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.
ASHCOMBE. St. Nectan. The church, which was consecrated in 1259, consists of chancel, nave, transept, north aisle, north aisle chapel, with a piscina, south porch, and west tower. The church is of the Decorated and Perpendicular styles. The capitals of the columns are ornamented with wreaths, and shields containing the arms of the Kirkhams, Lords of the Manor from the reign of Henry III [1216-1272].
There are remains of old glass in the east window, but the rood screen was removed in 1820, and the church itself presents little of interest. It is however well worthy of a visit for the carved bench-ends it contains. These are of peculiar design, the carvings of figure subjects being most confined to the top bars with the panels left plain, but in two or three instances there are figures on the edges as well. One has a grotesque head without a body, but arms projecting from the side of the head, one hand repulsing an animal which might be intended to be a hare, as it has hare's ears, or a pig, as it has a pig's tail; the other hand embraces an animal, apparently a lizard. A serpent creeps up each side, the heads forming the ornaments of the corners. Another bench-end has a grotesque face in the centre with tusks and projecting tongue; there is a hand on each side and apparently wings; the corner ornamentation consists of two grotesque faces; the carving of these is very good, the expression being very lifelike. Another end has also two faces at the corners, these are good, but not as good as the former. Another carving is a grotesque head with projecting tongue and tusks, with arms extending on each side, the hands grasping the corners of the bench-end [plate 5]. Another has a grotesque face, but without the tusks and projecting tongue; on each side of the face are wings extending to the corners. There is another curious figure, which I think might be intended as a caricature of a preacher leaning over the front of the pulpit. It can be easily found, as it is the only head that has any appearance of being attached to a body.
The registers date from 1732.