A proof that the aisles were not part of the original church, but were added at a later date may be found in the fact that the east wall of the south aisle conceals half the arch of the priests' doorway, and it is probable that they formed part of the restoration at that time.
A later restoration took place in 1875, when choir stalls were fixed, a lectern given as a memorial to Dr. C.C. Pode M.B., and the old pews discarded in favour of the present seats and it was then agreed by those who claimed ancient rights to some of these pews, that they should be unappropriated henceforth.
The chancel was handsomely restored in 1867 by Lord Blachford, with a Derbyshire alabaster and Italian marble reredos and arcading and with ' columns of a richly coloured local stone, but the style is hardly in keeping with the perpendicular work of the rest of the church.
The only old woodwork is the Jacobean pulpit, which is a good specimen of the period. The rood screen was destroyed in Puritan times, but the doorways in the north wall mark the entrances to the staircase and rood loft. The font is modern, as well as the litany desk and episcopal chairs, one of which was made of oak from the original chapel of Exeter College, oxford.
The waggon roof of the nave and aisles is of a type common in the west of England, with panels of plaster between the ribs and bosses of oak at their juncture, but the chancel roof, which is paneled with oak, is modern.
Besides the east window in the chancel and a little lancet one, dedicated to the memory of a former vicar, the Rev. Ch. Ch. Bartholomew, there are 4 no. four light windows and 10 no. with three lights. All have comparatively modern tracery and glass, as Walter Shute, an intruder into the living in the middle of the 17th century, had permitted the church to be much abused, the rood loft to be pulled down and the painted windows to be broken in pieces.
The altar, with panels inlaid with emblematic designs in various coloured woods and flanked by carved angels is modern. This replaced a carved one which was removed to the school chapel at Lutton. There are two altar candlesticks of brass gilt, having inscribed on them respectively: 'in honorem Christi corporis' and 'in honorem Christi sanguinis', and on the retable stands a cross, of Italian work, probably the head of a processional one. It was brought home from Italy by Lord Blachford, as were also the lamps hanging in the sanctuary, one of which is dated 1538. Doubtless these were originally censers.
The vestry is outside the north wall of the chancel, and in olden times a doorway, leading into the sanctuary, was it's only entrance to the church, but in the restoration of 1875 a new one was made through the east wall of the north aisle, at a point where one of the altars of Bishop Grandison's time stood, as indicated by the credence already mentioned. on completion of all the work a service was held, at which Bishop Temple was present, when a surpliced choir was introduced for the first time.
At the west end, divided from the nave by a thick wall stands the tower, nearly 10 1/2 ft. square, which is undoubtedly the oldest part of the church and it's slightly tapering staircase, with remains of lancet windows, shows that it is at least as old as the early English period. Its height is 41 ft. to the top of the parapet and the staircase turret is 2 ft. higher. Its base is separated from the nave by a modern screen to partially conceal the ringers.
In an old map of Dartmoor, now in the Albert Museum, Exeter, which has been deciphered by a committee of the Devonshire Association, the church is represented as having a low spire.
The tower contains a set of six bells, five of them having been cast by Pennington in 1770, and the treble added in 1835. In it there is a clock with three faces, which Lady Blachford gave in memory of her husband, together with an endowment for it's maintenance.
The south porch was restored in 1908 by parishioners and friends in memory of the late Rev. J.T. Mundy, for nearly twenty years vicar of the parish, but the remains in it of an old stoup were so slight that it was not thought worthy of restoration. Above the doorway is a sun dial, dated 17th March, 1762 and below it, inscribed on a white stone are the words 'In Thy light shall we see light'.
Within the south porch of the church is a list of the 42 incumbents, with interesting notes on the ecclesiastical history of the parish. It begins with John de Langeford, instituted as rector before the year 1263 (the exact year being unknown), and ends with the Rev. James Furneaux Powning, collated as vicar in 1908.
The change of title from rector to vicar is explained by the fact that in the year 1432 the Rectorial Tithes, which had been part of the stipend of the incumbents, were in a high handed way taken from the benefice and devoted to the upkeep of Exeter Cathedral choir, and this arrangement continued until 1742, when they were sold by the Priest Vicars to Sir John L. Rogers.
Several of the incumbents deserve particular notice, but for very different reasons. On the 11th May, 1312, Master Henry Bloyou, the 3rd rector, was summonsed to appear at Westminster, to answer the plea of William Martyn, whose warren at Ugborough he had entered in pursuit of hares and rabbits. The writ was sent to Bishop Stapeldon, of Exeter to deal with and his revenues were sequestrated to the value of 2 marks.
Hugh Jones, who was the Bishop of Llandaff, became the incumbent in 1566.
The date of the induction of Henry Smith, the 28th Incumbent, is not recorded, but it was shortly before the rebellion. He was much beloved by the parish and neighbouring gentry and is said to have been a man of learning and a zealous loyalist. However, loyalty was his undoing, as owing to it, his benefice was sequestrated by the evil powers which had mastery at the time.
He was subject to much persecution, his goods were plundered and he and his wife and children had to flee for their lives. Eventually he was caught and imprisoned in the neighbourhood of Plymouth and finally sent to the common gaol at Exeter, where he died and it is said that his end was hastened by the news of the death of Charles I. It is related that during his incumbency Cornwood received a royal visitor in the person of Prince Charles, who had come to show his regard to the vicar, so well known for his true and faithful adherence to the cause of his beloved master Charles I.
When Henry Smith had been ousted, Walter Shute in defiance of right and justice was placed in possession of the benefice. It was he of whom Walker in his 'Sufferings of the Clergy' speaks as being called a very ignorant and gluttonous fellow, and it is said that on the Martyrdom of Charles I he preached a blasphemous sermon, in which he derided Kings and Princes. However, he conformed at the Restoration and by the clemency of the Government was allowed to continue in the living, being instituted on 8th November, 1662.
In later times the church was the scene of shameful disorder and Waltham Savery of Slade was convicted of 'chiding and brawling in the church and churchyard' and was forbidden to enter it until he should ask pardon of Sir John Rogers publicly in church. This he did on St. Bartholomew's Day, 1734, with these words 'Whereas I have been lately convicted by sentence in the Consistory Court of Exon, for chiding and brawling in the church and churchyard I do now acknowledge to have transgressed the law and offended you, for which I ask your pardon.'
He was the cause of further trouble, for he cut down the pegs on which Sir John and his family hung their hats. Whereupon Dame Mary, her daughter and two servants hung them on a par close screen. He then brought an action against Sir John, which was given in his favour in the Archdeacon's Court at Totnes, but when the case was carried by Sir John on appeal to the Court of Delegates the previous decision was reversed and Savery was sentenced to pay E300.00.
The Holy Communion Plate escaped the hands of the spoilers in Puritan times and consists of:
- An Elizabethan chalice of silver parcel gilt, weighing 8 oz. 19 dwt., in height 6 3/4 ins. diameter of cup 3 3/4 ins. depth 3 7/8 ins. With the word 'Cornewoode' inscribed on the upper part of the foot. The hallmark is a Roman capital X, surrounded with a dotted circle, with two pellets, one in each side angle of the X and the word 'Ions', the name of the Exeter silversmith who made it. The date is probably 1573 (vide Cripps p 110 111). The cover is used as a paten and is 4 ins in diameter, weighing 2 oz. 19 dwt. It has the same marks as the chalice and the foot is engraved with a rose pattern in the centre of a filleted band.
- A chalice of silver, quite plain, weighing 18 oz., in height 8 ¼ ins., diameter of cup which is bell shaped 4 3/4 ins., depth 4 11/16th ins. and on the side is engraved a shield with the arms of Cole, of Slade. Evidently at a later date the arms of Williams of Stowford, in the parish of Harford, were added by way of empalement. This is evident from the position of the inscription: 'Ex dono Joannae Cole viduae relictae Philippi Cole de Slade arm igeri et filliae Thomas Williams de Stofford armigeri.' The hallmarks are a leopard's head crowned, a lion passant, with the initials J.B. in a shield, probable date 1639. The cover used as a paten, bears the same hallmarks as the chalice to which it belongs, weight 5 oz., 14 dwt., and diameter 5 3/4ins.
- A flagon of silver with the same coat of arms, inscription and hall marks as the last mentioned chalice, weight 44 oz. 5 dwt., height 10 1/2 ins., diameter of mouth 4 3/16th. ins., diameter of base 6 3/4 ins. it is nearly the same shape as the pewter flagon delineated by Cripps p. 201.
- An alms dish of silver, plain with cable ornament around the rim, diameter 13 ins., weight 22 oz. 15 dwt., diameter of bowl 9 ins., depth of bowl 2 3/4 ins., halls marks (a) leopard's head crowned, (b) lion passant, (c) I.C., (d) a small r (old English), probable date 1695. On the rim is the Rogers' coat of arms, engraved in the centre of the inscription ' pelvem hanc dedit Johannes Rogers de Wisdome militiae dux et mercator Plymouthiensis in usum ecclesiae parochialis de Cornwood in agro Devoniensi'
- A silver book desk for the altar, given by the Rev. J.D.D. de Vitre, Chaplain, R.N. after recovery from a severe accident 'as a thank offering to God for His mercy' January the 23rd, 1912.
Against the south wall of the Slade chapel there is the Cole monument, which is an altar tomb without name or inscription, but it is doubtless in memory of Philip Cole, of Slade, who died on 30th January, 1596. He had married Joane, the daughter of Thomas Williams of Stowford, in the parish of Harford, Speaker in the House of Commons in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
She survived her husband and in the course of time married Richard Connock, of Lyllesdon, in the parish of North Curry, Somerset. On 27th October, 1621 she made a will in which, besides other bequests, she left £10 apiece to the poor of Cornwood, Harford and North Curry and £50 to be equally divided between these three parishes, for repairing and adorning their respective churches.
She also desired to be buried in the parish church of Cornwood, near the body of her first husband, Philip Cole, and in carrying out her wishes, her executors erected a framework of stone above the tomb of Philip Cole, enclosing two kneeling figures in the richly coloured dress of the period, representing her and Philip. This is substantiated by the fact that the arms of the Coles and Williams were at one time painted on the face of the tomb below, but are now obliterated.
There are also two smaller figures, carved in relief on the background, but uncoloured, and it is not unfair to assume that they represent Philip Cole's father and mother, William, who died on 23rd April, 1547 and Elizabeth his wife, daughter of Sir Philip Champernont, Kt., of Modbury, who married secondly a Pollard. She too showed her affection for the home of her first married life, by desiring in her will to be buried 'in holie earthe within Cornwood church, nigh unto the place wheare the bodie of my late husband was buried'. The whole monument is surmounted by the arms of the Coles Argent, a bull passant, Sa., armed Or, with a bordure of the second bezantee.
There is an entry in an old register at North Curry, made by the Rev. John Gibbs, Vicar of the parish, saying that in as much as in him lay, he had given to Mrs. Johan Connock, of North Curry a gentlewoman of about 90 years of age, of much weakness and great infirmity and continually keeping her bed, a dispensation to eat flesh that Lent, such as the laws did permit, to sustain and nourish nature in her. There is no further record of her, but she must have died in 1633, as her will was proved on the 14th of September in that year.
In a history of North Curry, it mentions that there is an altar in the vestry which has embroidered on it 'Johan Connock, 1633', also a shield with three cock's feet. This, the author considers to be in memory of the same old lady.
To return to Cornwood church, on the south wall of the chancel there is a monument consisting of two white alabaster figures in Elizabethan costume, a gentleman kneeling on a cushion at a prayer desk, facing a lady who is kneeling on the other side. Underneath is inscribed:
'Here lyeth the bodies of Robert Bellmaine late of Dallamoore, esquire, and Dorothy his wife who departed this life, she on the 27th day of April, he on the 8th day of May following, 1627.'
'Here's rest and peace
Within the graue,
Whitch wee in life
Could never haue'
This is surmounted by a shield of arms, quarterly of twenty, and above it the Bellmaine crest, an open hand.
There is a monument, forming part of the pavement of the tower, which must have been removed from its original position in the church. It consists of a slab of marble bearing the following inscription:
'Here lyeth the body of the Lady Jane Roll, the wife of Sir Henry Roll, Knight, who died the IX daye of June, ano domi, 1634.'
The remainder of the inscription is partly covered by the tower screen, and base of the font, but it shows that Lady Jane had been previously married to Richard Hals, Esquire.
In an angle at the northeast corner of the Slade chapel is the monument of John Savery, of Slade, an oval tablet of white marble, bearing the following inscription:
'Near this place lyeth the body of Mr. John Savery, son of William Savery of Slade, esq., by Prudence his wife, daughter of John Drake of Iveybridge, esq., who departed this life the 21st Feb. 1696.'
Below this on a black marble tablet is the recumbent figure of a child, in a green mantle, edged with ermine, with this epitaph:
'This infant fled from our admiring sight His stay so short, so sudden was his flight That he has taught us by his hasting hence That th'earth's too vile for so much innocence Reader relent since thou noe more shall see This matchless child but in his effigie.'
and on a miniature shield below are the arms of Savery, viz. Gules, a fess Vaire, between three unicorn heads, couped, Or. The whole is surmounted by a tablet with the arms of Savery and Drake.
On a paving stone, now at the entrance to the tower, the following words were inscribed, though now much oblitereated:
'His curious frame and pretty charming love,
Seraphim like prepar'd him for above
His change was glorious, his asent was braue,
His soul's in Heaven, triumphant ore the graue'.
John Savery, son of William Savery of Slade, esq., buried 27th Feb. 1696.
This stone no doubt formed a part of the pavement near the Savery monument.
In the churchyard there are two altar tombs of rough granite, belonging to the 17th century. The inscriptions are carved in bold relief. On the one near the lych gate can be read: 'the 5th of Feb. 1655, Rich the daughter of Mr. William Cholwich of Cholwich, with the family coat of arms on the west end.
During the last half century, two additions have been made to the churchyard, the first by the gift of the land by Admiral Parker of Delamore and the second by that of his successor, Colonel William F. Parker. The principal entrance to it is through a handsome lych gate, given in 1878 by Lord Blachford's sister, Miss Rogers.
The picturesque old vicarage was very inconveniently distant from the church and this, as well as the glebe, has been sold to the owners of the adjoining land, and a new vicarage erected, close to the church.
The oldest register of baptisms, marriages and burials are contained in a half-bound volume, beginning with the year 1685 and ending with 1783. Some entries are impossible to decipher as the edges of the paper are completely worn out and others are difficult to read owing to the use of ink which has faded, but a fair copy has been made of what is legible, as well as an index.
This register contains a statement of the rights of the vicar of Cornwood to a stream of water which supplies the vicarage and of an agreement with Sir. F. Rogers with regard to an exchange of a small plot of ground belonging to it, for certain rights of turbary etc., but there are no other entries of interest, excepting those of births, deaths and marriages.
Tradition says that the parish Clerk, who lived in a cottage close by the church had charge of various documents and papers relating to it, but the cottage was burnt down and all the contents destroyed. This probably accounts for there being no records earlier that 1685