St. Catherine's Church

THE REV. A. M. STORRS (RECTOR 1919 - 1939) and by others

If a Saxon Church existed, no record of it is to be found although a portion of Saxon rubble walling was revealed in1984, when external repairs were being carried out at the east end of the church.  There is a record of a church or chapel that existed near Heath Barton in the year A.D. 1244. It was known as Heath St. Mary or St. Mary Colechurch and, until recently, the outline of the foundation of this church could be distinguished in a field about 300 yards south of Heath Barton.


The Church dates probably from about the middle of the thirteenth century. There is, in the Diocesan Records, mention of a Nicholas de Hylium in 1263 but he may not have been the first incumbent. It is improbable that the first rectors were resident. There were 12 rectors between 1340 and 1437 and they probably came to the small church from some other Courtenay living.
In 1288, the Church and rectory were assessed at £4 a year. The first known resident rector is John Keet, rector 1538 - 1569, who, in his will of 1564, describes himself as parson of Whitestone and desires to be buried in the chancel of the church.

The chancel is the oldest part of the Church and is divided from the nave by a large arch which often indicates earlier work. Most of the Church, however, was reconstructed in the fifteenth century. As Sir Philip Courtenay's arms are in the window of the South aisle, it is probable, as he died in 1406, that the reconstruction took place in his lifetime or in the years following his death.

In 1662, at the restoration of Charles II, the churchwardens represent the Church and Churchyard as in decay, with no surplice for the parson. It is known that soldiers from the Parliamentary Army, before the battle of Torrington, robbed the Church.

In 1862 the Revd Wilse Brown had the plaster and whitewash scraped from the windows, arches, nave and south aisle. The oak ribs in the ceiling were also scraped, being previously covered with yellow ochre. Some painting was found.

The Church was uniformly paved in 1811 and reseated in 1887.

Electric light was brought into the Church in 1959 and, where possible, the existing oil lamps were converted for its use.
(Some lamps have since been stolen)

This is the only ancient Parish Church in Devon dedicated to St. Catherine (or Katherine) of Alexandria. Churches dedicated to St. Catherine are often found in England on high hills, in correspondence with the great monastery in the desert of Sinai which rises above the plain where St. Catherine is reputed to be buried.

In 1467, John Ward (Rector) left in his will the sum of six shillings and eightpence to the Church of St. Katherine , Whitestone.
In 1916, the oak panelling was installed together with a new carved oak reredos and new Communion table of oak. The stone flooring also was laid at this time.

The cresting of the Rood Screen has been placed below the ceiling in the north and south of the Sanctuary. This cresting is in the form of eagles carved in oak and gilt; the eagles were the cognisance of Speke, associated with Heath Barton.

The Reverend Wilse Brown found the cresting sailed along the top of the Jacobean parclose screen between the chancel and north (or Heath) aisle. The screen is decorated with Renaissance strapwork carving.

The east window was erected by the widow of Edward Yard M.D. of Whitestone House who died on the 25th October 1874.

A cherub's head carved in stone is to be seen at the base of an arch on the north side of the chancel. The carving was by a son of the Reverend A. Storrs (former Rector). In 1887 the two windows were inserted in the south wall of the chancel.

The processional cross was made by the Reverend D. Obee who was Rector from 1971 until 1976. A feature of the Church is the low obtuse arch separating the chancel from the north or Heath Aisle.

This is now partly curtained off as a Vestry.
It is supposed that the aisle may have been added about the fifteenth century, perhaps as an extension of a north transept.

In 1811 the Heath Aisle was occupied by tenants of the Heath Estate and the steward of the estate made a claim to it on behalf of the owner, Mr James White. The Parish, however, having repaired the seats and roof for am unknown length of time opposed the claim and it was mot continued.

The vestry contains a Jacobean table which was originally an altar and charity boards that hung on the vestry walls. The largest board describes the charity of Mr John Splatt, am Exeter tallow chandler who died in 1754. He left the land in Heavitree known as Drake's Ground, also an area near Polsloe Bridge and a house near the churchyard at Whitestone, in the care of trustees. Five poor people were to be maintained together with 18 poor children who were to be taught to read by a schoolmaster paid by the trust.

A buttress against a column in the vestry was placed there by the owner of a vault beneath it to strengthen the fabric.

In 1862 the Revd Wilse Brown supervised the reglazing and repairing of windows. Coloured glass was inserted into the upper part of nine windows together with salvaged portions of medieval painted glass. Some plain Jacobean glass is also featured in lower sections of the windows. In the middle window of the North Aisle there is a very ancient piece of glass showing the Virgin and Child. It is pre-Reformation because the Virgin is crowned. There is also a small circular panel of glass showing the five wounds of CHRIST . This design was the badge of the Pilgrimage of Grace, a north country rebellion against the new prayer book in the reign of Henry VIII (1557). This emblem was also adopted as a badge on the flags of Devonshire rebels against the new prayer book when they marched on Exeter in 1549.

This aisle has the arms of Sir Phillip Courtenay in the south window and also contains an ancient "squint" which was uncovered in 1862 after being closed for centuries by masonry.

The musical instruments displayed in the cabinet on the west wall of the aisle are some of those used by church musicians in the former west gallery in the early 19th century.

The arches between the nave and north aisle are of local stone and the pillars are of granite. Hat pegs are attached to the central pillar and an early Bible is displayed near the organ.

The font was moved to its present position in 1916 and the lectern dates from 1924.

Two panels (showing traces of painting) from the Hood Screen are preserved in the west end of the church and close scrutiny of the ceiling bosses reveals original gilding.

The gallery which was at the west end of the church was removed in 1912 but the front of it with the date (1621), was left. It has in the centre the initials B.T. probably those of Mr Burrell Townsend of Rowhorne. (The Townsend family lived at Rowhorne for several generations and in each generation there was a "Burrell". Some six Burrell Townsends were successively Churchwardens).

The arms on the panels of the screen are as follows:- (left to right)
1. Smythe of Exeter
2. Courtenay of Powderham
3. Seymour of Berry Pomeroy, Duke of Somerset
4. Bishop Cotton of Exeter
5. Bishop Cary of Exeter
6. Bishop Hall of Exeter
5. Bishop Sparrow of Exeter
6. Grenville of Bideford. Sir Richard Grenville
who was killed at Lansdowne

1. Downish - Proprietors of Heath Barton
2. Pollard - Proprietors of Heath Barton
3. Treasurer of Exeter - Nicholas Hall D.D, Rector of Whitestone 1678 - 1697
4. Bury of Collaton
5. Talbot
6. Walker of Exeter
7. Nicholas Duck - Recorder of Exeter 1617 to 1628
8. Short of Bickham

The church is 600 feet above sea level and the tower, ascended by 66 steps of Heavitree stone, is 49 feet high and, in consequence, commands extensive views

Polwhele, writing at the end of the 13th century, refers to the tower as "a direction to such sailors as bear off the haven of Exmouth" and the church to this day flies the white ensign as a right derived from this purpose. Polwhele adds:- "at one time 60 sail of ships could be counted on the Exe from here." The tower contains six bells and the fourth and fifth bells, which are medieval in origin, have the following inscription:-
"Est michi collatum: Jesu istud nomen amatum" –
"To me was given (the name) Jesus, that name beloved."

The old tenor bell, which also had an ancient inscription, cracked in 1831 while being tolled and a new tenor was placed in the belfry in 1834.

The third bell was founded by Thomas Bilbie of Cullompton and has the name of Mr John Earland, Churchwarden and date 1793.

In 1883 the Revd Dr Pearson (Rector) and his brother Mr Charles Pearson gave the remaining two bells and had the tenor bell re-cast. They also restored the tower and had all the bells re-hung in 1886.

In 1972 the bells were re-hung on roller bearings. The lead on the roof of the tower was laid in 1703 and, in 1932, part of the rough casting was stripped from the north side of the tower.

Until 1932 the porch, like most of the church, was roughcast and, when the plaster was removed, a niche was revealed which had probably been covered up for three or more centuries. It no doubt originally held a figure of St. Catherine, the patron saint. In 1966, a parishioner carved a new figure of St. Catherine which was duly placed in the niche. The porch also contains the village stocks and a 17th century sundial stands on a pedestal nearby.

This was formerly covered with wooden shingles and, after a gale, many of these would have been blown away. After an exceptionally severe gale in l8l9, 5650 new shingles had to be laid.
In 1811 the chancel was the first part of the church to be roofed with slates. The remainder of the roof was slated in 1836 and again in 1866.

Prior to 1797, there was a plain medieval cross of granite standing in the churchyard opposite the then school house (later burnt down) .
In 1797, part of the cross was broken up to make steps to the south gallery, but the shaft of the cross is still standing is the north east corner of the churchyard.

A silver flagon presented by Nicholas Hall, Rector in 1695
A large silver paten (maker's date 1718) presented by Elizabeth, wife of Manister Barnard, Rector in 1756
A Chalice and Paten (Elizabethan) of silver gilt and by Jons of Exeter (1595)
The Alms Dish was given by Mr & Mrs Eli Wellington in 1924 in. memory of their little daughter Marjorie who died from injuries caused by a falling tree.

1260 Andrew de Powderham
1263 Nicholas de Hylium
1308 Hugh de Powderham
1329 Thomas de Cruce
1340 Henry de Grymston
1349 Richard de Tauton
1351 John Stratton
1359 Thomas Canyngen
1380 Henry de Potyn
-- William Clyve
1392 John Clebury
1392 William Clyve
1421 William Downe
1427 Richard Robert
1435-6 Walter Colys
1436 Thomas Frome
1437 Peter Winterbourne
1467 John Ward
1473 John Coryngdon
-- John Fychett 
1538 John Keyte
1569 Christopher Bodley 
1607 Jerome Bodley
1625 Thomas Baker
- Lowmam
1658 John Ford 
1671 Francis Moore 
1681 Nicholas Hall 
1709 Robert Woollcombe
1731 Robert Sadler
1732 Manister Barmard.
1774 Thomas Clark
1784 Richard Harrington
1813 Charles Brown
1856 Wilse Brown
1883 John Batteridge Pearson
1912 William Jesse Bachelor
1917 Joseph Rogerson Edmomd Cotter Hodgins
1919 Arthur Harold Storrs
1939 Gordon Basil Nicholls
1957 John Cedric Hawkesworth Stocks
1960 Rufus Isaac Nathaniel Edwards
1964 Bernard Brown
1971 Douglas Obee

1976 Kenneth Warren
1981 Venerable Richard Hawkins

1770 T. Jackson
1771 Cormelius Cardew
1772 Thomas Carwitten
1778 P. Bringloe
1778 Thomas Ley
1784 Henry Kardinge
1784 Charles Cranley
1789 Henry Marker
1793 Nicholas Gay
1795 William Willcock
1807 Charles Brown

The Parish Church Registers date from 1594. They were transcribed in 1924 for the Devon and Cornwall Ancient Record Society by C.A.T. Fursdon Esq. of Thornton Hill, Exeter. A fine bound copy of the transcription was presented to the Church.

The Registers record the death and burial at Whitestone of the following Rectors:-
Jerome Bodley 6 May, 1625
John Ford 22 March, 1671
Robert Woolcombe 25 June, 1731
Robert Sadler 6 Oct., 1731
Manister Barnard 9 Mar., 1774
Charles Brown 1807
Wilse Brown
John Betteridge Pearson
J. R. C. Cotter Hodgins
Only the last four of these have memorials. The others here named, as well as many more who must have been buried here before the Registers were instituted, have left no memorial.

(1) Among the burials in 1691 the following note occurs:-
"This Mary West was am antient widow woman of the Parish of Newton St. Gyres, who coming to this Church with her brother James Lake, Senior on July 19 being Sunday, was then about half an hour after two of the clock, struck dead with lightening nigh the place on Castle Hill in this Parish where the two ways from the Church and from Sodden do meet."
(2) Among the burials in 1698 is written:-
"This year on the 16th day of July about midnight the house of Anne Best, widow of this Parish, called Bond House, was broken open by five or seven men; they carried away in gold, silver plate and rings to the value of £100. But God be ever thanked by all the relations of that family no man's life was lost."
(3) 1783 - A boy killed by accident in this Parish, name unknown, buried June 2nd.
(4) 1792 - John Loram of the Parish of Drewsteignton killed by accident, June 2th.
NOTE by A.H.S. - Evidently Coroner's inquests were unknown, at least in Whitestone, in those days, not to mention Police Inquiries.
(5) 1684 - John Boreth (French Protestant), buried April 20th.
(6) 1763 - Elizabeth Mortimer murdered August 4th.
(7) On the first leaf of the second register is written
"On Friday June 14th 1754 there was a very terrible storm of lightening and thunder which began before three and continued till after four in the morning. It partly uncovered the roof of the Chancel, battered the Tower and the Church in several places, broke the glass and melted the lead in the Belfry window. No building near it was at all damaged, nor any person hurt, nor beast killed."
(8) On the last leaf is written:-
"On Thursday August 28, 1777 there was a most terrible storm of lightening and thunder between eight and nine of the clocke in the morning, that Mr Moxey, in this Parish had a shock of corn took fire with the lightening in Adder Cleave and consumed it to ashes."
(9) Also on the last leaf occurs the following note:-
"In the year 1791 there was a new pulpit erected in the Parish Church of Whitestone, and the first sermon was preached on the 29th May by the Revd Henry Marker Junior from a text Psalm 133,
verse one - "Behold how good and joyful a thing it is Brethen to dwell together in unity."

Churchwardens;.- Mr Earland
Mr Passmore