The Church of The Holy Trinity, Challacombe is Grade II Listed and dates from the early 16C. The nave and chancel were entirely rebuilt in 1850 and again restored in 1874-5. Further restoration to the exterior was carried out in the 1990s.
Challacombe has a pretty little church in a lovely setting, about a mile from the present village. Platforms of houses can be still seen in the field east of the church where the ancient village once stood. Perhaps disease and the need to have access to the modern road meant the village moved away, leaving the church alone with a farm and one or two houses beside it.
Christianity probably first came to Challacombe through Celtic saints using one of the ancient tracks across Exmoor that passed this way. The first recorded rector here is John de Stokes, arriving in 1308, but there is likely to have been a church here long before him.
The church may have begun as a wooden building, and then as elsewhere replaced by a stone one in the 1200s. We know little of this building except that it became very neglected. By 1846 the ancient tower had been partly rebuilt, but in 1848 a new rector declared that the church itself ‘Is in a disgraceful state and unfit for divine worship’. By 1854 the church was largely rebuilt, the work costing £360. It was further restored in 1874-5 at an additional cost of £400. The second phase of work included tiling the chancel floor, providing a pulpit and reredos behind the altar. Some things do survive from the old church – a 14th Century font, and a bell dated 1755. Extremely battered church registers in part survive from 1597, their condition a reflection of the state of the church at the time.
A church is not just a building, but people, and the church is rich in them. Before the arrival of an organ, music was dominated in the mid-nineteenth century by one man and his family who provided orchestra (a flute) and choir. He stamped out the time with his hob nailed boots. This remarkable man, John Howe Barrow, was a self-taught school teacher, musician, parish clerk and by trade cobbler. In the 1870’s the rector introduced a harmonium to the church played by the teacher at the state school just opened in the parish. We can imagine John Barrow’s feelings, but he and his family were still prepared to sing in the choir.
Some years ago attendance dropped, and the whole future of this remote but attractive old church came under question. Happily numbers have since increased and its future now seems secure. Services are held at 11.15 on the second Sunday in the month and 6-30 on the fourth Sunday to which everyone is welcome. Visitors during the week always appreciate the wonderful peaceful atmosphere this little church has to offer, as well as the views from outside.