This was an ancient pagan meeting place and burial
ground, having a small pool of water provided by a fresh water spring.
In 600AD missionaries arrived from Rome and used the local people’s
rituals to draw them to Christianity, so a Saxon church of wattle and
daub with a thatched roof was built on the site.
After the Norman invasion, the church was rebuilt using red stone from
Whipton quarry, which they carved with leaves and plants and Christian
symbols. The only surviving piece of this carving is a large ram’s head,
which now lies against the north wall of the church but originally
supported a roof beam. (See picture)
In 1349, the Great Plague, when Dawlish lost three new vicars in a year,
brought the great era of cathedral building to an end, so skilled masons
were employed in the building of private houses or rebuilding of parish
Around 1400, the church tower was built of red sandstone and is now the
oldest part of the present church. It housed the bells which regulated
the lives of Dawlish’s medieval inhabitants and tolled at their passing.
Soon after, due to growing prosperity, the walls were also rebuilt in
the same local stone. And in 1438 the carved pillars were constructed in
During Cromwell’s reign as Protector, a simple, puritan approach to
religion meant the colourful medieval wall paintings were white-washed
and statues were destroyed. A screen behind the altar was painted with
the 10 commandments and everyone had to attend church every Sunday by
During the Napoleonic Wars, travel to the Continent became impossible,
so seaside resorts sprang up all around our coast. Fashionable visitors
flocked to Dawlish and swelled the population. In 1823, the church was
enlarged and a new roof built 3 feet higher than the original in order
to accommodate galleries for the larger congregation.
In 1875, the Victorians refurbished and enlarged the church with a new
Chancel and south aisle, now the Lady Chapel. When the galleries were
removed in 1897, the whole church was the light and open building it is