M St Margaret's Church Topsham

Topsham Parish Church is in an amazing location, overlooking the Exe estuary. The views are fantastic, especially at sunset at the end of a sunny summer day when everything is calm and still.

Only the tower survives from the medieval building. Most of the church was rebuilt in 1874-76 after being destroyed by fire. This is perhaps how the tower came to have an unusual location in the church. It is attached to the west side of the south transept, and the main porch is east of the north transept.

The 19th century church is built in squared grey limestone. The tower dates from the 14th century, and is built in the Perpendicular style mostly using Heavitree Stone. It is a good example of how the official records confuse Heavitree Stone, or breccia, with sandstone. According to the Historic England listing, it is a “red sandstone tower”. That is because breccia is classed as a type of New Red Sandstone. Can you see the angular bits of gravel embedded in the stone? That means Heavitree Stone.

The tower hasn’t survived history entirely unscathed. During the Civil War, a cannon caused extensive damage to the lower section, so that it had to be replaced. Hence the top of the tower is older than the bottom!


  1. Devon & Dartmoor Historic Environment Record – http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MDV9950&resourceID=104
  2. Historic England Listed Building – https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1170373
  3. Historic England Pastscape – https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=899733
  4. Torbay and District Organists’ Association blog – http://tdoa.org.uk/2007/st-margaret-topsham-exeter-2/
  5. Deryck Laming & David Roche “Permian Breccias, Sandstones and Volcanics” – https://new.devon.gov.uk/geology/devons-rocks-a-geological-guide/

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