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.
CULLOMPTON. St. Andrew. The church consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, a second south aisle, called the Lane aisle, a south-west porch, and a really magnificent tower 100 feet high, with pinnacles 20 feet high. This is one of the finest church towers in Devonshire. An inscription over the west entrance states that it was begun in 1545, it was completed four years later. On the west front [plate 75a] of the tower are carved the arms of England, those of John Vesey, then Bishop of Exeter [elected 1519], a statue of King Edward VI [r. 1547-1553], a crucifix and effigy of St. George; the crucifix has been shamefully treated, though it is so high up it must have taken ladders to reach it.
The damage done to the carvings on the west front of the tower may have been caused by age, but it seems more probable that it was wilfully done, and when one sees in so many old churches so much wanton damage, it makes one wonder what kind of religion those men could have had who made it the business of their lives to deface all that was beautiful in art when it was employed in the service of God.
There is a very fine rood screen retaining its cornices and groining [plate 75b]. There are thirteen bays, and the whole screen is richly coloured in red, white, green and gold. The panels originally contained paintings of saints, but these have been painted over. The rood beam still remains over the screen, but from its position must have served as a support to the top of the cross. The Calvary was removed from the loft either during the Protectorate [1653-1659], or owing to the Government order to that effect in 1547; Polwhele says the former, Dr. Oliver thinks the latter. The base of the Calvary is kept in the west tower; it is made of oak, and is carved to represent rocks, with skulls, thigh-bones, and shoulder blades lying upon them; there is no other instance in Devonshire of even so much as this remaining of the actual rood.
The Lane aisle, was built by a wool merchant of Cullompton about 1526, he died February 15th 1528, and is buried near the altar. The outside of the aisle is ornamented with devices representing the wool trade, and there is an inscription showing that the aisle was erected in honour of God and the Blessed Virgin, and asking for prayers for the souls of the founder, his wife and children. There are five windows of four lights each on the south side, a similar window at the east, and a six-light window at the west end. Between the windows are buttresses carved with merchants' marks and other devices; four of the carvings represent ships, very minute in detail. The buttresses are in three stages; on the lower are some curious beasts, but it is difficult to say to what species they belong. Pedestals for statues are on the second stage, but the figures have finished. There are shafts for pinnacles on the third stage, but the pinnacles are destroyed. The interior of the aisle [plate 75c] is famous for its roof of fan tracery, finer than anything of its kind in a Devonshire church, and on the floor is a slab with a brass inscription to the founder and Thomasine his wife, but the effigies are missing; the brasses have been removed from the stone, which is now partially covered, but the inscription ran:- Hic jacet Johs Lane mcator hu : q : capelle fudator
cu Thomasia uxore sua
qu : dict : Johes obiit xv die Februarii ano dni
Round the outside of the chapel, on a broad ribbon of white freestone, is the following inscription:- "In honour of God and His Blessed Mother Mary, Rembr they saulis of John Land Wakatip and [the following words are doubtful] And the saul of Thomasyn his wife, to have in memory, with all other ther Chyldren and Frendis of yowre owne Cherity, which were Fownders of this Chapell, and here lyeth in Sepulture. In the year of owre Lorde God a Thousant Fyve Hundredth Syx and Twynti. God of His Grace, on their boyith saulis have Mercy, and finally bring them to the eternal Glory. Amen for Cherity."
There is another stone having an incised floriated cross with an inscription to John King, died October 9th 1458, and Joan his wife.
In the chancel are memorials to John Webber, who was vicar from 1461 to 1480; John Cole, March 28th 1564; and in the church are others of about the same date. When the church was restored in 1849, a number of interesting frescos of early 15th century date were discovered in the north wall of the north aisle, on the north wall over the rood loft, and on the arcades, but these are no longer visible.
The list of vicars dates from 1181.
The registers date from 1601.