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.
HACCOMBE. St. Blaise. The church consists of chancel, nave, north aisle, and south porch. The Parish of Haccombe [290 acres, 0.45 sq. miles] is, I believe, the smallest in England, and the church is not very large, being only 55 feet long by 30 feet broad, but for interest it compares favourably with many a larger building; it has indeed been called a miniature Westminster Abbey. The church, with its two altars and cemetery, was dedicated by Bishop Grandisson on July 19th 1328; this was probably on the occasion of some restoration or rebuilding made by Sir Stephen de Haccombe. The walls of the church, with the two western windows, and those at the west end in the north wall, certainly belong to a previous century. The incumbent of Haccombe is an archpriest, and the Bishop, in the foundation deed of its archpresbytery about 1341, states this parish church had served for the burial place of Sir Stephen de Haccombe and of his "progenitors", proving the existence of a church prior to the 1328 dedication.
In the chancel is the recumbent effigy [plate 110a] of an earlier Sir Stephen de Haccombe, who lived in the reign of Henry III [1216-1272], and he it was who probably founded the original church. He is known to have been living in 1243, but the exact date of his death is uncertain. The figure is carved in hard red sandstone, covered with a coating of plaster, with is moulded into the form of chain. The head of the figure lies on two cushions, and wears a coiffe de maille, allowing the face to be seen, but covering the neck. On the body is a tunic fastened round the waist with a narrow belt. On the left arm is a shield, bearing the arms of Haccombe. A wide buckled belt hangs loosely from the waist for the sword, which is broad and short. The left hand holds the sheath, and the right rests on the handle, as if the sword had just been sheathed. The legs are mailed and crossed, and the feet, which rest on a lion, have spurs on the heels. Beneath the window on the south side of the chancel, and beneath the nearly opposite window in the north aisle, are female figures, one holding a shield with the arms of Haccombe, and the other holding a missal.
Beneath an arch, under a window in the north aisle, is a female recumbent figure in wimple and long flowing dress, holding in her hand a shield, on which are the Haccombe arms. Beneath an arch, on the south side of the chancel, is a very similar figure, holding a book. The first figure is supposed to represent Margaret, wife of Sir Stephen, and the second either Cicely, wife of Sir John Lercedekne, and daughter of Sir Jordan de Haccombe, or Isabella, the daughter of Sir Mauger de St. Aubyn, and wife of Sir Jordan de Haccombe. The former is suggested by Dr. Oliver, the latter by Mr. Rogers. Under an arch in the aisle is a truncated cross, supposed to be a memorial of Robert de Pyl, clerk, in the 14th century. From the walls of the chancel and the aisle project arms with the hands gone, these most probably held lights before the shrine of some saint. In the south window of the chancel is some ancient glass, of earlier date than is usually found, for from the coat of arms it cannot be later than 1341, and may be much earlier. The subjects represent the Blessed Virgin, with the pot of lilies [her emblem]; a figure arrayed in episcopal vestments, with a crosier with Early English head, and low mitre; a figure of an archbishop with the pall, and low jewelled mitre; a bearded figure holding some obliterated object; and the Angel Gabriel appearing to the Blessed Virgin.
In the aisle is the altar tomb of Sir Hugh Courtenay, Knt., and Philippa his wife, daughter and heir of Sir Warren Lercedekne, by which marriage the Haccombe property passed to the Courtenay family. Sir Nicholas Carew married Joan, the daughter of Sir Hugh Courtenay, and thus obtained the property which has ever since been held by the Carew family. In front of Sir Hugh's tomb is a diminutive effigy in alabaster [plate 110b]; it is said to represent the only son of Sir Hugh Courtenay, who died while a student at Oxford; had he lived he would have inherited the Haccombe estates instead of his sister Joan. There still remain in the church some very fine encaustic tiles, chiefly filled with conventional patterns, but a few, and by far the most interesting, have the Haccombe, Lercedekne, and Royal arms, with other devices chiefly belonging to the 13th century.
On the chancel floor on the south side of the effigy of Sir Stephen de Haccombe is the fine brass of Nicholas Carew who died in 1469. The armour is very rich; on his head is a visored salade raised to show the face; on the shoulder are paldrons, and on the right shoulder a peculiarly shaped plate of steel, called a moton; the hands, which wear gauntlets, are joined in prayer; the elbow and knee plates are large. The sword, which hangs in front, is long and reaches to the feet, the latter having spurs on the heels. Beneath the figure is the following inscription:-
Armiger insignis jacet hic Carew Nicholaus
Prudens egregius de stupe nobile natus
Vitam Septembris presente clausit eundo
Ab isto mensis die decimo tercio mndo
Edwardi noni regni quarti Regin anno
Necnon mileno ccc qe pleno
Cu sexageno nono dni numato
Cuj solamen aie cito det Deus. Amen
There are some other very fine brasses; one is in memory of Thomas Carew, Esq.,who died in 1586; near this is one in memory of his wife Maria, who died in 1589; and one in memory of Elizabeth, wife of John Carew, who died in 1611. The effigies of Thomas Carew, his wife and six children, are on another brass with the following inscription:-
Here lieth the bodies of Thomas Carew Esqr.
and Anne his wife, who desesed the 6th and 8th
Day of December ano Domini 1656
"Two bodies ly beneath this stone
Whom love and marriage long made one
One Soule conjoyned them by a force
Above the Power of Deaths Devorse
One flame of love their lives did burn
Even to ashes in their urne
They dy but not depart who meet
In wedding and in winding sheet
Whom God hath knit so firm in one
Admit no separacion
Therefore unto one marble trust
Wee leave their now united dust
As roots in earth embrace to rise
Most lovely flowers in Paradise."
On the door [plate 110c] of the south porch are nailed a horseshoe and a half, all that remain of the four shoes placed there by that Carew who made a wager with a Champernowne of Dartington, that he would ride his horse furthest into Torbay. He won his wager, and it is said, saved the life of his antagonist. On his return he removed his horse's shoes and nailed them to the door, saying that such a good beast should do no more work.
Across the chancel is a stone screen of five bays [plate 110d], two on each side of the centre being filled with open tracery; it is of comparatively modern date, having been placed in position in 1821 at the cost of the late Sir. H. Carew. It was designed by [John] Kendall, acting architect to Exeter Cathedral at that time.
The west door [plate 110e] has one of the old fastenings consisting of a thick bar of wood sliding back into the thickness of the wall.
The registers date: baptisms, n.a.; marriages, 1859; burials, n.a.