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

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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.

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 alterations 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

In addition, Reverend John Trevor Charnley arrived in 1963, not 1953.

                                                                   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

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

                                                                    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 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


                                                             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 Devon 1850 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

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

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



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 1900s

 In 1902 there was a 'Painful incident' at the funeral of a young woman*, conducted by the Rev R J Bond. A coroner's jury had brought in a verdict of 'Suicide whilst of unsound mind', and because of this the vicar refused to allow the body inside the church. Shops and houses were closed - as were the church doors -  as the funeral procession passed through the crowded streets, and large numbers of inhabitants accompanied the mourners. The vicar read a special service at the graveside, but the whole funeral took only fourteen minutes.

The general mood of the town was of 'detestation' for the vicar's behaviour.

Western Times 24 January 1902 p6 col2

*The young woman's name was Rosa Beavis

Western Times 15 February 1902 p7 col3


From Kelly's Directory of Devonshire 1902:

Places of worship.

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



Above: A letter from the Rev Bond to Mr Jones, dated October 1903. It reads: "Dear Mr Jones, I was surprised to find a note dropped in the box late last night, stating you could not come, and addressed to Edith. 

In future, please be good enough to see Mrs Bond, and arrange with her any alterations in the hours of your lesson.

We both think you ought to keep to the hour fixed, during the term, and do not like any departures from it. You do not say why you are obliged to be away today.

Yours sincerely, R J Bond".

From other documents, Mr Jones is probably Harold O Jones, who appears on the 1901 census as a 29 year old professional musician.

Edith is the Rev Bond's daughter - she is 8 years old on the same census, so would be about 10 at the time of the letter.

Harold O Jones later married Amy F J Mitchelmore, in the September quarter of 1913

Thanks to Linda Phillips for the document

                                                               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


In 1902 the Medical Officer reported 28 mild cases of scarlatina* in the town. The vicar, the Rev Bond, wrote a letter to the Urban District Council stating that several people from affected houses had come to the Vicarage, and his servants, 'in ignorance', had let them in. Worried for his own children, he asked that a notice be distributed to the households in question, telling them not to go around 'begging and spreading infection.'

No action was taken.

Western Times 8 September 1902 p4 col6

*Scarlatina - another name for scarlet fever, although usually in a milder form Accessed 30-9-2013


                                                                       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.


From Kelly's Directory of Devonshire 1935:

Places of worship.

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




                                                                      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