Bovey Tracey


J. Stabb. Some Old Devon Churches. 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.

BOVEY TRACEY. St. Thomas à Becket. The original church is supposed to have been built by Sir William de Tracey as an act of reparation for the murder of Thomas à Becket, in 1170, but 150 years later it was burnt down, and the present edifice took its place. The south porch is vaulted, and the central boss represents four heads joined at the neck, a pope, a bishop, a king, and a noble. The church consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, south porch, and embattled western tower containing six bells. The church was restored and the north aisle about thirty years since [ca. 1880].

The rood screen, said to date from 1427, has a good cornice with two rows of leaves and fruit. The upper part was destroyed during the Commonwealth [1649-1659], the lower part and painted panels alone escaping demolition. Dr. Oliver says that in his time the screen was "overtopped with a tasteless and unseemly gallery." This has been removed, and the screen and chancel were thoroughly restored about 1884, when the missing groining of the screen was reconstructed. The tracery is of the ordinary type, but the character of the detail is above the average. The panels are painted with figures of Apostles and Prophets, and a series said to represent Henry II [r. 1154-1189] and Thomas à Becket [1118-1170] in various attitudes of controversy.

There are three misericords on the south side of the chancel dating from about 1400. Within the altar rails are two monuments, that on the north side to the memory of Nicholas Eveleigh, who died in 1620; that on the south to the memory of Eliseus Hele, who married as his second wife the widow of Nicholas Eveleigh. Hele, who left a great deal of property to charity, died in 1636, and was buried in the Canons' vestry at Exeter Cathedral.

The stone pulpit, carved, coloured and gilt, is of about the same date as the screen. The carved figures represent St. George, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Peter, St. James the Great, and the four Evangelists. The lectern is worthy of notice, it is of fine brass, late 14th century work; during the Commonwealth [1649-1659] it was buried, and the date of its restoration to the church is uncertain. It has been claimed as belonging to Highweek Parish Church. The font is of late date, and does not call for much remark.

The bells, eight in number, were recast and re-hung with two additional bells in 1902.

In the tower entrance are two tablets recording the opinion of James Forbes, vicar of the church in the time of Charles I [1625-1649], of what he calls the "bloody Parliament 1642." He was ejected from his living but returned at the Restoration [1660]. His wife is buried in the churchyard, and there are some curious carvings on her grave.

The list of vicars commences with Roger de Merwode, admitted January 5th 1265.

The registers date: baptisms, 1538; marriages, 1539; burials, 1539.