Holy Trinity Church, Barnstaple

Holy Trinity Church, Barnstaple
List of churches
Image by pandrcutts
The most striking feature of this church is its tower. To quote from a Devon County Council website (about half way down the page):–
"Holy Trinity church, originally built in 1847 (Mackintosh, architect), has a very handsome tower in the Somerset style, but the rest of the church had to be rebuilt in 1868 because of bad foundations and is dull."

An article about Holy Trinity in the August 1845 issue of the Gentleman’s Magazine, which can be viewed here, affirms that the architect was David Mackintosh – and gives the proposed height of the tower as 156 ft. The description of the church given in the article suggests that, at least at the time it was built, it was far from "dull".

In Sussex Parish Churches John Allen writes these words of Mackintosh:–
"David Mackintosh (c1815-1858/59) was a Scot, who signed himself in 1847 as ‘Architect of Exeter and London’ on the plan of St Margaret’s, Ifield submitted to the ICBS. In 1850 he was at 11 Verney Place, Exeter (White’s Directory of Devon). The 1851 census lists only Christina Mackintosh there (born in 1801/02 in Scotland), but a surveyor and builder of the same name in lodgings at Barnstaple (born in Edinburgh), was presumably the same man on his travels – he had designed Holy Trinity church there in 1846. He worked extensively in the county, mostly on the restoration or reconstruction of churches, one of them in the romanesque style, but also designed at least one large house. He died in Exeter at his home in Verney Place."

The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review of July 1859 records on page 318 (14 lines from bottom right) the death at Verney Place, Exeter, in September (presumably 1858) of David Mackintosh, esq, architect, aged 42. This is reasonably consistent with his having been born in 1815.

Mackintosh was responsible for the restoration of the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Heavitree, Exeter at about the same time as his work on the Holy Trinity. The tower of St Michael’s is probably entirely his work as it looks pretty similar to that of Holy Trinity. The church is described in Exeter memories.

Another church in which Mackintosh’s influence can be seen lies 10 km or so west of Holy Trinity. St Margaret’s, Northam, was in a sorry state in 1853 when Mackintosh was hired as the architect in a project for its restoration. In his article on the church which may be viewed here, David Gale confirms the date of his death and adds that he died from "the effects of inflammation of the lungs." The photo of St Margaret’s which can be seen on the Northam website shows that it too has a tall tower, though it’s not as tall as that of Holy Trinity – and it was built several centuries before Mackintosh’s time.

At Stoke by Hartland, 20 km further west of Northam, yet another example of Mackintosh’s restoration work can be seen. His involvement with St Nectan’s Church in that village took place during 1848. Read more about the church here and take a look at Robert Frost’s comprehensive photographic record of the church.

I believe that the Grade I listed church of St Mary and St Martin in the parish of Chudleigh, Teignbridge also in Devon was yet another Mackintosh restoration. The evidence for my belief is here. As Alan Rosevear’s photo shows, the tower is not in the Mackintosh tradion at all. It must be part of the original structure.

Greinton House, in the village of Greinton near Ashcott in Somerset, is certainly a Mackintosh design. When built it was within the grounds of Greinton Church but it’s now a guesthouse and is on the other side of the main road through the village. There’s more about it here and there’s a photo of it here.

Mackintosh also had a hand in the restoration in the early 1850s of the building known as Affeton Castle in East Worlington, Crediton, Devon. In fact it isn’t really a castle, just a gatehoouse – though a very imposing one.

Perhaps the most important building designed by David Mackintosh is the Mariners’ Home in Greenock . It’s stated here that the architect was Robert Macintosh of Exeter. But there’s a reference here to a 19th-century lithograph which shows a view of Sir Gabriel Wood’s Mariners’ Asylum, Greenock with, printed on the base, ‘David Mackintosh Architect Exeter’.

And from where did Mackintosh get the inspiration for his towers? Maybe it was from the Cathedral of the Moors.

My thanks to John Allen of Sussex Parish Churches for allowing me to reproduce the passage about David Mackintosh (3rd paragraph).

Robert Cutts, January 2010.

Comments are closed.