Colebrooke Church History

Introduction.

Just under 50 years ago in the constant pursuit of fundraising for the upkeep of the Church, a little booklet was published priced 1/6d (71/2p) entitled “The History of the Church and Parish of St. Andrews, Colebrooke”. This excellent little book was researched and written by Rev. Vyvyan Hope M.A. F.S.A. Rev. Hope who at that time had recently retired from Radley College, was secretary of Friends of Exeter Cathedral and Cathedral Receiver. He was an acknowledged authority on monumental brasses, heraldry and church architecture, and was devoting much of his time to the fabric and history of his beloved Cathedral. His sister Miss E. Hope had lived at Waterleat, Penstone for many years, and had served as secretary on the Parochial Church Council. Rev. Hope would spend some of his holidays from College at Waterleat, and it was during these vacations he became interested in the Church, and the Parish as a whole. Some of the P.C.C. Minutes are in his handwriting. He died after a long, fruitful “retirement” in 1976 at the age of 88.

It was with this background, that we approached (with some trepidation), the task of, what is best described as “updating” the Rev. Hope’s booklet. The greater part of his work will remain as before with additions and deletions as necessary. There is also another 50 years of Parish and Church fabric changes to describe. Although since 1993 Copplestone is no longer a part of our Parish we have decided to retain all the references to it, and the Coplestone family, whose history is inextricably linked with Colebrooke.

June 2002.

THE CHURCH AND PARISH OF ST. ANDREW, COLEBROOKE DEVON 

It is nearly fifty years since the Rev. Isidore Daimpre, a former Vicar, published “A Short Account of the Church and Parish of St. Andrew, Colebrooke”, copies of which are now unobtainable. But a building so full of interest as this one merits a detailed and up-to-date guide, and it is hoped that the following pages will prove useful to parishioners and visitors who wish to study its architecture and history. Some notes on the parish have been added. Those who buy copies of this little book may like to know that the whole of the proceeds will go to the Church Funds.

October 1952.

St. Andrew’s Church Colebrooke 

THE DEDICATION 

In the past, books of reference have variously named St. Mary, St. Thomas-a-Becket and St. Andrew as Patron Saints of the Church, but a fifteenth-century will seem to settle the matter in favour of the last-named, for on 8th June 1418, one Thomas Reymound left “XXs. for the fabric fund of the Church of St. Andrew at Colebrooke”, and the Church is known by this title nowadays.

THE HISTORY OF THE BUILDING 

First Stage: Twelfth Century 

The earliest known reference to the Church occurs in a letter written to King Henry II by Bartholomew, who was Bishop of Exeter 1162-84. In this, the Bishop claimed the patronage of the living, though Alexander de Colebrooke, Knight, who held the manor under the Bishop, had tried to wrest the benefice from him and transfer it to the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. The Bishop, while allowing the Prior and Brethren to receive ten shillings a year from the Church, a payment which was continued until the Reformation, appropriated the living to his Chapter of Exeter. (There was no Dean until the office was created by Bishop Briwere some fifty years later). Thus the Church became in due course a `peculiar’ of the Dean and Chapter, and, as such, was outside Episcopal jurisdiction, until most peculiars were abolished in the middle of the nineteenth century.

From traces which remain it is possible to picture what the building was like in the time of Bishop Bartholomew. In the south wall of the nave, on the outside, there can be seen, between the tower and the south transept, the signs of four arches which once formed an arcade between the nave and a south aisle. They are of primitive construction, suggestive of early Norman work. Inside, the transitional Norman arch near the pulpit shows that a south transept existed before the present one.

So this early church probably followed the normal plan, being cruciform, with a narrow nave, a short chancel, transepts, aisles and probably a west tower.

Second Stage: c. 1320 

About a century later the building was in poor condition, for Visitations of 1281 and 1301 reported it as badly roofed, with a small mean chancel in need of repair. This state of affairs was, however, soon remedied for a third Visitation of 1330 reported “an adequate chancel and the whole church well roofed”. Again, enough remains to enable us to picture the building as it then stood.

The south aisle had gone and the arcade was filled up. There was a nave, well lit by windows in the early Decorated style, as the two west of the porch show, an enlarged chancel with similar windows, and a south transept rebuilt as a chantry chapel. The lower stages of the present tower may have been built at this time. What had happened to the north aisle and transept, if they ever existed, is a matter of conjecture.

Third Stage: Fifteenth Century

The third and final stage in the development of the building occurred in the middle of the fifteenth century when the north aisle and the Coplestone chantry were built in the Perpendicular style, with an arcade of five arches between them and the nave and chancel. To this period belong also the upper stages of the tower and the east window of the chancel.

THE EXTERIOR OF THE BUILDING 

Outside the church, the visitor should notice in the south wall the arcade mentioned above, most of it to the west of the porch, but with one arch between that and the transept.

On the south wall of the south transept, there are two small incisions in the stone. One is the monogram jihs (for Jesus), the other a small cross with four equal arms.

The large yew tree nearby was planted in 1795 over the grave of John Sillifant of Combe.

On the south side of the chancel there is a priest’s door and below it a stone, once clearly the top of a tomb, which may have come from one of the recesses in the transept. Above the door on some of the guttering can be seen the date 1879. This was when the Ecclesiastical Commissioners completed an extensive restoration of the Chancel.

The dripstone of the east window of the chancel ends in two corbels with shields. The southern one bears the present arms of the See of Exeter, a sword surmounted by two keys in saltire. The other has two keys addorsed in bend, between them a sword in bend sinister. These were the old arms of the See of Exeter which began to be superseded by the present ones soon after the middle of the fifteenth century.

North of the chancel we notice the east window of the aisle with its beautiful tracery, which can be seen better outside than from within. There is one very like it at Broad Clyst in exactly the same position. Probably these are instances of a custom, not uncommon in Devon, of continuing in the fifteenth century the use of motifs normally associated with fourteenth-century work. Around the corner, in the North Wall of the Church, we find a disused doorway leading to the Coplestone Aisle. The remains of an old chimney can also be seen. This part of the churchyard with graves dating from 1880-1920 was the last part of the “old yard” to be used, before the site of a line of cottages destroyed by fire in 1893, was incorporated into the western side of the churchyard. In a lithograph of 1840 by William Spreat, a path can be seen beside the North Wall extending the entire length of the Church.

Finally, we come to the tower, of which the lower stages may belong to the rebuilding of the fourteenth century, for the west window, before it was replaced late in the nineteenth century by the present one, is said to have resembled those in the nave. The upper stages are probably late fifteenth century, but the whole was thoroughly restored in 1674, as the Churchwardens’ Accounts show, and this date, and the initials R.C., are carved on the mouldings of the doorway. (The names of Richard Cheriton, who provided ropes and cradle, and Robert Clarke, who “helped the masons” occur in the accounts).

The first clock was installed in 1659 and over the years has undergone much restoration. In 1953 surplus funds from the Coronation were used to re-gild the face. Again in 1976, the face was completely restored courtesy of Mr. Harold Pennington in memory of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. W. Pennington of Horwell Barton. In recent years it has received a new synthetic face. In 2001, while undergoing repairs, it was brought into the 21st century with the fitting of an automatic winding mechanism.

The sundial, on the South Face of the Tower, by Hems of Exeter dated 1889, was the gift of Charles Turner. Charles’s father James, who died in 1899 at the age of 88, had been a stonemason in the parish for over 60 years. His “signature” can still be seen on many of the 19th-century headstones in the churchyard.

For some centuries, according to the Churchwardens’ Accounts, the church was entirely roofed with oak shingles, but on 8th April 1844, it was decided that all further repairs should be done in slate, and the roof is now wholly of that material. It was reslated by public subscription in 1985.

THE INTERIOR OF THE BUILDING 

The Nave 

On entering the Church by the south porch (noticing there the remains of a holy-water stoup in the right-hand wall by the door), we see the roof which throughout the Church, and also in the porch, is of the cradle type, though in the chancel the plaster was replaced in 1879 by boarding. There are many beautiful fifteenth-century bench ends, earlier and less ornate than most of those in the county. Although they have passed through various vicissitudes, having been incorporated into horse-box pews for about a couple of centuries until the restoration of 1895, they are in a wonderfully good state of preservation. No traces can be seen of the Gallery which was erected across the Western ends of the Nave and the North Aisle in 1832. This was also removed during the restoration of 1895. The date 1696 on the back of a pew in the nave near the south transept marks the making of a seat for Mr. John Pidsley, of Great Wotton, whose son was a benefactor to the parish. A tablet to members of the family is on the wall above. Near this seat is a `squint’ through which the altar in the side chapel could be seen.

The South Transept 

The south transept, or Horwell aisle as it is called from the estate with which it now goes, was probably built by Sir Walter de Bathe, lord of the manor, early in the fourteenth century when he founded the chantry, of which the charter still exists.

In the east wall is a piscina with the bowl now blocked up, its height showing that at some restoration the floor level has been raised about a foot. There are canopied recesses under the south window, marking the sites of two tombs, probably those of Sir Walter and his wife. The much-defaced stone in the westernmost recess bears an inscription to Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Poyntingdon, of Pennicot in Shobrooke, 1627, and their infant daughter, Elizabeth. At the foot is a shield bearing: (argent) a bend (gules) between six fleurs-de-lis (vert) (Poyntingdon), impaling: per fess (sable and argent) three lions rampant (counterchanged) (Yonge, of Colebrooke).

There is a squint in this chapel through which the chancel altar can be seen. In the pillar near it were found the two grotesque heads now lying in the transept. They were probably corbels in the Norman building. The organ possibly of 18th-century origin now situated in the entrance has occupied various positions in the Church, including it would appear, centre spot in the ill-fated Gallery. The tapestry depicting “The Last Supper” hanging on the East Wall was executed by the late Mr. Harold Pennington of Horwell Barton, a former churchwarden. The beautiful stained glass window in the South Wall depicting “The Resurrection”, was a gift from Mrs. Frances Norrish of Horwell in memory of her husband Samuel who died in 1888.

The Chancel 

Leaving the transept, we notice on our right the modern pulpit presented in 1903 by Mrs. Frances G. Norrish. Opposite to it, on the north side, can be seen the mahogany one which it replaced, now used as a lectern. For this one John Davey was paid £22. 14s. 0d. in 1805, the year in which the screen and “partition” were removed. With them went what was probably a fifteenth-century pulpit.

Close by, and now used by the Vicar, are the interesting seat and desk which were once in the Coplestone Chantry. On the west or nave, side of the seat may be seen the arms of the Coplestone family, which also occur on the west side of the capital just above, namely: (argent) a chevron engrailed (gules) between three leopards’ heads (azure). On the side of the desk is the figure of a wild man holding a shield bearing: (argent) a gorges or whirlpool (azure), the arms of the Gorges family. These arms date the desk approximately, for Philip Coplestone, who held the Coplestone estate from 1457-73, married Anne Bonville whose mother Leva was daughter and heir of John Gorges, of Tamerton, Esquire.

Immediately above this desk can be seen a door-shaped opening in the wall, which once gave access to the rood-loft. This doorway and some marks in the roof immediately over the pulpit, showing where there was once a window throwing light on the rood, are the only remaining signs of the screen which formerly spanned the chancel at this spot. As is the case in many Devon churches, there is no chancel arch.

The space above the screen must have been completely filled with a tympanum, such as can still be seen at Molland and Parracombe in North Devon, for on 26th August 1773, the parishioners resolved that “we do agree to take down the Partition between the Church and Chancel and to remove the King’s Arms to some other part of the Church”. Thirty-two years later, on 18th August 1805, they obtained a faculty to remove the screen, on the ground that “it much darkens the church”.

The altar rails are probably those made by George Davey in 1739, for which he was paid £11. They were originally placed around three sides of the altar with seats along the north and south walls (and hat`pins’ above), and this arrangement continued almost to within living memory. They have now been restored to the memory of David Gill Thornburgh, Major (ret’d), 13th Frontier Force Rifles. 1911-1981 late of Waterleat.

The present altar and reredos with the representation of the Day of Pentecost, were erected in 1896 in memory of Francis Synge Sillifant, replacing a simple Jacobean Communion Table, now in the Coplestone Aisle, for which one Leonard Reeve was paid the small sum of 19s. in 1640. It is said that Mrs. Sillifant, the donor of the reredos, desired that the figures should represent her family and friends, she appears as the Virgin Mary and her late husband as one of the Apostles, while a friend was shown as Mary Magdalene, and the Vicar, Isidore Daimpre, and the Rector of Kenn also appeared.

An interesting alms-dish was brought from Damascus and presented to the Church in 1921 by Major C. H. Calmady-Hamlyn, then owner of the Whelmstone and Paschoe estates in the parish. Such dishes are said by experts to have been produced at Augsburg and Nuremberg in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for use in international trade. The inscription consists of repetitions of meaningless groups of letters used for purely decorative purposes. This dish is no longer on display for security reasons.

Of the monuments in the Church, the best is to be seen on the north wall of the Chancel. It is to Elizabeth, the wife of Sir John Coryton, Bart., 1677. She was the daughter of John Mills and Ann Yonge, and by her marriage, the manor went to the family of Coryton, of Pentillie, in Cornwall. The monument shows the following arms: (argent) a saltire (sable) (Coryton); (ermine) a mill-rind pierced (sable) (Mills), and Yonge, of Colebrooke (as in the south transept). Also on the North Wall of the Chancel is a large 19th century memorial to the Sillifant family of Coombe, parts of which are incorporated in a monument erected to the memory of Caroline Sillifant, which stands in a field at Coombe, about 150 yards west of the Punchbowl recycling tip.

On the south wall are two plainer monuments dated 1666 and 1659 to Margaret and Ann, daughters of John Burrington of West Sandford. One of them has two crowned skulls, and each shows the arms of Burrington on a lozenge, viz.: quarterly (sable and ermine), on a bend (argent) three roundels (pellets). In Brissett’s contemporary Calendar of Arms in Cornwall and Devon, the quarters and the tinctures of the bend and the roundels are reversed. Also in the South Wall, we find a stained glass window depicting “The Last Judgement”, in memory of John Woolcombe Sillifant of Coombe. On the floor of the Chancel are to be found many inscriptions, including one Mary Pidsley (late of Great Wotton), who died in 1824 aged 65. She was probably the last person to be interred in the Church.

The Coplestone Aisle 

Leaving the Chancel and passing through the parclose screen on the north side, we find ourselves in the Coplestone Chantry Chapel, or Aisle as it is usually called. This Aisle, which was used as a Vestry for many years, underwent a major restoration in the 1960’s. In the PCC minutes of that time, we read that a letter was received from Mrs. Pope & her daughters, requesting permission to “convert the present Vestry into a Chapel” to commemorate the death of her husband, William Pope D.S.O. Commander R.N., of Copplestone House in 1958. Part of the Faculty obtained for this restoration states that it is proposed “to furnish the Chapel with the original Jacobean Altar which is to be restored to tone with the oak of the screen” & ” to introduce on the restored Altar a cross & candlesticks with elliptical bases & at the top of the candlesticks, cups to catch the grease from dripping candles”. The Aisle was probably built c. 1460 by Philip Coplestone, and the Chantry was founded by his younger brother, Walter, in memory of their father, John, who died in 1457. According to Oliver, it was suppressed before the time of the Reformation by Philip’s grandson, another John Coplestone, and one William Snellyng without the King’s licence.

The chapel has a door in the north wall, and a fireplace with chimney, the latter a somewhat unusual feature dating probably from the second half of the sixteenth century when the chapel was used as the Coplestone family pew. Originally, of course, there was an altar, and behind the plaster a piscina is hidden. On the south side are signs of what has variously been called a leper’s or a low side window. It would be rash to dogmatize as to its purpose, but it may be said that if the present recess, with its four-centred head, is any indication of its original shape, then the window is probably not earlier than the Chapel, and so was never in an outside wall. In 1815, a faculty was granted for the transfer of the `aisle’ from the holders of four different parts of the original Coplestone estate, namely Coplestone Barton, Broomhill, Furzedowns and Beers, to Mr. Calmady Pollexfen Hamlyn who owned the Paschoe and Whelmstone estates and whose family was connected with the Coplestones by marriage.

The Screen 

The most striking feature of this chantry, and perhaps of the whole church, is the very beautiful screen on its south and west sides. It is of an unusual type and is thought to date from the early part of the sixteenth century. The workmanship is definitely foreign and resembles very closely the screenwork of some of the Brittany churches, such as that at St. Fiacre-le-Faouet. Screens at Coldridge and Brushford in the neighbourhood show a similar style, and it has been suggested that a Breton carver may have settled in the district and made all three. In 1977, following an application to “The Council for Places of Worship Conservation Committee”, a grant of £1000 was obtained towards the cost of restoring the screen, the condition of which had been “causing concern”. The work was carried out by Herbert Reed of Tiverton, specialists in this field. At the same time, a small grant from the same source enabled repairs to be carried out to the lid of the font.

The North Nave Aisle

Passing westward through the screen, we see the pillars and capitals of the arcade resembling many of those found in the south of the county which are made of Beer stone and were probably shop-wrought. Above the arcade are boards recording various charities, and, on the floor, an inscription, the oldest in the church, to the John Coplestone, mentioned above, 1457, and Catherine his wife, 1447. On one of the bench-ends in this aisle the carving has been begun but never finished, being left thus, it is thought, as a memorial to a carver who died before he could complete the work.

Carved on the westernmost capital of the arcade is the head of an animal. It would be difficult to say what it represents. It is not the Coplestone crest, for that is a demi-leopard and not just a head.

The Font 

Nearby, in the nave, is the fifteenth-century font with the staple and hinge fastening of an early lid still to be seen. The notable cover, surmounted by a winged angel in amice and girdled alb, is thought to be Jacobean. On one side amongst various gouge marks, can be discerned the date 1832, the year the Gallery was erected. The font then occupied a position near the North Aisle. It reverted to its present position in 1895.

The Bells

In 1553 the Church Goods Commissioners reported “iiij belles in the towre their” but another was soon added, for the oldest bell, the present fourth, bears the inscription: Thomas Pennington new cast us five the XX day of July 1627. When the peal was increased to five bells, the four original bells were transported to Pennington’s Bell Foundry in Paul Street Exeter for recasting. The sum of £1-15-4 was paid for “carriage of bells to Exer and backe againe”. The earlier inscriptions on these bells have in some cases been recorded. The peal was increased to six in 1887, when Mr. A. O. Sillifant, of Combe, added a new treble. On this occasion, the work, which also involved recasting the tenor bell, was carried out by Warner of Cripplegate, the firm who had cast Big Ben earlier in the century. The last major work on the bells was done in 1934. A plaque in the Tower states “The six bells were rehung with ball bearings and the second and fifth bells recast in 1934 by Mears & Stainbank”.

Treble. Cast 1887. Warner. 

2nd. Cast 1627. Pennington. 

Recast 1664. Pennington. 

Recast 1676. Purdue. 

Recast 1934. Mears and Stainbank. 

3rd. Cast 1627. Pennington.

Recast 1854. Pannell. 

4th, Cast 1627. Pennington. 

5th. Cast 1627. Pennington. 

Recast 1751. Bilbie. 

Recast 1934. Mears and Stainbank. 

Tenor. Cast 1627. Pennington. 

Recast 1787. Bilbie. 

Recast 1887. Warner. 

The Registers, etc. 

The Registers date from 1558 and are complete to the present day, except for the period 1605-22, and for part of the Commonwealth Interregnum when entries were few and irregular.

An interesting entry records that in 1678 one Ellen Hooper was buried “but not in woollen because ye Act was unknown to us”. An Act had been passed in 1666 with the object of encouraging the woollen trade, but it was not rigorously enforced, and the entry must refer to the later one of 1678 which laid down that “no corpse (except those who die of the plague) shall be buried . . . in any stuff or thing other than what is made of sheep’s wool only”. Affidavits showing that the law had been obeyed had to be given to the Vicar within eight days of burial. Three years after this entry the parish bought a copy of the Act.

Elsewhere in the Register, two notes have been added in a later hand, both in Latin, of which the following are translations:

In 1643: In the following years until 1660 the Civil War raged; and, after the 1648 entries: King Charles crowned with martyrdom, 30th January, 1748 (i.e. 1749, new style).

Thomas Stambury, who was Parish Clerk from 1725-44, describing himself as “ye Philomath”, added some notes on benefactors to the poor, and on memorials to members of the Coplestone family.

Except for the Registers in daily use, all earlier Registers up to about 1970, can be found in the Devon Record Office, where most have been converted to microfiche format and are available for inspection at any time.

Also to be found at the Devon Record Office are an unusually complete and detailed set of Churchwardens Accounts.

The Accounts for 1598-1737 were discovered in the Exeter Cathedral Library about 60 years ago and were excellently transcribed by Mr. Percy Morris, F.S.A. Those from 1737 onwards are mostly in original condition but very interesting. Many details in the above account of the Church have been obtained from these sources.

The Communion Plate

The four-piece Communion set is the gift of John Sillifant, Esq., of Coombe, who died in 1844.

It is said to be an almost exact copy of earlier plate, given in memory of William Pidsley in 1752, which was sold and taken to Canada.

It consists of two Georgian style Chalices, parcel-gilt inside each bowl numbered 126 & 127, each weighing 10oz 4dwt., (310g). One Paten, number 999, weighing 10oz, (310g). One tankard style flagon number 125, weighing 30oz 12dwt.(950g). All items are engraved “Colebrook Devon. The gift of John Sillifant of Coombe A.D. 1848 Christmas”, and the marks EJWB (E.J.and W. Barnard) and the hallmarks for London 1848. There is also a much earlier silver Collection Plate, hallmarked Exeter 1738/39 weighing 7oz, (220g). The history of this Plate is uncertain but it could possibly have Pidsley connections.

The Church also possesses an interesting lithophane (or picture in porcelain) of the Ascension, in which the effects of light and shade are produced by the varying thickness of the material when it is held up to the light or has a candle placed behind it. The process was invented in 1827 by one M. Burgoin, of Paris, who sold the methods and formula to potters in England, Holland and Germany. The Colebrooke example seems to have come from the last-named country, for the iron frame which holds it has, on the shafts of its Gothic canopy and on the sides of its hexagonal base, figures of angels and saints with the names of towns, mostly German, below them. The picture measures 12 in. by 6 in. and probably belongs to the period 1830-40. It was the gift of one George Arscott, a memorial to whose brother, Frederick, dated 1925, can be seen on the wall of the north aisle. These items are no longer on display for security reasons.

List Of Vicars

c.1170 Paganus 

 William de Bisenam 

1280 Alanus 

1283 William de Churitone 

Before 1330 Sir Adam 

1334 Sir John de Nymet 

c. 1400 Andrew Hude 

1416 William Kelwa 

 John Tregodynow 

1427 John Colmptone 

1441 Richard Stoyle 

1463 John Ewen 

1475 John Rogers 

1524 Roger Crugge 

1533 John Williams 

1546 John Moreman 

1554 Richard Martyn (deprived) 

1561 Henry Reddinge 

1573 John Chardon 

1578 Henry Eastebrooke, alias Shilston 

1604 Christoper Eaton 

c. 1644 Bartholomew Dickes } Intruded Ministers 

1653 William Crompton } Intruded Ministers 

1655 Richard Richards 

1662 Richard Richards subscribed 11th August 

1687 John Chilcot 

1723 Philip Sprey 

1724 Samuel Coker (deprived) 

1740 Thomas Michell 

1743 John Collins 

1745 John Elworthy 

1769 Peter Tucker, resigned c.1781 reinstated 1782 

1803 William Short 

1805 Frederick Barnes, D.D. 

1807 William Hutchinson 

1816 Thomas Robyns 

1831 Arthur Grueber 

1848 Thomas Drosier 

1885 Isidore Daimpre. 

1923 Henry Cowper Pratt 

1945 Glyndwr Rogers 

1959 Arnold Pye 

1965 Ronald Baker 

1967 R.B.Smith 

1969 Brian Copus 

1974 Frank Chancellor 

1975 D.A.Davies (vicar of Bow) Plurality with Bow 

1978 Frank Atherton (Bow) 

1980 Bernard Gales (Bow) 

1994 John Hall (Bow). 

2004 Rev. Canon Michael Hall 

The Vicars

Little is known of the pre-Reformation vicars. Alanus and William de Churitone, who were in office at the first two Visitations in 1281 and 1301 respectively, received very poor reports from the parishioners, but Sir Adam in 1330 was highly praised.

Three of the later vicars figure in the Dictionary of National Biography.

John Moreman, D.D., was Vicar from 1546 to 1554, though for most of Edward VI’s reign he was in prison for alleged support of certain Romish doctrines. In 1510 he had been elected fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, an appointment which led Bishop Oldham to transfer many revenues from that college to Corpus Christi, because his own nominee, a certain Mr. Atkins, was defeated. In 1529 Moreman was appointed to the rich living of Menheniot, in Cornwall, where, Prince says, he “undertook the honourable fatigue of instructing youth in school-learning”. Hooker, the Chronicler, who was one of his pupils there, says that he “was the first to teach the people to say the Lord’s Prayer, the Beliefs and the Commandments in the English tongue”. Given this, it is surprising to find him associated with the West Country rebels who objected to the use of English in the Church Services. One of their demands was that he and Richard Crispyn, Rector of Woodleigh, should be freed from prison, but they were not released until Queen Mary’s accession in 1553. Moreman died the following year.

John Chardon, 1573-8, was another fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, and D.D. He held the living of Heavitree besides that of Colebrooke. He was a noted preacher of the reformed doctrine, but also defended the Church against Puritan malcontents. He was consecrated Bishop of Down and Connor in 1596 and died in 1601.

William Crompton, Minister, 1653-5, later held the living of Cullompton, whence he was ejected at the Restoration for nonconformity, but he lived on there and in Exeter until 1696, preaching in conventicles. He was the author of several works on non-conformity.

Of the other Vicars, Henry Reddinge, 1561-73, had a daughter Frances who married Roger Mills, later lord of the manor.

Christoper Eaton, 1604-c. 1644, was replaced during the Civil War by his own son-in-law, but lived on in the parish, at his farm of Buttisfar, in Coleford, till his death in 1655. He was Churchwarden in 1622.

Philip Sprey, who was instituted on 20th December 1723, seems never to have officiated in the parish, and as early as the following March Samuel Coker was instituted “because the living was vacant” (normally the resignation or death of the predecessor is mentioned in the Bishops’ Registers).

William Short, 1803-5, was later Archdeacon of Cornwall, and his successor Frederick Barnes, D.D., left to be Vicar of Colyton where he stayed till the age of 83.

Isidore Daimpre, 1885-1923, wrote a small book about the Church and Parish in 1903. During his time, but not under his guidance (for an energetic curate, the Rev. B. Jones, was in charge during the Vicar’s absence from the parish), the removal of the west gallery and the restoration of the nave seating took place in 1895. Daimpre had the distinction of being appointed sexton in 1912, by which time he had succeeded in his pleas for a new vicarage to be built. During the months of demolition and rebuilding, he lived at Penstone in the Railway Cottage now known as Pencroft.

The Vicarage

From details given in Walter de Bathe’s Chantry Charter, c. 1320, it appears that the “tenement and piece of land” on which the Chantry Chaplain was to “live suitably” were on the site of the present Vicarage. The last recorded appointment to the chaplaincy occurred in 1412, and in 1536 John Williams was both Vicar and Chaplain. Thus at some time between these two dates the two offices were combined, and the incumbent probably then took over the Chaplain’s House as his Vicarage. The Vicarage was sold in 1976 following Colebrooke becoming a plurality with the Parishes of Bow and Zeal Monachorum, the vicar residing at Bow. For many years it was known as Mincarlo House before reverting to the more aptly named “Old Vicarage” of today.

This building, designed by Mr. E. H. Harbottle, of Exeter, dates from 1912. It is recorded that, when the old Vicarage was pulled down, it was found that much of the work dated back to the fourteenth century, and that the oak showed signs of having been previously used. Perhaps Walter de Bathe had the building restored for his first chaplain. The roof was found to be supported by oak beams reaching up from the foundations. Hidden fireplaces, an old door and a four-light window still retaining the `pindles’ for shutters came to light. In a hole in one beam, there was found a child’s glove or mitten, made of doe-skin. There are still remains of two fireplaces and a chimney of the old building. Near the drive gate, there is the base of an old cross, and some years ago there was found in the garden a small section of the shaft suggesting by its shape a date of the fifteenth century.

By Neville P. Enderson © Neville P. Enderson