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.
DODDISCOMBESLEIGH. St. Michael. The church consists of chancel with piscina and priest's door, nave, north aisle, separated from the nave by five arches, south porch, and west tower. The tower screen was erected in memory of the reign of Queen Victoria [1837-1901]. There are some old bench-ends at the east end of the nave. The octagonal font is modern, on an apparently old base, with cable moulding. At the east end of the aisle is the mural tablet in memory of John Babb, who died in August 1697, aged 68; this is the only tablet on the walls. There are some old gravestones in the floor, one to the memory of John Dolling, son of Michael Dolling, who was rector of the parish in Parliamentarian times [1649-1659], and who is mentioned by Walker, in his Sufferings of the Clergy, as one who was often subjected to very cruel treatment. The inscription is as follows:- Here lyeth the body of John Dolling sonn
of Michael Dolling, Minister, who died
May the 3rd 1662.
"When harder hearts forget thy name
This stone more soft shall keep the same."
The feature of the church is the large amount of old stained glass remaining; there are in all five windows. They were at one time in a very dilapidated condition, but through the kindness of Mr. Clayton (of Messrs. Clayton and Bell), who undertook the work at his own expense, the five windows have been completely restored. It is said that the glass in these windows is second to none in the kingdom; it dates from probably not later than the middle of the 15th century.
On entering the church the window [plate 85a] directly facing us contains in the centre, St. Michael, the Patron of the church, weighing souls; he is depicted holding the scales, with a naked figure in them on the right hand side, and the Devil trying to pull down the balance on his left. The right hand light contains St. Peter with the key, and the left, St. Christopher carrying our Lord over the water. This was always a favourite subject for a church either in window or wall paintings, and was generally placed facing a door, as there was an idea that anyone seeing a picture of St. Chistopher was preserved from sudden death for the day. Much of this window is old glass, although a good portion is modern. The next window contains in the centre light the figure of the Blessed Virgin, on the left St. John with a quill in his right hand, and a chalice with a serpent rising out of it, in his left; and on the right a figure with the hand resting on a sword, probably St. Paul.
The third window [plate 85b] holds the figures of the three saints representing Great Britain; St. Patrick for Ireland on the left, arrayed in mitre and cope; St. George for England in the centre, on horseback, slaying the Dragon; and St. Andrew on the right with the usual symbol, the St. Andrew's cross.
The fourth window (modern) has, on the right, the figure of Edward the Confessor [1042-1066]; in the centre a representation of the Trinity; and on the left, a figure in a pilgrim's hat with scallop shell, a staff in his right hand and a book in his left, and scallop shells on his cloak. This is most probably intended for St. James the Great, as he was often represented in this fashion.
The east window [plate 85c] is the most interesting of the series, being a representation of the Seven Sacraments. The central figure of our Lord, from whose feet, hands, and side radiate red lines to each of the sacraments, is modern, and is the device and the work of Messrs. Clayton and Bell. There was a large deficiency in this window, and it was assumed that it originally contained either a similar figure of our Lord, or a representation of the Crucifixion. Scratched on a pane of blue glass in two places will be found these words:- "Coles, Glaz: done this window March 1764, whom God preserve, Amen." Coles was a well known artist in the 18th century, and was employed a good deal in glazing of the Cathedral windows. The four figures at the top of the window represent four saints: on the extreme left is St. Stephen; the figure with the gridiron is St. Lawrence. At the top of the left light is a representation of the Eucharist; in the centre, Matrimony; at the bottom, Confirmation; at the bottom of the central light, Penance; in the right light at the top, Ordination; the centre, Baptism; and the bottom, Extreme Unction.
The inscription beneath some of the windows is so mutilated that it does not throw any light on their history, the only words remaining which are legible being:- Benefactoribus fenestrum fecit Hugus operis 3/43/43/4 fieri fecit.
There are two coats of arms in the windows in the north wall; the three red lions rampant are those of the Chudleighs, who held land in this and the adjoining Parish of Ashton. The three eagles are the arms of the Doddiscombe family. Sir Ralph Doddiscombe, Knt., lived in the Parish of Bishops Nympton, a descendant of his married Symon de Newnham, whose arms, the three eaglets, are in one of the windows.
Under the Seven Sacraments window is inserted a long scroll of stone work with the Babb arms, inscribed thus:- "Faith, Hope, Charity, Providentia Dei Vivimus." It seems to be a sort of headpiece to the family cemetary, many of the members of this family being buried there.
The registers date: baptisms, 1681; marriages, 1682; burials, 1678.
I am indebted to the Rector of Doddiscombsleigh, the Rev. F. F. Buckingham, for much valuable information gleaned from a lecture of his on the church which he kindly lent me.