Littlehempston, St John the Baptist

The chancel of Littlehempston church is believed to be of 14th century date, but most of the present building was constructed, or rebuilt, in the 15th century. The red sandstone font survives from an earlier, Norman, church.

There are three 14th century recumbent effigies in the church, although it is thought that these may have been brought from another parish.  Some interesting  graffiti survives on the limestone piers and on the effigies.

The male effigy  close to the south door has concentric circles scored on the side of the head, that seem likely to have had some apotropaic (protective) meaning. Other marks include series of holes, and these are also found on some of the piers. There is feint graffiti on the northern effigy, but much is difficult to decipher, and some is on the inaccessible side close to the window, as the figure is not in its original location. The most notable item visible is a small simple merchants mark.

Graffiti on the piers includes compass-made circles, and arrows, both of which are probably apotropaic. A few feint scored marks containing remnants of red colouring survive on one of the southern piers –  a reminder that piers and walls were once painted with colours – rather than the bare scraped clean stone we see today.

The letters V:X:Z  at the base of a pier in the north arcade are intriguing and seem likely to have had some official function or meaning rather than being casual graffiti.

The stick type figure on a southern pier is a nice find, although it is not clear what it represents, and we don’t know how old it is. It seems possible that it represents a cadaver or skeleton with ribs, or, perhaps less likely, a figure holding a shield with chevron ornament.

The lead on the tower roof has been renewed, but there are a few older pieces on the doorway threshold that have early 20th century names and dates.

Littlehempston, St John the Baptist

East Budleigh, All Saints

There has been a church in East Budleigh since Saxon times. The present building originated in the 13th century, was rebuilt in the early 15th century and restored in 1884. It is built of sandstone, with original Beer stone, and Victorian Bath stone, detail. The font is 15th century and there is a remarkable set of early 16th century carved bench ends, all with secular imagery.

The piers in the church have been scoured clean, probably during the Victorian restoration, but graffiti survives on one close to the south door. Marks include some letters, tiny circles, and a number of deliberately made conical holes. Such holes are fairly common in churches and could possibly result from the removal of stone for its perceived curative or protective qualities – a practice that continues today in some places. There is also graffiti on the doorway to the tower, including a ladder type motif, and letters and other marks on the porch benches. Outside the church there are intriguing multiple marks on the SW corner – possibly including initials and dates, but difficult to decipher.

East Budleigh, All Saints

North Bovey, St John the Baptist

The chancel of St John the Baptist church is of 13th century date and the remaining parts are 15th century, including the screen, although this has been much added to from screens elsewhere. In the 19th and early 20th century the building underwent a number of restorations.

The fabric of the church is granite with volcanic stone and granite detail; the piers are granite. Given the hard nature of the stone it is not surprising that graffiti is only found on the woodwork of the screens and benches.

Items include Marian-type marks  (W) and other lettering, including probable initials. There are a number of examples of notches cut into the edges of bench bookrests and also some on a screen. It is possible these are just the result of idle whittling, but there are many examples of such graduated lines and notches in the stonework of churches too, and it seems likely that at least some had a serious, perhaps spiritual, meaning or function.

North Bovey, St John the Baptist

Berry Pomeroy, St Mary

The medieval church of St Mary was associated with the Pomeroy family, who were granted the manor of ‘Berri’ in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. The range of buildings with Berry names immediately north of the church may have been the site of the original manor house.

In the 15th century the church was rebuilt, possibly by Sir Richard de Pomeroy. The tower still has a 13th/14th century west doorway. The church was restored in the late 17th century and the late 19th century.

The older graffiti is found mainly on the limestone piers and doorways, the tower stairs, and the rood screen. The arrows on the south doorway are unusual, and probably apotropaic. There are some fairly modern names and initials on the benches. In the room above the porch an inscription has been cut into the plaster above the window. The letters above the 1720 date are presumably initials, but it is not clear what the inscription  commemorates.  

Berry Pomeroy, St Mary

Shaldon, St Nicholas (Ringmore)

St Nicholas’ church is of 13th century origin, although the survival of a Saxon or Norman font suggests an earlier building existed. The church was largely rebuilt in 1622, remodelled by 1790, and underwent later alterations and refurbishment. In 1903 following the construction of a new parish church (St Peter’s) in Shaldon, St Nicholas’ was re-designated as a chapel of ease.

Given the past rebuilding and refurbishments  it is not surprising that little graffiti survives. These include though an interesting but feint small cross on the outside north-east corner, which has been underlined by a deep score mark – perhaps to draw attention to it. It seems possible that this is a re-dedication cross, related to one of the rebuilding episodes.

The other graffiti is on the top of the font, where scored marks in the lead include a possible apotropaic or protective mark in the form of a letter W.

Shaldon, St Nicholas (Ringmore)

Ashcombe, St Nectan

St Nectan’s church is probably largely 13th century in date, with the north aisle being added in the 15th century. There was restoration and some rebuilding in the 1820’s, and the interior was refurbished in 1885.

No graffiti was found on the stonework of the church, but there are a number of marks on the benches. Most are probably initials, although one or two of the lone W’s or V’s could possibly be apotropaic (protective) marks.

Ashcombe, St Nectan

Lustleigh, St John the Baptist

The earliest part of the church of St John the Baptist is the 13th century chancel, with the remaining parts dating to the 15th or early 16th centuries. The Norman font survives but has been built into a later surround.

The sub-circular shape of the churchyard and the presence of an inscribed memorial stone of c. 6th century date (Datuidoc’s stone) strongly suggest that this is an early religious site.

The church is built of granite and the graffiti is found mainly on two of the medieval limestone effigies, and on the parclose screen. The graffiiti on the effigy in the south transept includes what appears to be a strange creature (?heraldic).

Oddly, there are several examples of the letter N, and something resembling it but with the strokes detached – looking more like I V and V I. There are also what appear to be tally marks and remains of feint large letters on the parclose screen. On a bench at the back of the north aisle there is a deeply carved W followed by a cross – perhaps reserving that seat for a particular person (?the Warden).

Lustleigh, St John the Baptist

Teignmouth, St Michael the Archangel

The present East Teignmouth church of St Michael the Archangel was built in 1821, in Norman style, reflecting the former Saxon/Norman building it replaced; the earlier church was mentioned in a charter of 1044. A restored Norman arch is incorporated into the south doorway. The tower was added in 1887-9, and the south Lady Chapel in 1923.

The graffiti in the church consists mainly of names, initials, dates and a few examples of Roman numerals, scored into the bookrests of the 19th century seating. On the choir stalls are two sets of initials accompanied by the dates 1962-7, and a name with the dates 1964-69. Do these perhaps represent the five year school attendance dates for local secondary school children who sang in the choir?

In the tower clock chamber there are scored references to the points of the compass, which presumably help with identification of parts of the mechanism during clock maintenance.

Teignmouth, St Michael the Archangel

Teignmouth, St James

The church of St James was built in the mid 13th century. The medieval red sandstone tower, reputed to have once formed part of the town’s defences, survives. The nave was rebuilt in 1821, on an octagonal plan. It was re-ordered in the later 19th century and restored after being damaged during WWII.

Most of the graffiti in the church is found on the 19th century pews and panelling in the organ gallery. Amongst these are several images of boats or ships and a number of compass made circles. Such circles are often associated with an apotropaic (protective) significance. In this late context, however, and in conjunction with so many names and initials, it is possible that some at least are simply the result of idle doodling, but we cannot be certain.

There are a few earlier marks on the medieval tower ladder, including a possible cross, probable initials, and two distinct V type marks.

Teignmouth, St James