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St John's History

The Historian W. G. Hoskins said the original name of the village was "Hafoc's church", indicating the presence of a church here in pre Norman times. An alternative suggested spelling is "Avekchurche". The first recorded date of a Rector is 1295 and by that time most of the village had, as part of the hundred of Whitchurch, become the property of the Abbey of Cerne. 
The church displays the following series of phases of development:

1. The Norman chancel arch is the earliest visible component of the church, datable to the early 12h century. This must have formed part of a two-cell (nave and chancel) plan, probably without aisles.

2. The addition of a north aisle and arcade, probably in the mid 12th century.

3. The rebuilding of the south side with an aisle and arcade in the Early English style, about 1200.

4. The rebuilding of the tower in the early 16th century.

5. The major reconstruction of the church of 1859-61 entailed the rebuilding of the choir and the external walls of the aisles, with the insertion of a taller clerestory into the nave, allowing more light into the body of the church.


The major reconstruction of the church was carried out by John Hicks of Dorchester in the years 1859-61, financed by the Rev. E Cay Adams. The novelist Thomas Hardy was apprenticed to this firm and visited the church. The work was of good quality and the style was largely that most admired in the mid Victorian period.
The east window of the chancel was made by the important and prolific studio of Ward & Hughes of Frith Street, London in 1862. Other examples of their work are to be seen at Beer, Kilmington, High Bickington, Okehampton and seven other Devon churches; further examples of their work include windows in the cathedrals of Gloucester, Lincoln and Lichfield.
The stone pulpit of 1861, ornamented with an enriched trefoil-headed arcade, was carved by Henry Burge; it is his only attributed work in the county. Ceramic tiles and steps were also added to the chancel, contrasting with the old stone slabs retained on the church floor, emphasising the liturgical distinction between the two. A set of pews completes the Victorian ensemble; the arcaded choir stalls in a scholarly early l3th century style matching their setting are an especially attractive feature. Thanks to the Rev Cay Adams nearly all of the Norman work was saved!
In 1963 the east end of the south aisle was furnished and equipped "as a Lady Chapel in memory of the Briscoe family, descendents of the Revs E & W Cay Adams.

For a more detailed history go here: St John's History