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.
COMBE MARTIN. St. Peter. The church consists of chancel, nave, north and south transepts, north aisle, north and south porches, and west tower.
The chancel, nave and south transept are the oldest portions; the date is uncertain, but is probably between 1190 and 1230. The tower was begun in the reign of Henry II [1154-1189], and completed later; it is 99 feet in height to the battlement.
Over the west window is a figure of our Lord with a tablet, on which appear the implements of the Crucifixion; on the south buttress is a niche with a representation of the Trinity, the north buttress has a figure of St. Michael slaying the Dragon. On the south side of the tower is a niche with a figure of a bishop, possibly St. Peter, Patron of the church. The belfry contains six bells.
The rood screen is Perpendicular, and retains its doors, but the groining and cornices have been removed. In 1727 the churchwardens substituted a cornice of plaster for the original one of wood, and I suppose they were proud of their work, as their initials and date of the work are recorded on the front of the screen - the model taken seems to have been that of an ordinary sitting-room ceiling cornice, and the effect is truly awful - the lower panels have paintings of saints and the pier casing retains some fine canopy work.
The parclose screen is a splendid piece of work; it is of Spanish chestnut [Castanea sativa] carved in bold relief [plate 69a].
The font [plate 69b] is octagonal, Perpendicular, and bears the remains of colouring; the sides carved with arches; the bowl is deeper than usual, and is mounted on a short shaft with supporting pillars; the whole standing on a deep plinth.
In the chancel is a well-carved bishop's chair. It is of Spanish mahogany [Swietenia macrophylla], and is said to be 400 years old [i.e., crafted ca. 1500]. On the back are carved grapes and corn, emblematical of the bread and wine in the Blessed Sacrament [plate 69c].
In the vestry is an old oak chest; it has three key holes for the three keys which, according to the old injunction of Queen Elizabeth [r. 1558-1603], were to be held by the vicar and churchwardens.
The list of rectors commences March 1309.
The registers date: baptisms, 1671; marriages, 1680; burials, 1679.