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.
BICKINGTON, HIGH. St. Mary. Risdon says the original church "was founded by King Athelstan [r. 925-940], who gave to God and it one hide of land, as appeareth by the donation, a copy whereof, for the antiquity thereof, I will here insert:- John Athelstan, King, grome of this home, give and graunt to the priest of this church, one yoke of mye land frelith to holde, woode in my holt house to build, with grass for all hys beasts, fuel for his hearth, pannage for hys sowe and piggs world without end."
The present building [plate 16a], dating from the 15th century, consists of chancel, nave, north aisle, south porch, and west tower with six bells.
The font and south porch are Norman. In the chancel are sedilia, piscina, and priest's door. On the south side of the nave is the vestry occupying the base of what was originally the tower, but the upper part of the tower was pulled down and a west tower built many years since. There was at one time a west gallery, but this has been removed. When the gallery was taken down some of the old bench-ends at the lower end of the church were brought from farmhouses in the neighbourhood and erected at the west end of the nave. The series of bench-ends is remarkably fine, most of them being carved with figures of saints:- St. Peter with the key; St. Paul with the sword; St. Andrew with his cross; a figure with staff, wallet, and shell, St. James the Great (?); a male figure with staff and rosary, St. Sebald (?); a male figure with a club, St. James the Less (?); and a figure with the hair apparently dressed in a pigtail, the hands raised in the attitude of prayer.
The Norman font has been restored [plate 16b]; it was in a very dilapidated condition, only kept together by bolts of iron. A remarkable feature is its being composed of only two blocks of stone, the square base and half the shaft being cut out of one block, and the bowl and the other half of the shaft are cut out of the second block. The bowl, which takes the form of a cushioned capital, is well carved, and there is cable moulding around the base of the shaft.
The registers date: baptisms, 1707; marriages 1754; burials, 1707.