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.
ILSINGTON. St. Michael. The church consists of chancel, nave, divided from aisles by arches springing from slender clustered column, north and south aisles, north and south transepts, south porch with parvise, and west tower.
There is a piscina in the chancel, and another in the south transepts, the priest's door is in the south chapel. There is an old rood screen [plate 132] enclosing chancel and chapels, consisting of eleven bays, five across the chancel, and three across each chapel. The groining is gone, and spandrel spaces have been filled in with modern carving. There is a good cornice with modern cresting on the nave portion; the cresting is missing from the parts of the screen across the chapels. Modern carved angels have been placed on the caps of the pillars that supported the groining, and quite recently a cross has been placed over the centre doorway. The doors remain, and the entrance to the rood staircase in the south chapel, but the upper part of the stairs have been filled in; the lower panels are plain; there were at one time paintings of saints, but these were removed prior to 1855.
In the north transept, beneath an arch, is a recumbent female figure, said to be that of a member of the Dinham family. The effigy, which probably dates from the 13th century, is arrayed in long gown, mantle, and veil. The arrangement of the roof over the rood screen should be noticed; there are some good bosses, and instead of the arch of the nave arcade being solid above the wall plate, as is usually the case, it is open, and the roof is continued through to the transept on each side; the ribs of the roof at the four corners rest on corbels ornamented with carved wooden niches, containing figures of ecclesiastics holding staffs, books, and musical instruments. The reading desk is formed out of an old prie-dieu, or some old bench-ends, the poppy-heads and the panels are very good; these ends and some at Atherington are, I believe, the only examples of 15th century poppy-head bench-ends in any of the old Devonshire churches; they form quite the most interesting feature of the church. The font is octagonal in shape and plain, and does not call for much remark.
Over the lychgate, at the west end of the churchyard, there was formerly a chamber used as a parish school; in the parish registers under date September 17th 1639, there is an interesting entry referring to this room. It seems that there were generally about 30 boys in this school, but on Tuesday, September 17th 1639, being a wet day, there were only about 17 boys present in the school, with the master, when about 11 o'clock a woman, passing through the gateway underneath, let the heavy gate fall to:-
"Before she was gone to a house about six yards from the place, part of the south stone wall, which bare up the timber worke of the roofe slidd away, so that the whole roofe spread abroad, drove out both side walls, east and west, and fell downe uppon the flower of the roome, not one stick, stone or pinn, of the whole structure remaining where it was formerly placed. The schoole door which opened to the inside was shutt when the house began to fall. Fower of the scholler boyes fell downe into the church-yard with the east side wall, and escaped with little hurt. One ran into the chimney, where he continued safe. Some were stricken down with timber and stone which fell from over their hedde. The timber locked one boy fast in the middle of the roome, and when it was lifted up, he rose and ran away. And which was yet more wonderful, another sweet child, called Humphrey Deyon, fell out with the east side wall into the street, where he was close covered and buried under the rubbish, soe that noe pt of his body or clothes appeared; there he lay for a quarter of an howers space or more. At length, perceiving that the child be wanting, a stricter search was made among the lomber which fell into the roome; then searching amongst the rubbish which fell into the street, he was there happily found, and taken up for dead, in the judgement of all that beheld him. But he was not utterly gone, the child recovered life, is healthy and well, and free from any griefe. In this ancient and special demonstration of God's providence and goodness, in delivering from imminent danger, twelve had their heads cut and broken, so that they bledd, for it to mind them all of the danger they were in, but God with a guard of Angels surround them, so that not a bone was broken, nor a joynt displaced, their wounds are all healed, and there is not any member of them in any way infected from doing its proper office as in former time. At the writing hereof they all in health and so living to praise God for this deliverance."
This year (1910) a new room has been built over the lychgate, it is hoped it will meet with a better fate than its predecessor.
Dr. Oliver gives the first rector as Peter de Cornu, 1309.
The registers date: baptisms, 1558; marriages, 1559; burials, 1558.