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.
KENTON. All Saints. The church was built about 1370, during the episcopacy of Thomas de Brantynhgam; the tower and porch somewhat later, as there is a statue of Henry IV [r. 1399-1413] in the porch which would mark the date as somewhere between 1390-1414. The height of the tower is 120 feet. The style of the church is Perpendicular throughout.
The south porch [plate 138a] is of exceptional merit. On the west side is the holy water stoup, over the doorway is a niche with well carved canopy, and higher up are two other niches, but all have lost the figures which they were intended to contain. There was probably a groined ceiling to the porch, as the present flat ceiling cuts off the top of a canopy over the door, showing that at some time the ceiling must have been lowered to give more room in the priest's chamber above it.
The capitals of the pillars in the nave are finely carved: they are all different; Henry IV is represented on the capital on the north side nearest the tower.
The rood screen is one of the finest in the county and extends right across the church [plate 138b]. The rood loft and groining were removed in the reign of Elizabeth [1558-1603] in accordance with an order for the removal of the lofts then made. The chancel portion has been restored and the niches under the canopies of the gallery front have been filled with figures of angels. In the centre is St. Michael treading on Satan, and two angels on either side typifying the triumph over evil. The four Evangelists have been placed on the original pedestals on the doors. The screen was erected between 1478 and 1486, and was probably the gift of Bishop Courtenay, Bishop of Exeter at that time. Commencing on the north side of the screen the panels contain the following painted figures:- (1) St. Apollonia; (2) St. Agnes; (3) St. Cecilia; (4) St. Helena; (5) St. Anthony of Egypt; (6) St. George; (7) St. Edmund King and Martyr [ca. 840-870]; (8) a man wearing a plume of white feathers and holding a sceptre. The next panels contain Prophets and Apostles placed alternately; then follow St. Lawrence, St. Barbara, St. Stephen, a female saint, St. Catherine, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Dorothy, and St. Lucia. There are eleven bays to the screen, five in the chancel portion and three to each aisle; round the central doorway are carvings of the twelve Apostles. The Rev. W. P. S. Bingham gives the following account of the screen:- "The work probably belongs to the 15th century . . . . most people think it is Flemish, and the popular tradition that it was intended for the Cathedral at Lima, and taken as a prize would rather support this. This tradition cannot be true, as Lima was not founded in A.D. 1535: but there is an element of truth in every falsehood. The screen and parcloses must have been made for the Church, or the Church built for them; but Flemings, who were famous wood carvers, may have been brought over to do the work, or it may have been done to order in the Netherlands."
The windows are good, and there are some remains of ancient glass on the north side. The western gallery was removed in 1861, and the church restored in 1866. The pulpit [plate 138c] at this church is very fine. It is restored, but the work of restoration has been well done; the old portions retain their ancient colouring whilst the new is uncoloured. When I saw the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, not long since, he told me he was the means of its restoration. When a boy he made a drawing to scale of the old pulpit, and when, on visiting the church years afterwards, he found the pulpit had vanished; he made enquiries but no one seemed to know anything about it. However, search was made and portions found, and by reference to his drawing a complete restoration was possible. The carvings in the panels represent St. Boniface, St. Walburga, St. Aldhelm, St. Sidwell and St. Petrock, all saints connected with Devonshire.
The first vicar given in the recorded list was Richard de Worthe, September 18th 1318.
The registers date from 1694.