top of page

Voices from the Past - descriptions of the church













James Davidson, “Church notes on the South of Devon”.  Five volumes written between 1843 – 1857.  Held at the West Country Studies Library, Exeter.     Transcribed by Alan Yates, Nov. 2009


Ugborough 8 miles S.W. of Totnes 22 June 1847


The churchyard of this place is entered on the north by a flight of steps and a Lich-gate with a   large heavy roof.  The church is a large handsome structure consisting of a nave 135 feet long by 18 wide, a chancel 9 by 18, aisles north and south 124 feet long by 12 wide, their walls embattled.  Transepts north and south each about 16 feet by 11. 

Porches covering the north and south doors, that on the north with embattled

walls, a Tower at the western end of the nave 21 feet square & 100 feet high

containing 8 bells & a clock and a vestry at the eastern end of the north aisle,

a curious little projecting room with mullioned windows and embattled walls. 


The north doorway is handsome a low pointed arch ornamented with foliage

and mouldings.  The nave opens to each transept by a large wide low arch and

to the aisles by 5 pointed arches on each side resting on heavy octagonal

columns without capitals or ornament.  The chancel is divided from its side aisles

by 2 pointed arches on light columns formed by shafts and mouldings the

capitals rudely ornamented but coated with whitewash.The windows are of

various character, that in the east wall of the chancel has some defaced

perpendicular tracery others have been despoiled of tracery & the rest are

of 5, 4 or 3 lights with plain arched heads under low pointed arches.  There

are no remains of ancient painted glass but two modern coats of arms of good

design & execution, one in a window of the north aisle viz. in a lozenge.  Gules a

Bend between 3 martlets or impaling per fesse or and azure a fesse per fesse

indented of the second and first the other coat in a window of the south aisle viz. Argent a chevron gules between 9 Nails / qy. or pegs heads of allspice or what?  6 in chief and 3 in base tenny (qy proper?).  Crest a Camel passant or laden argent.  Supporters two griffins a fesse gules and/or.  Motto God grant grace.  The ceilings of the nave and chancel are coved and plain those of the aisles flat.  That of the north aisle has been handsomely enriched with ribs of carved oak with numerous bosses of various designs in figures and foliage among them are two especially remarkable, a sow with eight sucking pigs and a smith forging a horseshoe at an anvil both cut with great spirit & effect.  There are remains of a handsome chancel screen now forming sides of pews ornamented with numerous painted figures Romish saints and martyrs.  A wooden screen against the east wall of incongruous design – a plain oaken communion table.  The pulpit is of stone handsomely carved in oblong pannels enriched with foliage.  It stands on an octagonal column ornamented with niches and shields.  The Font is a large circular stone basin but does not appear to be very ancient.  A gallery at the western end of the nave bears the date 1778.  At the end of the north aisle are the parish stocks apparently out of use.  The monuments and inscriptions areas follow




North Wall.  Two marble tablets which appear to have formed part of a larger monument.

  • The sacred remains of Mr. Richard Fownes of Whitehouse rests here who resigned all that was mortal the 8th. Day of May 1680 in an assured expectation of being reunited to his immortal part which is gone to the spirits of just men made perfect as also of Mrs. Petronel his wife who a just tribute to tears paid to the memory of six children that lie near her (a religious and vertuous offspring which went early to heaven) was carryed through a valley of grief and sorrow into Abraham;s bosom July 20 1712.  In memory of whose vertues this monument of affection and gratitude is erected.

  • In memory of Mrs. Honor Edgcombe sister to Mrs. Fownes who after she had fought the good fight of faith and finished the course of religion and virtue was received among the faithful to inherit an eternal crown of glory May the 5th 1706.

Floor  ………………buryed the 28th. day of May Ano Domi………….
Against one of the columns on the south side a tablet – As a testimony of affection and gratitude to the best of brothers this monument was erected by Mrs Gidoin to the memory of George Legassicke esq of Modbury who died 6th. Oct 1789 aged 60 years and was at his particular request interred in this church near his beloved wife.

Floor  S.D.S April the 18th. day 1764.


North wall a stone tablet.  Heer lyes the bodie of Thomas Williams of Pyke gent sonne and heire apparante of Thomas Williams of Stowford esq.  He was borne decimo septimo Marcii 1601 and died the 11th. of September 1630.

His life his days his deedes you knew  
His thoughts alone the Lorde can shew 
Shorte life many days and yll he had
Follow good deeds cover his bad
His own yll thoughts God hath forgiven
Christ gave his good who gives him heaven
Porte super terram lies sub nobe quiesco
Sub coela morier sed mihi vita super.

Arms not coloured   Three Birds heads*   erased   impaling  on a Bend three millrinds……                                                                                                      *qy [Speccot]

Floor  Here lieth the body of Peter Farel who died 23 Jany. 1770 aged 35.
Here lieth the body of Alice wife of John Hosking – buried ….. day of Novr 1759 in the 40 year of her age.

Jane wife of John Lang Phillein.  Died in the 68 year of her age 1741.  Mary wife of Job Lang died in the 44 year of her age.

John Lang Philliam buried May 11 1777 aged 69.

North Aisle

Floor.  Underneath are the deposited remains of William Spry youngest son of the rev’d John Spry and Ann his wife born at Crediton June 20 1805 died at Ugborough Novr 17 1821 of a rapid and amiably-endured decline aged 16 years.

North Transept

East Wall  a marble tablet and urn.  Sacred to the memory of two affectionate brothers this monument is erected Mr Thomas King of Fowelscombe in this parish who died the 13 day of Jany 1792 in the 51 year of his age also his elder brother Mr John King who died the 26 Jany 1795 in the 56 year of his age.
West wall - a tablet with a weeping figure and an urn.
Sacred to the memory of Mr. Richard King who died Jany. 18 1811 aged 65.  His affectionate widow has caused this mournful tribute of her love to be erected in testimony of the great regard and respect she bears to her husband’s memory.

South Aisle

Against the chancel screen an old coat of arms carved in wood.
(argent) three Bars gemels gules, on a Canton * (azure) a lion passant or – impaling quarterly – 1 & 4 Argent a Bend sable, a File ** of five labels gules 2 & 3 . . . a Chevron between three Birds sable.  Crest a Birds head or holding in his beak a Snake proper.  Supporters Dexter a Heron proper.  Sinister a Snake proper.


**Sture or Carswell

Davidson 1847



A report by J.N. Hearder


The church tower is a fine substantial building, about 500 years old, constructed of granite: the buttresses, windows, string courses, battlements and pinnacles being executed in massive blocks of the same stone. It is rather over 90 feet high to the battlements and is about 20 feet square at the top. It is surmounted by four pinnacles, each 16 feet high and about 3 feet diameter at the base, octagonal in shape and constructed of massive granite blocks. Each pinnacle has on its top an ornamental iron cross, the shaft of which passes down through the top stone, a length of about 2 feet and is dowelled about 2 inches into the next below. The N.E. pinnacle has also in addition a vane spindle attached to its cross, standing some three or four feet above it. The battlements are about 4 feet 6 inches high, 9 inches thick at the top and about 18 inches thick at the level of the tower roof, which was covered with lead and drained by four short leaden spouts, but without any descending rain pipes.


The lightning must have come from the N.W. in an oblique direction, since it struck the iron cross in the N.W. pinnacle and not the vane of the N.E. one, which, as I stated was 4 feet higher. This N.W. pinnacle was dashed to pieces, the massive granite blocks of which it was constructed being dispersed in all directions, north, south, east and west. Two of the stones, over 1 cwt. each passed over the tower and fell through the roof of the church, demolishing the seats upon which they fell. Others were thrown to a distance of 60 to 100 feet and now lie embedded in the graveyard, having passed obliquely into the ground to such a depth as to be completely buried beneath the sod; one of these must be 3 cwt; another weighing considerably more than 1 cwt., was hurled across the top of the tower into a meadow about 100 yards off. Two others were cast to a distance of 100 feet and fell through the roofs of two cottages, passing down through the floors and burying themselves in the ground below; one of the stones passed through a bed from which a man had risen to go to his daily work only half an hour previously. The entire battlements on the west face and half the battlements on the north face are completely demolished; large portions were dashed down through the flat roof of the tower, crushing the beams and passing through the bell chamber, destroying the wheels and portions of the framework of the bells and then breaking through the beams and flooring into the clock chamber below, where the clock case was dashed to pieces, partly by the lightning and partly by the debris which fell upon it, severely injuring the clock. Other portions of the battlements, together with part of the north west corner of the tower, were scattered in all directions over a radius, extending in some cases 100 yards, strewing the ground with tons of masonry. The rain and hail came down with such fury that everyone sought shelter within doors, otherwise the loss of life would have been fearful to contemplate, since the thoroughfares around the church would have contained a great number of men going to their daily work, who must have inevitably been killed by the missiles which were flying in all directions. I never met with such terrific effects or such explosive power.


My chief object in visiting the scene of the disaster was to trace accurately the course which the lightning had taken, which I will briefly describe.


The tower, as I have stated, had no descending metal rain pipe, consequently it was totally unprotected and the lightning had therefore to find it’s way to the ground through such portions of metal as were most conveniently situated to help in its track. The top stone through which the iron spindle passed is not in any way injured, though the stone below it was cracked and shaken in several places; the lightning after destroying the pinnacle passed down inside the angle of the tower, melting only the corner of the lead flat just where it passed down through, but shivering and displacing the heavy masonry and splitting the arches of the windows by its concussion, until it arrived opposite an iron bolt, which was connected with the hangings of the large clock bell, passing to this bolt and thence to the bell, it next leaped from the bell to the hammer, a distance of about three inches, melting the surfaces of both bell and hammer, over a space of about two square inches. The marks of fusion were beautifully evident and exhibited the characteristics of the two metals and were some distance from the marks produced by the action of the hammer in striking the bell and consequently could not be mistaken for them. From the tail of the hammer an iron chain about 30 feet long lead down to the lever of the striking movement of the clock. This chain was composed of No. 10 iron wire and was made in links about nine inches long, formed by bending the extremities into eyes which were looped into each other, the ends being twisted back over the wire for additional strength. The only vestiges which can be found of this chain are the eyes which are linked together. The whole of the wire, which was single, having been melted as far as the twisted portion and dissipated in dust of oxide of iron. The deflagration splitting and staining the wood portions of the clock-framing near which it hung from the clock , it passed out through the bar which leads to the leaden clock face, from the lower side of which it passed round the north east of the tower to a lead gutter on the roof of the Church. In its course it passed behind a massive granite buttress which it dislodged from its situation and likewise melted not only the edge of the clock face, which it left, but the edge of the lead gutter where it entered. This lead gutter passed along by the eaves of the roof until it reached an iron rain pipe at the end of the church, which lead into the ground. These acted as adequate conductors for the electric fluid and through them it passed without doing any further damage. The whole fabric was so shaken by the concussion that not only were nearly all the windows broken, but two out of the three pinnacles remaining on the tower were started quite one inch from their original positions and this in a direction towards the damaged corner, thus showing the tremendous and sudden reaction which must have taken place throughout the whole of the upper part of the tower.


The circumstances worthy of note here, are first: that a moderate difference between the relative heights of the tops of pinnacles is not sufficient to draw the lightning out of its course. The erection of a lightning conductor, therefore, at one end of a house does not prevent the other end from being struck. Second, the damage is produced, not where the metals are, but where they are not. Third, if the conducting metal, as in the case of the chain, be not a sufficiently good conductor, it is melted by the discharge and fourth, the lightning is very nice in the selection of the shortest distance, as in the case of its passage from the clock face to the lead gutter, where it chose rather to slip in behind the granite buttress than to curl around it.


It was only twelve years ago that at a vestry meeting at Ugborough, it was proposed to protect the church by a lightning conductor, but the parishioners objected on the ground that as it had stood for 500 years, it might be as likely to go 500 years longer without injury. So much for the present spread of electrical science.


J. N. HEARDER, D.Sc, Ph.D., F.C.S. 195 Union Street, Plymouth. Dec.6th. 1872


The Sundial


There is a slate sundial affixed over the south porch of the church, bearing the inscription “Joseph Phillips MDCCLVlll” (1758). 
George Nicholle has unearthed the following information on sun dials written by C H Cornish, a clockmaker of Plymouth, circa 1910.
Owing to the variation between Sun Time and ordinary Clock Time, a sun dial fixed at Greenwich only indicates correct time four times a year, the dates being 15thApril, 15thJune, 2ndSeptember, 25thDecember.

All sun dials are subject to this error, on some dates the difference in Sun Time and Clock Time at Greenwich amounts to as much as 14½ minutes fast or slow.

Ugborough being situated 3¾ degrees of longitude west of Greenwich, the sun reaches the meridian 15 minutes later; this only permits agreement with the clock once a year on 15th.February.  At Ugborough the difference in October amounts to as much as 32 minutes.

bottom of page