"North Devon Cathedral"
Situated across the road from the entrance to Stoke Barton Farm is the parish church of St Nectan which boasts the tallest tower in Devon (128 feet) and has often been called the Cathedral of North Devon
The church is dedicated to the 5th century Celtic saint, St Nectan. The tower is visible for miles in all directions, and is used as a landmark by ships at sea. In the mediaeval period St Nectans was the church for the monks of Hartland Abbey, who walked the mile uphill to the church from the abbey itself for services 6 times every day and night.
The church dates from 1360, though it was built upon the remains of an earlier building believed to date from 1170. The font of the earlier church still survives.
The rood screen (1450) is the most impressive aspect of the church interior. This is a magnificently carved wooden screen of 11 bays, stretching 45 feet across the nave. It rises to a height of 12 1/2 feet and is almost 6 feet wide at the top. So massive is the screen that at one time the organ and seating were poised on top of it.
Alfred the Great is said to have bequeathed Hartland to his son Edward, and later stories associate St Nectans with Arthurian legend. Stained glass windows in the north aisle depict Arthur, Alfred, and William the Conqueror.
St Nectans Holy Well Just downhill from the church a narrow path leads off the road to St Nectans Well, an old holy well housed beneath a stone shelter. Three flagstones lead to a simple arched doorway set in a small wellhead structure of stone. Padlocked iron barred doors allow you to see the inner chamber where the water bubbles out.
The legend of St Nectan tells that he was on a journey north from Cornwall when he was set upon by bandits. The bandits beheaded the saint, whereupon he picked up his severed head and carried it to this spot. When he set the head down, water sprang forth from the ground.
Images of Stoke Church