Bovey Tracy, or South Bovey


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

Exeter: Printed by W C Featherstone, New London Inn Square (1840)

Prepared by Michael Steer

The work was originally published in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette and again by Oliver and Jones in 1828, then the much expanded version in three volumes by Oliver alone in 1840, from which this extract is transcribed. This copy of the rare and much sought-after book was produced digitally from a copy held in the Harvard University Library collection that can be downloaded from google books, with a search by either author or title, and also from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

Bovey Tracy, or South Bovey

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? The Cross, with a broken arm, is now thrown aside as lumber; but we hope to see it repaired and exalted.

Bovey Tracey was the ancient manor of the Tracys, Barons of Barnstaple. The heir of that Sir Wm. Tracy [1] 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 entered by a beautiful porch and were much pleased with its general view, but cannot help lamenting, that the sides of the Pulpit should be disfigured with some statues of plaister, hideously streaked with paint; and with a low sounding board threatening to extinguish the Preacher, 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?

We may be allowed to express our regret that the Hele [2] and Eveleigh monuments within the Sanctuary and Sir John Stowell's [3] in the South aisle should block up the windows; and that a Church so respectable in itself should be injured and spoilt by galleries of various styles and incongruous proportions, and in the worst keeping with the original character of the Fabric.

The Prior and Brethren of St. John's Hospital [4] at Bridgewater presented to this Vicarage for 300 years before the Reformation. To them it had been appointed by Bishop William Brewer, and his grant was subsequently confirmed by Bishop Grandisson, 27 January 1339 (fol. 4, vol. 2 Reg.). In fol. 46 of Bishop Bronescombe's Register is a decision of that Prelate in a reference made to him by Henry de Tracy [5], 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.

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,[6] of Bovey Tracey, Esq. who had realized a fortune as a steward and a tithe-holder, under several monasteries in Devonshire and purchased the Manor of Little Bovey. Q Elizabeth, on 23 March Anno Regni XXVI, leased to Edward, John and Otho, the sons of Thomas Southcott, the Rectory of Bovey Tracey for their several lives under the yearly rent of £14. 13s 6d. [7].


Roger de Merwode, admitted 5 January 1265

John de Wolfrinton, occurs in January 1270

William de Northam 27 March 1279

Edward occurs in 1312. Unfortunately he had a criminal intercourse with Isabella de Schepstorr. Bishop Grandisson required him to go through a course of condign penance.

Robert de Flore, succeeded on Edward's death, 16 August 1330

Walter de Haydone, 31 July 1334

Robert de Alton, 30 January 1336

Robert de Derby - who died Rector, 4 February 1341

Michael Gogeyn succeeded Derby on 27 June following

Henry de Nieuport, admitted 6 March 1348

John de Neucome, followed 20 January 1353

John Merrey, 22 November 1361

John Atmille, on whose death

William Pottok, admitted 5 September 1401

Richard Collys, succeeded on Pottok's death, 22 June 1438, pat. Thomas Pilton Prior of the Hospital at Bridgwater

John Fermer, on Colly's death, 26 Feb 1454; pat. Roger Cory, Prior at Bridgwater

Walter Hancock on Fermer's death, instituted 17 May 1458.obiit 21 July 1459, when

Robert Michell alias Cooke succeeded, 28 August 1489, pat. Thomas Spenser, and his Convent at Bridgwater.

Robert Borde on Michell's death, instituted 30 July 1520, patrons hac vice, by grant of the Prior and Convent aforesaid, Willliam Hudde Esq, Robert Walsh, Clerk, and Richard Devynell.

N.B. During his Incumbency, a formal complaint was preferred by the Parishioners to Bishop Veysey that the Prior and Convent had neglected to distribute the due proportion of their Tithes to the support of the Poor. An order was issued in consequence, 1 July 1531, for their appearance in Exeter Cathedral on 28th of that month to shew due cause for this neglect of duty.

Robert Bysse L.L.D. on Borde's death, 28 July 1534: patrons Prior and Convent at Bridgwater. Two years after, his living was valued at £26. 2s. 1d. per an. The Rector died 8 Oct. 1546.

George Manning, inducted 23 Nov. 1546: pat. the Crown.

Christopher Petell followed 20 June 1554, pat. Queen Mary.

William Merrick, 16 May, 1564, on the resignation of Petell. Pat. Queen Elizabeth. He was buried 6 July, 1576.

Edward James, 13 Aug. 1576, on the death of William Merrick. Pat. Queen Elizabeth.

Richard Dernelove, 3 April 1577, admitted to the living "legitime vacantem"; pat. Q. Elizabeth.

John Milward __________ on whose resignation,

John Burchell, instituted 15 July 1603: pat. King James I. He was buried 16 March 1627-8.

James Forbes, B.D. Chaplain to King Charles I, and presented by His Majesty, was admitted 15 and inducted 20th Sep. 1628.This Vicar was a native of Aberdeen, and for his unflinching loyalty suffered severely in person and property. See p. 241, part II, Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy. But he witnessed the triumphant restoration of legitimate authority, and has abundantly recorded his abhorrence of the Usurpers and their injustice to Archbishop Laud, and Bishop Hall, in the framework erected over the Screen. He resigned the Living about a year and a half before his demise, and was buried 9th July, 1670 aged 80. His wife Maria, daughter of Thomas Gardyner. Grove Place, Bucks, Esq., had died 16 and was buried on 21st June 1655, aged 55. The arms of Forbes are emblazoned over the entry door of the chancel, viz. Az. 3 Boars' heads coupled Argent. Muzzled Gules.

Francis More, succeeded on Forbe's resignation, 26 December 1668: pat. King Charles II. He was buried 2 April, 1681.

Robert Caunter followed, 28 June 1681, on More's death. pat. do. He was buried 20 Nov. 1689.

Francis Stooke on Caunter's death, admitted 22 Nov. 1689. pat. King William and Queen Mary. He was buried 6 July 1704.

John Cook on Stooke's death, 15 Aug. 1704; pat. Q. Ann

Samuel Maynard on Cook's resignation, 28 July, 1715; pat. King George I. Maynard was buried 18 July, 1735.

Philobeth Domett on Maynard's death was instituted 1 Nov. 1735. pat, George II. He was also Vicar of Axminster the last 23 years of his life, and was buried there Feb 245, 1780.

Joseph Domett succeeded his father 5 September 1780: pat. King George III. Obiit 29 Oct. and buried 6 Nov. 1835 æt 80. Thus two persons held the Living for an entire century.

William Carwithen D.D. instituted 29 Jan. 1836. (pat. King William IV) and inducted the next day, is the present highly gifted and zealous, and respected Vicar, to whom we are proud to acknowledge our obligations for his valuable and friendly assistance.

The Parish Register of

Baptisms begins with the first week of the year - 1538

Burials from November - 1538

Marriages from 27 April 1539

Lysons, p. 57, pt II, Devon, places the Manor of Knighton in this parish; but it appears to be party in Ilsington, but chiefly in Hennock parish. Here on 5 April 1382, Bishop Brantyngham granted a license for the celebration of Divine Service "in Capella de Knyghton" but without prejudice to the Mother Church. On 9 December 1421, Bishop Lacy granted an indulgence to all true Penitents who should contribute to Jew's bridge "punti nuncupato Jewis Brugge" in this Parish.


[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.

N.B. The Tomb in Morthoe Church was not erected to this Knight, as Risdon dreamt, but to the Priest and Rector of that name who founded the chantry, and dying in 1322 was succeeded 16th Dec. that year by Thomas Roberts. See fol. 171. Reg. Stapeldon. In the fabric rolls of Exeter Cathedral, AD 1323, I find a donation of 20s. de testamento Dni Willi. "de Traci quondam Rectoris de Morthoe".

[2] Elizeus Hele of Fardel, Esq. of charitable fame and memory, died 11 January 1636 N.S. and was buried on 4th February in the Canon's Vestry of Exeter Cathedral; His benevolent widow Alice Hele, died on 20 July following, and was interred over him on the 28th of the same month and year. Prince, in p. 488, last edition of Worthies of Devon, after mentioning the plain mean stone which covers their remains informs his readers that "of all his estates so piously bestowed, some small share thereof had not been employed in the erecting a more decent memorial of him; In indignation whereof may I apply here that of the Poet "Marmoreo tumulo Licinis jacet, et Cato parvo, Pompeius nullo". The Biographer might have spared his indignation and quotation, if he had made the least enquiry, or taken the trouble of riding over from Berry Pomeroy, to view the costly Alabaster Monument on the South side of the Altar in this Parish Church ! This Cenotaph as probably erected at the expense of the Widow. Her worshipful husband is represented in his legal robes, reclining on his right side, with his right hand resting on a skull. His arms are exhibited: Gules, a bend of five Lozenges, Ermine:- Crest, a Falcon Argent. Above the Monumental Pillar on the east side are the arms of his first wife- Hender of Boscastle in Cornwall, viz. Azure, a Lion rampant, between an orb of scallop shells, Or. Above the Pillar on the Western side are the arms of his second wife, Alice Bray, a co-heiress of a family in Northumberland, and Widow of Nicholas Eveleigh of Holcombe in the parish of Ottery St Mary, viz. Argent, a Chevron between 3 Eagles legs erased Sable. The three kneeling figures represent the two wives, and his son by the first wife, who died in vita patris. The Cenotaph on the North side of the Altar represents Nicholas Eveleigh in a recumbent posture, with his escutcheon bearing- Per pale, Or and Sable; a Chevron between 3 griffins passant counterchanged, and quartered with Bray's, ut supra.

N.B. Elizeus Hele by his will made 3 Oct. 1635, and proved 25 January following left £40 to the Churchwardens of Bovey, for the benefit of the poor. His Widow by her will dated 8 July, 1636, and proved 4 November following, gave £20 "to remayne as a Stock for ever to the use of this Parish- the interest to be divided among the Poor at the discretion of the Wardens and Overseers". Neither will devises any land or property for the maintenaunce of the Monument in the Parish Church.

[3] The Knight died in 1669, æt 44, and was buried on 9 February that year; his third son John died 29 January 1674-5, æt 20 and was buried 11 February: the Monument was erected by the only surviving son, William. Arms, Gules, a cross lozengy, Argent.

[4] 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. l½d. The fact is, this Hospital had been founded by William Lord Brewer before the existence of the Franciscan order.

N.B. In looking over the Roll of Northpetherton Manor from Michaelmas 21 of Edward I to the Michaelmas following, I find the Bailiff paid ½d in lieu of a pair of spurs to this hospital at Bridgewater.

[5] 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 Dwelling House of this Lord Henry Tracy was at Tavistock." - Q. if not Tawstock.

[6] He died 16th Sept. 1556, and was buried at Shillingford. The Registers of Bovey Tracy throw much light on the pedigree of the Southcott family.

Arms of Southcott: Arg. On a chevron Gules, between 3 Coots proper. Perhaps the family came originally from Winkleigh Parish, for Wm. Southcott was allowed 6 August 1497, by Bishop Lacy to have Divine Service performed "infra Manerium suum de Southcote, in parochial de Winkleigh".

[7] I have seen a Map in the possession of Joseph Steer of Indiho, Esq., of the Manor of Bovey Tracy by William Boycot, and probably made in the reign of James I. It contains 2629 acres, 1 rood, 2 perches.