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The Gentleman's Magazine Library, 1731-1868
English Topography Part III Derbyshire - Dorsetshire
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[Page 132]


[1826, Part I., pp. 17, 18.]
In May, 1819, some workmen employed in forming a tan-yard on the site of the Priory called St. Magdalen in Barnstaple, laid open the foundations of many extensive walls, thick and formed of very solid masonry ; the mortar cementing the stones being harder even than the stones themselves. They were covered by immense heaps of stones, slates, and rubbish, apparently thrown over them at the demolition of the buildings. Amongst the rubbish were fragments of columns, ribs of groins, paving tiles glazed with a flower de luce on them, and some stones with crosses. Two stones were very perfect, and retained, in high preservation, the arms of which I send you an exact copy.

The whole of these foundations and rubbish had been covered for ages by a fine green sward, and now being only partly uncovered, and the rubbish again thrown back, as suited the convenience of the workmen, it was not possible to form a correct idea either of the extent or form of these buildings.

Two skeletons were found, one was very perfect, and a man's. Near this skeleton lay a small bell, such as is tinkled in the Catholic Churches during the celebration of mass; it was of bell metal, and not in the slightest degree corroded, the clapper, being of iron, was destroyed by rust. Several coins were found, and some, as I heard, of silver; but of the latter I could not obtain a sight.

A souterrain was laid open, but whether it was an extended passage, or merely the cloaca, it neither suited the purse nor inclination of the tanner to ascertain. There is a tradition that there once existed a subterranean communication under the river Yeo, from this place, to a religious establishment at Bull Hill, near Pilton Church, where the pope's indulgences were sold. I believe, however, there are few places where similar traditions do not exist. The Nuns and Friars were believed to have secured to themselves the means of frequent and secret meetings.

[Page 133]

There is also a tradition that a stone coffin had been found here, containing the body of a man in complete armour. A clergyman informs me he had seen it mentioned in some printed book, but does not recollect the author's name.

We consider the arms on the Barnstaple stone to be those of Thomas, Duke of Clarence, second son of King Henry IV, by Mary one of the two daughters and coheiresses of Humphry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton. We cannot, however, account for their being found at Barnstaple, or for the omission of the label over the royal arms, as borne by him, and we believe still to be seen on his plate in St. George's Chapel. The crescent seems to have been used instead, as a difference; but it is unusual to find the Duke's arms with that distinction.

The second coat is Bohun Earl of Hereford: and the fourth, Bohun Earl of Northampton : both were united in the above Humphry. The third coat appears to be Stafford ; but we do not at present see how it was introduced into the escutcheon. The Duke of Clarence was slain at the Battle of Bangy, 1422, without issue ; and was buried at Canterbury.


[1800, Part II., p. 949.]
In the Churchyard of Barnstaple, Devon. ...

"To the memory of their fellow-soldier, ROBERT*____, who died March I8th, 1762, aged 19. This stone was erected by the voluntary contributions of the private men of the Kingston company of the first battalion of the Surrey militia." [Verses omitted.]

On the west side of Barnstaple Church. ...

"JOHN HOPKINS, esq. late a major on the Bombay establishment, in the service of the Hon. East India Company, died Oct. 28th, 1799, aged 62 years." [Verses Omitted.]

[Page footnote]
*The grave-stone is here broken and defaced.

Additional Extracts About Barnstaple

From the section on: Ancient Church Architecture.

[First extract]
Breadth and extent of building are among the striking characteristics of the churches in Devonshire. The former is perhaps more remarkably conspicuous than the latter. Triple aisles-those on the sides of the chancel and body, in many cases as wide, or nearly as wide as the centre space - almost uniformly compose the plan, whose general figure, as seen in its complete elevation, has seldom sufficient height to give the triple gables which terminate the roof a graceful external appearance. A tower of stately proportions at the west end on the south side was calculated to ennoble the design; but Barnstaple and Bideford, and some other large churches, have towers remarkable for their insignificance; and perhaps the ancient fashion building churches, in Devonshire, could not be exemplified by instances more ungraceful, I had almost said apposite, than these ; for, generally speaking, magnificence and extent of structure are not united in the ecclesiastical architecture of Devonshire.

[Second extract]
But so obstinately indifferent in many instances are the guardians of churches to propriety and decency towards the sacred memorials of founders and benefactors, that they can witness without regret the gradual extinction of sepulchral trophies, the antiquity of which, instead of lessening attachment to them, ought rather to strengthen our respect for memorials which have been reverenced and preserved through many ages. Except in the instance of the cathedral the system of innovation, or rather destruction, when once admitted, is of a sweeping nature, and admits of no augmentation. The church at Barnstaple may be named in confirmation of this remark. It is an ancient and very extensive building, composed of three aisles of equal dimensions. The arches and pillars which sustained the triple roof have been entirely demolished, and with these every vestige of antiquity which the interior contained, save only the huge tower in the centre of the south aisle, which was left for want of means to destroy its massy walls. The exterior now assumes an aspect at once heavy, coarse and ungracious. The church at Bideford, on the same plan, has been partly subjected to the same system; but the mnemoclasts of this place, more considerate for the clustered pillars which were designed to support the church, have removed them into the churchyard, where they serve as gate-posts before the porch of the temple to which in better days they belonged.