Morwenstow Parish Church is dedicated to Morwenna (a local saint) and St.John the Baptist, and is part of the United Benefice of Kilkhampton with Morwenstow.
It is probably best-known for its links with the 19th century cleric, poet and eccentric, the Rev. R.S.Hawker, Vicar from 1834 to 1875. His Vicarage (now a private house) stands nearby.
A short stroll to the south along the Coast Path is ‘Hawker’s Hut’ - the driftwood hut where the Rev.Hawker wrote sermons and poetry and contemplated the sea.
The Church is approached through a lych gate with a slate stile alongside. An adjacent stone and slate building was formerly used as a temporary mortuary, and is still known locally as the ‘Dead House’.
The interior walls of the Church are plaster-covered; the north wall of the chancel carrying a fragment of a 15th or 16th century wall painting believed to represent St. Morwenna. Opposite is a piscina, once used for washing Holy Communion vessels. This was uncovered by Hawker in 1855, having been hidden beneath the plaster for some 300 years.
The reredos above the altar features a triptych of engravings of the Crucifixion by the artist John Baptist Jackson (1701-1780), as well as a remarkable red chalk drawing of St John the Baptist by the Venetian artist, Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1683-1754).
Fine carvings abound, including pew ends dating as far back as 1539, and there are many historic tombs beneath the floor of the Church as well as in the churchyard. Between the pulpit and the lectern is the tomb of Hawker’s first wife, Charlotte. Hawker married again and was buried with his second wife, Pauline Anne, in Plymouth.
The Church has many memorials and some impressive stained glass windows. Particularly noteworthy are the Waddon Martyn Windows (commemorating a prominent local family) and the Hawker Memorial Window.
The restored original figurehead of the brig.‘Caledonia of Arbroath’ is mounted inside the Church high on the north wall opposite the entrance. For generations it served as the grave-marker for the crew of this ill-fated vessel, wrecked nearby in 1842. They, along with some 40 other shipwreck victims, were given a Christian burial by the Rev.Hawker. A weather-resistant replica now serves as the grave marker.
For worshippers and other visitors there is a car park near the lych gate, with a small car park for disabled visitors accessed from the driveway leading down to the Old Vicarage.
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