Parish History


In 1768 a wealthy Irishman, Joseph Nagle from County Cork, bought the Manor at Calverleigh, not far from Tiverton. Being a Catholic, he and his family had their own private chaplain at the Manor. Their priest also served the small Catholic community in Tiverton.

In 1795 the head of  another Catholic family, John Chichester  of Arlington Hall,  had renounced his Catholic faith publicly in Exeter Cathedral.  His mother and brother joined the Nagles at Calverleigh Manor, bringing with them their own chaplain

During the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars some 8,000 Catholic priests fled to England from France and over the years several of them came to Calverleigh.  In 1823 a certain Abbe’ Jean Marc  Moutier arrived at the Manor. He had been in England already over 26 years and had made considerable savings through teaching  French in Bristol and the West Country.

He was instantly aware of the isolation of the Mission at Calverleigh and the real need for a church in Tiverton amongst the people. He set up a trust fund for the purpose of providing a Catholic church, a house for the priest and a school room at Tiverton. The Heathcoat  family from West Exe sold a piece of  land at the bottom corner of Longdrag Hill for the project. The Abbe’ Moutier died in 1833 and was succeeded by Rev Thomas Costello as priest in charge of the Mission

On 6th September 1836 the foundation stone for a church was laid by Bishop Peter Baines OSB, Vicar Apostolic of the Western District.  In May 1838 and for the next year, Mass was said in the schoolhouse. Then on Whit Sunday May 19th 1839, the Church of St John the Evangelist was blessed and opened.

St John’s Church served the Catholic Mission and Parish of Tiverton for 170 years, until 2005 when it was closed by the Diocese and sold (The adjacent presbytery had been sold earlier). The church had become too small for the expanding parish of St John and St James, parking was limited and very costly repairs were needed.  The released funds from the sale were used to improve facilities at the church of St James in Old Road where the presbytery also is now situated.


The church was built in 1967 when Fr Michael Reid was parish priest, originally as  a social centre to generate funds in order to finance the parish school of St John, in the days before it became Voluntary Aided. The Marley pre-cast concrete building was blessed for use as a church by Bishop Restieaux in May 1969 and until 2005 Tiverton parish used it in conjunction with St John’s.

In 1985 Fr Anthony Cornish oversaw a reordering of the church, with the altar situated centrally as it is now.

In 2009 a new entrance hall with modernised facilities was added to the building and in 2014 the old concrete asbestos roof was replaced by a new one.