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.
STOKE FLEMING. St. Peter. The church [plate 221a] consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, shallow transepts, north porch, and west tower with six bells. On the south side of the chancel are the remains of a piscina, and the priest's door, walled up. On the north side of the chancel is a narrow low window now filled in.
On the north wall of the chancel are tablets in memory of George Goodridge, many years Rector of Stoke Fleming, died May 16th 1781, aged 63; Rev. Arthur Farwell, 27 years rector of this parish, died March 16th 1859, aged 56, and his widow, died March 6th 1882; Elizabeth Lydia, wife of Percival Norton Johnson, of Stoke House, died September 8th 1857, aged 63, and Percival Norton Johnson, died June 1st 1866, aged 72; the Rev. William Manley, 50 years rector of the parish, died February 8th 1832, aged 78. On the south chancel wall are tablets in memory of Maria Manley, wife of the Rev. William Manley, died September 12th 1827, their eldest daughter, died November 19th 1816, and the two youngest daughters, died April 25th 1807 and May 31st 1810; Henry Netherton of Rivers Bridge in this parish, died May 1st 1821, and members of his family.
The nave is separated from the aisle by five arches on each side. The eastern arches on north and south sides are higher than the others, and on one side the architect had to make use of a double capital as at Sampford Courtenay. It would seem there was at one time the intention to heighten the arches of the nave, but that the work did not proceed further than the eastern arches, and of these the carving of the capitals is not finished. The blue stone pillars probably replace those of red sandstone of earlier date (there is an old Norman font of red sandstone). There are square masses of masonry, with pillars at each corner, the capitals are much too large for the present arches and show that work once contemplated was for some reason or another never finished. On the capital of the easternmost pillar on the north are the Carew arms, on the double capital on the south side are carved with a tortoise, a pineapple, and fleur-de-lis.
On the south side of the chancel step is a very fine brass [plate 221b]. The following description is taken from Mr. Hamilton Rogers' The Ancient Sepulchral Effigies of Devon:-
"At Stoke Fleming are the effigies of John Corp and Elyenore . . . under a rich canopy ornamented with quatrefoils, battlemented, and with lanthorn lights at the ends and in the centre. The male figure is habited in a long gown with collar, tight sleeves, open in front from the waist downward, edged round the skirt, and cuffed at the wrists with fur. Over the right shoulder he wears a highly ornamented belt from which depends a large anelace or dagger. The hair is parted in front and curled at the sides, the beard forked, and the shoes long and pointed. The lady wears a crenelated head-dress with three rose shaped ornaments in front, and a flying veil over. The gown is tight fitting about the bodice, with the usual row of small studs along the sleeves, and a set of larger buttons down the breast. She stands elevated on a pedestal, and both have their hands joined in prayer. Below is this inscription:- Amys q passes ycy p Joh : Corp & Elyenore . . aucy
Pes dieux pur charite q de lo almes aie merce. Amen.
Under the male:-
Obiit in die Sci Joh: Evangeliste
Ao Dni millmo ccclmo.
Under the female:- Obiit in die Sci Georg:
Anno Dni millmo ccclxxxx primo.
The inscription in French is one of the very few found in that language in the County."
On the wall at the east end of the south aisle are tablets in memory of John Henry Southcote, of Buckland Tout Saints, and of Stoke House, who died July 8th 1820, aged 73, and Margaret his wife, daughter of Henry Fownes Luttrell of Dunster, who died December 16th 1792, aged 45; of George Netherton of Ash, in the parish, who died June 2nd 1807, and other members of the family, and of Margaret Southcote, who died August 27th 1786, aged 12 years and nine months:-
"Beneath this stone in sweet repose
The friend of all - a fair one lies
Yet hence let sorrow vent her woes
Far hence let pity pour her sighs
Tho ev'ry hour thy life approved
The Muse the strain of grief forbears
Nor wishes, tho by all beloved
To call thee to a world of tears
Best of thy sex! alas, farewell
From this dark scene removed to shine
Where present shades of mortals dwell
And Virtue waits to welcome thine."
There are five windows in the south aisle, three in memory of the Rev. Arthur Farwell, Mary Folliot Weymouth, and Samuel John Noble, respectively. There are four windows in the north aisle, three in memory of John Eales and Susanna his wife; George Parker Bidder; and Margery, fourth and youngest daughter of Sir Thomas Freake, Bart., and Lady Freake, of Warfleet, Dartmouth; she died March 4th 1901, aged 20 years and five months.
On the east wall of the north aisle are tablets in memory of George Graham, of Stoke Cottage, in this parish, who died January 26th 1844, aged 72, and members of his family; of Laura Augusta Graham, who died February 3rd 1830; W. H. Bussell, who died February 13th 1856, and his mother, who died July 5th 1874. The pulpit is modern with carvings on the panels representing Elijah being fed by the Ravens, the Good Shepherd, St. Paul, the Nativity, our Lord bearing the Cross, the Denial of St. Peter, and Daniel in the lions' den. The carved oak altar is also modern, it was the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Selby Ravensbourne. It was dedicated by the Bishop of Exeter on October 5th 1911. The design consists of three panels in deep relief between uprights of stems of palm trees, the arches formed by the foliage. Two of the panels have scenes from the life of St. Peter. The centre panel has Christ stilling the storm at sea. The top has a vine border deeply carved; the work was carried out by Rashleigh Penwill of Plymouth. At the same time were dedicated carved oak altar rails, given in memory of the later vicar, Mr. Exell (who was at Stoke Fleming for 20 years), by his son and friends.
On the south side of the chancel arch is a brass tablet with the inscription:-
"Elias old lies here intombed in grave
But Newcomin in heavens habitation
In knowledge old, in zeale in life most grave
Too good for all who live in lamentation
Whose sheep and seed with heavie plaint and mone
Will say too late, Elias old is gone.
The xii of Juli, 1614."
Over this inscription is a shield of arms of the family.
Elias Newcomen was Rector of Stoke Fleming in the year 1600, and died in 1614. He was the great-grandfather of Thomas Newcomen [1663-1729], the inventor of the stationary steam engine. In the Museum of King's College [London] is preserved the "original" model of Newcomen's steam engine. It is said to have been constructed for presentation to King George III [r. 1760-1820]; an older model is in the Museum of Glasgow University. The clock was given by Mrs. S. E. Clark of Redlap, October 29th 1878.
The registers date: baptisms, 1538; marriages, 1539; burials, 1539.