All Saints Church, East Budleigh, East Devon & Sir Walter Raleigh

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In the summer of 2016 we visited a church I had read about, All Saints in East Budleigh, East Devon.  I had read about the amazing pew ends that date from 1537 and had survived the reformation in one piece.  With luck the door was unlocked and we entered a bright and welcoming interior.  My eyes then fell on the pew ends, amazing

The church consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, south porch, and embattled western tower with clock and six bells – five cast in 1755 and one added in 1875.  The church was probably erected between 1420 and 1425 on the site of an earlier building, and is noted for its connection with the Raleigh family, its carved bench ends and its rood screen.

The pew ends are square-headed and about 3 feet high, and from 16 to 17 inches broad.  There are about sixty-three remaining, and in no two cases is the carving alike.   Complete set of 16th century oak benches of high quality workmanship.  All are slightly different giving rise to the impression that they were acquired over a period rather than being a single scheme.  Most of the bench ends have a frame of wreathed foliage with small urn stops around a carved panel.

The Raleigh bench end dated 1537.

At the eastern end of the central aisle on the north side is the Raleigh pew, with the family arms caved on the end. It is rather remarkable that there should be no religious symbol carved on any of the pews.  Presumably, because the bench ends do not carry religious iconography this aided their preservation during the Reformation

A little about Sir Walter Raleigh

Walter Raleigh (1544–1618) was a courtier, seaman and explorer in Elizabethan England.  He was a pioneer in the English colonisation of North America.

Raleigh (orginally spelt Ralegh) was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I and helped defend England against the Spanish Armada.  As well as being a courtier and explorer, he was also a keen philosopher, historian and poet.

He is best known for establishing an early colony in the New World and for bringing tobacco and potato plants back to England. 

Sir Walter Raleigh’s father, Walter Raleigh of Fardell, was warden of the church, and Walter was born just outside in the Manor of Hayes Barton, a large house and estate nearby. owned by his father.  Both of his parents are buried in the churchyard.  

One little thing I found which was quite interesting, Walters father’s first wife was Joan Drake, a distance relation of Sir Francis Drake, unfortunately not Walter’s mother, who was his father’s third wife



34 Replies to “All Saints Church, East Budleigh, East Devon & Sir Walter Raleigh”

  1. Wow! This is a great post, there’s so much here. The pew ends are by far the show stopper. They are so unusual. And then there’s the windows, the pulpit, the font, and that sad memorial! Your head must have been just about spinning! And that’s just the inside! Did they have any information about what is depicted in the pew ends? I would love to read something on them. Thanks Lynne, really amazing! 🙂

    1. Thank you Pat, the pews are amazing, I have a book somewhere which might give some details on the carvings. I will try and find it, there isn’t a lot on google, I should have found it before doing the post, never mind. Just glad you enjoyed the visit 🙂

  2. Whar fascinating bench ends! Thanks for the photos. The reminder about tobacco and Sir Walter Raliegh reminds me of a brand they used to have, Winston-Raleigh. I have no idea if it exists anymore. I wonder if the UK actually thinks he did a good thing with bringing over tobacco–

    1. Thank you, glad you liked the pews, they are pretty amazing. No its a shame he ever found the stuff, I was so glad that they stopped people from smoking in public places and inside buildings here……sorry if you are a smoker 🙂

      1. No, never was, and of course I’m glad they stopped. I remember standing in line for the doubledecker busses where you could smoke upstairs, and of course everyone but me had them lit while they were on line downstairs too. It was really a bane of my existence when I lived there, maybe 35 years ago.

      2. When I first moved there, I sat in a pub and heard some people talking and thought, “Ah, it’s so international here–those must be Scandinavian people” and then I figured out they was just geordies–

      3. Oh thats so funny…..I still can’t understand them, but then they can’t understand my south of England accent, Steve my husband, translates for me…..he comes from Cheshire, so his a Northern really 🙂

  3. Thank you for this. I know the area well but have never visited East Budleigh. It’s on my list for later in the year. I’ve seen the memorial to the painting of Raleigh at Budleigh Salterton, of course. Do you think the gravestone was a misprint/mischisel?

    1. Thank you Barbara, glad you will get to visit the church. I think there was a mischisel on the stone, if not, thats one for the record books 🙂 You will enjoy seeing the pew ends, I only took photos of a small amount, as I ran out of time 🙂

  4. Very interesting – thanks for the close-ups of the pew ends. It’s incredible that they survived all this time. I didn’t know things made of wood especially could last all those years.

    1. Thank you, glad you enjoyed the photos. Wood can last for hundreds of years, some of the roofs of the churches can be 800 years old, it turns almost to stone, really hard, thats if the death watch beetle keeps away. Although these pew ends haven’t gone like that yet 🙂

  5. I’m an American descendant of Roger Conant who was baptized in this church in 1592. Seeing all the interior photos – and especially those pew ends – is fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing!

  6. This church and it pew ends feature in the entrancing film “An Artist Looks At Churches” made in the 1950s by British Transport Films in which the artist John Piper visits one church from each century. It is available on DVD, and possibly on the web. Google its title for more information. Well worth watching

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