St Nectan, Hartland, Devon

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Feature Sets (2)


St Nectan's is a signifcant church with an impressively high tower, the tallest in North Devon. The church is essentially 14thc. and comprises chancel with N and S chapels, an aisled nave with S and N transepts, a W tower and N and S porches. The chancel was lengthened in 1848 as part of the restoration carried out by D. Mackintosh, Exeter (Pevsner (1952) 1989, 472). The font is the only Romanesque feature.


Countess Gytha of Wessex held Hartland prior to the Conquest.  At the time of DS it was held directly by King William. 





Located at the W end of the nave, in front of the tower. The elaborately decorated square font is supported on a thick cylindrical stem, with a flattened base and square plinth below.

The plinth has upward-facing heads carved into the angles.  All look rather miserable and the NW head has a pronounced down-turn to his mouth.

The base, which is integral to the plinth, is carved with intersecting, semi-circular flat bands with three pellets in each of the interstices.  This is followed by a torus carved with nested chevron, of the profile: roll; roll.

The stem, in two sections, is carved with zigzag, followed above by a roll with nested chevron above, of the same profile as the torus, but going in the opposite direction. 

The large square font takes the form of a multi-scallop capital.  The shields on E and N faces are plain, but those on S and W are carved with a symmetrical double-scrolled ornament.   At the angles of the bowl on the underside are heads, looking down at those on the plinth. All of these heads are bearded with double-incised eyes. Volute-like forms replace the shields at the angles.

Each face of the bowl has intersecting arches comprising a row of nailhead between two small rolls. On S and W faces above this is a second band of intersecting arches.  That on the W face has pellets in the lower interstices. Above this the face is stepped about 0.06 m below the top.  

Lead lined.  Cream colour limestone. The rim is obscured by the lead lining but repairs to E and W rims are visible. 

d. of bowl 0.22 m
h of bowl 0. 29 m
h. of plinth 0.27 m
Total h. 0.92 m
w. 0.65 m x 0.67 m


The British Library holds a drawing of the font made in 1821 by John Buckler (Additional MS 36361).


  • C. and F. Thorn (eds) Domesday Book: Devon, Chichester, 1985, 1,30

  • N. Pevsner and B. Cherry, The Buildings of England: Devon, London, 1989, 2nd ed., 471–3.

General view.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SS 235 248 
now: Devon
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Devon
now: Exeter
medieval: Exeter
medieval: St Nectan (Pre-Reformation)
now: St Nectan
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Hazel Gardiner 
Visit Date
7 Jun 2001