Devon: Disused Catholic church receives £196,832 repair grant


Canon Peter Morgan, Sir Neil Butterfield, Selaine Saxby MP and Rebecca Barrett, at Church of the Immaculate Conception, Barnstaple

Source: Historic England / CBCEW

Historic England has awarded a grant of £196,832 to help repair a Catholic church in Barnstaple, Devon, which closed to worship in 1984 and was threatened with demolition.

The Old Church of the Immaculate Conception, also known as Old St Mary’s, is a Grade II listed building. The Diocese of Plymouth is also bearing the cost of the first phase of repairs.

Work has recently started to: stabilize the chancel arch and buttresses by inserting steel pegs and tie rods; restore and repoint exterior masonry; repair the roof structure and slate certain areas and repair the windows.

Work is expected to be completed in the summer of 2022. The building will then dry out while plans for its reuse are fully drawn up, in collaboration with the local community.

The church opened in 1855 to serve the growing community in the Trinity area of ​​Barnstaple. Following its closure as a place of worship in 1984, there were proposals for its demolition. There is now a concerted effort to repair the building and return it to service.

Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon, said: “I know the community of Trinity Street in Barnstaple has worked hard for many years to persuade the Diocese of Plymouth to repair and restore this church so that it can be used by the community. It is wonderful news that the Diocese has launched this project and that Historic England has stepped in to help fund the much needed structural work. I look forward to seeing the plans for how we can bring this incredible life back to life. building.

Rebecca Barrett, Regional Director of Historic England, said: “It’s great to see the repairs to this remarkable building underway. We hope that our support, and that of the diocese, will ensure this for generations to come.

Sir Neil Butterfield, Diocesan Administrator and Chairman of the Project Board, said: “The Diocese of Plymouth is very grateful to Historic England for their generous contribution to the cost of the restoration and refurbishment of this important Catholic monument in Barnstaple. . For too long the old church has remained neglected and abandoned: it is an exciting prospect that the building can finally be restored and brought back into use.”


The church was one of the first post-reformation Catholic churches to be built in Devon. It was designed to serve the community in the Trinity area of ​​Barnstaple which was growing rapidly in the early 19th century.

The site was purchased in 1842 and the church opened for worship in 1855.

It is one of the first and probably the most successful neo-Romanesque design of the county.

When the church opened in 1855, the North Devon Journal reported that it had been designed by AWN Pugin (1812-1852), the famous pioneer of English Gothic Revival architecture and designer of the interior of the Palace of Westminster and the Elizabeth Tower, home to Big Ben. However, it is more likely that the architect was Gideon Boyce of Tiverton and the building was completed by RD Gould of Barnstaple.

The Church of the Immaculate Conception functioned as a Roman Catholic place of worship for residents of Barnstaple and surrounding areas until 1984 when a larger church, known as St Mary’s, was built alongside . St Mary’s remains an active church with weekday and Sunday masses as well as regular weddings, baptisms and funerals. The Catholic Parish of the Immaculate Conception covers a large geographical area including the towns of Barnstaple and South Molton, many local villages and parts of Exmoor. There are two churches in the parish – the parish church of St Mary, Immaculate Mother of God, in Barnstaple and the church of St Joseph in South Molton. The parish priest is Canon Peter Morgan.

Do you know this building? Historic England invites you to share your knowledge and images of listed places, so you can record important facts, and even unlock the secrets of some. Contributors can add film clips if they have a YouTube account. Historic England would like people to add photos, information, memorabilia and film clips (YouTube account needed) which will be posted on the list entry info for all to see. Find out how you can enrich the list HERE

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Key words: Historic England, Devon, Barnstaple, Old St Mary’s, Selaine Saxby, Sir Neil Butterfield, Diocese of Plymouth, Rebecca Barrett

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