Down St Mary

DOWN-ST. MARY, a parish in Crediton district, Devon; on the river Taw and the North Devon railway, near Morchard-Road r. station, and 6 miles NW of Crediton.

Post town, Morchard-Bishop, North Devon. Acres, 2, 229. Real property,

£2, 339. Pop., 426. Houses, 90. The property is subdivided. The manor belongs to HenrySturt, Esq. The living is a rectory in the dio. of Exeter. Value, £233.* Patron, Rev. W. T. A. Radford. The church is partly Norman; and consists of nave, chancel, and south aisle, with a tower.

Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-1872).

The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Down St Mary, and the Radford Family

In about 1780 Benjamin Tucker Radford was born in Lapford. He became a surgeon after serving his apprenticeship with William Stucley of Chulmleigh where they later worked together in partnership.

His father was Rev John Radford of Lapford, the second of four Rev Radfords (fathers and sons) who were clergymen in that village between 1737 and 1861. He married Mary Hacche from Chittlehampton, North Devon, in 1810.

Benjamin Radford came into a large inheritance when his uncle William Tucker of Bradiford in Down St Mary died in 1819.

By 1841 he had retired and was living in St David’s Exeter where he died aged 82 in 1862.

They had a son and a daughter.

Their son, William Tucker Arundel Radford, was born in Chulmleigh in 1818. He attended Mount Radford School in Exeter. He obtained a degree in mathematics at Exeter College Oxford before entering the church and being appointed Rector of Down St Mary in 1843, a position he was to hold for the next 53 years. (During part of that time his cousin, Rev John Arundel Radford "Parson Jack" was Rector of the neighbouring parish of Lapford. This must have been quite embarrassing.)

He had a one man mission to repair and renovate Down St Mary Church which was dilapidated when he arrived in the parish. Incorporating some local stone and employing local craftsmen, the church was largely rebuilt in stages at his own expense between 1846 and 1890 to become, as Pevsner states, “one of the richest Victorian ensembles in rural Devon”.

He married Emily Williama Walsh from Oxford in 1860. Both her parents had died before she was 11 years old. She died in 1872 aged 34. They had two sons: In March 1885 their younger son, Percival Charles Radford, then aged 22, was found dead in the driveway to Clannaborough Rectory, having walked there from his home in Down St Mary a couple of miles away. Death was presumed to be due to natural causes. Their elder son took his father’s name and died at his home in nearby Eggesford in 1915.


Rev WTA Radford died in 1896 aged 78 and is buried in his churchyard. As a mark of respect on the Saturday after his death the meet of Mr Cheriton's otter hounds was cancelled. The rector was remembered for his High Church stance and for his help during the cholera outbreak in Zeal Monachorum in 1866.