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Spreyton  Dedication Saint Michael

Baldwin, sheriff of Devon, held Espreitona at the Domesday survey. We also had the manor of Cowick near Exeter, where some time later his son founded the Cowick priory, a cell of the abbey of Bec in Normandy, which was endowed with the tithes and advowson of the church of Spreyton. The parish was included in the long since suppressed deanery of Dunsford and valued in 1288 :- seclesia de spreyton vicaria edundem.

The will of Spreyton was held by the Talbots, under the Courtenays, with rights of gallows and other manorial privileges. They had no ecclesiastical jurisdiction, though, as will be seen later, they evidently took no interest in their parish church.


In common with other parishes held by alien priories the advowson of Spreyton was seized by the kings of England when at war with France. On the final suppression of Cowick priory by Henry the sixth in 1451, Spreyton was granted to Eton college, thirteen years later Edward the fourth cave it to Tavistock abbey, whence it passed with all the rest of the abbey lands into the possession of the Russels.

The dedication is ascribed to St. Michael, which the lofty position of the church may will warrant the revel is however held on the Tuesday before midsummer day June 24.

In the churchyard on the north side near the tower is a relic of a church prior to the present building it is the circular basin of a font long discarded. It is pierced with a drain hole and shews marks where the hinge of the cover was set into the stone.

In 1914 much necessary restoration was carried out, during which some extremely interesting discoveries were made, and parts of the original masonry disclosed both outside and inside the building.
The embattled tower is of three stages, complete with pinnacles, and having buttresses set square. The west doorway has a plain painted arch surmounted by a hood-mould.



A north doorway is blocked, and at the north east is the turret of the rood-loft stair. There is a priests doorway at the south side, and the church is entered through a small plain south porch.

The interior comprises nave, north aisle and chancel; nave and aisle being separated by four bays with granite columns, of the usual 15th century type, having plain bell capitals. The last bay eastwards is narrower than the rest, having been built to accommodate the screen. A fifth bay in the chancel is rather wider than the others. The tower arch is lofty, and the large plain west window makes the church very bright.

The octagonal font, though no earlier than the 15th century, has the appearance of being almost archaic so rudely is it cut, with an attempt to execute figures is a medium by no means suited for any sort of sculpture. The panels are ornamented with a design of circles and on the shaft are these rough designs;- a lily plant, followed by two figures, this may have been intended to represent the annunciation. A figure with a wheel is no doubt St Katherine; next to which is St, Andrew with his cross then appears a female, and a man in a short jerkin or vestment, perhaps a donor.

The last panel is plain.


An image bracket remains on the north wall, and it has been conjectured that there might have been an altar below it.
The screen was removed in the middle of the 18th century.
During recent years the blocked doors of the roof loft stairs have been opened, and inside were the doors of the rood-screen, quite complete with their tracery and the panels at the base, there last shewing no traces of paintings.

The cradle roofs have good bosses both in the nave and aisle, and carved wall plates with good foliage work. Among the bosses on the chancel roof is the familiar design of the three rabbits joined at the ears, sometimes explained as an alchemical symbol connected with the Dartmoor tinning.

The special feature of the church, which renders it of particular antiquarian interest, is the inscription carved on the timbers of the chancel roof. The lettering is cut and painted, and was repainted about a century ago, so that, save for one break, which can readily be reconstructed, it is quite clear and readable. The latin is of course contracted, and designs of foliage break the wording. It was cut and painted by Henrious le Mayne, who instituted to the vicarage on august 23rd, 1451 and was the last vicar presented by the prior and convent of Cowick; where, from his name, we may conclude that he was a monk. He rebuilt his chancel, with aid from richard talbot, lord of the manor of Spreyton, and Robertus de Rouen de Recdenne last prior of Cowick, whose names he included in his inscription.


The inscription begins on the north side, and runs along the double edges of the beams and cross beams, up and down, backwards and forwards, in a fashing preflexing to follow:

Hericus de Mayne prebytre vicarius latuis ecclesie
me feclt fierir anno domini 1451

(Robertus de Rouen de becdenne prior of Cowick) 1
et ricardus Talbot armicer dominus de Spreyton
dedit de banis suis ad me faciendum
orate pro animabus earum

Normannia terra henricus hic natus fuit et ipse
scripiot haec omina manu sua propria.
Dullcis amica dei vernans et stella decora
tu memor esto mei martis dum venerit hara;

Jesu parens refave gentes quo carde precantur

Dabe carens renova mentes quo sarde ligantur.
Haec domus orantionis vacbitur, in ea omnis qui
pettt accitit, qui quarit invenit, et pulsanti aperietur.
Tesitssis christe quod non haec scriptat iste carpus ut
laudetur sed spiritus ut memoretur.

Ora pro nobis sancte nicholae, sancte martyr edwards
intercede pronobis.
Stubtam sit peccatum perpetus reputatum;

Pro solo pomo perditur omnis homo;

Virgo deum peperit, sed qui quie quamado quarit,
non est nosse meum sed scio passe deum.

1 The line in brackets is illegible, but has been supplied by Mr. Winslow Jones.

No piscinas appear in the church, but might be found if the plaster was removed from the walls. The old "classic" reredos of the 18th century is now hidden by the draperies that cover the east wall. The east window, of three lights, is filled with stained glass by drake of Exeter the figures representing our lord, our lady and St. John. In the other


Windows all the tracery had been renewed with new granite mullions.
In the account of spreyton given by Richard Symons ^ in 1644 we learn that the arms of Eton Collgege, and the Talbots were then in the window. All his notes are worth quoting:


"1644 Munday 29th July, to bow where the king lay in an ale house, his troops at Spretyon three  myles distant. This day a soldier was hanged at the rendezvour for plundering."

 Spreyton church co. Devon. Eastwindow chancel old, vaire on a chief ar three mullets gules pierced of the second.
Sable three lillies argent, on a chief per pale azure and gules in the dexter a fleur de lys, in the sinister a lion passant, both ar. (Eton college) sable a crozier and mace in saltine argent, on a chief of the last three mullets sable. This old, south window of chancel, argent a chevron between 3 talbots sable (talbot) impaling, ar on a bend argent (?) 3 tarteaux. Not one flat stone.

none of these armorial bearings now remain, but there are some floor slabs, two of which must have escaped the cavaliers notice, as they are the oldest memorials in the church.

Just inside the porch is the incised cross upon a floor slab much worn. In the north aisle is a coffin shaped



Stone with a plain Latin cross raised upon it.

On the floor, close to the altar rails is a stone with

a quaint epitaph:

Here lyeth ye body of Jane hare, ye daughter of Thomas Hare junr who was buried September ye 23rd anno dom 1721

Like bird of prey
death snatch't away
this harmless dove
whose soul so pure
is now secure
in heaven above.


Tablet                                 in rememberance of Thomas Hare esq:

Of Nymph, who departed this life May 25 1746 aged 65

And Agnes his wife died January 6th, 1763 aged 80, and lye interred underneath this marble was erected by Agnes Trist their only Surviving daughter.

Arms:                     sable a double headed eagle displayed

within a border engrailled argent.

Floor:                              here lyeth the body of William son of John Cann of

Fuidge gent, and Jeane his wife who was buried ye
14 of February anno dni 1710 aetatis suo 20.
Here lyeth ye body ye above said John Cann who was
buried.................19 1735

Tablet:                underneath are deposited the remains of John Cann

of Fuidge gent who died the first of April 1767 aged
81. Also Mary his wife who died 16 day of February
1769 aged 70.

Also Thomas Cann of Thornbury gent youngest son
of the above John Cann and Mary his wife, died May
21 1744 aged 41. Also John Cann of
Fuidge esqr
eldest son of the said John Cann and Mary his wife
died 5 June 1807 aged 84. Also Mark Cann of Pilton
gent, third son of the above John Cann and Mary his
wife who died April 19 1822 aged 84.




Also Gertrude wife of the above mentioned Thomas
Cann who died January 7 1819 aged 70.

John Cann esqr of Fuidge house departed this life the 9th
day of February, 1819 aged 45
also Rebecca Relict of the above died
December 18 1846 aged 80.

Arms:                                         agure pretty argent, on a fess

gubes three leopards faces ar.
Impaling:- argent a cevron sable
between three cornish choughs proper.

Floor, aisle:               John Cann cent senior of Fuidge was buried

April 27 1724 aged 67. Here also lyeth the body
of John son of the aforesaid John Cann who
died 1 April 1767 aged 81.

Modern brass:                         in memory of John Cann of Fuidge
Until 1837

Who died 18 December 1869 and of Bridget
Sherston his wife who died 29 day of March 1885
the east window was erected by their grandsqn, John
Cann of Symonds down Axminster Devon July 1889.

Tablet:                        in memory of William Battishill of Barton and Week

in this parish , who died Oct 16 1806 aged 61. And of Mary
his wife who died January 14 1817 aged 77. Also Dorothy
wife of William eldest son of the above named William and

Mary Battishill who died June 12 1829 aged 62. Also of
William Battishill of Barton, husband of the above Dorothy
who died Feb 20 1834 aged 66. Also of John Battishill of
Week youngest son of the above named William and Mary
Battishill, died Nov 26 1858 aged 88.

Arms:                          agure a cross crossbet in
Saltire ar, between 4 owls

Argent, beaked and begged of The second.


Floor:                                 here lyeth the body of Mary wife of

Philip Furse junr Gent daughter of

Samuel Codner of Ipplepen gent, Who was

buried here Marh 14 1711

Samuel Furse son of the said Philip and Mary

was Buried 31 March 1712.

Tablets                                in the chancel commemorate:

Richard Holland student of Christs college Cambridge,
eldest son of the revd Richard Holland vicar of this parish
and Frances Diana his wife died 29 July 1825 aged 20 years.

George Milford second son of the last John Milford

of Exeter esqr, who married Frances Margaret eldest daughter
of the revd Richard Holland vicar of this parish. He died at
Teignmouth 27 August 1832 aged 33.

Revd Richard Holland 55 years vicar of this parish died
December 1856 aged 82. Frances Diana his wife died 14 Jan
1854 aged 79. Also their granddaughter Frances Mary wife
of p. W. Nosworthy and only daughter of George and
Frances Margaret Milford born 9 October 1850 died at
Heavitree August 13 1859 and was there buried.

In 1553 the church goods commissioner found at Spreyton
"iiii  belles yn the tower their". Ellacombe records five

1. Nath Ridson esqr, john Cann Fuidge gent l 733

2. Thomas Hare, john Trasy churchwardens t.p. 1678

3. Thomas Mear of London founder 1837. Mr. William Cann
of North Beer ch. Warden. Glory to god in the highest.

4. Nathaniel Risdon, Ellinor Battishill, William Dicke
wardens j p 1650

5. John Cann of Fuidge church warden j p 1 726.

The initials are those of John Pennington bell founder.



There is a fine wayside cross at Hillersdon in this parish
which for many years was inside a field, but is now restored
and placed upon steps at the cross roads where it orginally Stood.


1316-17 Feb 24

1336 June 13

1367 Oct 25


1405-6 Jan 8

1433 Dec 14


1451 Aug 23

1458-9 Jan 23

1469 Nov 23

1517-18 Jan 25

1527 Dec 7

1527-8 Jan 7

1588 June 19

1595 Dec 14


1601-2 March 3

1603-4 March 19

1627 May 9


1693 April 3

1693 Nov 13

1714-15 March 14

1726-6 Feb 17

1754 Aug 1

1791 Feb 18

1799 Sept 6

1802 Oct 29

1857 Jan 21

1863 Feb 27

1885 July 31


Thomas Pruet

Thomas Squire

William Baker

Peter Dyne

John Giffard

John Lane

Prigentius Lewis

Henry le Mayne

Walter Randell

 John Aller

Oliver Wise

Robert Wetherbroke

Bartholemew Stephens

Robert Clay

Richard Adams


Willaim Sheres

 Jasper Wilson

William Dicker

Roger Speccote

William Oxenham

Andrew Voysey

William Rowe

John Freke

William Moore

Thomas Freke

John Cranford

Richard Holland

William Blake Doveton

Frederick Francis Hole

Henry Pearce Knapton

Townlet George l Blackwood Price

prior & convent of Cowick


bishop per lapse


king Henry 1v

king Henry 1v


prior & convent of Cowick

provost of Eton

abbot & convent of Tavistock



Francis earl of Bedford

bishop per lapse

Hugh Vaughan & Arnold Oldsworth by presentation of the earl of Bedford.

earl of Bedford




Thomas Hare

earl of Bedford

duchess of Bedford

duke of Bedford

duke of Bedford

duke of Bedford

duke of Bedford



revd. W.B. Doveton


Patrons the Misses Doveton.