Barnstaple Parish Church is celebrating its 700th anniversary this autumn with a range of events planned throughout the year.

Barnstaple Parish Church is still a hub of the community after 700 years and regularly features local events and concerts. Picture: Tony GussinBarnstaple Parish Church is still a hub of the community after 700 years and regularly features local events and concerts. Picture: Tony Gussin

It all begins with a concert by Barnstaple Male Voice Choir at the church of St Peter and St Mary Magdalene in the centre of town on Saturday, May 19 at 7pm, with all welcome.

It is hoped this will help to highlight the church’s £500,000 renovation appeal, a three phase bid to install new heating, repair the major damp problems and refurbish the inside.

The church would also love to welcome new people to its congregation or anyone who would like to help out as a volunteer.

The celebrations continue with a special service on September 9, attended by the Bishop of Exeter, The Right Reverend Robert Atwell.

Barnstaple Parish Church needs to raise money to repair the damp issues affecting parts of the building. Picture: Tony GussinBarnstaple Parish Church needs to raise money to repair the damp issues affecting parts of the building. Picture: Tony Gussin

It takes place exactly 700 years to the day after a consecration service by his predecessor Walter Stapleton, where the church was ‘dedicated to St Peter the Apostle’.

Church choir and congregation member Terry Ford is helping to organise the anniversary and was also present 50 years ago for the 650th celebrations.

He was a teacher at Barnstaple Boys Secondary Modern School at the time and helped to organise a huge pageant involving all the schools in the town, playing out significant events in its history.

His students did a scene marking the arrival of the Huguenots – French Protestants who fled to England - and he recalls another school re-enacted the execution of a Catholic priest.

Barnstaple Parish Church celebrates its 700th anniversary in 2018. Picture: Tony GussinBarnstaple Parish Church celebrates its 700th anniversary in 2018. Picture: Tony Gussin

Today’s celebrations will not be as bloodthirsty and more events are still being planned for the year ahead.

Terry said: “700 years is pretty significant. There was a church here before, obviously, but to have a church of this size shows the importance of the town.

“It’s been added to and altered, with a 19th century restoration and the gothic revival – at one time they had Egyptian style pillars in here.”

The 19th century reconstruction was undertaken by the famous architect Sir Gilbert Scott, who was a great fan of the church’s twisted spire – believed to have been caused by fire and storm damage.

According to Terry, Sir Gilbert was also critical of what he found and referred to the architecture as ‘the worst excesses of enthusiastic church wardens’.

To find out about volunteering, to hire the church for events, to donate to the appeal or for any more information, drop in to the weekly Tuesday and Friday coffee mornings at the church or call the Reverend David Fletcher on 01271 373837 or go to https://sites.google.com/site/barnstapleparishchurch/.