Teigngrace Church

Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. IX, (January 1916 to January 1917), pp. 73-75.


Edward Windeatt

Prepared by Michael Steer

The present church is the work of the three Templer brothers, James, John and George, who rebuilt the existing church in 1786 as a monument to their parents, James and Mary Templer of Stover. The earliest definite record of a church at Teigngrace dates is 1350 when one John de Copshull was recorded as rector. It is possible that there was a church before that date, as in 1088, according to the Domesday Survey, a certain Ralph de Brueria held the manor of Taigne. From him and his descendants the place was known for several centuries, as Teign-Bruer, or Brewer, and it is likely to suppose that there would have been a place of worship in the village at that time.Between the years 1350 and 1750 there are recorded 21 rectors at Teigngrace. The benefice is recorded as being held by the Prescotes, the Copplestones, the Elfords and the Courtneys. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. This extract, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive.  These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

Note 75. Teigngrace Church. - This church is mentioned in Bishop Stafford's Register in the year 1409 as "the Parish Church of the Apostles Peter and Paul." In 1782 (five years before the date of the present building), in the survey of the Diocese of Exeter, it is referred to as "St.Mary's Church, Teyngrace," and the Ordnance Maps and Kelly's Directories still call it by that name. Rough notes of Exeter Diocesan Architectural Society, 1848, sheet 12, gives Teyngrace Church as dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul. 

The faculty for pulling down the old building is at the Diocesan Registry, Exeter, and the licence for holding services in the new building is extant there also. The licence gives permission to hold services in the new building then erected until such time as that new building should be consecrated.

The Act of Consecration (the instrument) would necessarily mention the dedication, but no such instrument can be found. 

This might be thought as tending to prove that by some oversight the present building had never been consecrated. This would appear, however, to be a mistake. The case does not stand alone. A similar case occurs where, however, a supplementary document, in that instance, explained matters. In this case there was also a licence to hold services till the new building was consecrated. A later document was issued revoking this Licence as being 
unnecessary since the new building was built on the old site. This is in accordance with the ecclesiastical standpoint, which is, that if a new church is built upon the old foundations of a church already consecrated, no further consecration of that new church is permissible. Hence the other document revoking the condition that services could only by licence be held till the new building was consecrated. The case of Teigngrace is exactly similar. A stone over the west doorway alludes to the site as being "consecrated forages" to the worship of God, evidently referring to that site as the site of the old church, and, indeed, some of the old materials are in the present building. It would appear, therefore, that in the case of Teigngrace also, the licence with its condition of consecration, was issued in error, and that hence it is we can find no instrument of subsequent consecration. By some misfortune, however, the document revoking that licence was either never issued or has been lost. 

This leaves us, as regards dedication, in exactly the old difficulty. It would appear, therefore, that the old Church was dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul. Bishop Stafford's Register is correct, but what about the statement (five years before the rebuilding) that the church was dedicated to St. Mary? Can the original church of 1409, dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, have been at some time pulled down or destroyed, and a later church erected dedicated to St. Mary? If so, it would be this later church, dedicated to St. Mary, that was pulled down in 1787 to give place 
to the present church. 

What is the dedication of the present church? The old tradition that it is dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul lingers, but some say that it is dedicated to St. Mary. 

Some time ago, a gentleman interested in the church purchased a very nice old engraving of Teigngrace Church, with the following printed below it: - 

"To James Templer of Stover Lodge in the County of Devon Esqre this south west view of the Parish Church of Teigngrace in the same County, is humbly inscribed by his most obedient servant. The Church, the spire of which is 140 feet high, was designed by and executed under the direction of James Templer Esq. the Patron at the joint charge of his and his brothers the Rev. John Templer the Rector and George Templer of Shopwick in the County of Somerset Esq and dedicated to the Holy Trinity in the year of our Lord 1787. Pub. April 23rd 1789 by J. Seago, Printseller High Street St Giles, London." 

Now our first idea is to dismiss this as perfectly absurd, but it should be noted as follows: - 

The engraving (and consequently this statement) is dated 1789, only two years after the rebuilding. Too soon for a mistake of that kind to be possible. Again, it is dedicated (i.e. the engraving) to the Templers who built the Church - one of whom was Rector and another Patron. 

It is hardly possible to suppose that some correspondence between these and "J. Seago" (the engraver or printer) did not take place, and if so, they were no doubt his authority for the statement. How can we suppose that a mistake of such a kind on their part was possible? Can any of your readers explain the mystery?                   Edward Windeatt.