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.
BRADNINCH. St. Dionysius. The present church stands on the site of much earlier buildings. The first vicar mentioned is Arnold, Prothonotary to Richard, King of the Romans [1209-1272], admitted July 10th 1261. The church consists of chancel, nave, transept, north and south aisles, south porch, and a very fine western tower, 90 feet high, containing six bells. The style is Late Perpendicular. The north aisle and transept were built in the reign of Henry VII [1485-1509].
The rood screen [plate 27a] was erected about 1450, was painted in 1527, and restored in 1853. On twelve of the lower panels are paintings of Sybils [ancient Greek prophetesses]. This is said to be the only church in England in which paintings of Sybils occur on the screen [plate 27b], but this is not quite correct, as I have come across instances in other churches; in one case, that of Ipplepen, the painting is labelled "Sibilla", that there may be no mistake, but in no other church is there such a complete set. On the central door and panels to the south are painted the Annunciation, the Salutation, the Temptation and Fall of Man, and the Expulsion from Paradise. The screen is complete with groining and cornices; the cresting is modern. There are tilting shields in the tracery, and the pier casings retain ancient statuettes under canopies. The original north parclose screen, which is much older than the rood screen, has been fitted to the tower arch; on the panels are paintings of our Lord on the Cross and figures of saints including St. Christopher, St. Francis, St. George and the Dragon, St. Gabriel, St. Sebastian, and St. Michael. Some guide books draw special attention to this painting and state that the figure of our Lord is depicted with wings. This is a mistake; the appearance of wings is given by the rays of light encircling the head.
The south porch was added to the church in 1881 as a memorial of William Drew, of Kensham, and the tower arch was opened and restored at the same time.
On a corbel of one of the chancel windows is the figure of an angel with an impaled shield, with the arms of the Precentor of Exeter, and those of Richard Norton, who held this office in 1512.
The registers date from 1559.