Some Old Devon Churches
By J. Stabb
London: Simpkin et al (1908-16)
Transcribed and edited by Dr Roger Peters
Full text available at
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.
WOLBOROUGH. St. Mary. The Perpendicular church consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, south porch, and tower containing four bells. The aisles have recesses at their eastern ends hardly large enough to be called transepts, which are enclosed by screens. The church was either rebuilt or extensively restored in the 14th century.
In the north-east chapel the pillar has a finely carved capital, near the pillar is a hagioscope [plate 257a]. These hagioscopes, or squints, were made in the walls of different parts of the church to enable worshippers, who would otherwise not be able to see the altar, to have a view of the priest at Mass. The object in the old days was not so much to see the preacher and hear the sermon, as to see and take part in the offering of what should be the principal act of Divine Worship.
The rood screen [plate 257b] has been divided into three parts, but originally stretched continuously across the church. The groining and cresting are missing, but some of the canopy work has been attached to the spandrels, and the screen is in a good state of preservation. The side screens are worthy of note, they are probably not in their original positions, it is thought that originally they were pew screens. There is a remarkably fine series of paintings on the panels of all the screens [plates 257c, 257d, and 257e].
The following list is given by Mr. Worthy in Devonshire Parishes, Vol. 2, pages 125 to 128:-
COMMENCING AT THE NORTH SIDE.
"1. A Bishop, with pastoral staff. 2. St. Aidan, Bishop and Confessor, with his crosier. 3. St. Gertrude, Abbess with a loaf. 4. St. Ursula, Virgin and Martyr. Holding an arrow and surrounded with smaller figures. 5. St. Wulfstan, Bishop and Confessor. 6. St. Sidwell, with her scythe. 7. St. Catherine, with her sword and trampling on an infidel. 8. St. Dorothy, with basket of flowers. 9. Sir John Schorne, with the boot. 10. St. Honorius, with a baker's shovel. 11. St. Cosmo, with pestle and mortar. 12. St. Damien. 13. St. Julian. 14. St. Irenæus, with crosier and book. 15. Isaac, with bundle of wood (according to parochial tradition), more probably St. Faith whose emblem was the same. 16. A figure holding a knife. Doubtless intended for Abraham. 17. Bishop. 18. Bishop. 19. Abbot. 20. Priest with tonsure. 21. St. Apollonia with a tooth. 22. St. Loys, with a hammer. 23. St. Edward, King and Confessor. 24. St. Hugh, Bishop and Confessor. 25. A figure giving the benediction. 26. A figure in profile, with book. 27. St. Damien repeated, with bottle. 28. Probably St. Cosmo repeated. It has been usually considered, however, to be intended for Moses, with the tables of the Law. 29. 30. 31. St. Barbara, with her tower. 32. St. Helena, with the Latin cross. 33. A female figure, with palm branch. 34. A female figure, with sceptre. 35. St. Veronica, with the Sudorium. 36.
SOUTH TRANSEPT, EAST TO WEST.
1. St. Jerome. 2. St. Ambrose. 3. A figure in a red cloak. 4. A figure, with two swords. 5. A figure, with a blue book. 6., 7., 8. The Annunciation, as shown by the almond tree, which is flourishing in a pot. 9. 10. St. Roch. 11. 12. 13. Figure with a banner, thereon a Maltese cross. 14. Figure of a Bishop. 15. Figure with legs locked together. (St. Leonard).
NORTH TRANSEPT, EAST TO WEST.
1. St. James the Greater, with staff and book. 2. St. Stephen, with stones in his chasuble. 3. St. Paul, with the sword. 4. St. Bartholomew with the flaying knife. 6., 7., 8. These figures have been obliterated. 9. St. Jude with a club. 10. St. Philip, with a spear. 11. St. Matthew, with a square. 12. St. Simon, with a saw. 13. Figure of a Bishop, crosier turned outwards. 14. 15. Figure of a Bishop, as above. 16. St. James the Less, with long cross and book."
The following list is given by Mr. Keyser:-
WEST END OF NORTH TRANSEPT.- Jacob, St. Thomas of Canterbury, two bishops, and another figure.
SOUTH SIDE OF NORTH TRANSEPT.- St. James the Great, St. Paul, St. Bartholomew, St. Andrew, St. Jude, St. Philip, St. Matthew, St. Simon, and St. Thomas.
NORTH CHANTRY.- A bishop, St. Aidan, St. Gertrude, St. Ursula, (?) St. Wulstan, St. Sidwell, St. Pancras, and St. Dorothy.
CHANCEL SCREEN.- Sir John Schorne, St. Damian, St. Jude (?), St. Irenæus, (?) Isaac and Abraham, the four Doctors, St. Apollonia, St. Eligius, Edward the Confessor, (?) John the Baptist, Moses, etc.
SOUTH CHANTRY.- St. Barbara, St. Helena, St. Veronica, etc.
SOUTH TRANSEPT, NORTH SIDE OF.- St. Jerome (?), St. Ambrose (?), the Annunciation, St. Roche, etc.
SOUTH TRANSEPT, WEST END.- (?) St. George, (?) St. Leonard, a bishop, etc.
The figure of Sir John Schorne is only found elsewhere in Devonshire, as far as I know, at Alphington and Portlemouth. He was one of the many saints canonised by popular opinion and not by the Church. He was Rector of North Marston, in Buckinghamshire, about the close of the 13th century. He was invoked for the cure of ague.
It is an interesting study to compare the paintings on the different screens, and to find in how many churches the same saint is represented; some we find on nearly every screen, others perhaps on only two or three, and there are some that only appear in one church. St. Apollonia is very often met with, and as she was supposed to minister to a complaint we all suffer from, viz., the toothache, this is not to be wondered at; her emblem is a pair of pincers grasping a tooth. When the emblem is painted with the figure the elucidation is not difficult, but when this is absent the identification is not so easy, and in many cases the naming of the figures becomes more or less guesswork.
The font is Norman with cable moulding.
The registers date from 1558.