Exeter St Mary Arches


Some Old Devon Churches

By J. Stabb

London: Simpkin et al (1908-16)

Page 99

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. St. Mary Arches. The church [plate 99] consists of nave, chancel raised on shallow steps, north and south aisles, and tower with three bells, two dating from the 15th century, the third was cast in 1827.

The church takes its name from the Norman arches of the nave, on each side there are four bays supported on plain circular Late Norman columns, with square capitals with scallop moulding. The roofs are waggon shape, and have been pierced at intervals with dormer windows. Behind the altar is a 17th century reredos, erected in 1696, and the altar and rails are of about the same date. At the east end of the north aisle there was formerly the Chapel of the Holy Trinity, mentioned in the will of John Mainard, bearing date December 4th 1546. He left certain lands to provide for a yearly service to be held in this chapel "to pray for the soul of John Bradmore, his father-in-law, his father and mother's soul, and all the souls he is bound to pray for."

In the south aisle there was a chantry chapel dedicated to St. Andrew and St. Thomas, founded by Thomas Andrews, who was Mayor of Exeter in 1504; in his will, dated April 23rd 1517, he left lands and tenements to find a priest to pray for his soul, and to sustain for ever twelve poor men. His monument is in the south aisle with his recumbent figure beneath an arch, the spandrels of which are carved with angels holding shields with armorial bearings; on the four panels on the front of the tomb are angels holding shields with the same arms - those of the Merchant Adventurers. This Company of Merchants is the most ancient of any in England, having been incorporated in 1296, in the reign of Edward I [1272-1307]. The inscription at the top of the tomb is as follows:- Hic jacet Magister Thomas Andrew, quondam Maior Civitatis Exonie, qui obiit anno Dni Mcccccxviii, et nono die Marcii, Cujus anime propitietur Deus. Amen

There are several monuments commemorating former mayors of Exeter, the oldest being that of John Davy, who was mayor in 1584, 1594 and 1604. Another monument is in memory of Thomas Walker, with kneeling figures of himself and wife; he was mayor in 1601, 1614, 1625, and died in 1628. There are also monuments to Richard Crossing, mayor in 1654; Nicholas Brooking, mayor in 1655; Christopher Lethbridge, mayor in 1660; and Burnet Patch, mayor in 1813. Dr. Richard Walker, the author of the Sufferings of the Clergy, was Rector of St. Mary Major; and many members of his family were buried in this church.

There is an old altar covering made out of two ancient vestments in the 18th century, part of it was taken from a chasuble of 15th century date. The central cross has a figure of our Lord, with angels on each side. The border is composed of male and female saints, some in a fair state of preservation.

There is some good church plate; a chalice dated 1573, a pewter flagon dated 1628, a silver flagon dated 1691, a paten dated 1688, and two alms dishes dated 1706.

The first rector on record is Sir Henry Sake, 1321.

The registers date from 1538.