Ottery church - Bishop Grandisson's gift to his people

The collegiate church of Ottery St Mary

This is an outline history of Ottery church from the first entry in the Domesday book to the present day.

1061 – Bounds of the manor and parish of Ottery St Mary fixed

1086 – The manor, but no church, is listed in the Domesday survey

1259 - 14th December. Walter de Bronescombe consecrates a church

1280 – July. Manor and church are leased to Walter de Lechelade, Precentor of Exeter for his life

1334John de Grandisson asks the Archbishop of Rouen for permission to found a collegiate church in Ottery St Mary

1335 – 13th June. The canons of Rouen grant permission to build.

1337 – 15th December. Edward III grants a Royal Licence

1342 – Sometime during this year the remodelling work on the church built by Bishop Bronescombe is completed. Grandisson’s church resembles Exeter Cathedral

Medieval clock in Ottery church



1437 – The first mention of a clock in the parish accounts. You can still see it in Ottery church, one of only four surviving in the West Country. [The other three are in Exeter, Wells and Wimborne Minster]

1520 – Lady Cicely, widow of Thomas Grey the Marquis of Dorset, married Henry Lord Stafford, Earl of Wiltshire in 1503. In 1520 she funded the building of the Dorset aisle. She was a direct descendant of the Grandisson family, hence her connection with Ottery.

1545 – The Reformation forces the wardens and canons to surrender the church and its property to the King.

1545 – 24th December. A vicar and schoolmaster are appointed to “instruct the youth of the parish in the King’s New Grammar School of Saint Mary Ottery” For further information about The King's School click here

Stained glass in the west end of the church



1549 – Many original items from the niches and canopies are removed from the church. Elizabeth I orders the walls to be plastered to make them plain.

1560 – Three galleries are erected in the transepts

1645 – Sir Thomas Fairfax sends Parliamentarian troops to winter at Ottery. The troops damage and destroy the stained glass windows and take pot shots at the weather vane.

1829 – Between 1829 and 1833 Edward Blore restores the altar screen front

1849William Butterfield begins work to restore Ottery church from its neglected state

1878 – The south transept walls are covered with mosaic tiles according to the design ideas of the time.

1919 – Plaster is removed from the walls to expose the original stonework

1952 – Work begins to restore and repair the whole church, an ongoing project

For further information on the history of Ottery church please refer to the official guide written by John A Whitham. "The Church of St Mary of Ottery in the County of Devon. A short history and guide."

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