Some Old Devon Churches

By J. Stabb

London: Simpkin et al (1908-16)

Page 96

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.

EXETER, HEAVITREE. St. Michael. The church [plate 96a] is believed to have been appropriated to the Cathedral Church of Exeter in 1152 by Pope Eugenius III [elected 1145]; it was altered or rebuilt in the 15th century, and again in 1541; in 1846 the church, with the exception of the tower, was entirely rebuilt. In 1887 the old tower was removed, and new one erected in commemoration of the Jubilee [of Queen Victoria], and in 1893 the chancel was enlarged. The present building consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, south porch, and west tower. The nave is separated from the aisles by six arches, supported on pillars with richly carved capitals; these capitals are best studied from the galleries on each side of the church. At the south end of the nave, one of the capitals has a carving of a jester in fool's cap, and with tambourine; at the north-west end of the nave a bishop's head is carved on one of the capitals. On the third arch, of the south side, is a shield with the Courtenay arms; it probably dates from the 14th century. The waggon shape roof is supported on brackets, carved with angels, bearing shields with armorial bearings. The font, pulpit, and lectern, are modern work. Some remains of the ancient screen have been incorporated in a handsome south parclose screen [plate 96b]. In Dr. Oliver's time [ca. 1830] there were remains of the screen across the north aisle, later on, this was taken to the west end of the church. Quite recently these remains have been restored and placed as a dwarf screen to the south chapel. There are 10 painted panels, the subjects on which have been variously described, but I do not think there is much doubt that they are intended to represent Sibyls [ancient Greek prophetesses]. Mr. Bligh Bond describes them as:-


A. 1. Sibylla Delphica (with crown of thorns).
    2. Sibylla Hellespontina (with cross and reed or trident).
    3. Sibylla Tiburtina (?) or Cimmeria (with three nails).
    4. Sibylla Libyca (with column of flagellation).
B. 1. Sibylla Cumana (with sponge on reed).
    2. Sibylla Agrippa (with the scourge).
    3. Sibylla Europa (with sword).* (* This might be Sibylla Erythrea. J.S.)
    4. Sibylla Gaucia (with cradle).
C. 1. St. Agatha (with sword through her breast).* (* This might be St. Justina. J.S.)
    2. St. Lucy (with sword through her neck).

There are some old tombstones at the east end of the nave, one in memory of Thomas Gorges, of Heavitree, and his wife Rose, has the inscription:- Hee departed this life 17th October 1670
and shee the 14th day of April 1671

"The loving turtle having lost her mate
Begged shee might enter ere they shut the gate
Their dust here lies whose soules to Heaven are gone
And waite till Angels rowle away the stone."

The name of the first vicar was John de Christenstowe, date 1280.

The registers date: baptisms, 1556; marriages, 1654; burials, 1653.