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.
ABBOTSKERSWELL. St. Mary. In 1316 the name of the parish was spelt Abbodescarswell and to it were annexed the hamlets of Eggeswell (now Edginswell) and Cockington. Two years later the parish and manor belonged to the Abbots of Sherbourne [Dorset], who in 1524 granted land upon which to build a house, the rent of which was to go, after the expenses were paid, one half to the minister and one half to the support of the church; at that date the parish was called Kerswell Abbot, and later Carswell and Carswill with and without the Abbot, but probably that was always understood.
The church consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, south porch (with the stairs to the former monks' room still remaining), and west tower containing three bells, dated 1664, 1637 and 1705; there is an old legend that three additional bells were sunk on the voyage over the sea from abroad. The church is mainly Perpendicular, but the chancel is Early English. The east window was inserted by members of the Kitson family in memory of two relatives of that name, formerly vicars of the parish. On the chancel wall is a brass erected by his brother officers in memory of Captain Marcus Hare, who commanded H.M.S. Eurydice when she foundered off Dunmore Head, Isle of Wight, March 21st 1878.
The present church stands on the site of a former building, and it is thought the original foundation dates back to the time of the Saxon King Edwy the Fair [r. 955-959]. There is a good rood screen dating from the 15th century, the lower panels of which formerly had paintings said to be the works of the monks of Sherbourne. The rood staircase remains. In the splay of the south window in the chancel is a large image, said by some authorities to be that of the Blessed Virgin, and by others Oedehild, daughter of Edward the Elder [r. 899-925], and half-sister of Athelstane [r. 925-940], who married in 926 Hugh Capet, Count of Paris, the manor having been granted to this lady in 956 by King Edwy.
The font is Norman. The church was restored in 1885-86 [plate 2]. The registers date from 1607.