History of St Werburgh Church, Wembury

The Church is one of four in the country dedicated to St Werburgh (7th century Saxon Abbess). It is picturesquely sited on rocks above Wembury beach; unusually it is built outside the village, with views over the Yealm Estuary and Mewstone, and surrounded by National Trust land. It serves the parish of Wembury, including Down Thomas and Heybrook Bay, and the surrounding communities.

The main part of the present church was built by the Normans in 1088, replacing an earlier Saxon wooden building. In the 1880’s there was a substantial restoration, significantly funded by the Cory family of Langdon Court.

The nave roof, a traditional Devon Wagon Roof, has a variety of carvings and five of the bosses represent St. Werburgh and the four gospel-writers. Parts of the roof of the south aisle are original medieval timbers.

The organ came to the church in the 1960’s replacing a smaller chamber organ. It had been built in Huddersfield in 1915, and moved here having served other churches. It has received a number of upgrades as well as regular maintenance, with significant work undertaken recently.

The tower was the last part of the building to be completed, early in the 15th century, and the 1552 Inventory records three bells. With recasting to repair cracks, the number of bells increased to five in 1909, and a sixth bell was added in 1948 in memory of parishioners who died in World War 2.

The tower contains six bells, the ‘newest’ bell was added as a war memorial in 1949.

There is much to see of interest inside the church. The font, pulpit and pews are especially beautifully carved. These are the work of Mr Hems of Exeter in 1886.

Two stained glass windows in the church are of particular interest, being the work of Fouracre and Watson, of Stonehouse; these windows being the chancel window and the tower window. The chancel east window is unusual being made up of geometric patterns instead of figures. The dedicational panel running across the bottom of the window is obscured by the reredos but it is probably a memorial to the Cory family. The tower window acts as the dedication window, depicting St Werburgh holding a church or cathedral.