There has been a
parish church at Belstone since at least 1260AD, the date when the
first recorded priest, William de Speccot, was appointed. However,
at the time, Belstone Church was 'void by official sentence' and it
seems probable that a priest was here well before that date. Indeed,
the incised granite cross, which stands on the south wall of the
Church, near the Lady Chapel, has been dated from somewhere between
the 7th and the 9th centuries. This indicates that there has been
active Christian worship in the area since before the Norman
Conquest and the Manor of Belstone is recorded in the Domesday Book,
confirming the existence of an established farming community from
the Anglo-Saxon era. Tin streaming on the moor and granite quarrying
and cutting seem to have made Belstone wealthy enough to afford to
build a church, even in such a remote place.
There is some evidence in the building of its Norman origins, but
the present small and solid granite building, built to withstand the
Dartmoor winters, dates from the 14th or 15th century. the earliest
surviving written record of it is in an 'Inventory of Church Goods'
compiled in 1547. the first reference to the Church being dedicated
to St Mary the Virgin is later still, in 1738. A contemporary
Visitation Report complements the parish on the good state of the
Church fabric, but this appears to mark the beginning of a long
period of neglect and decline. By the early 19th century a series of
reports testified that the whole fabric was in a very sorry state. A
partial restoration was undertaken in 1855, including the rebuilding
of the singing gallery, a traditional feature of many small
is also a record of an unusual and distinctive feature of church
life in Belstone: men and women were separated during services at
this time, with the men sitting on the south side of the Church and
women on the north. By the 1870s the Church had again become very
neglected and decayed and there was a further major restoration in
1881 which swept away all the old pews, carved rood screen and
rotting floor. Much of the present day simple granite church
building dates from this restoration.
The ancient font is a relic from the earliest church building in
which parishioners have been baptized, perhaps since the time of
William de Speccot's day. The organ stood originally in the private
chapel of the Tudor manor house, Knole House in Sevenoaks, Kent. The
open rood screen was erected as the parish memorial to those killed
in the first world war. A granite stone with an incised cross stands
in the church; it has stood in various places being first discovered
in a mid 19th century demolition of the Church meeting room and alms
houses, it was then part of the Rectory wall, but when this was
demolished in the 1930s, the cross was returned to the Church and
leant against the outside of the north wall. It was placed in its
current position in 2005.
The centre piece of
the high altar is a copy of the Madonna and Child by Marie Basaili,
the original of which is in the National Gallery. There are several
fine stained glass windows, most installed as part of the 1880
restoration, but there are modern examples as well. Set in the floor
of the south aisle are three 17th century gravestones bearing the
names of old Belstone families. There are also some interesting
gravestones in the church and churchyard, several of which are
listed Grade II.
The arms of King George III are over the vestry door. When King, he
ordered that the Royal Arms should be placed in all churches as a
reminder that the monarch and not the Pope was the final authority
The peal of 5 bells dates back to 1751 and bear the following
1) God bless the Church; 2)Prosperity to the Parish; 3)God save the
King; 4)Thomas Reddaway and Simon Coombe, Churchwardens; 5)I call
the quick to church and the dead to grave. In 1995 the bells needed
rehanging and at the same time a sixth bell was added with the
inscription: 6) God bless the Parish.
Before leaving St Mary's Church, 1000 feet up on the edge of
Dartmoor, do not forget to pray for the present priest and people of
this parish, for the multitudes that need God's grace in today's
world and for the departed priests and parishioners over so many
generations. Our prayers will be with you.
Let us always
pray that the Church may
truly be the body of Chrust,
in loving sevanthood, humility and availability;
that as pastors and teachers, prophets and evangelists
givers, carers, and listeners
the whole people of God may make Christ known.
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St Mary’s Church Belstone
Statement on Safeguarding Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults
The PCC of this church
fully endorses the "Promoting a Safer Church" Policy of the Church of England
- recognise that our work with children, young
people and vulnerable adults is the responsibility of the whole church
- We are fully committed to acting within current legislation, guidance,
national frameworks and the Diocesan Safeguarding procedures.
- We will respond to every complaint made which suggests that a child, young
person or vulnerable adult may have been harmed, co-operating with the Police
and local authority in any investigation.
- We will seek to offer pastoral care and support, including supervision and
referral to the proper authorities, to any member of our church community known
to have offended against a child, young person or vulnerable adult.
- We will seek to support anyone who has suffered abuse and if necessary, help
them access appropriate care.
- We will care for and minister to any of our church community known to have
offended against a child, young person, or vulnerable adult and in conjunction
with the Diocese and other specialist agencies draw up a plan to avoid harm to
them or anyone else.
- We will review this policy annually
If anyone has any questions regarding this policy, or has a safeguarding concern
of any nature, they should please contact:Team Rector, Rev. Stephen Cook 01837
Church Safeguarding Rep: Edwina Hill 01837 840332