St Andrew's Church

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Above: St Andrew's Church
From the collection of Tereena Ravenscroft. Many thanks to Tereena for this photograph

Above: Stained glass window, St. Andrew's Church.

My own photograph, 2014

The report by Oakford Archaeology on the work inside St Andrew's in 2015 is available here:  - Accessed 14-10-2017

Ashburton Digital Archive currently holds all the memorial inscriptions for St Andrew's Churchyard for the 1956 section and for the 1884 section. Some parts of the Old Section have also now been added.

Memorials in St Andrew's Churchyard can also be accessed at this website:

A list of Ashburton vicars, provided by John Williams can be seen on the Ashburton pages of Genuki.
Slight alteration to the list: Joshua Bowdon was vicar in 1656. Sarah, the daughter of Joshua Bowdon, vicar of Aishberton, was borne 6 May 1656.
Parish records

For more on some of the Ashburton vicars, see the separate page in the sub-menu of Churches and Memorials

 *                                              Early history                                                *

The earliest record of the church dates back to the late 1100s, when John Le Chaunter, Bishop of Exeter (1186 - 91) gave it to the Dean and Chapter of Exeter Cathedral. 'The manor and church were then the personal property of the Bishop'.
Saint Andrew's Church Ashburton, A Guide and Short History, printed and publ by St Andrew's Church, 5th ed 2005/06

The document, probably in Exeter Cathedral reference D&C 610, is described as ‘Grant of Church to Chapter’ c.1186-91.
Thanks to Ellie Jones, archivist Exeter Cathedral, for this

Originally in Latin, Charles Worthy provided the following translation - bold lettering is mine :

"To all the faithful to whom the present writing shall come: John by Divine permission, the humble Minister of the Church of Exeter, Health is the author of Health. Your community should know that I (by divine intuition, and by the reverence of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul as well as from consideration and honour of the Church of Exeter, to the care and responsibility of which, God assenting I am called) have given and yielded in pure and perpetual alms, to my beloved sons in Christ the Chapter of Exeter, the Church of Asperneton with all its belongings. Except an annual pension to the Nuns of Polslowe, which my predecessor of famous memory, Bartholomew Bishop of Exeter, gave and confirmed to them. In order that it may remain firm and unshaken I have confirmed it by placing of my seal to the present writing. These being the witnesses Walter of Cornwall, Roger of Barnstaple, Archdeacons, and many others"

Ashburton and its neighbourhood, Charles Worthy, L B Varder printer and publ., East St 1875 p xviii of appendix


Taxation of the clergy (originally to finance crusades) began in the middle of the 13th century, with a thorough assessment known as The Taxation of Pope Nicholas in 1291. The estimated rectory income for Ashburton was £10; higher than Dawlish but lower than St Marychurch. As the people who assessed the income were themselves clergy, the figures tend to be on the low side - ten years earlier Ashburton had reported an income of £26 16s 8d.
D & C 3672A, quoted by Nicholas Orme, The Church in Devon 400-1560, Exeter 2013, p36

A Bishop's Visitation in 1301 found that: Navis ecclesie nimis obscura (the nave is too dark) and Campanile nondum cooperitur plumbo ex toto, set est in cooperiendo (the clock(?) tower is not yet entirely covered with lead, but the work is proceeding).
Dean and Chapter MS 3673, p23, quoted by C Fryer Cornelius in Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association, vol 91, Ashburton, 1959, p46

In April 1314 Bishop Stapledon visited the church. His report, in latin, appears to be a long list of defects, and according to the St Andrew's Church guide his conclusion was that the church was delapidated; as a result he ordered various repairs, including that the north aisle be rebuilt* and a vestry be added.
A Guide and Short History, St Andrew's Church, 5th edition, p5
The Register of Walter de Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter, Rev F C Hingeston-Randolph, London & Exeter, 1892, p34
* 'Ala borealis ejusdem ecclesie est ruinous, et de novo construenda' ?

 *                                                   *******                                                *

 *                                               1400s and 1500s                                          *

According to Alison Hanham, 'About 1486 the church house, at first often called 'the new house', was obtained and turned into a building for the brewing of the ale and a meeting place of the parish for its consumption.'
She also says that the house was sometimes hired out, and that there were stalls both inside and in front of the church, which were hired out on market and fair days.
She adds that the building was twice used as a school house towards the end of the 16th century.
Alison Hanham, Churchwardens' Accounts of Ashburton 1479-1580, Devon and Cornwall Record Society, 1970, p viii

1487-88 'Paid William Grey doing the office of mason about the new house belonging to the church - £3 3s 9d'
ibid pp10, 11

1491-92 '2s from Thomas Tolchet & John Vecery for stallage in the church house, for rent for two quarters.'
ibid p 17

1506-07 'for brewing in the church-house from Merget Pyket John Barber and Thomas Prideaux xvid.'
The Parish of Ashburton in the 15th and 16th Centuries as it Appears in Extracts from the Churchwardens' Accounts 1479-1580, London, 1870, p13

In 1875 Charles Worthy identified the church house as one in North Street, then occupied by a Mr Yolland, draper. He also says that the building is nearly opposite what was the Mermaid Inn.*
* ie No. 4 North Street.
Charles Worthy, Ashburton and its neighbourhood,  publ L. B. Varder, Ashburton 1875, p44ff

In both the 1871 and 1881 censuses James Yolland, tailor and draper, is living next to the Sun Inn - this seems likely to be the property that Charles Worthy is referring to: now No. 3 North St.
1871 census RG10, piece no 2080, folio 55, p21
1881 census RG11, piece no 2161, folio 54, p23

Worthy adds: 'Before the Church House at Ashburton, was a stall for which duty was paid at fairs, and some of the older inhabitants recollect the existence of this, and also remember when the house was used as a school...'
Charles Worthy, Ashburton and its neighbourhood,  publ L. B. Varder, Ashburton 1875, p45

The building which Charles Worthy believes was the church house is quite a way from the church itself - but would have been very close to the old market hall. What is now No. 3 is close to the river, which fits with the following item from the accounts for 1568-69:
'iiid for mendyng the church house wyndows next to the water.'
The Parish of Ashburton in the 15th and 16th Centuries as it Appears in Extracts from the Churchwardens' Accounts 1479-1580, London, 1870, p43

The church was rebuilt at some time in the 15th century.
'The church is a respectable structure, built in the form of a cross, and having a handsome tower, ninety feet high, terminated by a small spire.'
The Beauties of England and Wales, John Britton and Edward Wedlake Brayley, vol IV, London, 1803, p117

Right: The
previous floor in the south corner of the church, revealed during renovations.
My own photograph 2015

Totnes, 1450 '...That the overseer of the work of the belfry shall view the different belfries in the country, namely Kellington, Bokelond, Tavistok and Asshberton and according to the best made of them should make the belfry of Tottonia.'
Tot. Court Roll M41 Thursday after 13th January 1450, The History of Totnes Priory and Medieval Town, Devonshire, Hugh R Watkin, Torquay, 1914, vol 1, p407


In the 1400s the church had a spire: in the period 1493 to 1494 John Bullocke, John Russell, Water Antoney, Will Cllynche and Will Derte were paid 5s 10d for work about the spire and making of scaffold. 9s 4d was paid for casting lead and soldering about the spire, and John Cleffe was paid 8s 4d for ironwork. Will Schabetor was paid 25s 8d for brasswork. Thomas Wilke painted the 'wether cocke' and charged 2s 8d.

Devon and Cornwall Record Society, Churchwardens Accounts of Ashburton, 1479-1580, Alison Hanham, The Devonshire Press Ltd., Torquay 1970, pp20,21

The Church also had a clock. Between 1497 and 1498 8d was spent on a new 'cord for le clocke'

Devon and Cornwall Record Society, Churchwardens Accounts of Ashburton, 1479-1580, Alison Hanham, The Devonshire Press Ltd., Torquay 1970, p25

In Ashburton, as elsewhere, plays were an important part of religious life.

In 1489-90 Thomas Druyston was paid 12d for looking after the players' clothes, and in the next year's accounts John Soper earned 10d making players' clothes. In 1492-93 the players had 'bred and ale' at Corpus Christi, which cost 8d.
4 ratilbaggez* and vysers were bought for the players at the feast of Corpus Christi 1516-17. They cost 20d. In the same period John Soper received 2s 8d for keeping the players' finery, and an extra 10d for painting 5 wigs. Robin Whode [Hood] had a new tunic in 1526-27. Two years later staves were made for the players (6d), together with crests for their heads.
In 1533-34 2s was 'alowyd to the pleers of a Cryssmas game that pleyd yn the said churche.'
ibid pp xi,14,16,19,55,56,78,83,93
*Rattle bags. Hanhan says that 'devils' ran amongst the audience with these.

Nicholas Orme picks out Ashburton as a good example of how a church was used up to the 1500s. Usually people entered through the south porch, an 'anteroom' as Professor Orme describes it. A basin of holy water would have been nearby for purification before entering the church. Parts of several ceremonies were held here: 'The first part of the baptism service, the churching of women after childbirth, and the exchange of vows in marriage.'
The Church in Devon, 400-1560, Nicholas Orme, Exeter 2013, p110
Above: A plan of St Andrew's Church, based on one drawn by C Fryer Cornelius in 1942 - it shows the site of the south, or brides' porch.

Right: Whether the path to the south side of the church was anything like this in the 1500s is anybody's guess, but I like to think of some Tudor brides making their way along something similar.

Below: Site of brides' porch, now a window (centre)
My own photographs 2016

Expenses from the Churchwardens' Accounts:


Costs and expenses to do with consecrating the church and cemetery after the assault on William Sampson by William Sowthe

Devon and Cornwall Record Society, Churchwardens Accounts of Ashburton, 1479-1580, Alison Hanham, The Devonshire Press Ltd., Torquay 1970, p78


....And rope for tying pigs that came into the cemetery (2d)

ibid, p86

In 1540-41 5s 4d was paid 'for a new book called a bybyll.'

ibid, p107

From 1538 it was a legal requirement for every parish to buy a copy of the Bible in English (Henry VIII's 'Great Bible'), and put it in a place where it could be easily read. Cranmer's Bible of 1540 was a new edition with a preface by Thomas Cranmer, who was Archibishop of Canterbury. - Accessed 23-12-2016 - Accessed 23-12-2-16


16d was paid for ringing the bells after King Henry VIII's death, 'on whose soul God have mercy'.

The priest who sang mass on that occasion was paid 4d for his breakfast.

Devon and Cornwall Record Society, Churchwardens Accounts of Ashburton, 1479-1580, Alison Hanham, The Devonshire Press Ltd., Torquay 1970, pp118/119

 *                                                 *******                                                  *

 *                                              Burials in the Church                                           *

When renovations were carried out in St Andrew's Church in 2015, a large number of such graves were revealed underneath the old floor. The bones were already disturbed and muddled, and were removed for re-interment.
According to H A Tummers the custom of burying people inside the church goes back to the early Christian era, and was common by the 13th century. But there was not much room, and was soon a privilege only extended to the clergy and individuals of high social standing, or those who had made a substantial financial contribution to the church.
Early Secular Effigies in England, the 13th century, H A Tummers, 1980, Leiden, The Netherlands, p26
Above and right: Graves beneath St Andrew's Church floor.
My own photographs 2015

 *                                          And burials outside                                         *

'Formerly to be found in Ashburton churchyard. But the bitter sarcasm it flung in the face of the vicar and gentry, has led to its removal -
Here I lie at the chancel door;
Here I lie because I am poor;
The farther in the more you pay!
Here lie I as warm as they.'
The Home Magazine, ed. T S Arthur, Philadelphia, 1854, p310

'H. H.' writing in Notes and Queries, says that the epitaph was engraved upon slate, part of which was still, in 1852, embedded in the wall just outside the chancel door. He says that water found its way into the crevices of the stone, froze and expanded in the winter months, and caused the slate to 'desquamate' (shed off in flakes).
Notes and Queries, A Medium of Communication between Literary Men, Artists, Antiquaries, Genealogists etc. vol 6, July-December 1852, London, p468

T J Pettigrew associates the epitaph with Elizabeth Ireland, died 1779, (as does H. H. above), and says that the epitaph is also at Kingsbridge.
Elizabeth the wife of William Ireland was buried at Ashburton 13 November 1779
Chronicles of the Tombs, Thomas Joseph Pettigrew, London 1888, p219
Parish records
For its association with Kingsbridge -

                                                     The 1700s

William Yonge and John Harris gave a bell to Ashburton parish church, inscribed, 'The gift of the Right Honourable Sir William Yonge, Baronet and Knight of the Bath, and of John Harris of Hayne Esquire. 1740.'
Major John Joyner donated the bell to St Petrock's Church, Exeter in 1990. - accessed 14-08-2019

Charles Worthy says that Yonge and Harris gave the entire peal of six bells. He adds that the sixth has the inscription, 'Thomas Lester, of London, made us all'.
He goes on, 'We have heard that the Members for Ashburton were induced to this act of generosity, by reason of an accident which had happened to the ancient bells. They had been lowered and shipped for Ireland, in order to be re-cast, but had been unfortunately lost at sea, in consequence of the foundering of the ship during a storm.'
Charles Worthy, Ashburton and Its Neighbourhood, Ashburton, 1875, p29

Thomas Lester may have been the same Thomas Lester who was foreman to Richard Phelps at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. - accessed 15-02-2020

*                                        Church and Parishioner                                        *

Two legal systems operated in early modern England: secular (sometimes known as temporal) and ecclesiastical. Ecclesiastical law dealt with church business, such as matters to do with the maintenance of the church building, clerical offences and disputes over tithes. They also dealt with the morality and general behaviour of parishioners. Punishments for transgressors included public penances, often performed in church, and fines. Those who refused to perform a penance, or, for instance, failed to appear, might be excommunicated.
Charmian Mansell and Mark Hailwood, editors, Court Depositions of South West England, 1500-1700, University of Exeter - accessed 17-03-2024

An example of a penance is that imposed on Anne Jilman, of Lenton in Nottinghamshire, in 1754. Anne had had an illegitimate child, and for this she had to appear in church wearing a white sheet, carrying a white rod, and with bare head, legs and feet. She had to kneel at the front of the church, listen to a sermon on the subject of her 'sin', and read a statement expressing her sorrow and asking for forgiveness.
In fact Anne failed to appear in church, and was excommunicated. She finally performed her penance later in the year.
University of Nottingham, Manuscripts and Special Collections - accessed 21-03-2024

Some offences and punishments at Ashburton:

The Peculiar Court* ordered John Scoble and his wife Joan to perform a penance, for ante-nuptial fornication (ie premarital sex). The record in the Exeter Cathedral Archives includes  a certificate of performance.
Ref D & C 7153/4/38, Library and Archives Exeter Cathedral
*A Peculiar Court is an ecclesiastical court, sometimes, as in these cases, presided over by a Dean.,were%20known%20as%20Peculiar%20Courts - accessed 21-03-2024

Peter Fabian and his wife Margery had to perform a penance for the same offence.
Ref D & C 7153/4/39, Library and Archives Exeter Cathedral
Peter Fabian was possibly the Peter Fabyan who married Margery Bennet in August 1719.
England Marriages, 1538–1973", database, FamilySearch ( : 12 March 2020), Peter Fabyan, 1719 - accessed 21-03-2024

Solomon Jerman and his wife Joan were also guilty of ante-nuptial fornication
Ref D & C 7153/4/30, Library and Archives Exeter Cathedral
Solomon Jerman was possibly the Solomon Jerman who married Joan Snelling in Decmber 1717. - accessed 21-03-2024

Walter Williams alias Cooke, Margaret the wife of William, and Grace Weekes had to perform penances for the abuse and slander of Elizabeth Parker.
They did not appear, and were excommunicated.
Ref D & C 7153/4/32, Library and Archives Exeter Cathedral
Ref D & C 7153/5/5, Library and Archives Exeter Cathedral

William Harries and his wife Margaret had to perform penances for ante-nuptial fornication.
Ref D & C 7153/4/40 Library and Archives Exeter Cathedral

Thomas Luscombe was excommunicated for contumacy - disobeying a court order.
Ref D & C 7153/5/1, Library and Archives Exeter Cathedral

All the above - accessed 21-03-2024

 *                                             The Pew Wars                                               *

'Where any contention is about a seat in the body of the Church, upon complaint made to the Ordinary, he may decide the controversy, by placing the person in it whom he thinks fit; and this power is conferred on him by law, because he who hath the general cure of souls within his diocese, is presumed to have a due regard to the qualities of the contending parties, and to give precedence to him who ought to have it.............

.............should now any gentleman having a house in the parish, by the consent of minister, patron, and ordinary, build a new isle, and have a faculty from the bishop to hold the same, to the use of him and his family, to bury their dead in the said isle, and also to sit there, for the hearing of divine service, on condition constantly to repair it; this faculty would give him a good title to the said isle. '

Parish law, Joseph Shaw, printed by Henry Lintot, London, 1755, pp94/95


Katherine L French says that Ashburton began selling seats in the church in 1489. Between that year and 1540 a hundred and fifty seven men (and twenty women) bought seats, and 36 of the individuals were churchwardens - most had purchased their seat before taking on the role. Further analysis of the social standing of the purchasers (which the author says is difficult because of the lack of supporting evidence) suggests 'that for some, seat purchasing was a step on the way to local prominence.'
The Good Women of the Parish, Katherine L French, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008, p114

In 1684 Thomas, Bishop of Exeter, ordered the vicar and officers of Ashburton church to rearrange the pew allocations to reflect more accurately the status of the pewholders. A document in the Devon Heritage Centre lists all the pewholders and their allotted pews.
Ref DEX/9/a/1/Ashburton/1, June 27th 1684, Devon Heritage Centre

In the late 1760s and 1770s an argument arose in Ashburton over pews in the south aisle. The documents (in my possession) are hard to read, but the facts seem to be these:

Peter Woodley, of Halsanger Manor, had use of the pews (and the burial rights) in the south aisle.

Two men, John Edmonds and James Fursman wanted to build a pew or pews in the said aisle.

So what had to be decided (apart from the question of whether there was actually room) was whether the Woodleys had rights to the aisle at all, and if they did, whether it was to the whole aisle.

The following are extracts of contemporary notes from the case, which was finally decided in Exeter - I do not, however, know who won.

'In order to defend Mr Peter Woodley's right to the south aisle within the Parish Church of Ashburton in the County of Devon and objections why Mr John Edmonds, James Fursman ought not to erect or build seats or pews therein.
That the whole south aisle.....hath been from time beyond the memory of man belonged to the family of the Woodleys who lived at the Barton of Halshanger within the parish of Ashburton.........and always called or known by the name of Woodley's aisle.'

There then follows family details - of Peter Woodley's father and grandfather (both called Peter), and that he has a wife and six children, of whom four are grown. There also appears to be a claim that when his servants come to church they also sit in the same aisle.

As to the opposing claimants:
'Mr John Edmonds ought not to have a seating (?) in this aisle for himself and his family being a young man lately married.......James Fursman ought not to have a seating (?) for himself and family having a wife only and no child whosoever.'
Above: Thomas Furlong's letter to Richard Harris, attorney.
In 1769 the vicar, Thomas Furlong, wrote to Mr Richard Harris, attorney at law at Ashburton. Mr Edmonds' and Fursman's claims had been published in the church, and the vicar thought they might succeed, but 'to prevent that I will if Mr Woodley approves of it appear for him....'

He continues
'The flooring of the aisle when out of repair hath been repaired by the Woodley family and that the whole aisle within the seats therein have always belonged to that family and when the seats have wanted repair have been always repaired by that family and no other.

That the burying place belonging to the family is under the aisle, and that no person hath ever sat in the seats within the aisle without leave of the Woodley family, the aisle always belonging to that family, and called by the name of Woodley's aisle.'

The vicar goes on to question what relations Soper, Cooksley and the High Constable are to the petitioners. Quite where these came into the case I do not know.
Various witnesses were called: Thomas Hamlyn, carpenter, was one of them.

'By virtue of a citation compulsory herewith shown unto you under seal of office you are cited to appear in the Cathedral Church of St Peter in Exeter in the consistorial court and place of indicature there on Tuesday the twentyfourth day of this ....April at the usual hour of hearing cause....on and there to take the oath usually taken by witnesses and to depose (?) the truth of what you know..... are not to fail under pain of the law and contempt thereof.'
Dated the fourteenth day of April 1770

 Witness expenses had to be paid, as they were travelling to Exeter, usually for two days. It looks as though horses were hired at 5d (five old pence) a time -  but two older parishioners, Hugh Smerdon and Mrs Catherine Harris had carriages on account of their age. 

The following is an extract:

'1772 An.......of expenses that Mr Peter Woodley hath witnesses and otherwise in the cause of Edmonds

For a subpoena _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

For serving the witnesses following with subpoena

.........Mr William Bennett, Matthew Symons, Mr Richard Sawry, Moses (?) Bowden, Thomas Pritchard, Rev W Stephen Madge, Mr Hugh Smerdon, Mr John Cooke, Mr John Soper, Mr William Loy* (?) surgeon, Mr Solomon Tozer, Mrs Catherine Harris, Mrs Catherine Woodley, Mrs Elizabeth Corley (?).......



To Mr William Bennett for his attendance at Exeter

two days          horse hire(?) .....2 days 5d

To Matthew Symons for his attendance 2 days

To Richard Sawry, gent for his attendance 2 days

horse hire (?) 5d

Above: Expenses claims

To Moses(?) Bowden for his attendance at Exeter 2 days

horse hire(?) 5d

To Thomas Pritchard (?)............

To the Rev. W Madge for his attendance at Exeter 2 days

horse hire (?) 5d

To Mr Hugh Smerdon schoolmaster  for his attendance 2 days              chaise him being old

To Mr John Cooke  for his attendance at Exeter 2 days

horse hire(?) 5d

To Mr John Soper  for his attendance at Exeter 2 days

horse hire(?) 5d

To Mr William Loy* surgeon for two journeys to Exon as a witness and horse hire }     £02.02.00

To Mr Solomon Tozer as a witness two days and horse hire 5d }

To MrsElizabeth Corby (? Looks like Corley elsewhere in document) for her journey as a witness two days      horse hire 5d }

To Mrs Catherine Harris for her attendance two days............hire up and down........& turnpike 1s(?) and 13s (?) being 70 years of age }

To Mrs Catherine Woodley for her journey as a witness two days     horse hire 5d }


* I now think this might be William Ley


The next year, 1770, the vicar was writing to Richard Harris again. 'I observe that Fursman hath intruded into and sat in the in the Woodleys isle with an old man and that Edmonde's serv. maid hath likewise sat there and that Fursman says that Mr Upham ordered it so to be done.'

He suggests  'I think that it will be advisable for Mr Woodley to take two indifferent credible (?) persons with him to Fursman and the servant Monday next in the forenoon whether they sit in the seat again too morrow or not and let Mr Woodley in their presence showing give both of them notice to quit his seat forthwith and not to sit there again which if they should refuse to do he will prosecute them for intruding therein.'

Below: Part of another letter from Thomas Furlong to Richard Harris.

From my own collection
 Above: Summons to Thomas Hamlyn

A newspaper report into the death of James Woodley of Halshanger in 1894 said that the south transcept 'had been long known as Woodley's aisle'.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 20 April 1894 p6 col3

1775 When Thomas, the son of Thomas Lear, is buried in September, there is a note in the register: 'had a funeral sermon preached being the first in ye new pulpit by Mr. Savery (?)'

Parish records

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


From the will of William Winsor, proved in January 1790:
'I first request that my body may be interred in a vault to be made large enough for two or more under my seat or pew in the parish church of Ashburton aforesaid and desire that my body may be lain first in a plain deal (?)  chest or coffin and that the same be put in a lead coffin and afterwards interred in another wooden coffin covered in black cloth or black serge and that I may be carried to the grave on the shoulders of eight of my workmen or as many more as may be necessary and that each of them have a pair of gloves and a half guinea and also I desire for upper bearers eight of my friends such as my beloved wife Frances Winsor ______ my executor hereinafter named shall think proper...'
Ref 11/1187/84 10th January 1790, National Archives - accessed 12-12-2020


Note.  Rebekkah, widow of the Rev. Alexander Laskey, curate of Ashburton, died there, 3rd Nov., 1777, and was buried in the church.

License of marriage between Alexander Laskey of Ilsington, clerk,
and Rebekkah Laskey of Yealmpton, spinster. Jan. 23rd, 1740.
Mar. Lie., Prin. Regy., Exon.

Charles Worthy, Devonshire Wills, 114

Right: Memorial in Ashburton churchyard to the Rev. Alexander D Laskey, who died in April 1778; also to his daughter Ann, who died in 1814, aged 64.
My own photograph 2019

                                                             The Lectern and Pulpit

'Ashburton church having been reseated and freshly paved, was opened again for Divine service on Sunday 6th September 1776 ,and the present ugly pulpit and reading desk, of polished mahogany...were substituted for the ancient carved pulpit and brazen lectern, of which, we believe, the parishioners of Bigbury are now the fortunate possessors, and of which they are justly proud.
Ashburton and Its Neighbourhood, Charles Worthy, Ashburton, 1875, p26

'The story goes:
'In [Bigbury] church is a very fine carved oak pulpit, like that of Holne, given by Bishop Oldham to Ashburton Church in or about 1510. At the same time he presented an owl as lectern to Ashburton Church, the owl being his badge. In 1777 the wiseacres of Ashburton sold pulpit and owl to Bigbury for 11 guineas. When the Bigbury folk saw that they had got an owl instead of an eagle they were disgusted, sawed off the head and sent it to Plymouth, with an order for an eagle's head of the same dimensions. Accordingly, now the lessons are read in the church from a lectern that has an owl's body with an eagle's head. '

A Book of the West, Sabine Baring-Gould, 1899, p345

'[The sale of the pulpit and lectern] was done when Sir Robert Palk returned from India and presented a most handsome three-decker pulpit, a marvel of joinery and teak which occupied the centre of the transept until a recent restoration swept that away also.'
Oak Carving at Ashburton in Tudor Days, Devon Notes and Queries, P F S Amery, 1900

Above, right and below left: The interior of St Lawrence, Bigbury, the pulpit and the lectern.
My own photographs, 2016
Above: The arms of Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter. 'Sable, a chevron or, between three owls proper; on a chief of the second, three roses gules.'
Richard Izacke (1677). This cleaned up and enhanced copy: Smalljim (Izacke's History of Exeter) [GFDL (http://www.gnu./copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

In October 1853 the Western Times published a letter from W Langley Pope concerning St Andrew's Church. He criticized the stone altar, pointing out that it had no communion rail and had painted glass overhead. He added that 'a most elegant screen, richly ornamented, was ruthlessly destroyed, in order to prepare the way for the introduction of badly-built pews, the stone altar before-named etc.' He went on to say that he had in his possession 'the richest gem of the ancient screen, namely the shield of Bishop Hugh Oldham, with the Mitre of the See of Exeter above it...
...It seems evident to me, that it is sacrilegious work for modern Incumbents, under the pretence of "improvements" to destroy (as far as they can) the venerated remains of original founders...'
The shield was of oak, and Langley Pope went on to say, 'What I allege is this - that a shield is an heraldic ornament, but it is somewhat more, viz. - a legal document.'
Western Times, Saturday 15 October 1853
Many thanks to Tess Walker for this article

'We would remark that the arms of Bishop Oldham...are reported to have been carved in oak, and to have remained in the church until a very recent period, although unfortumately they have now disappeared.'
Ashburton and Its Neighbourhood, Charles Worthy, Ashburton, 1875,  p32

Right: One of the many owls surrounding the tomb of Bishop Oldham in Exeter Cathedral
My own photograph 2016. With many thanks to the Cathedral


                                                                    The 1800s

'The parish a fine specimen of the early perpendicular style, but has undergone many alterations and repairs.

About 80 years ago, when the nave was re-seated, a rage seems to have prevailed for selling or destroying every valuable vestige of antiquity.
The handsome stone pulpit, which was elaborately carved, and the brass eagle, were sold to the neighbouring parish of Bigbury, and the present unsightly pulpit and reading desk were substituted for them. The beautiful screen that separated the nave and chancel, and the antique screens belonging to the stalls in the south transcept, were broken up at the same time, and part sold for a small sum, and the remainder used as firewood.....On taking down part of the ceiling in the south aisle in 1849, various emblematical paintings were discovered on the old panneled ceiling, which were placed there when the church was built in the 14th century'
White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Devon1850, pp 463, 464

Above: St Andrew's Church

From my own collection

In 1820 Benjamin Parham brought a case went to the Court of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, accusing the curate of Ashburton, the Rev. John Templar, of altering a pew in the nave of the church. During the case it was said that previously Mr Dolbeare was churchwarden and Mr Eales sidesmen. 'The affairs of the parish are managed by two churchwardens; one called the town, the other the country-warden. The usage seems to be that the town-warden is considered as the upper churchwarden; he manages the pews and receives the rent...the site of the seat allotted to Mr Dolbeare was that of the old reading desk and pulpit, and a place where women came to be churched.'
Reports of cases argued and determined in the Ecclesiastical Courts, Joseph Phillimore, vol III, London 1827, pp 518,519

The Rev. William Sherlock Carey MA, student of Christ Church, Oxford, was Vicar of Ashburton when he married Eliza Caroline Schneider of Putney, Surrey.

The Quarterly Theological Review and Ecclesiastical Record, 1825, Vol 2, p 521

In December 1833 it was reported that the nephew of the late Bishop Carey of Exeter had recently been appointed to the Ashburton living. This was despite the fact that he already held 'a very rich living in Cornwall'.
Western Times 14 December 1833 p5 col1

Charles Worthy wrote to the Society of Antiquaries of London in December 1872, regarding earthern vessels found in the chancel in the 1830s.
'Between 1836 and 1840 the alterations to which I have alluded were made by the late vicar, and it was then that the workmen found the original of the enclosed sketch, with some nine or ten others, lying in what one of them describes to me as "holes like those left by masons for the reception of their scaffold poles".
They were not regularly piles one above another, but, to use my informant's own words, "were scattered all over the north and south walls of the chancel on their interior sides." The only ornament is a zig-zag line over a very faint white mark, no other
 indentation or moulding whatever. I may add that the vessels were all empty and unsealed, but had a small piece of slate placed in front of their mouths; they are of the roughest description, of common red clay like a flower pot in appearance and quality, and were firmly fixed in the recesses with mortar."
The editors commented: 'But for the circumstance mentioned by Mr Worthy, that a piece of slate was placed in front of their mouths, it might be conjectured that these vessels had been designed to serve the purpose of those acoustic vases to which attention has not unfrequently been called in this and other countries, and of which a succinct account is given in the Norfolk Archaeology, vol vii, p93, by the Rev G W W Minns. See also Archaeological Journal, vol xii, p276.'
Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London, November 17th 1870 - April 3rd 1873, second series vol 5, p385,386

John S Amery, in the Transactions of the Devonshire Association in 1873, supports the theory that the vessels could have been acoustic jars, covered during the reformation. The pieces of slate were explained as an aid to plastering over the jars.
John S Amery, Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 1873, 203-205

It is thought that acoustic jars were used to enhance the sound quality in certain structures. Used by the Greeks and Romans in theatres, acoustic jars reappeared in medieval churches, but in an unsystematic manner. 'To this day, some two-hundred churches in Europe containing acoustic vases have been counted, half of which are in France'.
Marc Crunelle, Is There an Acoustic Tradition in Western Architecture? PDF - accessed 17-08-2019


As a result of political meddling by the incumbent, the congregation practically deserted the church during 1834 and 1835, with a large number moving to the Wesleyan Chapel. At that time it was a 'small building in one of the back streets'.
Western Times 5 May 1849 p5 col5

In early 1835 the Reverend William Marsh was appointed to the living at Ashburton, following the resignation of The Rev. William Sherlock Carey.
Western Times 21 February 1835

                                                            A Question of Attribution
A painting of the crucifixion in the north transept (the chapel of Thomas à Becket), has long been thought to be the work of a local artist named Legassick.* However, a small item in a newspaper from 1841 shows that this is almost certainly not the case. The story begins with the restoration of the chancel in 1840.
*I can find no information about Legassick

Left: Detail of painting of the Crucifixion, in the Chapel of Thomas à Becket, St Andrew's.
My own photograph, 2020

'The chancel underwent a complete restoration in 1840....'
White's Devonshire Directory of 1850, transcript by Brian Randell on Genuki org. - Accessed 16-07-2020

In 1841 the Vicar, the Rev. William Marsh, was presented with plate by 'a grateful body of his parishioners'. The amount raised for this plate was 'in addition to a sum previously subscribed for the purpose of aiding in the restoration of the Chancel of Ashburton Church, which Mr Marsh had undertaken at his own expense.'
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 8 May 1841, p3 col5

According to Fryer Cornelius the reredos* was given to the church during 1840 by sub-dean Fisher of Exeter Cathedral, as was an altar of Bath stone, said to be designed by A W Pugin.
Fryer Cornelius, C., 1959, St Andrew's Church, Ashburton, 145-170 (Article in Serial). SDV296278.
Quoted on the Heritage Gateway site - Accessed 16-07-2020
*A screen or decoration behind the altar in a church

'The Reredos, of Bath stone, is in imitation of the Perpendicular style, and is divided into five compartments, with buttressed and embattled turrets at the north and south ends; it is enriched with quatrefoils, and four of its compartments are filled with the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, whilst the centre one exhibits a painting of the crucifixion.
The altar is also of stone...'
Charles Worthy, Ashburton and its Neighbourhood, 1875, p11

More restoration was planned in the 1880s. In June 1882 builders were invited to tender for the work, sending in their applications to the architect, Arthur Edmund Street.
Western Times 9 June 1882, p4 col6

In July the entire tender of Mr F Abley of Salisbury was accepted, and work on the roof, nave and chancel was to 'be put in hand forthwith'.
Western Morning News 11 July 1882, p3 col1 p5 col4

Commenting on the cost of the restoration, the Western Morning News said that the difficulty was increased 'by the restoration of the chancel about thirty five years ago in a style wholly out of character with the rest of the building.'
Western Morning News 17 February 1883

In January 1929 there was the dedication of the new reredos and sanctuary carpet in St Andrew's. This completed the restoration of the church planned in 1880, and in the main carried out in 1884. '[The reredos] takes the place of a heavy stone, panelled reredos, erected during the last century, which has now been removed.'
Western Times 11 January 1929, p10 col2

In 1952 Nikolaus Pevsner and Bridget Cherry said of Ashburton: 'St Andrew....Painting. Crucifixion by Legassick, a local artist, part of a former reredos.'
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Devon, Penguin Books, 1952, p132

'The Chapel of Thomas a Becket....
...the Coats of Arms above [a window in the chapel] were part of the window put in at the East End over the Altar in 1840. They are the Arms of the See of Exeter; the Borough of Ashburton; the Chapter of Exeter; the Vicar of Ashburton - William Marsh; and of Sub-Dean Fisher, who gave new glass for the great East Window in 1840 and also a reredos and altar of Bath stone, designed by A W Pugin.
A picture of the crucifixion hangs on the east wall. It was the centre panel of the reredos and thought to be the work of Legassick, a local artist.'
A Guide and Short History, Saint Andrew's Church Ashburton, 2005/2006, p16

Left: Painting of the Crucifixion, still in the Chapel of Thomas a Becket.
Below: A detail from the painting.
My own photographs, 2020. Photograph on left enhanced by GS
However, G S, a descendant of the artist David Charles Read, and who has researched him for many years, has discovered a reference which casts doubt on Legassick being the artist. In September 1841 the Salisbury and Winchester Journal announced: 'The Fine Arts - Mr D C Read, of this city, has just completed a beautiful altar-piece for the church of Ashburton, Devon, the subject being, "The Crucifixion." '
Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 20th September 1841
The date is right for the restoration of the chancel. Read knew A W Pugin, who is thought to have designed the reredos and altar: this acquaintance might explain Read securing the commission. G S has a letter sent by Pugin to Read in 1841.
Above: Portait of D C Read, etched by himself from a water-colour by John Linnell.
With thanks to G S.

Who was David Charles Read?

'One of the most fluent original etchers outside the Norwich School to be active in England between the years 1820 and 1845.'
Campbell Fine Art - accessed 19-07-2020

Born at Boldre, Hampshire, in 1790, Read settled at Salisbury after a period in London working under John Scott, the engraver. Ill health forced his return to the country: he lived in the cathedral close until 1845.
For employment he worked as a drawing master, whilst producing works in pencil, water-colour and oils, together with 237 etchings.
Lee, Sidney, ed. (1896) Read, David Charles. Dictionary of National Biography. 47. London, Smith, Elder & Co.

For a while he was a protégé of John Constable.
In a letter to Archdeacon Fisher* Constable wrote, 'His studies have merit - could you show him civility?'
Letter to Fisher, September 1821, R B Beckett, ed., Suffok Records Society, vol XII, 1968, John Constable's Correspondence, VI, The Fishers,  p74.
* An earlier Fisher than the sub-dean of Exeter in 1840.

However, Constable's goodwill was strained to breaking point when he was asked to promote one of Read's paintings in a London gallery.
Campbell Fine Art - accessed 19-07-2020

Writing again to Archdeacon Fisher, who had asked the favour, Constable replied, 'I will gladly do all I can for Read and his picture, but you know I can only send it...I will mention R's picture to Young, and that is all that is in my power.'
Salisbury Museum, - accessed 19-07-2020

Some months later the relationship had soured to the point where Constable commented, 'The picture is entirely without hope....he is ignorant of every rudiment of art...'
Letter to Fisher, September 1821, R B Beckett, ed., Suffok Records Society, vol XII, 1968, John Constable's Correspondence, VI, The Fishers,  p113

Regardless of the quality of his paintings, it is for his etchings that Read is principally known. 'This man, a man of marked talent, amongst other works published in 1829 a number of landscape etchings in copper. These etchings attracted the attention of the famous Goethe, and in 1843 were submitted to the late Prince Consort, who purchased some for himself, and some for Her Majesty the Queen.'
Ellen C Clayton, English Female Artists, vol 2, London 1876, p412

G S says, 'His whole life was a battle to achieve recognition of what he considered his genius, and he was, at times, quite desperate and bitter when suitable respect wasn't forthcoming.'

Read presented 2 volumes of etchings to the British Museum, in 1833 and 1842. The letter accompanying the second volume demonstrates the frustration, and, as he put it, the intense anxiety that he felt.

Above: Letter to the Trustees of the British Museum
With thanks to G S.

After a short time in Italy his health deteriorated, and he died in Kensington, London, in May 1851.
Lee, Sidney, ed. (1896) Read, David Charles. Dictionary of National Biography. 47. London, Smith, Elder & Co.

His will is held at the National Archives. Amongst his bequests was 'the letters and medals sent to me by the great German poet Goethe.'
ref PROB 11/2138/214 - accessed 19-07-2020

On style alone G S is 98% sure that the piece in Ashburton Church is by Read, and the chain of evidence would suggest that that is the case. Says G S, 'The mis-attribution would have made him furious'. To Read's dismay, many of his works were displayed poorly - at least at Ashburton the painting of the crucifixion can be clearly seen.

With very many thanks to G S for his contributions - and for finding the reference to Ashburton Church in the first place!
Thanks also to Mark Rylands for permission to photograph the painting.


1844. The Rev C A Hunt had been a curate at Ashburton for 15 years. In May he was presented with a silver cup by the parishioners.
Western Courier, West of England Conservative, Plymouth and Devonport Advertiser, 22 May 1844, p4 col7

In 1854 a new Act, 'for the protection of the public health', stated that no new burial grounds should be opened in a number of places, without the approval of one of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State. There were some modifications, including at Ashburton, where no new burials were to be made within the church of St Andrew, or in the churchyard to the north of the church, or within 5 yards of the building. The exceptions to this were that existing vaults or brick graves within the church could be used, providing that each coffin was embedded in charcoal, and separated from others by 'concrete, brickwork or masonry'.
London Gazette Issue 21568 4 July 1854, p2079                                                        

1855 As the north side of the church was now too crowded for further burials, the authorities were poised to buy a piece of garden to enlarge the churchyard.
Western Times 27 January 1855 p7 col5                          

Nothing had been done by July, and the ratepayers called a meeting to discuss the situation.  Mr W. Parkyn, Independent minister, wanted a section for dissenters to be provided if a (public) cemetery  was built. But if church lands were to be extended, he thought the church authorities ought to bear the burden of the cost.
Western Times 28 July 1855 p7 col4

In August new land was selected near the old churchyard. The Western Times did not approve, saying that it had been selected by 'the few'.
Western Times 18 August 1855 p7 col5

1857 A correspondent to the Western Times claimed that the churchyard was 'crowded with graves and fragments of bones'. Sheep were often grazing there.
Western Times 13 June 1857 p7 col1

1857 Whilst praising the restored oak ceiling in the north aisle, the Western Times suggested that new seats would be of benefit to the church, instead of the current 'large sleeping boxes'.
Western Times 15 August 1857 p7 col3

The Rev W Marsh died on May 3rd 1861. He was said to have been the Vicar of Ashburton for 26 years.
Exeter Flying Post 8 May 1861 p5 col2

1866 There was still discussion about extending the churchyard. Members of the established church wanted to extend the burials into adjacent land called Folly Gardens, owned by Mr Rogers. Dissenters wanted a separate cemetery.
Western Times 16 February 1866 p7 col3

The new burial ground was finally consecrated in 1868 by the Right Rev Bishop Trower. It extended the churchyard on the south side.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 22 May 1868  p7 col5


Two new bells arrived in Ashburton in 1879, to add to the existing six. Cast by Messrs Blews and Son of Birmingham, they had a combined weight of 14cwt, and cost £100. The principal landowners of the parish had subscribed most of the money, but further donations were sought to pay for hanging the bells.
Western Times 5 August 1879, p8 col6   

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. Wickham Birch was Vicar of Ashburton in the 1881 census. He was born 1830/31 Brusted (sic) Sussex.

He was still the incumbent at the time of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887

Western Times 22 June 1887 p4 col2


In 1894 Mr and Mrs Mallaby Firth donated a new stained glass window to the south transept of the church. The window was in memory of Mrs Firth's parents, Mr and Mrs George Caunter.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 13 November 1894 p2 col6

The church bells were overhauled and re-hung in 1896, at a cost of about £260. The bells had been in two tiers, but now were on one level, on new oak beams and frames. The bells were generally in good condtion, but the tenor bell had to have an iron hoop put around it, and the fifth bell 'has been a quarter turned'.
Western Times 22 October 1896, p3 col3

Information about the Reverend Richard Bond has now moved to Ashburton vicars.

                                           The Edwardian Era

'At the age of 9 years I was admitted into St Andrew's Church Choir. Mr Harold O. Jones was organist and choirmaster, and the vicar was the Rev. R J Bond. I remained a chorister there for 74 years. In those days both the mens' and the boys' stalls were filled. Mr Jones maintained a high standard of music. He also founded and conducted the choral society. Every year he presented a concert, with London artists and the Royal Marine Orchestra. They were considered social events of the year. Occasionally the parish church would be used and an oratorio sung, for which the acoustics of our splendid church were well nigh perfect.'
From the memories of Reg Andrews, born 1893.
Many thanks to Dave Hodge-Brooks and Ernie Smerdon

                                                 The 1930s

There was a special sitting at Newton Abbot Court in November 1931, when the Rev. E F Ball, Vicar of Ashburton, was sued by a Mr and Mrs Herbert John Denham, of Paignton. Mr Denham, together with 3 other adults and a child, were travelling in a car in Ashburton, from the Buckfastleigh direction, at about ten o'clock at night. As they were passing the Vicarage grounds a part of the retaining wall collapsed, smashing the car and burying both the vehicle and its occupants. 'Hundreds of tons of soil and stones fell out into the roadway'. As a result of the accident Mr Denham spent 8 weeks in hospital and was unable to work for 3 weeks after that.
One witness, a chartered architect, said that between 35 and 39 feet of wall, about nine and a half feet tall, fell down. Five trees behind the wall had recently been felled.
The plaintiffs contended that the occupier of the property had a duty to maintain the wall in a safe condition. The wall had allegedly been bulging out and out of perpendicular for some time.
His honour reserved judgment. 
Western Times 6 November 1931, p10 col5

To the left of the bottom path leading from the church to Stone Park is a triangle of ground, separated from the path by a metal fence. It is thought that unbaptised children are buried there.
An Ashburton resident, born in the mid 1930s, remembers the Sunday School occasionally going down to the churchyard with one of the Misses Butler. The children picked wild flowers on the way, and arranged them in jam jars along the wall at the back of this plot, in memory of the children. 
With many thanks for this reminiscence


                                                            The 1940s

List of parishioners involved with the church. From the Ashburton and Buckland-in-the-moor parish magazine March 1946:

Vicar - Rev Gerald A B Jones B.A. Surrogate

Licensed worker - Sister Lloyd Mary

Churchwardens - Mr F Edgecombe, Mr. T K Islip.

Sexton and deputy clerk - Mr E G Rowland, 15 St Lawrence Lane.

Sidesmen - Mr W Bray, Mr H Burt, Mr G Clarke, Mr W T Coram, Mr H Cox, Mr A Davies, Mr W Furse, Mr H Hannaford, Mr H Hatch, Mr W T Lomax, Mr F C Matthews, Mr W H C Mugridge. Organist and choirmaster - Mr Harold O Jones

Choirmen - Mr F Edgecombe, Mr John J Tape, MR R S Andrews, Mr D Cowls, Mr W Eales, Mr A S D Caws, Mr F Turner, Mr C W Lamble, Mr H Bennett

Sacristan - Miss Butler.

Ringers - Mr F Baker (Capt), Mr Geo Edgecombe, Mr G Stone, Mr R Northway, Mr J Warren, Mr F Egbeer, Mr W T Coram, Mr J Davey, Mr J Baker.

Servers - J Butler, J Eales, E J Grimes, A Bawden, M King.

Representatives: Diocesan conference - Mr W T Lomax, Mr T K Islip

Ruridecanal conference - Miss Butler, Mssrs F Edgecombe H Hannaford

Parochial church council -

Elected - Mrs Blackler, Mrs Jones, Mrs Moulder, Rev M H Needham, Messrs R S Andrews, F Baker, C E Beavis, J Bray, H G Burt, A S D Caws, S Cowls, H H Cox, A Davies, W Furse, W H C Mugridge, R Stanbury,E H Varwell.

Sunday school superintendents: Senior - Mrs H O Jones

Middle - Miss Butler and Miss Blackler

Infants - Miss Butler

Mothers' union, enrolling member - Mrs Gerald Jones

Hon sec - Mrs H O Jones

Church decorators:

Font - Mrs Roberts 

Windows in north and south aisles - Mrs Andrews, Mrs Berry, Mrs Davies, Mrs Hunt, Miss Armstrong

Lady Chapel window -Mrs Daymond

Screen -Mrs H Jones

S Catherine's chapel - Mrs Varwell



                                                The 1920s

Those who could afford it conveyed their dead and the mourners in carriages, usually drawn by grey horses. However, one of my saddest memories of a funeral procession coming down North Street is of the coffin carried by six black clad bearers followed by the mourners walking slowly behind. All were clothed in black, the women crying and wiping their eyes with new white handkerchiefs contrasting starkly with their black garments. The pathetic little procession wended its way down North Street to the church or chapel. Shoppers stood respectfully silent as the cortège went on its tragic journey, men standing bare headed until it was out of sight. It was customary in the church for mourners to return on the Sunday morning following the funeral. A seat was reserved at the back of the nave and the deceased family occupied this pew and remained seated throughout the service. Great sympathy was expressed to the bereaved – one good soul was known for her sincerely expressed condolences, followed by 'I hopes you have a lovely day for the funeral.'  A kindly thought as the cortège moved in procession to the grave and rain dripped from the trees on to black umbrellas: the weather seemed to add to the grief and depression of the family of the deceased.

Religious festivals played a great part in the life of the town. The Harvest Festival drew all the agricultural workers and farmers to the church which was lavishly decorated with autumn flowers and foliage, sheaves of corn and specially baked bread. There were vegetables and fruit in abundance and this was donated to the poor of the parish. St Andrew’s Church rang out with many harvest hymns as the farming community joined regular churchgoers in singing, “Come you thankful people come” and “We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land”.

The vicar and his wife were greatly respected, the church providing activities for children and young people.  The church had parties at Christmas and the chapels had their anniversaries. Well-intentioned people gave up their time to run these activities and give a glimpse of a world outside Ashburton. The Congregational Chapel, known as “Great Meeting” had a stained glass window depicting the “Presentation of Jesus in the temple” on Candlemass Day, the graphic work of a Flemish artist. It is still in situ, but the chapel is no longer used for its original purpose. Church and chapels were at the centre of activities in the town.

The vicar’s wife was a delightful lady, of large proportions, she smiled genially and her love for children was obvious as she invited groups to tea on occasions, when some entertainment was arranged. She presided over the Sunday School, smiling benignly as she glided up and down the aisle of the church. Both the vicar and his wife had a vast fund of information about the church; she would suddenly turn and ask, 'Where can you see a pair of scissors?' To the baffled onlookers she would say 'That’s Dorcas, from the Acts of the Apostles. See the scissors hanging from her belt.'  The vicar would look on, smiling fondly on his beloved wife.  They were a devoted couple and were sadly missed when he was appointed to a position in Exeter Cathedral.

Life expectancy for the poor was comparatively short and, out of meagre wages, money was paid into an insurance policy for a funeral. It was a matter of pride that the deceased were put to rest respectably. In those days, cremation was not an option.

 There was little mixing between church and chapel - the ecumenical movement was undreamt of and in many ways this divided the community. Early in the 1920’s people became familiar with the sight of two tonsured, black habited monks who walked in from the partially built abbey at Buckfast to deposit the money collected from curious visitors. A certain amount of suspicion and even hostility was felt locally until, with the passing of time, they were accepted as part of the community.

 Thanks to Hazel Bray for the above item.


                                                                     The 1930s

From Kelly's Directory of Devonshire 1935:

Places of worship.
t. Andrew's Church, vicar - Rev E F Ball M A

Ashburton church bells were overhauled and re-hung in 1937. 'The peal was placed in the church in the middle of the 18th century to replace one which was lost at sea on its way to Ireland for recasting'. The seventh bell had been recast, with an inscription commemorating it being a coronation year.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 23 April 1937, p15 col1