Stoke Pero Church


Very high on the moor above Porlock is the tiny hamlet of Stoke Pero, which has the highest church building in England (at least in terms of altitude!). This church is only Victorian, although it looks quite old. All the material for it was carried up (from Porlock, I think) by one donkey. (At first, I thought "That's some donkey!''; but it turns out it made several trips!...)

Stoke Pero: Stoke is Old English for 'Outlying farmstead or hamlet', which sums up Stoke Pero perfectly! The Pero probably comes from the Landowners in the middle ages.
Stoke Pero is reputedly the highest church in Somerset, at 300m above sea-level. it is high up on the side of the moor, and often approached from the steep wooded combe below, springing into view as you come around the sharp bend in the road climbing up to Stoke Pero Common. The Views from the common across Exmoor and to the Bristol Channel are quite outstanding on a clear day.

The Church itself is, as you might expect, quite small and primitive. Until recently there was no electricity on this part of Exmoor, and the church still relys on Candles and fuel-stoves in the winter. The building was significantly rebuilt at the end of the 19th century, and many of the older features were lost. However, it is still worth a visit for it's very remoteness.

This is a high moorland parish south of Porlock consisting of 9 scattered farms and the church. 100 years ago there was a row of a dozen cottages nearby and another at Wilmersham half a mile to the west. Pero derives from a family who were landowners here in the 14th century.
It is an ancient church with an unknown dedication and the list of Rectors began in 1242 with ‘John’ Parson of Stoke. Robert Thoryng, Rector in 1369 is reported to have kidnapped ‘Alice of Buckethole’, wife of one of his Parishioners. The outcome of the incident is unknown.
There were no Rectors between 1675 and 1804 and it is presumed the Churchwardens collected the tithes and paid a curate to do duties.
A clue to the Church’s dedication may be found on one of the 3 bells cast in 1500 and inscribed Sancta Barbara .t.g. St Barbara was martyred in Asia Minor in 235AD and is patron Saint of artillerists.
Apart from the west tower which has a saddleback roof like those at Luxborough and Wootton Courtenay and the north porch, this small church was completely rebuilt by Sir Thomas Acland in 1897 – the date appears on the windows each side of the porch. The pews seat about 40 people.
Inside Stoke Pero Church
Inside Stoke Pero Church
The organ in Stoke Pero Church
The organ Stoke Pero Church
Access GR SS878435
Stopping near the church is difficult, as the road is generally very narrow. However, there is a space large enough for one, or maybe two cars about 50 yards from the church. As Stoke Pero is located on the top of Exmoor, if you are unhappy about driving up steep hills or through fords, it is recommended that you approach the church from Exford, following the Porlock / Luccombe roads.
Information from John C G Sturdy - John on Exmoor