Brentor Church - History and Facts | History Hit

Brentor Church

Devon, England, United Kingdom

James Carson

12 Apr 2021

About Brentor Church

Brentor Church is a medieval church sat atop an imposing outcrop of rock overlooking the Burn Valley, near the town of Tavistock in west Devon.

Brentor Church history

The tor is a volcanic rock formation created around 350 million years ago. Rising up 70 metres from the surrounding landscape, the tor’s natural defensive advantages were initially used as an Iron Age hillfort – from which earthworks and ramparts can be found around its base.

The church of Saint Michael de Rupe (Saint Michael of the Rock) was founded in 1130 by local landowner Robert Giffard. Robert’s father had come to England during the Norman conquest, and had been given estates in Devon. It was initially a small chantry chapel and much smaller than it now appear; most of the church as it is today dates to the 13th and 14th century.

The church was struck by lightning in 1995 and was heavily damaged. The current roof was built through recent restoration work.

Brentor Church today

Brentor Church is at the western most edge of Dartmoor National Park, and one of west Devon’s most iconic landmarks.

It is the fourth smallest parish church in the UK, and, at 334 metres up, the highest working church in England. Its dramatic silhouette against an unusual formation of rocks (the tor) make it a spot for incredible photos across the landscape into Cornwall, or back onto Dartmoor. It’s a particularly unique spot to watch the sunrise – or particularly the sunset which falls behind the horizon in the hills of Cornwall.

From a distance, either from the western hills of Dartmoor or the A386, it looks like a fairy tale medieval tower on top of a tall rock. On a clear day it is possible to see Bodmin Moor to the west, Exmoor to the north and Plymouth on the English Channel in the south.

Getting to Brentor Church

Brentor Church’s noticeable silhouette can be almost as soon as you reach the northwest area of Dartmoor along the A386. The turnoff for Brentor Road is in the village of Mary Tavy, and the single track road will take you through sheep grazed moorland until you reach the village of North Brentor. There is parking for the church a short walk away.

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