Page updated 19 May 2009
Once upon a time, back in pre-Saxon times, the royal hunting ground of Wonford surrounded the settlement of Exeter. Gradually, during Saxon times parcels of land were given to various priories and Wonford was fragmented and grew smaller. St Michael's Church is the heart of Wonford - it became Heavitree as it was the founding of a church near 'Hefa's' or heafod treow (chief tree), which was corrupted into Heavitree. Heavitree grew in importance because the main London Road (now Heavitree Road) ran through the village, and Wonford became smaller and its influence diminished.
The earliest record of a church at Heavitree dates from 1152 when it was granted to Exeter Cathedral. It was altered in the 14th and rebuilt in the 15th century and then the church tower was rebuilt in 1541. The same year, it is said that the Heafod treow was felled.
Most of St Michael's Church is Victorian - the nave was rebuilt, at a cost of £3,000 which was raised by subscription, and a grant of £500 from the Church Building Society, between 1844 and 1846. The architect, David Mackintosh used limestone, while retaining the Beer stone arcade and windows. It was consecrated on 1 August 1846. A font dating from the 15th/16th Century from the church was acquired by Richard Ford of Heavitree House and placed in his garden.
The limestone, Gothic tower was completed in 1887, in time for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee and cost £3,155. There is not a trace of red Heavitree sandstone in the building. Parish records go back to 1556.
Sources: White's 1850 and Kellys 1897.
St Michael's, Heavitree from the air. The long building behind the church is the Heavitree Brewery.
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