Some Old Devon Churches

By J. Stabb

London: Simpkin et al (1908-16)

Page 236

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.

TORBRYAN. Holy Trinity. The church is of Perpendicular style, built at the end of the 14th century in place of an earlier building. It consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, south porch with parvise and fine vaulted ceiling, and embattled west tower containing four bells, all with inscriptions in Old English and Roman characters.

Portions of the chancel and the east end of the aisles are parts of the older church. The majority of the windows still retain the old glass of 15th century date.

The rood screen is Perpendicular and is adorned with foliage and tracery [plate 236a]. The lower panels retain their ancient paintings; on the chancel doors, the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Many of the saints represented are rare, such as St. Catherine of Siena [Italy], who is only found here and at Portlemouth, a priest arrayed in a red chasuble, supposed to be St. Armil of Ploermel, in Brittany, elsewhere he is found in the Henry VII Chapel, Westminster. Here also will be found a saint with a ladder, said to be St. Emmeran of Ratisbon [Upper Bavaria, Germany], St. Vincent holding some cups, a napkin and a book; a female figure stripped to the waist, her breast pierced with arrows (called by one authority, St. Sebastian, but by Dom Bede Camm, St. Ursula, the latter is most probably correct, as it is evidently a female figure); St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, St. John, St. Andrew, St. Philip, St. Jude, St. James the Great, St. Simon, St. Thomas, St. Bartholomew, St. Veronica, the Blessed Virgin crowned, St. Lawrence, St. Cecilia, St. Barbara, St. Apollonia, St. Dorothy, St. Syth, St. Ursula, and others, altogether there are about 40. The painting of the figures has not been restored.

The preservation of the screen is doubtless owing to the fact of the Rev. Edward Goswell having retained the rectory during the Commonwealth [1649-1659]. It is said that he caused the screen to be whitewashed and so preserved the paintings from mutilation. The date of the screen is about 1430.

There is a magnificent altar of richly carved 15th century work, from the character of the details it seems likely that it is constructed of remains of the rood loft gallery front; the front [plate 236b] is divided into five compartments by five carved arches. The pillars are carved with vine leaves and grapes, the finials vary in design and on the panels are painted the emblems of St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John, and the Agnus Dei in the centre panel. The upper part of the old pulpit, probably of the same date, is incorporated in the altar, and the base used for the decoration of the present pulpit [plate 236c].

The first rector recorded is Hugo de Cane.

The registers date from 1564.