Martinhoe is recorded as a Domesday manor, along with Killington, now a local farm. It is thought that the site of the present church was that of a chapel serving the manor families, built with the dimensions of the current chancel.
The precise date of the early building is not known, but the original font, now in St. Petrock's church, Paracombe, is probably of Saxon origin. This font was unearthed in modern times in the rectory garden at Martinhoe and given to the Saxon church at Paracombe.
As I could see no pipes, I assume the organ is electronic.
There was a substantial rebuilding in Norman times, although completion in a form recognizable today was not until about 1200. Further modifications and additions culminated in an extensive restoration in the middle of the 19th century.
It is interesting that the Domesday manor of Martinhoe (or Martin's Hill) derived its name from the founder family, and the later dedication of the church to St. Martin, a 4th century Hungarian martyr, was probably a choice of convenience.
Before the last restoration, the church consisted of a tower (which is largely unaltered) and the nave, which has been completely rebuilt, and the chancel which has had a modern window inserted. The tower, with its low pointed opening into the nave, is of primitive form but it contains no moulded stone or other firm indications of date. The narrow slit windows are deeply splayed internally. This is probably merely to assist with the lighting, but is possibly for defence. The tower contains two bells of early, though unrecorded, date; one is inscribed MARIA and the other SANCTA MARIA.
The nave is entirely modern, except for a small section of the west end of the south wall. The earlier roof was of the wagon form, usual in Devon churches, divided into large square panels with decorative bosses at the intersections. The north wall was replaced by arches and the north aisle added. The medieval oak benches with their carved ends, and the 18th century box pews, were destroyed at the same time and replaced by the present deal pews.
The chancel still shows Early English features. The eastern triplet window is very early and formed of rough stone with the splays and window arch plastered. The three present side windows were inserted when earlier one light windows in the north and south walls were blocked up. Both the earlier and later windows have the flat segmental arch belonging to the style.
The first recorded rector of Martinhoe was named de Pyn, a member of the West Down family, but the first whose date of institution, 1270, is known was William de Esse (Ash).
James Hannington, the first Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, was for some time a curate at Martinhoe. He later joined the Church Missionary Society, and after spending some time near the East African coast he was, in 1884, consecrated Bishop. The next year he set off on the long trek to what is now Uganda. The native king, fearing his Christian influence, had him murdered near the banks of Lake Victoria. Another lake in the Great Rift Valley carries his name, and in Martinhoe, the parish hall bears his name.
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