Some Old Devon Churches
By J. Stabb
London: Simpkin et al (1908-16)
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.
BEER FERRERS [or BERE FERRERS.] St. Michael. The church [plate 14a] consists of chancel, nave, north and south transepts, south aisle, south aisle chapel, south porch, and west tower - cut off from the nave - containing six bells, dated 1775.
Dr. Oliver says, in Monasticon Dioecesis Exoniensis, p. 289:- "Sir William de Ferrariis having rebuilt the parish church was desirous of making it collegiate. For this purpose he assigned a sufficient endowment for an arch-priest, and four other clergymen in priest's orders who were to live in common under the same roof. Provision was also made for an assistant deacon, a sub-deacon or at least a clerk. The community were to perform the daily and nightly office in the church and to offer up perpetual prayers for the prosperity of the founder and his lady, Matilda, during their lives, and for their souls after their death, as also for the souls of Reginald de Ferrers and his wife Margery, and the souls of Sir Roger de Carminow, Knt., and his lady Joan; and the bishops of Exeter were to be remembered, both living and dead. Bishop Grandisson and the Dean and Chapter of his cathedral approved and confirmed this foundation in 1333-4, but secured the yearly payment therefrom of 20s. for the chorister boys of the cathedral. The founder did not long survive his charitable work, for we find in Bishop Grandisson's Register, Vol. 2, folio 219, that his relict and executrix Matilda, obtained from the Bishop, on December 15th, 1338, an acknowledgement of having well and faithfully administered to her late husband's property, and that only the sum of £20 in arrear ad comletionem cantarie de Biry."
On the north side of the chancel is the tomb of the founder of the church [plate 14b], an earlier Sir William, and his wife Isolda, who probably built or rebuilt the church about the year 1243. The recumbent figures lie beneath an arch highly ornamented and carved, with angels swinging censers, angels' faces, foliage, etc. The male figure is arrayed in chain armour, with a coiffe de maille drawn tightly over the head, a style which continued in use until the reign of Edward III [1327-1377]. The legs are crossed, but are very much mutilated; there is a shield on the left arm suspended by a belt across the right shoulder, both hands rest on the sword, the scabbard of which is missing. The female has a coverchief on the head and hanging down the back of the neck, it is confined by a fillet round the forehead; the throat, chin, and sides of the face are covered with a wimple, the body of the dress is tight-fitting with a long flowing skirt. The hands, which rest on the breast, and the feet, have been broken off. In the east chancel window is some old stained glass with figures probably representing the occupiers of the tomb beneath. The male figure holds a church in his hands, and over his head is the inscription:- Wills Fereys me fecit.
Behind the altar is a large slab of Purbeck marble, with three large panels of wheel tracery, surrounded by a border of small quatrefoils, each wheel has a hole in the centre as if for a spindle, but as the three wheels are all carved in one block of stone this must have been impossible. There is, I believe, beneath the altar another stone carved with foliage, but this is now hidden by a wooden platform on which the altar stands. On the floor of the chancel, near the Ferrers' tomb, is a brass tablet with the inscription:- Near this spot
Charles Alfred Stothard
fell and died
May 28th, 1821
He was engaged in making a drawing of the stained glass, for the Rev. D. Lysons, when he fell off the ladder and was killed. He is buried just outside the east window. On the south side of the chancel are sedilia, and piscina with remains of shelf. There is a piscina in the aisle chapel and also in the north and south transepts. Beneath an arch under the window, in the north transept, is an effigy of a knight much mutilated. It is supposed to represent one of the Ferrers family. The armour is probably rather earlier than that of the effigy in the chancel. The legs, below the knees, have been broken off, his shield rests on his breast, both hands grasp the sword hilt, and the head, which rests on a helmet, and body are encased in chain armour. In the transept is an altar tomb of Purbeck marble; around the sides in panels are shields without arms, the cover stone is plain, but there is a deeply sunk indent around its edge which originally held the inscription on brass; the date is probably about 1520, and it is thought to be the tomb of the second Lord Willoughby de Broke. Against the west wall of the transept is an old gravestone with a Calvary cross, with the Sacred Heart and Monogram, it is supposed to mark the burial place of Roger Champernowne, son of Alexander Champernowne, of Modbury, the inscription is:-
Hic jacet Roger Champernowne, armiger,
cui aie priecietur de ame
From this transept there is a broad hagioscope into the chancel, and on the west side a large fireplace.
The bench-ends are old, but with the exception of two they are all carved with geometrical patterns. At the east end of the aisle one of the bench-ends is carved with the arms of the Ferrers family, five rudders, and four horseshoes. On another is the achievement of Willoughby de Broke.
There are 14 or 15 of the lower panels of the rood screen remaining, with painted figures, but these are so defaced it is difficult to name them. One is probably St. Sidwell. They are of unusually early date. There is an old font bearing the appearance of having been carved out of the capital of a pillar turned upside down [plate 14c], but possibly the idea of the carving may have been taken from a capital. The porch has a flat oak roof with carved bosses at the intersections of the ribs.
In the churchyard, near the east window, is a gravestone with the following inscription: -
Here lyeth the body of Walter Pyke, who
departed this life the 30th day of December,
1752, aged 67.
"By a fall I caught my death
Which no man knows his time nor breath
I might have dy'd as soon as then
Had I been with phisitian men."
Mr. Pyke evidently had no great faith in doctors!
The registers date: baptisms, 1538; marriages, 1538; burials, 1539.