Some Old Devon Churches
By J. Stabb
London: Simpkin et al (1908-16)
Transcribed and edited by Dr Roger Peters
Full text available at
Between 1908 and 1916, John Stabb, an ecclesiologist and photographer who lived in Torquay, published three volumes of Some Old Devon Churches and one of Devon Church Antiquities. A projected second volume of the latter, regarded by Stabb himself as a complement to the former, did not materialize because of his untimely death on August 2nd 1917, aged 52. Collectively, Stabb's four volumes present descriptions of 261 Devon churches and their antiquities.
MOLLAND. St. Mary. The church is Perpendicular, consisting of chancel, nave, north aisle, south porch, and embattled west tower with clock and four bells (the tenor weighing 16 cwt.) dated (1) 1562; (2) Mediæval; (3) 1700; (4) Mediæval. Charles Pearson, M.A., in his Ringer's Guide to the Church Bells of Devon says, "the treble (1562) has a curious inscription, 'Hic jacet Magister Johannes Cooke', twice backwards. Perhaps it was taken in wax from a tombstone for ornament merely. The third has 'Santie Nichola ora pro nobis' in modern letters and coats of arms. The second in black letter, 'gif to sancta maradous' which is unintelligible." The third was clearly recast in 1700, the Mediæval inscription being preserved.
In the church there is a memorial to the Rev. O. Barry, who was vicar of the parish; he was persecuted for his attachment to the cause of Charles I [r. 1625-1649] and died in 1683, aged 45 years. This church shares with that at Parracombe the distinction of retaining the complete chancel enclosure of the post-Reformation type; with the exception of these two, there is no church in the county where this interesting feature remains [plate 161a].
There is a screen with folding gates and an open framework on either side, surmounted by a plastered tympanum, completely filling the chancel opening. On the west face are two large tablets bearing the Ten Commandments and a panel between with the Royal arms; there are also inscribed the names of I. Mogridge, Churchwarden, and Rowlands, Painter, with the date 1808. Before the Reformation these tympana were covered with paintings of Scripture subjects, the "Doom", or Last Judgment, being often depicted. At the Reformation [ca. 1550], when it became the custom to remove from the churches all outward signs of spiritual things, these paintings were taken down, or in some cases whitewashed over, and in their place were hung up, or painted on the surface, the Royal arms, the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments. The Royal arms also in many cases took the place of the crucifix on the rood screen. Why gazing upon the lion and the unicorn should be supposed to be a greater assistance to spiritual worship than having the sign of our redemption before our eyes during Divine Service, I confess I do not know.
There is an old "three-decker" pulpit in the north aisle, with canopy [plate 161b].
At the east end of the church, within railings, is a curious double heart stone, a receptacle for the hearts of a Courtenay and his wife, whose arms, supported by dolphins, are sculptured upon it; it has never been opened [plate 161c] The burial of hearts in churches seems to have been a not unusual custom at one time. The heart of Robert Bruce [King of Scotland 1306-1329] is said to be buried near the high altar at Melrose Abbey [ca. 25 miles south of Edinburgh].
The registers date: baptisms, 1541; marriages, 1538; burials, 1541.