Joshua Brooking Rowe.

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vogue at that time, and formerly thought so desirable.

Up to 1830 the rural deans complain of the apathy of the
parishioners with reference to the state of the church; the
texts, which still survived, were in a bad state, the walls were
taking damp, clothes were dried in the yard.

In 1830 there were still some remains of ancient glass in
some of the windows ; although little, the rural deans said it
was worth preserving, and earnestly recommended that care
should be taken of it. All is now gone.

A vestry room is a want at the present time, and it was said
to be needed in 1830. It was then suggested that the ancient
** record " room, by which is meant the parvise over the south
porch, should be used for the purposes of meeting, and a
more inconvenient place and one more difficult of access could
not have been proposed.

In 1835 ^^^ rural dean complains of the condition of the
church, and very unwillingly the vestry appointed a corn-



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THE CHURCH: ITS HISTORY 269

mittee^ evidently to do as little as possible, and apparently
nothing was done. In 1839 £^^ ^^^ allowed for the repair of
the southern roof of the church, and the churchwarden was to
make such arrangement with regard to the sittings as might
appear most advisable. In 1836 the rural dean recommends that
the reading-desk should be supplied with a cushion or covering
of clothy as there was a want of decency in its bare appearance,
and in 1839 he recommends whitewashing the walls and paint-
ing the ironwork of the windows white. In 1842 some of the
pews were square, and the pulpit and desk were still in the
centre of the nave and not in the chancel as later. When
the Rev. C. K. Williams became the incumbent in 1845 he
suggested many improvements, and aided by an energetic
churchwarden, the late William Rowe, much good work was
done. On 13 June, 1845, the vestry resolved that it was desirable
that the pulpit and desk should be removed to the pew
occupied by the Rev. G. M. Scott, subject to the approval of
the Misses Scott and of the Rev. John Arscott, and a com-
mittee was appointed to obtain a specification and estimate of
expense and for erecting a new vane on the tower and repair-
ing pinnacles.

13 May, 1846 : ** Resolved unanimously (inter alia) that the
pulpit and reading-desk be removed from their present position
to the most easterly pillar on the northern side of the middle
aisle, that Plympton House pew be removed three feet towards
the west to make room for the same : that the Corporation
pews be placed at the upper end of the south side of the
middle aisle, one behind the other, extending east to west:
that the remaining space between them and the south aisle be
divided into two pews of equal width, and that the rest of the
pews in the body of the church be made of one uniform width :
that all the pews be reduced in height to three feet or there-
abouts: that the arches be cleaned from whitewash: that a
subscription be entered into for the purpose of defraying the
expense of the above alterations : and that the churchwardens
be empowered to have the pinnacle on which the vane stands
put into a proper state of repair, to erect a new vane, and to
make a rate in order to defray the expense of the same.''

This work was speedily taken in hand. Some pews were
altered and rearranged to enable the pulpit and reading-desk



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270 THE HISTORY OF PLYMPTON

to be removed from their then position to the eastern pillar
of the north arcade of the nave, the pews were all cut down
to a uniform height of three feet, and the arches and stone-
work were cleaned from whitewash. The whole of the
seats, which had apparently been erected without order or
plan, and which were of varying height and size, and facing in
all directions, were reconstructed, and as far as possible made
to look eastward and brought to a uniform level. This work
went on until 1849-50. Some difficulties and grumblings there
were with some parishioners, who had been accustomed to sit
in a particular seat, and had become used to their surround-
ings, and some insisted that if any alteration was made their
wishes as to the position of their pews should be complied
with, and consequently there were some square and large
enclosures left with seats all round them. Some looked due
west, and some, we remember, presented difficulties in attempt-
ing to enter. The floor was not touched. Unfortunately a good
deal of the old work in the church was got rid of, parts of the
screen for instance, but a beginning was made, and better
things were to follow.

In 1849-50 the church was replastered internally, and other
work done, the chancel roof removed, and a new open one
substituted with a new east window, the cost being defrayed by
voluntary contributions, besides the gift of the glass of the
window, the coloured glass being presented by the Rev. G. M.
and Mrs. Scott. In October, 1864, the Rev. Percy Nicolas
was appointed the perpetual curate, and at a meeting held in
the following February it was decided that the gallery in the
church should be taken down and the tower arch thrown open
to the church, the floor for the ringers being brought down.
We have no information as to the erection of this gallery, but
it probably dated from the early part of the eighteenth century.
It is referred to as containing seats in 1702. Latterly the
Sunday-school children sat there with their teachers, and the
clerk with his violin led the singing from that post of vantage.
Later the harmonium and the performer thereon occupied a
conspicuous position in it. It projected into the church as far
as and covering the first western arch and pillar, and it was
supported on wooden columns. It was a sad disfigurement
to the church, but of course any interference with it was



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THE CHURCH: ITS HISTORY 271

objected to by some, but its removal gave an impetus to the
further general improvement of the fabric. During Mr. Nicolas'
short tenure of the cure other important alterations were made,
especially at the east end. The altar was raised and the vaults
under the chancel were closed and carefully cemented down.
The small window on the south side of the sacrarium as also
the sedilia and aumbry in the south wall, which were all
plastered up, were opened up.

In 1869-70, when the Rev. Roger Smith became rector, the
roof of the nave was reconstructed, and the old plastered ceiling
and chicket windows were destroyed. This work was un-
fortunately undertaken too soon. It was weak and poor in the
extreme and badly executed. The roof removed in 1870 was
the one put up, as we have seen, in 1753. The roofs of the
parvise over the south porch, and of the west portion of the
south aisle, which were quite decayed, were also put in some
order, and a carved pitch-pine screen between the nave and
the ground floor of the tower, the space being utilized as a
choir vestry, was erected. The doors of the seats were also
removed, and the internal walls of the tower attended to, and
other minor improvements carried out. During the time the
alterations were going on the congregation attended at the
church of St. Mary's. In the rectorship of the Rev. Maitland
Kelly, who succeeded the Rev. Roger Smith, there was an
alteration of the seats in the chancel for the accommodation of
the choir, the gift of the font, the rehanging of the bells,
improvements in the tower and churchyard, and the purchase
of an organ ; but besides these things, very good work was
done by Mr. Kelly in paving the way for the restoration of the
fabric on a definite plan. Mr. John D. Sedding was consulted
by Mr. Kelly as to the proper mode of dealing with the
church, and a preliminary survey and a report made, and
plans were prepared, which in the main were afterwards
adopted. In consequence, however, of the appointment of
the rector to the vicarage of Salcombe, little progress was
made. As a memorial of the esteem in which the Rev. Mait-
land Kelly was held, choir stalls were placed in the chancel
in 1877, when the Rev. Henry Tubal Hole had become the
rector.

From 1849 to the time at which we have now arrived about



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272 THE HISTORY OF PLYMPTON

a thousand pounds had been spent about and in connexion
with the churchy the voluntary contributions and gifts of the
parishioners and congregation and their friends. The work
done included the reconstruction of the seats in 1849 ; in 1851
the new chancel roof and repairs to the windows ; in 1866 the
repair of the clock and new dials; in 1867 the sedilia, credence,
and repair of windows ; in 1869-70 the new roofing of the
nave and other work ; in 1871 the repair of some windows and
the churchyard entrance; in 1872-3 a new granite font, and
later a cover; in 1874, the bells had attention paid to them after
much neglect, and in the same year the tower and churchyard
walls were repaired. Besides these, from time to time the
purchase of an harmonium, later on of an organ, and of other
necessaries involved the outlay of considerable sums of money.
When the Rev. Henry Tubal Hole became rector in January,
1877, he at once threw himself with great energy into the
work of the complete restoration of the church, actively aided
by the churchwardens, Messrs. William J. Woollcombe
and William Ruston. A committee was formed to raise the
required amount, and the late John D. Sedding completed
his plans. These plans, which were adopted, necessitated a
considerable amount of work, occupying much time and
involving the raising of a large sum of money. The church
was reseated, the old floors, parts of which were very rough
and much worn, were relaid with tiles, the floor slate being
carefully relaid, the roofs of the chancel and the aisles were
opened up, the bosses were repaired and refixed, new ones
replacing those that had decayed or had been lost, the greater
part of the old woodwork of these roofs being preserved ;
the north aisle was extended to form a priests' vestry behind
the organ, choir-stalls were placed in the chancel, and the
chancel brought out to its proper extent. All this and much
more was done, and the church, now it was hoped approaching
what it was when the fifteenth-century architect viewed his
finished work, was reopened on Tuesday in Easter week, 1879,
when the Bishop of Exeter, Dr. Frederick Temple, preached,
and afterwards attended a luncheon, which was provided in
the Guildhall. The seating has now been completed by
substituting benches all over the church instead of chairs,
which were used in some parts ; the chapel of St Maurice



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THE CHURCH: ITS HISTORY 273

, has returned to its former use, and proves a useful place for
the worship of small congregations; coronse for lighting
instead of the old upright standards were given, and many other
smaller matters attended to. Besides these, much has been
done to the screen, but it and the parclose screens are still
incomplete. It is impossible to estimate the total cost of these,
for the gifts were in many cases anonymous. The most recent
work has been the complete restoration of the roof of the nave,
which has recently proved to be in a very bad condition, the
slating being poor and the timber decaying. In 1905 the
churchwardens, fearing accidents, resolved to replace it with
an entirely new one in harmony with the roofs of the aisles.
This has just (August, 1906) been completed. The roof is a
very handsome one, with bosses beautifully carved and gilded.
The five bosses nearest the chancel are : i, the Blessed Virgin
Mary; 2, the arms of Redvers, Gu.^ a lion rampant^ or; 3,
the arms of Plympton Priory ; 4, the arms of John Brackley ;
and 5, the arms of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The cost has been about ;^500. Many minor things, it is
hoped, may be provided for the church as time goes on, but
the most pressing, and which many of the parishioners hope to
see completed at no very distant date, are : (i) The rendering
dry of the chancel walls and their decoration; and (2) the
completion of the screen and parclose screens with the inside
vaultings and the rood and attendant figures.



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CHAPTER VI

THE CLERGY AND CHURCH OFFICERS
THE BENEFICE

Services before the dissolution of Plympton Priory — Taxation of Pope Nicholas IV
— First named minister, 1550— His successors to present time — ^The church
under the Commonwealth — Alteration of boundaries — List of clergy — The
registers — The Custodts CapeUet — Church rates — ^The churchwardens 1331-1906
— Grant of the benefice to the dean and canons of Windsor— Lease to the
mayor, bailiff, and burgesses — Income of living.

OUR readers will have noticed that there is no reference
whatever in the lists of possessions of the owners of the
honour, manor, or castle to the church or benefice. The
advowson or patronage appears to have been always vested in
the monks of Plympton, for there is no record of its having
been given to the religious house, and it may have come at
a very remote period from the Lord of Plympton to the
monastery, and we believe belonged to the monastery of
Plymentum in Saxon times before the Conquest (see chapter i).
In early times it was a parish church, as we have before shown,
and in course of time, no doubt from its nearness to the
priory, it was found convenient that all divine offices re-
quired in it should be provided by the canons themselves
and not by a resident minister, and so up to the time of the
dissolution the services at the church were performed by
canons from the priory or by priests sent by them. Beyond
what we have already said, we have no information as to when
in early days the church became parochial, or when it ceased
to be so, as happened later.

In the Taxatio Ecclesiastica of Pope Nicholas IV, ia88,
Plympton is taxed at £ja ^* 8d., the tenths being £,z 6s. 8d.
and we find in the Valor Ecclesiasticus, the survey of 27 Henry
VIII, 1535, the remitting of the first-fruits and tenths to the

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CLERGY AND CHURCH OFFICERS 275

Pope having ceased, that the priory of St Peter and St. Paul,
Plympton, was possessed of the ^' Capella de Plymptan Thomas
in decanatu de Plymptan in diocesi predicta^ ^^ Capella ibidem
valet per annum in omnibus decimis et oblacionibus predicte
capelle pertinentibus -X*."

John How surrendered the priory of Plympton i March, 1539.
What provision was made for the spiritual work done up to
this time by himself and his brethren the canons, in the
various parishes and chapelries belonging to them, we do not
know. Although served from the priory, it is very probable
that at Plympton there was a priest in charge, for we find that
after the grant to the dean and canons of Windsor there was
a priest's house here, for the repairs of which the college
allowed 20s. per annum, as well as 6s. 8d. for the bread and
wine yearly. No doubt these were the old and accustomed
payments by the priory. It was also stated in 1564 that the
curates were wont of old time to serve for £6 13s. 4d. a year.
This sum, with the rents of the lands of the chantry chapel,
which the priest serving the church might have also held,
would, with the offerings of the faithful, make up a fair sum
for the delegate of the prior and canons in the church of
Plympton and the chantry chapel of St. Maurice.

We begin our list of clergy in 1550, when we have the first
mention by name of a minister in Plympton. This was
William Shirwell, who was appointed probably by the Crown,
as he was at Plympton at the time of the dissolution and
serving as the chantry priest of the chapel of St Maurice in
the church, receiving the £^ 15s. 8d., the rents of the land
given by John Brackley, and it may be, as just suggested, he
was also the priest of the parish, a further stipend being paid
him by the priory. He was receiving a pension of £/^ a year
as the last incumbent of the shrine in the church up to 1555-^.
What this shrine was we do not know. This is the only
reference to it we have found. We are inclined to think that
it is an error, and, waiting further information, that by the
word shrine is meant the tomb of John Brackley, who was, with
members of his family, probably buried in the chapel. In
1664, from a document we shall quote further on in this
chapter, it would seem that the dean and canons of Windsor
complained that they were paying ;f 10 a year for the priest's



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276 THE HISTORY OF PLYMPTON

wages, and they say that Plympton Maurice is more in charge
by the year than it is worth by 40s. , that is to say, it would
appear that the patrons received £8 only from the tithes and
paid out ;f 10.

Roger Bennett, who signs as witness to the will of William
Wolcomb, of Holland, dated 12 December, 1570, was Shir-
well's successor, and calls himself curate of Plympton. Daniel
Notherell, who followed, also styles himself curate in 1585, so
signing the first register book, the original of which is now
lost. A David Notherell was vicar of Egg Buckland in 1565,
and in the seventeenth century there was a Daniel Notherell,
described as a brewer of Plymouth, who was possessed of
land in or near Plympton.

David Cowbridge followed. He was curate certainly not
later than 1600, and apparently was the minister for thirty-five
years at the least From 1616, when on the sth of April in that
year he commences the new book with the baptism of Patience,
the daughter of Richard Elwill, to 1634, ^^^ whole of the
entries in the first register book are in his neat handwriting.
If any judgment of his work as a minister can be formed from
his care and nicety in this the only knowledge we have of the
man, we may conclude he faithfully discharged his duties.
Every entry is carefully made, and at the end of each year
with unfEiiling regularity we have, **p m^, David Cambridge^
Cleric.^^ His last entry, like his first, was a baptism, Blanche,
the daughter of Gilbert Drue, on 20 March, 1634, ^^^ con-
cluding the year, but the usual signature is wanting, and on
turning to the burials we find, ^^ Mr. David Cowbridge^ Cleric^
died the xix day of May^ and Tvas buried the xxiind^ 1635," ^^
written as to be conspicuous on the page, and then, strangely
enough, follows the entry of the burial of little Blanche Drue,
whom he had baptized so shortly before.

William Gibbs, who succeeded Cowbridge, was a Plympton
man. His father, also William, resided here, and obtained a
lease of the tithes. He went to Oxford at the age of sixteen,
matriculating from Exeter College 28 May, 1624 ; B.A.,
27 February, 1627-8; m.a., 3 June, 1630. We do not know
when he came to Plympton, but he was here but a short time.
His last entry in the registers is under date 29 July, 1640, and
he was instituted to the rectory of Ipplepen 4 September



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CLERGY AND CHURCH OFFICERS 277

following, on the presentation of Christopher Cloberry. How he
£ared here we do not know, but at Ipplepen he had a troubled
time. In a terrier of the parish he records that ^'in Cromwell's
days we were plundered of all our sacred and precious utensils."
Walker (** Sufferings of Clergy ") says that he was driven from
the living by the Parliament party, and it was thought they
would have murdered him could they have caught him. He
left Ipplepen for St. Goran soon after his return to his old
parish in 1660.

William Collins came next, but remained for a short time
only, as we find so soon after as 1642 the name and the beautiful
handwriting of Abraham Bull in the registers, and signing as
minister. Gibbs and Collins styled themselves pastors, and
Bull follows their example. They were all three beautiful
writers. Very soon, however, there appears to have been trouble.
The writing of the minister is intermittent, and others seem to
have intruded on his work. In 1650 we find that the ruling
faction had taken note of Plympton St Maurice, and that Bull
was not in charge of the parish, but that James Burdwood was
in possession. Puritanism was now triumphant and rampant,
and what happened, it is presumed, in every parish happened
at Plympton. The Directory for Public Worship was pushed
through both the Assembly and Parliament with much speed,
in order that it might be presented to the King as an enacted
and completed whole.^ On 17 April, 1645, the Commons re-
solved that an ordinance should be forthwith brought in for
introducing into every church and chapel in England, Wales,
and Berwick-on-Tweed the Directory for Public Worship, for
its continual use, and for abolishing the Book of Common
Prayer, with penalties for using the latter and neglecting the
former. Indeed, in its first form the measure was proposed to
enact that all persons speaking or writing against this Directory
were, after the third warning, to suffer the loss of all their goods
and perpetual imprisonment This was, however, thought even
by the Commons a little too strong, and the penalty was modi-
fied. In Devon, as well as in all other counties, bodies called
Committees of Parliament were in existence. To this Committee
the knights of the shire and the members for the various towns

> Shaw, "English Church," 1640-60, I, p. 354. Perry, "Church History,'^
II, p. 466.



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278 THE HISTORY OF PLYMPTON

were to forward printed copies of the Directory fairly bound up
in leather. The Committee were then to send the same to the
constables or other officers in each parish land, who within a
week were to deliver the books to the ministers there. The
inhabitants of the parish were to pay for the Directory, and
the minister was to use it on the next Lord's day after its
receipt, and any person detected in using or causing to be
used the Book of Common Prayer in public or private, in a
church or chapel, or in family worship, for the first offence was
to be fined five pounds, for the second ten pounds, and for the
third to suffer a year's imprisonment. All books of Common
Prayer were to be collected and delivered by the churchwardens
or constable of the respective parishes to the Committee of each
county, to be destroyed.

This condition of things evidently produced great confusion.
From 1647 to 1652 there are but few entries in our registers ;
four burials only in 1647, seven in 1648, and one in 1649, three
in 1650, two in 1651, and one in 1652.

The following inquisition tells us of the troubles of James
Burdwood in the matter of his salary. The lease of the tithes
was in lay hands, and still running. Mr. Hele refused to
assist, but the trustees of Elize Hele, who were Maynard and
Stert, were paying Burdwood ;f 10 per annum, how or why it
does not appear. The suggestions for alterations in the
boundaries of the parishes are curious.

An Inquisition indented taken at Plympton in the said County of
Devon the four and twentieth day of October Anno Domini One
thousand six hundred and fifty Before Phillip Crocker, ChdferMartyn»
Phillip Frances, William Woolacombe, Nicholas Rowe, Walter Sterte
and Richard Pearse Esquires, by virtue of a Commission under the
Great Seal of England hereunto annexed unto them and others
directed by the Oathes of Mayne Snooke [Swete] of Modbury Gentle-
man, Thomas Pearse of Ermington, John Pearse of the same, John
Andrew of the same, Henry Cliffe of the same, Leonard Fords of
Ugborough, John Forde of the same, Gent, John Lavers of Corne-
wood, Richard Turpyn of the same, Richard Pearse of Yealmpton,
John Pearse of the same, Richard Avent of Brixton, Nathaniell
Rider of Wcmbury Gent, John Jesham of Shawe Gent, James Merige
of Plimstocke Gent, Daniel Shute of Yealmpton and Henry Hoibeton
of Revelstock : who say upon their oathes That in the parish of



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CLERGY AND CHURCH OFFICERS 279

Plympton M orrice both the Sheafe and small tithes are impropriated
and are in the whole worth fourteen pounds six shillings and eight
pence yearly. And that Arthur Ferryman Esquire is the present
proprietor of the said Sheafe by virtue of a lease from the Deane and
Chapter of the house of Winsor for certain years yet to come : And that
Simon Hele, Gent, is the present proprietor of the small tithes there,
worth thirteen pounds six shillings and eight pence yearly, by virtue
of a lease from the Deane and Chapter made to one Gibbs and others
for certain years yet to come and unexpired under the yearly rent of
twenty six shillings and eight pence to the said house of Winsor:
And that the present Incumbent there is Mr James Burdwood, placed



Online LibraryJoshua Brooking RoweA history of the borough of Plympton Erle: the castle and manor of Plympton ... → online text (page 25 of 37)