powered by FreeFind





St. German's in 1837

St. German's is in the hundred of East, on the river Tidi, which unites with the Lynher, forming the St German's river ; 228 miles from London through Plymouth and Saltash.

It is on the slope of a tolerably high hill, which rises on the north side of it. The houses (which, in 1831, amounted to 491 for the whole parish, one of the largest in the county), are arranged mostly in one street. The inhabitants of the parish (2,586 in 1831) derive their chief support from agriculture and fishing. St. German's was at a remote period the seat of a bishopric, which was afterwards united with that of Crediton, and from this union arose the see of Exeter.

Athelstan, king of England, had established here a college of priests, who were afterwards made canons of the order of St. Augustine ; and the manor of St. German’s was divided between the priory thus formed and the bishop of Exeter. At the Suppression, the revenues of the priory were valued at £243, 8 shillings (Dugdale and Speed) ; or £227, 4 shillings, 8 pence (according to the Clare MS. Valor.)

The conventual church, now used as the parish church, was formerly much more extensive. The ancient chancel fell to the ground in 1592, in consequence of the necessary repairs having been neglected : the church now consists of a nave and two aisles. The west front has two towers, both of which are supposed to have been once octagonal in the upper part and quadrangular below : the north tower retains that form, but the south tower has been altered, and is quadrangular throughout. Between the towers is the entrance formed by a very deep Norman arch with shafts and mouldings, and two small Norman windows above. The architecture of the south aisle is very dissimilar, and the use of the pointed arch indicates its later erection ; indeed the pointed arch is found even in the west front, which has probably undergone partial alteration. In the part now employed as the chancel is a rude ancient seat, generally called 'the bishop's chair,' but probably nothing more than the seat of one of the monks. There is a fine altar piece, a pulpit curiously veneered and inlaid, and several monuments.

The seat of the earl of St. German's, called Port Eliot, is in the immediate vicinity of the church, and occupies the site of the ancient priory : the outside is irregular and devoid of magnificence, but many of the apartments are convenient and spacious, and decorated with paintings.

The site of the abbey and other lands were, at the Dissolution, leased to John Champernowne and others, and afterwards granted in fee, in consideration of a sum of money, to Catherine, widow of John, and two other persons. Champernowne is said to have obtained his share in the monastic plunder by a trick creditable to his ingenuity rather than his fairness. Two gentlemen making suit to the king for these lands, Champernowne, then in attendance at court kneeled behind them when they kneeled to his majesty, as though he had been a party to the petition, joined with them in returning thanks, and afterwards claimed his share, which, on an appeal to the king, was allowed him. From the Champernownes the estate passed to the Eliot family, of which the present earl of St. German's is the representative.

There are two cattle fairs in the year. There is a free school, founded and endowed by Nicholas Honey, and we believe farther supported by the Eliot family. St German's returned members to parliament in 1562, when its right to send was questioned. The right of election was nominally in all householders within the borough (which however contains only a few houses) but was virtually vested in the freemen, who amounted according to Oldfield's "Representative History", (London, 1816) to seven ; the borough was disfranchised by the Reform Act. The living is a perpetual curacy, of the annual value of £101, with a glebe-house, in the gift of the dean and chapter of Windsor ; in the diocese of Exeter and the archdeaconry of Totnes ; but according to Messrs. Lysons (Magna Britannia), it is in the peculiar jurisdiction of the bishop of Exeter.