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St Maurice Church, Plympton [1859]

Some Account of the Ancient Borough Town of Plympton St Maurice or Plympton Earl; with Memoirs of the Reynolds Family by William Cotton (a Freeman of the Borough), 1859

William Cotton, a Freeman of the Borough of Plympton Earl wrote a fantastic short history of the parish alongside a biographical memoir of Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1859.

What follows relates to the Church.

Plympton St Maurice, 1859.jpg

Plympton Church and School, 1859

THE CHURCH

The Parish Church of Plympton is a substantial edifice, principally built of granite, and of a size proportioned to the population, which is about 900. It stands on the north side of the town, near the Castle, and has a good tower of two stages, about 70 feet in height, with granite buttresses and pinnacles; on the south side it is partly covered with ivy, which has a very picturesque effect.

It appears to have been at first a chantry chapel, appendant to the Church of Plympton St Mary, and was dedicated to St Thomas a Becket, but afterwards to St Maurice; as Leland says: “This Saint Mauritius was commander of the Theban legion in the time of the Emperor Maximinian, and suffered martyrdom together with his whole regiment, who were Christians, at Agaunum, in Savoy (now called St Maurice), in the presence of the Emperor, about the year 296, in consequence of their refusal to offer sacrifice to the heathen gods. The bones of these holy martyrs were afterwards dug up and sent into divers countries, where many churches were erected to their honour, and that of their leader St Mauritius”.

Browne Willis tells us that this chapel of St Maurice is said, in the chantry rolls, to have been founded by one John Brackeley, for the continual finding of a priest to minister therein, it being distant half-a-mile from the mother church at Plympton St Mary.

Bishop Lacy, March 10, 1446, granted an indulgence to all true penitents, who in their charity should assist – “ad erectionem campanilis, seu turris capallar parochialis Sancti Thomae de Plympton”.

The interior dimensions of the Church are:

  • Chancel – 29 feet by 17 feet
  • Nave – 41 feet by 18 feet 6 inches
  • S. and N. Aisles – 58 feet by 13 feet

The nave has four granite piers and arches, with two responds, which give go it a substantial character; and at the second pier from the south porch entrance, there remains a large granite corbel, on which the pulpit formerly stood, with steps worked in the same block at the pier-course.

The chancel has been recently roofed with open timber work, and has a good decorated east window, fitted with painted glass, the gift of the Rev. G. M. Scott, Vicar of Wembury; near to it is a curious granite piscine, in the east wall, and another lavacrum in the south aisle. Both sides have cradle roofs with bosses; and that on the north, a memorial window of the Treby Family.

The south porch has a parvis chamber above, and a vaulted roof, formed with four granite groin ribs.

MONUMENTS IN THE CHURCH

John SPARKE, from Nantwich, Cheshire; buried 11 July 1566
John, his son, 14 January 1597. Arms, chequy or and vert, a bend ermine.
John, his grandson, 1630
(At Plympton St Mary, Nicholas, who died in 1700, and a son of John, lived to the advanced age of 107 years).

The following inscription occurs on the pavement, in the south aisle:

MARIA SPARKE
Conditur hoc Maria in tumulo cognomine Sparke,
Proxima juncta patri, morte perempta prior,
Morte perempta prius ter sex quam (vixerat) annos,
Digna viro virgo, sed mage digna Deo,
Sic periit Scintilla prius quam nupta marito,
Scintillans inter sidera clara (vignet).
Obiit 21 die Novembris, 1597

SAMUEL SNELLING, Gent.
TWISE MAIOR OF THIS
TOWN.HE DIED THE 20
DAY OF NOVEMBER, 1624

The man whose Body
That here doth lye,
Beganne to live
When he did dye.
Good faith in life
And death he prov’d,
And was of God
And Man belov’d.
Now he liveth
In Heaven’s joy,
And never more
To feel annoy.

ROWLAND COTTON, Esq.
Vice-Admiral of the Blue,
And Commander-in-Chief
of His Majesty’s Ships and Vessels
in Plymouth Port,
Son of the late Sir Lynch COTTON, Bt.,
of Combermere Abbey,
In the County of Chester,
Who died the 20 day of Novr., 1794,
In the 53d year
of his age.

In the south wall of the chancel there is a tablet to the memory of Thomas BROWNE, formerly Master of the Grammar School, with the following inscription:

HIC SITUS EST
THOMAS BROWNE, HUJUS ECCLESIAE,
MIN. ET SCHOLAE VICINAE PRAECEPTOR,
IN AGRO EBOR NATUS,
IN COLL. AEDIS XTI APUD CANT.
EDUCATIS,
EXIMA DOCTINA, MORUM SUAVITATE,
ET DEXTERITATE INSTRUENDI,
NEMINI SECUNDUS.
OBIIT DEC. OCT. DIE MAJI,
MDCXCVIII.
HOC MARMOR SEPULCHRALE
UXOR POSUIT.

And on the opposite wall has recently been placed a white marble tablet, to the memory of the Rev. Samuel REYNOLDS; inscribed

SAMUELIS REYNOLDS, A.M.
COLL. BALLIOL APUD OXONIENSES,
QUONDAM SOCIUS
PRESBYTER ECCLESIAE ANGLICANAE,
SCHOLAE GRAMMATICAE PLYMPTONENSIS
MAGISTER PRAEFECTUS:
VIR
SIMPLICITATE ATQUE INTEGRITATE MORUM
DOCRINA NECON ET RELIGIONE
MAXIME PRAEDITUS.
OBIIT DIE VICESIMO QUINTO DECEMBRIS,
A.D. 1746.
UNDECIM HABUIT LIBEROS
INTER QUOS MAXIME EXILUIT
JOSHUA REYNOLDS, EQUES.
PICTORUM SUI SECULI FACILE PRINCEPS.

IN MEMORIAM
QUAM PATRIS, TAM FILII,
HANC TABULAM INSCRIPTAM
PIO ANIMO POSUIT
GUILELMUS COTTON,
A.D. 1859

The Parish Registers commence –

  • Baptisms, 5 April 1616
  • Burials, 4 May, 1616
  • Marriages, 29 April 1616

On the fly-leaf of the old Register-book is the following entry:

Walter WINSLAND, His Book,
The Lord of Heven upon him look,
And so correcte him with a rod,
That he may be a child of God:
And when for him the bel doth tole,
The Lord of Heven welcome his Soul.

The Rectorial Tithes of Plympton, together with the chapels of Plymstock and Plympton St Maurice (late parcel of the lands of the dissolved Priory), were granted in the first year of his reign (1547) by King Edward V to the Dean and Chapter of Windsor.

The living, which is a perpetual curacy in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter, is endowed with £600 parliamentary grant, and £400 Queen Anne’s bounty.* The Incumbent has also the small tithes.

*  Declared a Rectory by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners under the provisions of the District Church Tithes Act, 1865, in 1867.

© Graham Naylor

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