Bovey Tracey, or South Bovey


George Oliver & John Pike Jones.
Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Devon: Being Observations on many Churches in Devonshire.

Exeter: E. Woolmer (1828)

Prepared by Michael Steer

The book's authors are the Rev. GEORGE OLIVER, of Exeter, and the Rev. J. P. JONES, of North Bovey. An original copy is held at the Harvard University Library. It was digitised in 2007 and can be downloaded from: https://books.google.com/ Google, in partnership with a number of public libraries has sought to make more widely accessible, old, hard-to-get books on which copyright has expired.




A LONG flight of steps gives to this Church an imposing appearance ; but it is remarkable, that persons ascending here to worship their crucified Redeemer, must literally begin with treading on the Cross. Can this Japanese custom be sanctioned by that piety, which now restores the Cross to the summit of our Parish Churches ?

Bovey Tracey was the ancient manor of the Tracys, Barons of Barnstaple. The heir of that Sir Wm. Tracy1 who took the lead in the assassination of St. Thomas of Canterbury, A. D. 1170, may have first erected a Church here. The present fabric, dedicated to that martyred Archbishop, and coeval I suppose with Edward the Third's reign, is of considerable dimensions, being 83 feet long, (and with the belfry, 14 feet more) by 40 wide. We were much pleased with its general view, but cannot help lamenting, that the sides of the Pulpit should be disfigured2 with some statues of plaister, hideously streaked with paint; and that a Screen of such exquisite workmanship should be overtopped with a tasteless and unseemly Gallery. This reminded us of the beginning of Horace's Book, De Arte Poetica,-

Humano capiti cervicem, etc.

On either side of the arched Nave is a North and South Aisle. Would it not be better, that the sculptured nodi or orbs on the flat ceiling of the Aisles were relieved from the blue painting, and that the five Pillars on either side were no longer mocked with marble?

The Prior and Brethren of St. John's Hospital2 at Bridgewater, used to present to this Vicarage from the reign of Henry III. until the period of the Reformation. In fol. 46 of Bishop Bronescombe's Register is a decision of that Prelate in a reference made to him by Henry de Tracy3, the Lord of the Manor, and John de Wolfrinton, then Vicar of the Church. The Vicar laid claim to the tithes of the mills there, and of a field called Broadmede, all belonging to the said Lord, who resisted the claim, and contended that such tithes had been assigned ab antiquo, to the support of a perpetual Chaplain, whose duty it was to celebrate the mass of Our Lady in the said Church, and that for 40 years or more, this Chaplain, and not the Vicar, had regularly taken the said tithes. In January, 1270, Bp. Bronescombe gave judgment in the case by assigning the tithes in question to the Vicar, binding him to find a Chaplain to celebrate for the patrons, parishioners, and benefactors of the Church, and enjoined the parishioners to pay to the Vicar the sum of two marks at Easter and Michaelmas, towards the support of the said Chaplain. In default of such payment on their part, the Vicar was to be exonerated from finding a Chaplain. Should the Vicar however neglect for the space of a month to fill up the vacancy occasioned by the death or removal of the Chaplain, the parishioners then were to be entitled to present a Chaplain to the Archdeacon, and the person so presented was to receive the tithes of the mills and of Broadmede, as also the pension of the two marks.

The principal armorial bearings in the Church are of Archbishop Laud, Bishop Hall, and of the families.of Eveleigh, Stawell, Hele, and Southcott.

Indiho in this parish, was some time a Priory, says Sir W. Pole, p. 266. Risdon repeats the same assertion, p. 134. Polwhele does the same, p. 496. After diligent enquiry we believe this to be an error, by confounding the property with the Priory or Hospital itself at Bridgwater. If it had been a religious establishment, doubtless it would have been noticed in the Registers of the See of Exeter. It is very certain the house at Indiho was built by John Southcott,4 of Bovey Tracey, Esq. who had realized a fortune as a steward and a tithe-holder, under several monasteries in Devonshire.


1 Giraldus Cambrensis, p. 426, vol. 2, Anglia Sacra, says that Sir William was the principal of the four murderers, quatuor illorum primus, and that immediately after the act he hurried down to Bartholomew, Bishop of Exeter, in whose diocese he had considerable estates, in cujus Diocesi terras amplas habebat. " Within three years after the bloody deed, Sir William died at Cosenza in Calabria, with every sentiment of unfeigned repentance.

2 This community professed the rule of St Augustine. Anthony Parkinson, p. 21, part 2, Collectanea Anglo Minorities, has adopted the error of Speed by calling it a Franciscan convent, and assigned to it the Hospital's income at the dissolution, viz. £120. 19s. l1/2d. The fact is, this Hospital had been founded by William Lord Brewer before the existence of the Franciscan order.

3 This Henry (who was the last Baron of Barnstaple of the name of Tracy, and whose only daughter, Matilda, married Nicholas Martyn, Lord of Dartington,) obtained of King Henry III. A. D. 1259, a market at Bovey on Thursday, and a fair for 3 days at the feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury's Translation, 7th July.
N.B. Sir W. Pole, p.14, Description of Devon, says, "the Dwellimg House of this Lord Henry Tracy was at Tavistock." - Q. if not Tawstock.

4 He died 16th Sept. 1556, and was buried at Shiilingford.