History of St. Edmund's Church, Dolton

The first documentary reference to the church is in 1279 with the institution of its first rector, Sir Robert de la Hope when the benefice was in the patronage of Sir Hugh Courtney following his marriage to the heiress of the barony of Okehampton.

St Edmund was King of East Anglia when the Danes invaded and slew him when he refused to renounce his Christian faith. Since his canonisation some sixty churches in different parts of England have been dedicated to him. He was patron saint of England until the 14th century when the Normans replaced him with St George.

Traditional Prayer of St Edmund

St Edmund“Oh God, of unspeakable mercy, who didst give grace to the most blessed King Edmund to overcome the enemy by dying for they name: mercifully grant unto this they family that, by his example they may be found worthy to vanquish and destroy in themselves the temptations of their ancient foe, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”

As with so many churches the interior was extensively remodelled by the Victorians. The work took place in 1860-1872 during which time services were not once interrupted and the declared aim was “No pretensions to beauty or architecture or style – nothing more than a secure, simple, commodious, bright village church”.

Indeed the interior is dominated by its wide and lofty restored arched nave with a wagon roof. The bells were re-hung in 1998 after replacing the old wooden bell frame with a steel structure and repairing the bell tower walls.

Anglo-Saxon Font

The font at St Edmund'sThe font at St Edmund'sWithout doubt this outstanding monument of antiquity is of international importance and is believed to date between 800 and 1000 AD. Not originally a font, it is made up of two blocks from different Saxon crosses that could have been carved when St Edmund was alive and at some stage dismantled and thrown down by either Danish or Norman conquerors.

The upper block, which is inverted, has a human face on the south side, two dragons on the east and west sides and interlaced circles on the north side. The lower block has interlacing circles on all sides.

Ancient Bench Ends

There are some lovely old bench ends which survived the Victorian restoration. Squire John Stafford, of the nearby Stafford Barton estate was responsible for these and one bears his initials, arms and date, 1581; the others bear the arms of the Coplestons of Luccombe and the Prouzes of Gidleigh – families into which two Staffords married.

Stained Glass Windows

A sample of the stained glassSimilar crests of these families were used by the Victorian restorers as centrepieces in the windows in the North Aisle. The East window was presented in memory of Revd William Kerslake around 1861 and the window at the end of the South Aisle is from 1947.


This short précis is taken from the history booklet entitled St Edmund’s Church Dolton Devonshire (copies for sale £5.00 contact one of the church wardens from the “contacts” page) - published in 2004 by Shane Wadland

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