Some Old Devon Churches

By J. Stabb

London: Simpkin et al (1908-16)

Page 7

Transcribed and edited by Dr Roger Peters

Full text available at


Prepared by Michael Steer

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.

ASHWATER. St. Peter. The church [plate 7a] consists of chancel, nave, south aisle with priest's door, north transept or chapel, north porch and west tower with five bells. It is probable that the "north transept" was not a transept but a chapel. There is evidence of its having been built up against the nave, and it does not seem to have been part of the original building. The reredos, parclose screen, and choir stalls are all modern, of carved oak work of good design. The roofs have finely carved bosses and beams.

In the south aisle is a monument with two recumbent figures [plate 7b]; a male and a female. The male figure is clad in armour with helmet, the visor open. The following description of this monument is given in the Holsworthy Ruridecanal Magazine, 1904: "Lysons, the West Country antiquarian, says it it is the tomb of the last of the Carminows. The Carminows took their name from Carminow Barton in Mawgan Parish, Cornwall. They were a great family and owned also the Manor of Boconnoc, Tintagel, Hornacott in Tamerton, and Ashwater. The last male Carminow was called Thomas, and the writer believes that the effigies are of him and his wife. The shield by the head of the knight is the shield of the Carminows, a bend or on a field axure with a label of three showing that was a shield of an eldest son. Thomas Carminow died in 1442 on the Wednesday before Christmas Day. He left two daughters (1) Joan who married Sir Thomas Carew, and inherited Ashwater Manor which remained in the family until Sir Peter Carew sold it to the Carys of Torre Abbey. (2) Margaret who married Sir Hugh Courtenay. Sir Hugh was killed either at or soon after the Battle of Tewkesbury [1471] where he fought for the Red Rose [i.e., Lancastrians]. His son was afterwards Earl of Devon. If you look at the cusping of the canopy over the effigies you will see two shields, carved on the underside. One of these is the shield of Courtenay impaling Carminow, and is the shield therefore of Sir Hugh and Margaret his wife. The other shows the Carminow coat of arms impaled by some other which is now defaced and illegible, but an easy and plausible guess makes it the Carew arms, the whole shield being that of Sir Thomas Carew and Joan his wife. In part the two shields on the cusping seem to correspond with the two shields on the east window of the south aisle which I described last month. The two sisters Joan and Margaret with their husbands rebuilt the south aisle, what more likely than that they should commemorate their father and mother by erecting this finely sculptured tomb. I am bound to confess that a late writer, Mr. Hamilton Rogers, in a book on the monumental effigies of Devon makes a different guess, and thinks it is probable that the tomb is that of Sir Hugh Courtenay and Margaret his wife and that it was placed there by Margaret herself, but I cannot say that his reasons are very convincing. Sir Hugh is called Sir Hugh of Ashwater in some old records, but he is also called Sir Hugh Courtenay of Buconnoc, and it is clear at any rate that not he but Sir Thomas Carew and Joan were the inheritors of this manor. Joan afterwards married Halmathe Malenory who lived at Ashwater. Margaret married a second husband, William Bottreaux. The carving is worked in Beer stone from the ancient Beer quarries near Seaton. It is sad that the sculptures have been so ill-treated. Much of the canopy has been destroyed, and the male figure has been broken across evidently by some people who were bent on finding out whether there was anything of value underneath. It was richly painted at first, but white wash has covered it with many coats, only here and there where this has scaled off can this be detected. The wooden carving which is now placed above the canopy is of a later date and has nothing to do with the monument or with the Carminow family."

At the feet of the figures is a mutilated carving of the Holy Trinity of the same design as that at Plympton St. Mary.

In the east window of the aisle are coloured shields, the left hand has the arms of the Carew family impaling the arms of Carminow; Sir Thomas Carew and his wife Joan who was a Carminow. The right hand shield has on one side the arms of the Courtenay family quartered with the De Redvers arms, the other side is blank, but probably has Carminow arms impaled and the shield would represent Sir Hugh Courtenay and his wife Margaret Carminow. Above the shields is the letter "M", this may be the monogram of Sir H. Malenory, but I think it more likely that this end of the aisle was used as a Lady Chapel and that it is the monogram of the Blessed Virgin. Some old stones near the monument were found during a restoration of the church, built in one of the walls, they evidently formed part of a Norman doorway, probably the south (the north is Norman), and old portions of the original building. On the south wall is a large representation in plaster of the Royal arms dated "C. R. 1638".

There is a fine Norman font with faces or masks at the corners [plate 7c], it is constructed of some stone with the appearance of granite, but is certainly not of that material, it may be a stone of volcanic origin found in Cornwall. The font and north doorway are the only remains of Norman work in the church. The church was struck by lightning in 1699, the present pinnacles were erected at that restoration. There is a modern rood beam with cross, and there are some very good modern bench-ends.

The registers date from 1558.