Vicars of Townstall and Dartmouth

Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. VI, (January 1910 to October 1911), p. 144.


Edward Windeatt

Prepared by Michael Steer

Dartmouth comprises the parishes of St. Petrox, St. Saviour, Townstall (St. Clement), and part of Stoke-Fleming. The living of St. Saviour's is annexed to the vicarage of Townstall. Townstall Church was granted to Torre Abbey in about 1198, shortly after the founding of that Abbey by the Premonstratensian order. In 1329 the vicar of Townstal allegedly drowned himself and the Bishop of Exeter punished this crime by issuing an interdict that forbade any religious services from taking place at the church for two years. The Bishop gave licence to William Bacon, one of the wealthiest burgesses of the town of Dartmouth, to hold private services at a chapel in his house, but nothing was done for the general public of the town. In 1330 King Edward III visited Dartmouth and was petitioned by the town's burgesses to allow them to build a church down by the waterside because of what they said was the "very great fatigue of their bodies" in climbing the hill to Townstall. Their petition was granted by a charter dated 16 February 1330 which allowed William Bacon to assign to Torre Abbey an acre of land in Clifton, near the river, to "build anew the parish church". However, both the canons of Torre Abbey and the Bishop of Exeter opposed the building of a new church so nothing was done. In 1331 permission was granted "for aged and infirm parishioners" to celebrate mass at the chapel of St. Clare in a lower part of the town, but everyone else was clearly still expected to climb the hill to Townstall. This note focuses on several of the incumbents during the Restoration period. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

Note 130. VICARS OF TOWNSTALL AND DARTMOUTH (VI., par. 95, p. 101.) - This should be Vicars of Townstall and St. Saviour's, Dartmouth. John Flavell, the eminent Nonconformist divine, was never Vicar but only Lecturer at Dartmouth, and the agreement by which he became Lecturer was dated 7th August, 1656. The Vicar during the time Flavell was Lecturer was Allen Geare, who was born at Stoke Fleming 1622, and on the death of Anthony Harford, b.d., Vicar of Townstall and St. Saviour's, Dart- mouth, 23rd January, 1655-6, was instituted to the living; he had been Chaplain to the Earl of Bedford at Woburn. Geare and Flavell were both ejected for Nonconformity in 1662, and Geare died the December of that year. Flavell was b.a. of University College, Oxford, was born in Worcestershire, and was first Curate to Mr. Walplate, the Rector of Diptford. Flavell died at Topsham, near Exeter, June 26th, 1691; he was moderator of an assembly which was meeting there.                                  Edward Windeatt.