Churches and Chapels

St Andrew's Church and the Wesleyan Chapel are now on a separate submenu

For information on memorials, see the bottom of this page.


 'To Ashburton....its a market town and here are a great many Dissenters and those of the most considerable persons in the town; there was a Presbiterian, an Anabaptist and Quakers meeting'

Celia Fiennes. 1689

The Illustrated Journeys of Celia Fiennes 1685-c1712 Ed Christopher Morris, Macdonald and Co London; Webb and Bower Exeter, 1982, p 200

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In 1875 the Western Times published an article on Non-conformity in Devonshire, claiming that in the Record Office in London there was a complete list of those licensed to preach in 1672. Those mentioned in connection with Ashburton are John Syms and Richard Tapper, both down as Presbyterians.

Western Times 5 February 1875 p2 col3

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Ashburton clergy in the Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce and Manufacture, Vol 2, late 1700s:

Rev George Martyn

Rev Jonathan Palk

James Stoat , dissenting minister

Rev John White, Master of the Grammar School

 

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'Exeter, June 21st, 1797

At a meeting of the Western Calvinistic Association,  held this day, Resolved, that a Society be formed for the purpose of promoting the knowledge of the gospel of Christ in the counties of Devon and Cornwall...That the Rev. James Stoat, of Ashburton, be appointed Secretary, and Mr William Fabyan, of Ashburton, Treasurer.'

The Evangelical Magazine for 1797, London, p340

              

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Decree of the High Court of Chancery, Thoresby v Bickford

Creditors of William Thoresby, Dissenting Minister, (died 1806) to prove their debts

Creditors of William Bickford, Mercer, (died 1815) to prove their debts

London Gazette Issue 17698 17 April 1821, p11

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In 1841 ministers of all denominations met in Manchester to discuss the Corn Laws.* The Rev W P Davies of Ashburton represented his own congregration and three others in South Devon. 'The working people of Ashburton were half their time unemployed, and in a state of great destitution. '
Report of the Conference of Ministers of all Denominations on the Corn Laws, Manchester 1841
*The Corn Laws, dating from 1804, placed a duty on imported grain. The measures were designed to help landowners, but they had the effect of keeping the price of bread high.

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From Kelly's Directory of Devonand Cornwall 1893:

Places of worship. 

The Baptist Chapel, Heavyhead Lane, erected 1798. Has 300 sittings.

The Congregational Chapel, North St, erected in 1665. Will seat 600

The Wesleyan Chapel, West St.,erected 1835. Will seat 700

The Brethren have a room in North St. Will seat 150.They also have one near the Railway Station. 

                                                                                                     

From Kelly's Directory of Devonshire 1902:

Places of worship.

St. Andrew's Church, vicar - Rev Richard James Bond

Curate - Rev Arthur Phillip Lancefield

Brethren's room,North St

Brethren's meeting room, near the station

Congregational, North St - Rev Samuel Naish B A

Wesleyan Methodist, West St - Rev John Richard Newall

                                                                    

From Kelly's Directory of Devonshire 1935: 

Places  of worship.

St. Andrew's Church, vicar - Rev E F Ball  M A

Roman Catholic (temporary building) served by priests of Buckfast Abbey

Brethren's room,North St 

Congregational,  North St - Rev H F Hawkes 

Methodist (South Devon Mission) West St - Rev F  Knibbs

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                                             The old Congregational Chapel in North Street

                                                        (also known as 'Great Meeting')


Above: The Old Congregational Chapel, North Street,
My own photograph 2012

'The origin of dissent in this place is attributed to Mr. John Nosworthy, the ejected minister of Manaton....(description of early life) when he could no longer exercise his ministry in publick he went back to Manaton, and did what good he could in private. When the Five Mile Act drove him thence, he lived at Ashburton, where he met with many enemies and much opposition...he was threatened to be pulled out of the pulpit. Mr. Roger Caunter, an attorney, who was preesent, said, "Sir, keep your place, for you are preaching God's word." Another time...Mr. Stawel entered the town, in his coach, attended by his servants and others with drums, muskets, etc....the two drummers beat their drums, some discharged their guns, others shouted and made loud huzzas...Mr. Nosworthy departed this life Nov. 19 1677....


...it appears that Mr. William Pearse succeeded...Mr. Pearse's tomb yet exists in the churchyard of Ashburton.'

Mr. Mead succeeds Mr. Pearse, who is then succeeded by Mr.Taylor in 1702.
Mr. Taylor is followed by: Cornelius Bond (1711)
Nathaniel Cock (1716)
Samuel Wreyford (1741)
Thomas Clark (1761)
George Walters (1763)
James Stoat (1783)
David Parker (1814)
John Kelly (1817)

'The meeting house was enlarged sixteen feet in 1819.'
The Congregational Magazine, January 1825, pp 53, 273


'The present Independent Chapel, situated in North Street Ashburton, appears from the original trust deed to have been erected in 1739, on the site of a barn which had been converted into a meeting-house for the worship of God as early as 1712, it being so described in a deed of that date...from the deeds, the property appears to have originally belonged to Thomas Glanvill, of Exeter, fuller, and Thomas Sainthill, of Ashburton, clothier, who, November 15th, 1712, conveyed it to one John Comyn.
In 1729, November 7th, John Comyn, of Morchard Bishop, yeoman, conveyed it to Andrew Quick, of Newton St Cyres, esquire, and, January 24th, 1739, Dorothy Quick, of Newton St Cyres, daughter and surviving devisee of A. Quick, conveyed it to John Enty, of Exeter, clerk, and Aaron Tozer, of Exeter, haberdasher....
May 15th, 1739, Messrs Enty and Tozer conveyed the property to thirteen trustees, upon trust, for them to permit the meeting-house (then evidently in course of erection, or re-erection) to be finished and completed, and from completion to suffer and permit the said meeting-house to be used as a free and public meeting-house for the worship of God by Protestant Dissenters, called Presbyterians; and Mr Joseph Cock is mentioned as the then minister.'
Edward Windeatt, Early Nonconformity in Ashburton, Transactions of the Devonshire Association, vol 28, 1896, p236ff

1779  Rev George Walters, dissenting minister, buried 9 November 1779
Parish records

Left:

As a memorial sacred to departed excellence, this stone is erected and perpetuates the memory of Miss Mary Eales whose exemplary life threw a lustre on her Christian profession, and whose peaceful death evinced the reality of divine principles.

She closed her eyes on this fading world, to....(the rest is hidden) 


Right: To the memory of Peter Fabyan Sparke who exchanged life for immortality 16th December 1843, aged 70 years.

Also of Sarah Sparke, sister of the above, who entered into her rest 16th January 1839 aged 63 years.

She was a consistent and devoted Christian and with her beloved brother ardently attached  to the cause of Christ in this place.

Also to the memory of Hester Margery Amery, niece of the above, who fell asleep in Jesus, 13th April 1839 aged 22 years. Six years member of this church she gave her best days to the service of her Saviour

"Go ye and do likewise" 

      

Left:

"Of whom the world was not worthy"

This stone was raised to preserve the memory of the Rev. John Nosworthy M A     Ejected from the parish church of Manaton in this county, who in the year 1665 gathered a Christian Church in this place, and after great persecution entered into his rest 19th November 1677, aged 65 years.                                  

Also of the Rev. William Pearse,

Ejected from the parish church of Dunsford in this county,

who after faithfully preaching the gospel here, died 17th March 1690, aged 65 years..

His remains rest in the Church Yard of this parish.

They had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonments..."

Right:

This tablet perpetuates the memory of Rupertia Hill, the beloved wife of Mr. Henry Gervis surgeon of this town, who exchanged her earthly pilgrimage for the heavenly rest 4th Decr 1835 aged 42 years.

In the varied relations of life walked closely with God, and exemplified the lovely influence of eminent piety. Her holy submission during her final illness together with her triumphant composure in prospect of Eternity, demonstrated the indissoluble connection between nearness to the Saviour's cross, and victory over (hidden)


All the photographs above my own, 2012

 

Right: The clock from the Congregational Chapel, now in Ashburton Museum. Made by Martin Dunsford, it was presented to the Chapel in 1791 by Sir Robert Palk (information from museum).

Clocks such as these, large and sturdily built, are often called Tavern Clocks, as they were frequently to be found in inns and other buildings used by the public.

In 1797, slightly later than the clock here, they acquired the name Parliament Clocks, after Parliament imposed a clock and watch tax. As a result, people stopped buying timepieces, relying instead on the clocks that inns and other places provided - many clockmakers went out of business during the brief time that the Act was in force.

As the website http://www.horology-stuff.com*  notes, 'Canny operators would put the Parliament Clock inside their premises.'

*No longer available

Photograph courtesy of Ashburton Museum

 
In 1943 an Arthure Wilde came to Ashburton and wrote an article about his visit in the Western Times. He found the Congregational Church closed, but was able to see some gravestones near the door. One had this inscription: 'Near this stone are the remains of William Jerman, clerk of the meeting house for 27 years, died 1809.'

Western Times 9 April 1943 p8 col2

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In 1838 a memoir appeared on the late Rev John Honywill, of Melkham in Wiltshire. He had been born at Bowdley Farm in Ashburton in 1757, the son of a farmer 'strictly attached to the parish church'. One of his father's servants attended the Dissenting chapel, and although initially mocking the servant, John then went to hear the preacher. The preacher, possibly (the writer says) the Rev Mr Walters, or the Rev Mr Fabyan who assisted him, left John 'smitten with the arrow of conviction', in spite of the initial opposition of his father and family. Eventually the family were persuaded to visit the chapel, and some members of the family converted. With the support of the Countess of Huntingdon he entered Trevecca College, although he later angered her by failing to complete the course - she 'ordered him forthwith to send back the pony on which he used to ride, in his itinerancies,  and the gown in which he used to preach on those occasions.' Settling in Melkham, he obtained enough funds to build a chapel, where he preached for 58 years. 'Mr Honywill was of middling stature, and was rather a portly figure. When seated in the pulpit, which in consequence of the gout he was recently obliged to be, his appearance was truly venerable and imposing.'

The Evangelical Magazine and Missionary Chronicle, vol 16, London, May 1838


Notice that the Old or Independent Meeting House, in North Street, Ashburton, was on November 12th, 1838, registered for solemnizing marriages.

London Gazette Issue 19677 23 November 1838, p4

                                                        

1846. The Rev J Roberts was minister of the Independent Chapel

Western Times 17 October 1846 p5 col4

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1849. The Rev. S. Hebditch had greatly increased the congregation at the Independent Chapel. Amongst other things, he had begun a Young Mens' Improvement Society.
A few months later a new school and lecture rooms were about to be built.

Western Times 10 March 1849 p7 col3
Western Times 7 July 1849
p7 col5

1849. A contract was awarded for the building of new lecture and school rooms in front of the 'Independent Chapel'. Mssrs Hext, Elliott and Eddy submitted the successful tender.

Western Times 1 December 1849 p5 col2

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1853. The Rev W P Davis, now of London, preached at Ashburton. he had been the minister of the Independent Chapel 'for many years'

Western Times 18 June 1853 p7 col5

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When Jonas Honeywill died in 1869 he was described as a 'prominent member' of the chapel. He was a maltster and brewer, and lived at Leet Park House.

Western Times 28 May 1869 p5 col4

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1879 The Rev A C Moorman, Independent Minister, was amongst those non-conformists welcoming the new vicar, the Rev W M Birch, to the town

Western Times 23 December 1879 p7 col4

The Rev. J S Spilsbury was Pastor of the Congregational Chapel in 1885. He had 'just entered upon his 32nd year of pastorate'

Western Times 23 January 1885 p7 col 4

John S Spilsbury was an Independent Minister at Uffculme, Devon in the 1881 census, He was born 1821/22 Bedminster, Somerset.

https://www.familysearch.org/

The Rev T N Oliphant was minister at the time of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887

Western Times 22 June 1887 p4 col2


Left: A receipt to the executors of the late Mrs Yolland from Richard Eggbeer, treasurer of the Congregational Chapel, dated April 7th 1888. The executors had paid 10s (ten shillings) for rent of a pew.

From my own collection


The Congregational Chapel underwent 'thorough' renovation in 1892, at
an estimated cost of £450. Mr J H Pomroy was the builder. The roof timbers had been strengthened and a new ceiling erected, and the windows had been altered to a uniform height. Pitch pine seats replaced high pews, and heavy gallery fronts had been removed, together with the pulpit. Tinted glass had been installed in the windows.
According to the Western Times, John Nosworthy founded the chapel in a barn in 1665. Hugh Stowell, Lord of the Manor and an MP, persecuted the congregation - presumably the Mr Stawell written about in the Congregational Magazine above.
The schoolrooms were added in 1850.
Western Times 18 November 1892 p5 col5

The Rev J C Hodge, from Hawes in Yorkshire, became pastor of the Congregational Church in 1904.
Western Times 13 May 1904 p10 col1

In 1909 Kenneth Evans and Miss C E T Reid (of Exeter) married at the Chapel. The groom was the son of Mr D O Evans, of the Medical Hall, Ashburton. The wedding party arrived in motor cars, and the couple also left for their honeymoon in a motor car.
Western Times 26 February 1909 p13 col5

 

In 1915 the Western Times reported that the Congregationists in Ashburton were celebrating the 250th anniversary of the founding of their chapel, and the centenary of the Sunday School.

This would make the founding date 1665

Western Times 19 November 1915 p5 col2

In 1926 the church had been without a pastor for 3 years. The Rev W Henrik Jones, formerly of Staple Hill Congregational Church, Bristol, took up the post in June.

Western Times 11 June p10 col1

See the 1870s section of the Virtual museum for a mug from the Congregational Chapel


1933 Induction of the Rev H F Hawkes as Pastor of Ashburton Congregational Church.

Western Times 7 April 1933 p13 col 1

 

In 1934 a 17th century window was placed in the Congregational Church, in memory of the two Amery brothers. The Rev H F Hawkes took part in the unveiling ceremony, as did a former minister of the church, the Rev J Barton Lee, then Archdeacon of Exeter.

Western Times 26 October 1934 p14 col6

                     

 

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                                                              The Rev James Todd

James Rogers Fleming Todd was born in Bristol in 1913

In the 1939 register James R F Todd was a theological student in Shepton Mallet, who had finished his course and was awaiting ordination. He was in the same household as [his father] Robert, a Congregational minister.

https://www.freebmd.org.uk/

1939 register

In August 1941 James Rogers Fleming Todd BA BD married Winifred Patience Statham at the Congregational Church, with the Rev R Todd officiating. The bride was given away by her mother. James had been inducted into the Ashburton Congregational Church ministry the previous Tuesday.

Western Times 14 August 1941, p7 col2

Above: The Rev James Todd
Left: The marriage, at the Congregational Church, of Rev Todd and Winifred Statham
Many thanks to Mike Todd for both photographs, who adds that the couple held their reception at Barnes' Café.

Rev Todd officiated at the funeral for Miss Bertha Manlove in September 1941. Aged 83 and from Moorlawn, Miss Manlove had been a 'prominent member' of the Congregational Church, as well as being a member of the Devonshire Association.

Western Morning News 4 September 1941 p4 col5

By October 1942 the Rev J R F Todd was librarian for the Ashburton branch of the Devon County Library.

Western Morning News 30 October 1942 p4 col3

Mrs Todd, wife of the Congregational minister, read one of the lessons at Ashburton's first Women's World Day of prayer.

Western Times 26 March 1943 p4 col4

The Rev J R F Todd resigned from Ashburton in September 1943. He was about to become a chaplain at Hibbert Houses in the Middle East serving H M forces.

Hibbert Houses were intended to provide a calm and homely environment for all members of H M forces, under the auspices of the Unitarian and Free Christian General Assembly.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 3 September 1943 p4 col6

http://www.warlinks.com/cairo/cairo.shtml

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The Rev Herbert Merrill was inducted as the new minister of the Congregational Chapel in November 1948

Western Times 19 November 1948 p7 col5

1951 The Chapel Trustees are shown as the owner/occupiers of the Congregational Chapel, per J Langler, 32, East Street, Ashburton.
In a list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest, compiled under Section 30 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and dated 1951.
Thanks to Pete Webb

                                                            The Plymouth Brethren

Below: The Plymouth Brethren Chapel, Foale's Court, off North Street (the stone built building with the green door)

My own photograph 2012

In 1914 the death of John Hern of Chuley, a member of the Plymouth Brethren, was announced.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 22 May 1914 p5 col 6

A cyder manufacturer, John Hern was 83 at the time of the 1911 census. He was by this time totally blind. A widower, he was living at Chuley House with his three unmarried daughters, one of whom, Lydia, was a private school teacher.

http://search.ancestry.co.uk/1911 census - RG14, Piece 12725, Schedule Number 82



Caroline Lucy Hern aged 79 died in 1938, the 'eldest surviving daughter' of Mr and Mrs Hern. She died at Chuleigh, which had been the family home for four generations.

Mr A Palk of the Ashburton Brethren conducted the first part of the funeral service at the house.

Western Times 8 April 1938 p7 col7                                                                      

At some stage the Plymouth Brethren moved to 7 East Street, known as The Gospel Hall. According to Francis Pilkington, they were 'a tiny group' when he was writing in 1978

Ashburton, The Dartmoor Town, Francis Pilkington, Devon Books, 1978 p 36 of the 1989 ed.

 

Meanwhile the Chapel became a wood store for about 50 years. In 2009 it was purchased by the Quakers, was renovated in 2012.
1881 Eleven people connected with the Zion Chapel were baptized by immersion at Chuley Orchard. Five or six hundred people went to watch.
As the Hern family were connected to both Chuley Orchard and the Plymouth Brethren, I suspect that there is a connection between the Zion Chapel and the Plymouth Brethren.
Western Times 31st May 1881 p5 col3

The Chapel, originally cottages, was used by the Plymouth Brethren in the late 1800s. It features in the 1891 census and in 1896 there is a newspaper report of a conference of Plymouth Brethren superintendents and teachers at Ashburton, with dinner and tea laid on in the Chapel.

Western Times 30 March 1896 p2 col 6

 

The Brethren's Gospel Room, North Street,  features as a place of worship in the 1906 Ashburton, Buckfastleigh , Brent and Ivybridge District Almanac

 My thanks to Mary Yeatman for showing me around the Chapel and for information on its history

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                                                               The Baptist Chapel

Above: The old Baptist Chapel, Woodland Rd.
My own photograph 2016

The Baptist Chapel was built in Heavyhead Lane (now Woodland Road) in 1798 and is the large building opposite No 19 Woodland Road.

See Kelly's Directory of Devon and Cornwall 1893, above

 

1832 'On Thursday May 3rd, the Rev Charles Tippett was set apart to the pastoral office over the Baptist church of Christ at Ashburton. In the morning Rev H Field (Indep.) of that town commenced the service by reading and prayer.'

The Baptist Magazine for 1832, vol XXIV, London, 1832, p310ff



November 1839 saw the anniversary of the opening of the Baptist Chapel

Western Times 30 November 1839 p3 col2

In the same year  a lecture on teetotalism was given at the Old Baptist Chapel, lent by the Rev.W. Marsh. The Chapel was now an Infants' School.

Western Times 7 December 1839 p3 col5

 

1841 The children of the Baptist Sunday School had a special tea to celebrate the anniversary of the emancipation of the West Indian slaves.

Charles Tippett was the minister

Western Times 14 August 1841 p3 col4

Emancipation Day was Friday, 1 August 1834

http://www.understandingslavery.com Accessed 28-10-2013


                                                

1850 The Rev John Dore, the Rev Saml Hebditch and the Rev Charles Tippett were all stated as 'Baptist' in Ashburton.

History, gazetteer and directory of Devonshire, William White, 1850 p465. Freely available on http://books.google.co.uk - Accessed 25-9-2014


'Ashburton Devon. We are requested just to state, for the information of many who have contributed, that the baptist chapel at this place is now free from debt.'

The Baptist Reporter and Missionary Intelligencer, ed. Joseph Foulkes Winks, London 1851, p81


'Goodstone, near Ashburton. Two believers were baptised according to the scriptural mode in the river at Goodstone, by Mr Amery, Dec 1. One of the candidates, a female, between fifty and sixty years of age, led the singing at the waterside, and after being buried with Christ, came up out of the water, singing and rejoicing in the Lord. Many specators were present to witness the scene, and great solemnity prevailed throughout the whole of this interesting service.'

Baptist Reporter and Missionary Intellilgencer, ed, Joseph Foulkes Winks, London, 1851, p27


In 1855 the Rev J Close, formerly of the Independent Chapel in Buckfastleigh, was baptized in the Baptist Chapel, Ashburton

Western Times 26 May 1855 p7 col3

 

The Rev J Dore was the Baptist minister in 1857

Western Times 13 June 1857 p5 col5

 

1893 Ten candidates underwent baptism by immersion. Mr Mogridge of Torquay conducted the service.

Western Times 16 November 1893 p2 col5

 

When the Rev P Chas Poley became the Baptist minister in 1900, he was the first 'settled pastor' for some years. There had not even been services until shortly before his appointment.

Western Times 23 March 1900 p6 col3


1911 '...The old Baptist Chapel in Woodland Road was acquired* and converted into a gymnasium...'

Ashburton Grammar School 1314-1938, W S Graf, Ashburton 1938, p23

* By the Grammar School

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                                     The Catholic church of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Petroc
'The Mass restored'. In 1911 the Abbot of Buckfast arrived in Ashburton in a carriage driven by a monk. At the top of a hill the Abbot was led through a garden and to the upstairs room of a house, fitted out as a chapel. Here he held the Mass, '[holding] aloft to heaven the golden chalice, flashing with diamonds, encrusted with pearls...'
The arrangements were made through the family of Mlle Delacote, who had 'wonderful vocal powers'. This suggests she had some connection with the Heron-Mason family below.
The Tablet, 3 June 1911, p36++

According to D John Stephan, the mass took place in a garret in Roborough Lane, 'the premises being placed at [the Abbot's] disposal by the late Mrs Herring-Mason'.
3 years later, in 1914, a temporary chapel was established.
Official Guide to Ashburton, 1950s

When Agnes Ida Warren Vernon died, her obituary said that 3 years previously she had helped 'very generously' in the building of the new Roman Catholic Church in Ashburton.
Hartland and West Country Chronicle, 7 June 1939, p3, col5 ? (difficult to determine)

E J Walters had been the architect for the building, which was constructed in 1935
http://www.plymouth-diocese.org.uk
                          The 1920s/30s

At the top of East Street at The Wilderness lived the Heron-Mason family, father, mother and two daughters. One of the girls had a beautiful soprano voice and became a singer in the D’Oyly Carte theatre company. The only way Ashburton people could hear her sing was to go to the children’s Sunday School in the Catholic Church, which in those days was an old army hut situated in Roborough Lane in what is now Ashburn Gardens. Women said this lovely young girl walked up and down the aisle swinging her Rosary and singing “Ave Maria” or other sacred hymns; 'Her voice was angelic', said one listener.

My thanks to Hazel Bray for the above account

Left: The Catholic Church, Eastern Road
My own photograph 2012
                                                                 
                                                                       Memorials

Right and below: The Bovey Memorial Fountain, now by the side of the Bay Horse Inn, North Street, but originally on the site of the War Memorial in East Street.
From my own collection. The modern photograph below is my own.


 
According to the Devon Heritage website (http://www.devonheritage.org/index.htm ) he was the son of Robert and Emily Bovey, and was born in 1871 at Timaru in New Zealand. The 1891 census shows a Robert G Bovey (corrected to Robert E Bovey ), the son of Robert M Bovey and Emily M Bovey, all living at Landscove, Devon (possibly Robert Mitchelmore Bovey and Emily Margaret Russell) http://ancestry.co.uk

                      

Memorials in St Andrew's churchyard can be accessed at this website: http://www.gravestonephotos.com/index.php The Ashburton page features 397 graves and 708 names 

 

Names from the war memorial can be found on http://www.ashburton.org


See also the Roll of Honour, under Ashburton in peril