Dedicated to the Welsh Saint, St Winifred's is one of the oldest and most architecturally important of the parish churches in Devon. It is thought to date back to circa 995, but can only be traced back for certain through church records to the13th century. However, traces of the Saxon 'herring-bone' work can still be seen (left exposed on part of the interior wall), along with the later Norman brickwork and the remains of the delightful Mediaeval wall paintings.
Like many old churches, there is an accumulation of rebuilding and additions. Partly Norman and partly later Mediaeval, the nave is Norman and the transepts circa mid 13th century, with the chancel around 14th century origin. The font is 15th century, together with the three-decker pulpit which is almost unique in Devon. The screen is Jacobean, and the west gallery and altar rails are circa 1700.
Branscombe was one of the major East Devon villages for smuggling during the 18th and 19th centuries. An altar tomb, erected in the South-Eastern corner of the churchyard, was dedicated to one John Hurley, a Preventative Officer of the parish. Trying to douse a landing signal fire upon the cliffs between Beer and Seaton, he slipped and fell to his death. The epitaph reads...
"Here lieth the body of Mr John Hurley, Custom House Officer of this parish. As he was endeavouring to extinguish some Fire made between Beer and Seaton as a Signal to a Smuggling Boat then off the Sea He fell by some means or other from the Top of the Cliff to the Bottom by which He was unfortunately Killed. This unhappy Accident happened the 5th day of August in the Year of our Lord 1755. Aetatis suae 45- He was an active and Diligent Officer And very inoffensive in his life and Conversation."
The beautifully carved Bishop's Chair, below.
More photos can be viewed in the St Winifred's album in the Photo Gallery.