Church History


Willand Parish Church (dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin) dates back to at least 1263, when the first person to have his name recorded as Rector, was one 'Nicholas, called Ruffus'.

To put the year 1263 in context:

    • Henry III (b.1207-d.1272) reigned 1216-1272

    • Pope Urban IV aka Jacques Pantaléon (b.1200-d.1264) reigned 1261-1264

    • The first Parliament was called in 1264

    • Dante (d.1321) was born in 1265

    • Saint Thomas Aquinas (b.1225) died in 1274

    • Magna Carta: The still significant version Confirmatio Cartarum (Confirmation of Charters) - "the Great charter"- was issued by Edward I in 1297, and was similar to the parva carta issued by Henry III in 1237.

    • 1380: The 1st ever translation of the New Testament into English - by John Wycliffe

    • 1525 - The 1st ever publishing of the NT in English - by Willam Tyndale

    • 1537 - The 1st ever printing in England of the Bible in english

The village of Willand has probably had a settlement since the Iron Age. As 'Willeland' it is first recorded in the Domesday survey records, in 1042, as having "belonged to Ethmar". The present church building is quite small and reckoned to be 500 - 600 years old (ie built in the 1400s - the 15th Century). The red sandstone used in the building is typical of the district. St. Mary's chief attraction is a beautiful rood screen, dating from 1400, one of the oldest surviving in Devon. It has some of its original colour and gilding. Visitors who wish to see the church can borrow the keys from the Post Office during shop opening hours.

Incumbents of the Parish

click pictures below to view the lists in full (.pdf file)

This list was [in 2008] in a mock book in a glass case, at one time on the church wall

The list is missing "1263 Nicholas called Ruffus" at the start. The list should have "2000 Keith Horsfall", and "2006 Anna Elizabeth Norman-Walker" and "2011 Robert Samuel Wilkinson" added to make it up-to-date. Henry Walrond lasted the longest: 49 years in post 1738-1787, during the reigns of George II & III.

This list is in the Church Booklet, and does include Nicholas Ruffus.

Another list can be found in "The Book of Willand" 2007 the Willand History Group / Halsgrove publishers - but this list only contains an outline of the incumbents

The Rood Screen

- dates from about 1400 AD - "Rood" means "Cross" - there would have been a crucifix on top of the screen.

Below: an old photo [dated between 1906 and 1918] from

The rood screen in 2008

Left Centre Right


click on the photos to greatly enlarge

door detail; end detail; ornament detail


lower part of face; rear (chancel side)


the Font

The Church History pamphlet p9, describes: "The font, plain and octagonal, is of red volcanic tufa (or tuff) a rather porous stone. The bowl, somewhat work away underneath, does not quite fit the supporting shaft or pedestal, which has small spurs at the base, and is of a different type of stone, also worn in places. The general impression of this old font is that the bowl and pedestal have been separated at some time or other, and not re-assembled as symmetrically as possible. "

To avoid any doubt, Wikipedia describes Tufa/Tuff:

Tuff (from the Italian tufo) is a type of rock consisting of consolidated volcanic ash ejected from vents during a volcanic eruption. Tuff is sometimes called tufa, particularly when used as construction material, although tufa also refers to a quite different rock.

Age of font:-

An opinion is offered, via email, courtesy of an expert based at Toronto University:

-----Original Message-----

From: Miguel Torrens []

Sent: 20 March 2009 17:08

To: PHTownsend

Subject: RE: with thanks...

Super, Pete! Many thanks for the great images and the info. It is a

bit of a rough job, probably the work of a local stone-mason, but the

general design and shape harks back at the 14th century, so it is

quite possibly the original font of the church.

I am much obliged to you for your great help. Should we credit the

photos to you? You and the Parish?

With all best wishes,



click to enlarge

a 1622 table frame

This table resurfaced from the vestry [31st Oct 2008] during building works. The frame, legs and top appear to be from different pieces of furniture. King James I would have been on the throne when the frame was made. Click photo to enlarge.

the Organ

    • Installed by "parishoners and friends and opened by the Lord Bishop of Exeter October 6th 1926."

    • Dismantled and overhauled in 1968, and provided with an additional stop.

    • Dismantled and overhauled in 2008 as part of a Project to replace the pews, re-carpet, deal with damp etc


1889 tithe map of the parish of Willand

click on images to show enlarged version of map; may take a while to load; the thick line/shading in red is the Parish Boundary

Central & North West ..... Central & North East


Central & South West ............. Central & South East


Central Willand only ("old Village")

The figures in each field indicate the field number, and the acreage of that field. Field#1 is about where Stoneman's is. Field#280 is next to the railway near where the Spratford Stream, meets the Culm. The much bigger Halberton Parish has a field#1522 (just the other side of Spratford Stream from Willand's field#280) see Central and SW Willand map above.

War memorials

The War Memorial in the church yard lists those who served in the 2 wars, with a + symbol against those who gave their lives.

A plaque inside the church lists just those who gave their lives

The 4 Royal Navy servicemen: [subject to re-checking of facts] [based on text from the Book of Willand, Wikipedia, Great war forum,,,, Commonwealth war graves commission,]

Corporal Walter Gollop, of the Royal Marine Light Infantry, on the armoured cruiser HMS Monmouth, died 1st Nov 1914, at the Battle of Coronel, off the Chile coast. The Monmouth Captain: Capt. F. Brandt. Monmouth's main armament was 14 no. Breech Loading 6" Mark VII guns. Other British ships at the battle were: Glasgow, Otranto, Good Hope; all under Admiral Christopher Cradock. The German contingent comprised: SMS [Seiner Majestät Schiff - same as HMS - His Majesty's Ship] Nürnberg, Dresden, Scharnhorst, Leipzig, Gneisenau, all under Vice-Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau attacked Monomouth and outranged her with 8.2" guns. Monmouth was left out of action and Gneisenau moved fire to the Good Hope. Both were finished off by the Nürnberg; sinking them with a combined loss of 1,570 lives. There was no survivor from either ship.

Born Dec Quarter 1884 in Willand. Parents: George and Sarah. Wife: Alice.

Private William Henry Rugg, Gunner in the Royal Marine Artillery, died 9th Nov 1916 following months in the Royal Naval Hospital at Great Yarmouth. He had served 19 years in the RN - mostly mine sweeping.

Born Dec Quarter 1879 in Willand. Brother of John - also on the Willand memorial. Parents: John and Elizabeth - Muxbeare Cottage.

Ship's Steward Assistant William George Ellis Lee, died 9th July 1917 on HMS Vanguard, which, just before midnight, at Scapa Flow

(Orkneys), sank with 800+ hands lost (There were 2 survivors) immediately after an internal explosion, probably caused by overheating leading to the spontaneous ignition of explosives.

Aged 22 at death. Parents: Samuel (Schoolmaster) and Jane. Fiancee: Dorothy Jarrett.

Able Seaman George Victor Eveleigh, died 4th April 1918 on the Avon-class destroyer, HMS Bittern, when it was sunk with all 63 officers and men lost, having collided in fog with SS Kenilworth, off Portland Bill.

Born June quarter 1897 in Uffculme. Parents: Arthur and Martha.