An Unidentified Coat in Tiverton Church

Amery, PFS, Amery, John S & Rowe, J Brooking (Eds.). Devon Notes & Queries, vol. II, (Jan. 1902 to October 1903), p. 145

Prepared by Michael Steer

This brief note from the quarterly journal devoted to the local history, biography and antiquities of the County of Devon speculates on the origins of a complex unidentified coat of arms carved on a very large stone located behind the tomb of wealthy wool merchant George Slee in St Peter’s Church, Tiverton. The heraldry appears to indicate alliances between the CAREW, LEIGH, BICCOMBE, SOUTHCOTE and possibly STAPLETON families. The extract, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from Google Books with a search by either author or title, and also from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. 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.

The Rev Edwin S Chalk sends us a description of a shield of arms carved on a stone weighing a hundredweight, which he found behind the tomb of George Slee in St Peter’s Church, Tiverton. The blazon appears to be;- per pale of three I. Per fess in chief arg. two bars az. Over all a bend componée or and gu. Legh or Leigh, Co Cheshire. In base, three lions passant sa. Carew. 2. Gu. a chev. between three birds ( ? Coots) arg, Biccombe. 
3 A lion ramp. Sab., Stapleton? Leigh of Cheshire bore az. Two bars arg. A bend componée or and gu.
But the Devonshire line from the Visitation and this shield, appear to have made the field argent and the two bars azure, a good difference for a younger son. The Leigh pedigree as given in Vivien’s Visitations of Devonshire, does not show the matches on the shield, as it ends with Robert aged five years, and George aged two years in 1620. Thomas Carew married the heiress of Hugh Biccombe of Crowcombe, gu. a chevron betw. Three birds arg. ; and his son, John Carew of Crowcombe, married in 1589 Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Southcote of Bovey Tracey. The lion rampant sable is somewhat difficult to identify; if collared and chained or, it would be Meridith. 
The arrangement of this coat is somewhat peculiar. Per pale of three is a man and his two wives. The first and third being per fess may indicate that he had four wives, the first a Carew, or this may be intended to show a quartered coat dimidiated.