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.
BUCKLAND MONACHORUM. St. Andrew. The church [plate 43a] consists of chancel, nave, separated from aisles by five lofty arches on each side resting on clustered pillars, north and south aisles with chapels, very shallow north and south transepts, south porch with oak roof and carved bosses, and west tower with six bells, dating from 1723. The nave roof has finely carved figures of angels playing musical instruments.
On the north side of the chancel is a small walled up arch, possibly an Easter Sepulchre or low window. The chancel roof is waggon-shape, plastered, with carved bosses at the intersections of the oak ribs. The chancel arch is curious, on the north side it rests on the capital of a low pillar, while on the south side the supporting pillar is carried upwards with a bend, and the arch rests on a capital which is on a line with the top of the eastern arch of the nave. The priest's door is in the south chapel, this chapel has a roof with granite ribs and bosses having four heads conjoined. At the east end of this chapel is the monument of George Augustus Elliot, Baron Heathfield of Gibraltar, who died July 6th 1790, aged 72 years. This monument is by [John] Bacon [1740-1799], and there is another by the same sculptor on the south wall in memory of Sir Francis Henry Drake of Buckland Abbey, who died February 17th 1794, aged 70 years; yet a third monument by Bacon is in memory of Francis Augustus Elliot, Lord Heathfield, Baron of Gibraltar, who died January 26th 1813. Built in the east wall of the south transept is half a small arch, probably the remains of a piscina, and higher up in the wall is a square hole which might have been an aumbry, but the position seems rather too high. Mr. Edmund Bishop in his "History of the Christian Altar", referring to the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament says:- "During the whole Middle Ages the usual place of reservation was in some recess, or as it were cupboard, often closed with high bars, sometimes fairly high up in the wall, on the Gospel, and more rarely on the Epistle side of the Altar." The presence of a piscina proves that there was an altar here at one time, so perhaps the recess in the wall was used for the above purpose.
At the east end of the north chapel, under an arch, are preserved the arms of Charles II [r. 1660-1685], dated 1660. At each side of the east window in the south transept, and on the south side of the east window in the north transept, there are stone brackets which at one time probably supported images. The nave and aisles retain their old carved bench-ends; these, with but one exception, are carved with geometrical designs, the exception is in the north side, and has on each of its panels a half figure holding a shield, that on the left bearing a floriated staff, and that on the right a St. Andrew's cross. The heads of the figures wear an ornament rather difficult to make out, it is either a cross or a mitre, and there appears to be angels on each side of the figures placing these ornaments on the heads of the figures.
The octagonal font [plate 43b] is of granite, the sides of the bowl have shields, one having a grotesque face with the tongue out, and another the initial "T". The belfry roof has grotesque masks for bosses at the intersections of the ribs. Across the belfry arch is a screen [plate 43c] consisting of two bays and the doors, which is said to have formed part of the screen from Sheepstor Church; the lower panels and cresting are modern, but a good vine cornice remains, and the tracery is old.
In the belfry are the Ringers' Rules as follow:-
"We ring the Quick to Church, the Dead to Grave
Good is our use, such usage let us have.
Who swears, curseth, or in a choleric mood
Quarrels and strikes, altho he draws no blood;
Who wears his hat, or spurs, or turns a bell,
Or by unskilful handling mars a peal;
Let him pay sixpence for each single crime
Souls truly noble and like thine divine
Twill make him cautious gainst another time;
Now round let's go and when we've done let's sing
God bless our Holy Church, God save the King."
Beneath this board is a tombstone with the following inscription:- Here lyeth buried the body of Joseph Rowe who was vicar of this parish sixty three years, he died on ye 3rd day of April in ye year of our Lord God 1708, ætatis suae 98.
The bells were restored and re-hung and the new clock placed in position by parishioners and friends in recognition of the completion of 50 years of faithful service as vicar of the parish of the Rev. Richard James Hayne, 1855 to 1905.
In the porch there is a short shaft and recess for a holy water stoup. The lead pipes outside the church bear date 1735. There are two curious epitaphs in the churchyard, one to a blacksmith is as follows:-
"My Sledge and hammer both declined
My bellows too have lost their wind
My fires extinct my forge decayed
And in the dust my vice is laid
My coal is spent my irons gone
My nails are drove - my work is done."
The second is:-
"Farewell vain world I've seen enough of thee
And now am careless what thou sayst of me
Thy smiles I count not nor thy frowns I fear
My cares are past my head rests quiet here
What thou see'st in me take care to shun
And look at home, enough there's to be done
Whether I go or stay it matters not
To who related or by whom begot
I was, now am not, ask no more of me
It's all I am and all that thou can'st be."
The old churchyard cross at the west end of the churchyard has been restored.
The registers date: baptisms, 1552; marriages, 1540; burials, 1538.