You can’t miss St Mary’s – its solid square tower dominates the view of Bideford seen across the River Torridge.
This is the third church to be built on this site. Nothing is left of the original cob and wattle Saxon Church which was replaced by a stone church in the C13th. By the C19th this was in a very poor state of repair and was demolished apart from the tower and a new nave and chancel were built.
It is a very large church, reflecting the wealth and importance of Bideford at the time.
The inside is equally as impressive with arcades of pillars with pointed arches separating the nave and side aisles and hung with brightly coloured banners. Embroidered kneelers propped up on the pew benches add more colour.
The oak screen at the bottom of the tower was made from old pew ends.
Between the chancel and the south aisle is the tomb chest of Sir Thomas Grenville who died in 1513 and, along with the tower, is one of the few parts of the earlier church to survive.
All Saints’ Chapel in the north aisle was the area reserved for the mayor and corporation. It is separated from the nave by a glass screen with engravings including the baptism of Jesus, St Anne, and a local fisherman. Now reached from the north porch, this has a simple stone altar and the Memorial Book.
In front of the glass screen is the Norman font, dating from 1080. Near it is the pulpit carved from Devon marble in 1894.
This is a very attractive church. I was very lucky to find it open. It is well worth visiting. It is obviously well loved by the congregation.
The church is kept locked apart from services. It is open on Monday mornings when the ‘Holy dusters’ clean the church or about 10am on a Friday when it is open to prepare food for “The Friday Diner”:https://stmaryschurchbideford.org/community-groups/friday-diner/ at 12o’clock. There is no parking by the church. The post code is EX39 2BP and the grid reference is SS 454264.
There are more pictures “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/south/southwest/bideford/index.html