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.
EXMINSTER. St. Martin. The church [plate 105a] consists of chancel, nave, south aisle, south porch, and west tower with six bells. The nave is divided from the aisle by four arches resting on sandstone pillars and the aisle chapel from the chancel by one arch. Against the north wall of the chancel is a monument [plate 105b] divided into two compartments by Corinthian pillars; in the right hand division are two female figures kneeling on cushions, the left of these two figures wears long head-dress, frilled ruff, bodice with long waist and full dress, the front embroidered with crosses; the figure behind wears the same description of dress, but not such a full ruff, and the underpart of the ruff is decorated with crosses, and the head-dress is close-fitting. In the left hand division are three male figures kneeling on cushions, they wear short hair, beards and moustaches. They are clad in full armour with full pantaloons, the foremost figure wears sabbatons on the feet, the middle, shoes with rosettes, the feet of the third are missing. On the frieze are six scallop shells, above the frieze on each side of the centre piece kneels a female figure before a prieu-dieu with a death's head and bones carved on the side. The figures are arrayed in ruffs, long-waisted bodices and full skirts, behind each figure there is a shield with arms. The centre piece contains a brass with inscription and coat of arms, the whole being surmounted by a shield bearing arms.
The inscription is as follows:- In Sempiterna memoria Othonis Petri Armgeri
Mæstissimus eivs filius paterni amoris et funibris
Moeroris ergo hoc Monumentum. P. P. P.
"Conditur hac petra pietatis petra petræus
Omen habet nomen nam petra vera fvit
Vicinis pacis sponsæ constantiæ amoris
Natis pavperibvs petra patrocinii
Indole tam propria quv stemate fulsit avito
Marti suo ciarvs conjve prole patre
Fama fidesq. vivi nobiscum in sarevia perstat
Mens generosa deu coelitvs orta petit
Sic petra petra operit corpvs petra nempe petræi hæc
At Christo frvitvr mens meliore petra"
Obiit die Junii 1607.
The monument bears the date 1608. There is a screen of five bays across the chancel needing restoration, the doors are missing, across the aisle there is a screen of five bays retaining the doors, the parclose screen of five bays remains.
The roof [plate 105c] of the south chapel is divided into squares ornamented with figures in plaster of St. Matthew, St. James Minor with club and book, St. Thomas with spear and book, St. John with chalice, St. Mark with lion, St. Simon with book and knife, St. James Major with staff, water bottle and pilgrim's hat with scallop shell, St. Peter with key, St. Luke with ox, St. Bartholomew with key, St. Andrew with his cross, St. Matthias with battle axe, St. John with eagle, and St. Judas. I suppose this figure is intended to represent the Judas who according to Eusebius was the 15th Bishop of Jerusalem [ca. 111-154]. Around the top of the east window of this chapel are carved the Nativity, the Baptism, the Bearing of the Cross, and the Resurrection.
On the left side of the east window is a mural monument with the inscription:- This monument is erected to the memory of Grace Wife of William Tothill of the Middle Temple who havinge issue Henry, died the 24th day of Februarye 1623 in the 18th year of Her age and lieth buried in this Ile, she being the daughter of Henry Tothill of Plamount thrice Sherife of Devon and Mary his wife.
"If Grace could length of days thee give
Or Virtue coulde have made the live
If Goodnesse could Thee here have kept
Or Tears of friends which for thee wept
Then had'st thou lived amongst us heere
To who thy virtues made thee deere
But thou a Sainte did'st Heaven Aspire
Whiles heere on earth wee the admire
The rest deere Corps in Mantle Claye
Till Christ thee raise the latter daye."
"Thy yeres were fewe Thy Glasse beinge run
Were death ende thy lyfe begun."
Beneath is a recumbent figure, in alabaster, of a female, the elbow resting on a pillow, the hand supporting the head. She wears ruff, mantle open at the front, showing the tight-fitting bodice, and long full skirt. Beneath the figure are the lines:-
"Speake statue tell her story
Its grace inherits Glory."
In the chancel are the remains of a piscina and on the walls several tablets in memory of the Kekewick family of Peamore.
Beneath the south window is a coffin shaped stone with the inscription:- Here lyeth the Body of Henry Tothill of Peamore Esq: who dyed the 9th day of December Ano 1640, ætatis suæ 78. Mary the only wife of ye aforesaid Henry and sole Daughter and Heire of Nicholas Sparke, Gent: lieth also here.
Near the parclose doorway is a stone with the inscription:- Here lye the bodyes of W . . . Tothill and Anne his wife who departed this life, shee ye 24th of June 1635 and hee ye 9th of June 1636 and by their desires interr'd together.
On the north wall is a large monument with the inscription:- In Memory of Philippa ye Deare Wife of John Cooke of Kenbury within this Parish, Merchant, who was one of the Daughters and heiress of Samuel Thoms descended from Thoms of Merthen and Tremaine in ye County of Cornwall. She died 15th of March 1690 and of fourteen children nine survived her. Et Virtus Post Funera. Aetatis suæ 37. Also in memory of ye abovesaid John Cooke who died the 28th day of July 1685. Aetatis suæ 45. Nine of his children likewise survived him.
Beneath this monument on a marble slab is the inscription:- In Memory of Samuel Cooke of Kenbury Esq: who died the third day of September 1740. Aetatis suæ 64. Also in memory of Elizabeth the wife of the above Samuel. She was one of the daughters of John Beresford late of Taunton Castle in the County of Somerset, Gent: and died the 3rd day of March 1740 Aetatis suæ 71, and of eleven children five only survived them.
There is a restored holy water stoup near the south door, and several old tombstones in the aisle.
Nearly all the guide books give but a very short account of Exminster Church, but it is as well worth a visit as many a church to which more space is devoted.
The registers date from 1562.