Historical evidence indicates that there has been a church in Upton Pyne since 1264. The present church was consecrated on 26th September 1328 by Bishop Grandisson, the last of the great bishops responsible for the rebuilding of Exeter Cathedral. The episcopal register states that the church had three altars. Due to the reluctance or inability of the parish to pay the bishop's fee, the church was placed under an interdict, which was not lifted until 31st January of the following year.
The church has undergone extensive alteration and restoration in the 15th and 19th centuries.
The church is built mainly of a local volcanic rock (trap). Outside the porch, which was rebuilt in 1874, is a "preaching cross" from the 15th century. The cross member is missing.
Here are two views of the nave, looking east to the altar and west to the tower arch. The chancel arch and the piscina and drain in the south wall of the chancel date from the original church. The carved wooden reredos contains a painting of the last supper which is a copy of a painting produced in the studio of Jean Jouvenet (1644 - 1717) in France. The date of the copy is early 18th century and was brought from Italy by Hugh Stafford Esq. of Pynes in about 1710 and presented to the church.
Here are the font and organ. The organ was installed in 1896 and is a memorial to Noah England, village schoolmaster for forty years.
The south aisle was added about 1400 and has elaborately moulded pillars with wreathed capitals of Beer stone. Both arches and pillars are enriched with floral carvings, and engraved on the eastern and western capitals are angels holding shields with charges (armorial bearings) of the Larder and Pyne families, no doubt originally painted. The Pyne charge is recognised by the chevron and three pine cones.
In the south wall are two canopied sixteenth century tombs, the larger, shown here, is surmounted by the recumbent figure of a young man in armour with his sword beside him, dog at his feet and his head resting on his helmet. Above the tomb the damaged inscription reads: ORATE PRO AIA EDMNDI LARDER AR(MIGER) - pray for the soul Edmund Larder Esquire. Below are four shields, which would probably have originally been painted, bearing the Larder coat of arms (three piles in chief), some impaling other family charges. Edmund was the son of William Larder, who married Constance, daughter and heiress of Nicholas Payne. He died in 1521. The Payne family had been lords of the manor since the reign of Henry I.
The smaller tomb is of Humphrey Larder, grandson of Edmund. It has no figure. The Larder family were patrons of the living of Upton Pyne.
The window in the south aisle contains fragments of 17th century Flemish glass, one of which is dated 1630. The window is a memorial to the first Countess of Iddesleigh, and the central panel contains the Northcote coat of arms. Humphrey Larder had no male children bit the manor was retained by his grand-daughter, and after five generations it came by marriage to the Copplestone family, and Hugh Stafford purchased the manor from John Copplestone. His eldest daughter, Bridget, married Sir Henry Northcote, Bart. who in 1797 became patron of the living.
The tower was built in 1380 and has interesting statuary in niches on its exterior walls. In a canopied niche on the semi-octagonal stair turret is a figure of King David, crowned and bearing a staff with a lamb at his feet. Over the west door is a figure of Christ in Benediction. The niche on the east side of the tower, below the clock, is empty. It may once have contained a figure of the Virgin Mary, to whom the church is dedicated.
Above the diagonal buttresses on the corners of the tower are niches of Beer stone containing figures of the four evangelists. The figure of St. Matthew, with an angel at his feet at the south-west angle is headless, St. John, with an eagle, is at the north-west angle, St. Mark, with a Lion, at the north-east angle and St. Luke, with a calf, is at the south east angle. New pinnacles were erected in 1875. The finely carved heads at the ends of the drip stones of the south aisle are worth inspecting.
The north aisle was added in 1833 and extended by the addition of an organ aisle in 1874.
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