Some Old Devon Churches

By J. Stabb

London: Simpkin et al (1908-16)

Page 151

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.

LUPPIT. St. Mary. The church [plate 151a] consists of chancel, nave, north and south transepts, south porch, and west tower with four bells. Over the south porch is a niche for an image with the image missing. There is a good waggon roof to the nave, and from four pillars at the corners of the transepts spring four immense ribs supporting the central portion of the roof, somewhat after the style of the roof at St. Michael's, Honiton. In the north transept there is a piscina, and in the south, the tombstone of a former vicar, Humphrey Johnson, who died December 28th 1639, aged 73.

In the chancel is preserved the shaft of the piscina of early date, probably Norman work. It was found embedded in a buttress during the carrying out of some restorations. At the top is carved a human face, beneath this there is cable moulding, and near the bottom two rows of dog-tooth ornament; the whole shaft is carved, and it is an extremely fine and interesting piece of work.

In the vestry is preserved a palimpsest brass which was found by the vicar in a field hedge adjoining the churchyard in 1883. Unfortunately there is but a fragment remaining, measuring about 14 by 11 inches. On the obverse side is part of a female figure in widow's dress, which probably dates back to the second quarter of the 15th century. The figure is arrayed in wimple, gown with close sleeves edged with fur, and fur-lined mantle; the cord of the mantle is fastened by small shields instead of the usual brooches. The shield on the right has the arms of Bonville. Sir William Bonville, who died in 1408, married Margaret, daughter of Sir William Damarell, and it is probably their daughter who is commemorated on the brass. The reverse, which is the oldest side of the brass, has another female figure dating from about 1408; she is arrayed in a gown with tight sleeves, with small bands at the wrist ornamented with quatrefoils, the border of the mantle is similarly ornamented, and the front part of the gown has a chevron charged with fleurs-de-lis.

At the west end of the church there is a very interesting Norman font, one of the finest specimens in Devonshire; the square bowl and part of the shaft are old, the lower part of the shaft and the base are modern. The bowl is elaborately carved on each of the four sides. On the east side [plate 151b], is a human face with grotesque mask above, in the centre is carved a scene of which it is difficult to give a meaning, and I should welcome any solution. In the centre is a human head, on the left hand side of which is a male figure, holding apparently a large nail just over the head in the centre; on the right is another figure holding a nail or hammer in the right hand, and a mushroom-shaped object above its head in the left hand. The right hand corner of the east side bears the tail and hind quarters of a Centaur, which is continued round to the north side. At the top of the corner, just over the back of the Centaur, is carved a human face, but without the mask that is in the south-east corner. The Centaur holds in its hands a spear, and in front are two long-necked animals with their mouths open, and showing rows of long teeth [plate 151c]. There is another face at the north-west corner, and the west face of the font is covered with a design representing the Tree of Life [plate 151d]. There is another face at the south-west corner, and the south side of the bowl [plate 151e] is carved with different animals; the largest is apparently a deer, and beneath is a dog hunting a hare; there seems to be two animals above the deer, but the remains are too worn to enable even a guess to be made as to what they are intended to represent.

The registers date from 1711.