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.
HARTLAND. St. Nectan. The first church on the present site was erected in the middle of the 11th century. The massive and lofty tower of the present building is Perpendicular, and has buttresses ending in grotesque gargoyles. On the east side is a canopied niche containing a statue of the patron saint (St. Nectan) for whose relics the church was long famous. The western arch in the church is "unequalled in the county for the bold style of the mouldings and capitals which can be more clearly seen now the western gallery has been removed."
The body of the present church is older than the tower. It consists of chancel, nave, north and south transepts, north and south aisles, with chapels at the east end. Over the north porch is a chamber containing the parish stocks.
The church was restored in 1848, when the east wall of the chancel was rebuilt, and north and south parcloses were erected. The altar is of stone [plate 114a], and has often been referred to in guide books and elsewhere as being an example of the survival of the original stone altar, but this is not the case. It is in reality a Perpendicular altar tomb, and was brought from the Abbey and placed in the church at the restoration. The ancient altar slab with incised crosses was recently found near the lychgate.
The font is Norman [plate 114b], and has a square base connected by a cylindrical shaft with zigzag mouldings with the body, the corners of which and the base have carved heads facing each other, emblematical of the baptised looking down on the unbaptised.
The rood screen is Perpendicular and extended right across the church [plate 114c], it is groined on both sides and is coloured and gilded. The screen is exceptionally massive and large, the carving is very fine and the detail presents many points of interest. The arcades have large central mullions running into the apex as at Lapford and Swymbridge. There are two more ribs to each bay of the groining than in the majority of the Devonshire rood screens. The shields incorporated with the carving should also be noticed, as it is a unique feature. The cornices have a triple series of vine leaf enrichments. The fact that the cresting is of iron generally escapes notice.
In 1637 there was an organ in the loft with seats on each side, in 1650 the organ was removed and seats took its place. In 1846 the present organ was erected in the loft, but at the restoration of the church it was removed, and in 1870 placed in its present position.
The north aisle of the chancel has a panelled roof with moulded ribs embellished with gold and colours. It was probably the Chapel of St. Mary's Guild.
In the south aisle are some carved seats bearing the initials "H. P."; they were erected by Hugh Prust of Thorry [renamed Docton in ca. 1580], and were originally in the Chapel of St. Mary's Guild in the north aisle. Some old panels of carved wood are preserved in the church. There are words carved at the top of each, and the panels when placed together form the sentence, "God Save Kinge James. Fines." They most probably formed at one time the sides of a pulpit [plate 114d].
The registers date from 1559; and the church accounts commence in 1597.