WESTLEIGH CHURCH HISTORY
The Church of St Peter is very ancient From the ‘Pleas of the Crown’ of the 13th Century, there was an actual case of taking sanctuary in the ‘Church of St. Medom, Westleigh (We do not know who St Medom was!).
The dedication of the church has long been assigned to St Peter. The list of vicars goes back to the 13th century, 1288. Sir Warine de Penildes was rector at that time. The Ecclesia of Westleghe was worth £5 per annum.
After 1288 the rectory was appropriated to the dean and chapter of Exeter, who have since appointed vicars.
The church is of early English style, with a tower housing six bells. The church was last restored about 1880-
The living was worth in 1831 £170., and by 1931 had increased to £370.
The venerable churchyard Yew tree, with ‘rifted and knarled trunk’ has, for centuries, told the passer by:-
Mine office’tis to watch o’er those that sleep,
To mourn in truth and shame the mocking knave,
To weep o’er those who have no friends to weep, and chant a requiem o’er each silent grave.
Lines written in Westleigh churchyard
Throughout the church the roofs are very rich – waggon shaped, with plaster and purlins, good bosses, one touched with gilding, and angel figures ranging along the wall plate. In the floor may be noted that besides the ‘Barum’ tiles, are other dating from the 15th century, and they may well have originated from Barnstaples very early established potteries.
The original stained glass seems to have disappeared, as have two early vicars’ stones which were recorded by Dr.Milles around 1755.
The font is early English, and described by Ashworth as a ‘Massive Bowl’, which holds 9 gallons and is supported by 8 granite shafts.
Over the South porch a sundial bears the legend ‘Umbra Sumas’, and an image niche remains in the gable. The church goods and commissioners in 1553 reported that:-
“Westlegue iiij belles yn the towre their.”
Three of these were remaining in 1865 – and in 1882 new bells were dedicated on June 26th. It may be that one or two of the original bells are still there.
The church plate dates from the 18th century.
licence was granted for divine service in a chapel of St Anne in this parish on June 1lth 1457.
There are, within the church and in the churchyard, successive memorials to the Cleve lands of Tapeley; William Cleveland died in 1786; John Cleveland died in 1817; Augustas Cleveland died 1749. He is mentioned as being at the Battle of Waterloo.
Archibald Cleveland was killed at Inkermann in 1854, after having taken part in the charge of Balaclava.
An obelisk was erected in the grounds of Tapeley Park in his memory.(The obelisk was destroyed in a storm in 193 and never re-
The Organ was obtained in 1897
A list of the vicars of Westleigh from before 1297 starts as follows:-
1297 Sir Warine de Penildes.
1314 Sir Simon Stirin.
1372 Sir Richard Slaghtor.
Sir William Renoke.
1393 Sir simon Tobey.
1417 John Shynner.
1418 Ralph Kyngesford.
Sir Nicholas Wyohe.
1465 Sir Thomas Squyrelle (died 1519).
1512 Sir Richard Benet.
1531 Sir William Shapland.
1532 Sir John Rowe.
1542 Edmund Cryspun.
1550 Sir Stephen Kemmell.
1551 Sir Robert Prideaux.
1557 Sir John Herne.
1561 Sir John Hodge.
1575 Sir Robert Atkins.
1579 Sir Evan Gryffyth.
1627 Christopher Batesson .M.A.
1629 John Hearding.
1661 George Penrose.
1665 John Pugsley.
1668 James Shapley.
1681 Benjamin Hernamann.
1681/2 Peter Calle.
1692 Leonard Prince.
Ely Foster. (His name is/was on the bell dated 1694).
1695 John Edgcombe.
1697 Hugh Stephens.
1737 Thomas Bate.
1767 George Smith.
John LKahe Kitson.
1803 John Toms.
1835 Dashwood Lang.
1874 Sydney Thelwall.
1892 John Benny White.
1895 Nicholas German.
1915 Conrad William Curling Finzel.
1931 Frederick W Bodger
1946 Tom Mortimer
1961 John Shepheard-
1979 John Spear