Some Old Devon Churches

By J. Stabb

London: Simpkin et al (1908-16)

Page 198

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.

SANDFORD. St. Swithin. The church [plate 198] consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, separated from nave by five arches on the south side, the pillars having carved capitals, south porch, and west tower with five bells.

There is an old 17th century gallery at the west end, it was built in 1657; the front, which is elaborately carved, is divided into many arched and pillared Jacobean panels, separated by thick consoles of inverted acanthus, supporting an ornamental cornice; the gallery extends on each side slightly up each aisle. It was built by the second Sir John Davie of Creedy.

The church was practically rebuilt in 1523, and again restored in 1847-48 at a cost of over £2,000; the clerestory was added at this time. On the south side of the chancel is a monument of Sir Humphrey Phineas Davie, Bart., of Creedy, who died January 12th 1546. On the north side of the chancel is another monument of the Davie family, dated 1692. At the east end of the north aisle is a mural tablet with the following inscription:-

"Here buried lyes the Body of Julian
Sir William Strodes Daughter of Newingham
Of John Davie Esq the late deare wife
Who did Mayes fourteenth day depart this life
In the sixteene Hundred Twenty and seventh yeare
Of the Lord Christ her saviour most Deare
She worthy was by Byrth, she was by Grace
Berean like of a more noble race
In that she ready was to Here, to try
God's preached word and in synceritie
The same to keepe, which made her during life
A Good, kinde, careful, Mistress, Mother, Wife,
Syncerity she livinge did embrace
And dyinge Did exhort all to that grace
To husbands, children, servants, neighbours, friends
Her death brought lorse unspeakable, yet tends
To her great gayne who now for earthly pleasure
Most Heavenly joyes partaketh without measure."

On the wall of the north aisle is a curious 17th century brass, commemorating members of the Dowrich family, who lived at Dowrich from (at least) the time of King John [1199-1216] until 1717. In the nave and aisles are many old carved bench-ends dating from the 15th century; they are deeply carved, and the subjects consist principally of foliage with medallion busts of men and women. One of the busts is said to represent King Henry VIII [r. 1509-1547], another his first Queen, Katharine [of Aragon; divorced 1533]. One looks uncommonly like the head of a North American squaw, and another might be intended for an Aztec; some wear the civilian ruff and doublet, and some helmets. Between the old bench-ends doors have been fitted to make enclosed pews.

The rood screen is gone, but the position of the staircase can be seen from the doorway in the north aisle, now walled up. The pillars opposite this doorway have the carving divided, the eastern portion of the carving being higher than that on the west side; the rood screen must have extended right across the church at this point. On the third pillar from the chancel, on the north side, is a bracket for an image supported by two nude figures engaged in tearing each other's hair. This carving may possibly refer to an incident that occurred in the church, and which was recorded by the Rev. John Hopkins, who was chaplain of the church in 1651. It seems that towards the end of the reign of King Henry I [1100-1135] a dispute arose between two men during service in the church, which was carried so far that one of them murdered the other. In consequence of this murder the church was locked up, and for many years no services were held; a petition was presented to King Stephen [r. 1135-1154] in the 2nd and 3rd year of his reign representing the facts, and the King made an order for the performance of Divine Service.

At the end of the south aisle is hung a board on which are the particulars of a sum of money left by John Davie of Prouz to "six poore husbandmen of this p'ish"; he died June 16th 1675.

The registers date from 1603.