With the close proximity of the Jurassic coast of east Devon , the remains of an Iron Age fort at Blackdown Rings near Loddiswell, and the Roman city of Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum), it is not hard to imagine a long a colourful history for the place now known as Churchstow. From the intervening, but still distant years, we have the church of St. Mary, the Church House Inn, and several manor houses.
Source: Donn’s 1 inch to the mile survey of 1765
"CHURCHSTOW is the parent of the market-town of Kingsbridge at its feet, for out of his manor of Churchstow the abbot of Buckfast carved his new borough of Kingsbridge soon after 1220.
A church was built on the apex of a high ridge, the place thereafter being known as "church-stow." This church (St. Mary), still a prominent landmark in the Kingsbridge countryside, may have existed before the Norman Conquest.
The present building is a late 14th century church, built entirely of the dark local slate, with a fine buttressed tower of the South Hams type. The S. aisle is early 16th century. The font is Norman, on a new pedestal and base.
The Church House Inn, near by, is a 16th century building in green slate. About 1 m. NE. of the church is Leigh, still substantially a 15th century building. The gatehouse is a striking object to come upon suddenly in this remote lane. Leigh was a Domesday manor, and later became a cell of Buckfast. It is now a farmhouse. Norton, also a Domesday manor, has remains of a mansion. Combe Royal is a Tudor house, much rebuilt, and now a school. It, too, is recorded in Domesday. Oranges and lemons were said to ripen in its gardens. The suffix "Royal" is derived from one William Royel, an early medieval owner. Sorley, which is mentioned in a Saxon charter of 947, has traces of a former manor house. Warcombe, recorded in 1228, is a cruciform building with a massive, central chimney stack, probably 16th or earlier in date."
Extract from Devon by W.G.Hoskins (1954)
Churchstow is located within South Hams local authority area. Historically it formed part of the Stanborough Hundred. This was an ancient administrative division of a county originally containing a hundred families. In 1842, there were 31 Hundreds in Devon.
Churchstow falls within Woodleigh Deanery for ecclesiastical purposes. The Woodleigh Deanery includes 21 parishes in south Devon around the area of the Salcombe Estuary.
In 1641/2 there were 67 adult males from Churchstow who signed the Protestation Returns. The Protestation was an oath of allegiance to the King and to the established church.
According to census returns, the population of Churchstow parish was 219 in 1801 and had increased to 311 in 1901. A parish history file is held in Kingsbridge Library and further research on our history and the topics above would be very interesting.