St Michaels Church
Chagford Parish church is at the heart of this vibrant town.
Everyone of whatever tradition, and none, will find a warm welcome here.
The beautiful church building, dedicated to St Michael the Archangel, has been a place of prayer, peace and hospitality for close on a millennium. The church was consecrated by Bishop Branscombe in July 1261 and in 2011, the 750th anniversary was celebrated.
Inside, visitors will find a warm, welcoming and interesting building.
Many of Chagford's historical events are linked to the church.
Chagford Church features many finely carved roof bosses. These include a whirlpool (the heraldic badge of the influential Gorges family), the three hares (a symbol where 3 hares chase each other in an everlasting circle sharing between them only three ears, yet each animal has two ears) and a Green Man, partly hidden from view behind the organ.
The prominent Whiddon family are evident in the church. The wealthy Sir John Whiddon became a Judge under Queen Mary. Knighted in 1553, he remained a Judge under Queen Elizabeth too. Described as “a man of an high stomach and well-read in the laws of the land”, he died in 1575 and is buried in the ornate tomb beside the altar.
Mary Whiddon was Sir John Whiddon’s granddaughter. Her tomb lies in front of the altar where the stone slab set in the floor states; “behold a matron yet a maid” leading historians and romantics to presume that Mary was killed on her wedding day – possibly by a jealous lover. The truth is uncertain but remains one of Chagford’s most enduring and endearing mysteries.
The years of the civil war saw much fighting around Royalist Chagford. On February 8th 1643, Parliamentary soldiers staying in Chagford were surprised by Royalists. A fight ensued and four Parliamentary men were killed and buried in the churchyard. A musket, fired from the church tower, hit a young poet, Sydney Godolphin, who was also Member of Parliament for Helston in Cornwall and a Royalist. Fatally wounded, he was laid in the porch of the Three Crowns, but was removed to Okehampton by Sir John Berkeley where he is buried.
During the 18th century, the Hayter and Hames families dominated as Rectors of Chagford. They took on major works throughout the church and town. The ornately carved screen and pulpit are memorials to two members of the family.
Visitors will find a ‘walk around’ guide in 4 languages and may purchase a fully illustrated church guide, cards and other merchandise.
St Michael’s is open daily until dusk and visitors and pilgrims are always welcome.
Our worship embraces both traditional services, led by our choir, and more contemporary and informal worship where the music is led by our instrumental group The Elastic Band.