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
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.
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
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
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
Stubtam sit peccatum perpetus reputatum;
Pro solo pomo perditur omnis homo;
Virgo deum peperit, sed qui quie
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."
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
Tablet: underneath are deposited the remains of John Cann
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
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
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
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
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
Henry le Mayne
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
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.