[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.
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."
*The grave-stone is here broken and defaced.
Extracts About Barnstaple
From the section on: Ancient Church Architecture.
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.
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.