their Great Field. Later, when Braunton Pill was improved and shipping became important, houses spread further south where the sailors could live closer to the Quay. Nowadays, the church is flanked by Chaloners Road and the ancient Church Street. It is believed to be the third building to occupy the site; nothing remains of the two previous churches except a slab of stone that can be seen near the West window.


explore braunton, the most biodiverse parish in england - a north devon aonb project