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Although most people think of the church as Cockington Church the actual dedication is St George and St Mary, which in itself is unusual as the names normally come the other way around.  The recognition of St. George as England’s patron dates from Norman times. It would have remained as just St George until 1296 when the church became the possession of the Canons of Torre and they would have wanted St Mary included.  However, having had the name for 200 years it was thought wrong to replace it with St Mary so it was just added.

Set in the beautiful grounds of Cockington Court there has been a church on the ground where the present church stands from Saxon times.  The original place of worship was a chapel thought to have been built by William de Falesia a Norman who had many areas of Devon and Somerset given to him after the Conquest of 1066. 


The main structure 

The first part of the church to be built was the Chancel in c.1069 followed by the castellated tower built in the Romanesque style in c.1236. in 1297 part of the northern isle was added which was further extended c.1400 along with the construction of the west porch parvise. Then prior to 1780 the chancel was added. 

The tower stands 66 feet tall and with walls 6 feet thick in places. There are three floors which are believed to have been the accommodation for the priest in residence who would have been provided by the Canons at Torre Abbey. There is a fire place and drain in the first floor floor room (now the bell ringing chamber) which further support this theory.


There is also evidence of it being not just a church tower but a place of refuge from local pirates. By the front door there is an oak beam 6 feet 4 inches long that can be slid across when the door is closed to prevent any attempt to charge down the door and the walls of the tower contain several arrow slits.

St George’s Chapel which sits to the left of the main altar was built in the early 14th century by Roger de Cockington as his personal chapel. The Cockington family were the owners of the court for two hundred and twenty years until the Cary family took up ownership in 1374.  The only other family to have owned the court were the Mallocks who resided from 1654 until selling it to Torbay Council in 1932.

The new extension built approximately the same time as St George’s chapel was different to the North side.  It was dedicated to St Katherine and funded by Sir Walter de Wodeland in honour of his wife Katerina de Wodeland. Evidence of the altar still remains behind the current day's organ.

As you enter the church you come across the font.  This was given to the church by Robert Cary to celebrate his second wedding to Jane Carew.  It is octagonal in shape and made of Caen stone. On the eight faces are the coats of arms of the families after their marriages to people related in some way to Robert Cary.  Although they are very worn 6 of them are depicted on the shields you can see hanging on the pillars.  The shield depicting 3 roses (Cary) and 3 lions (Carew) is that of the married couple.

The font cover, which is no longer used, was made much later around the time of Elizabeth I and can be seen in St George’s chapel.

In the corner to the left of the font is the Commonwealth Bell. The Commonwealth period is the time when Oliver Cromwell ruled England and his decree was that all churches would do away with all forms of ornamentation.  Stained glass windows, rood screens etc were smashed, all walls were white-washed and no bells were to be rung. During this period Devon and Cornwall were very much cut off from the rest of the country. Possibly because of this isolation this bell was actually cast during this time in 1653 in total defiance of the rule and was rung at every service.

In the tower there were three bells, all cracked, until 1908.  It was decided to have two of the bells recast and that there should be four bells in all, the Commonwealth bell being removed to its present situation.  Rev. Henning was supported by Captain Mallock in his desire to have them rehung in the upper room. 


They decided to raise funds by holding an “Old Time Village Fair”, the forerunner of Cockington Fayre, which was so successful it raised sufficient funds for the four bells to be put in place. The two that were recast, the tenor, the heaviest of the bells weighs 9cwt and the treble, the lightest, weighs just over 4cwt.  The two other bells are inscribed Charles and Iris Mallock, Cockington Court.  In 1909, a fifth bell was added inscribed “The gift of William Tanner in memory of his wife and Emily.  In 1910 the sixth was added as a gift from Col. Lucius and Louisa Cary in memory of all the Cary’s buried in the Church.   The bells are rung at every Sunday service and for weddings of which there are about 20 each year.


Staying on the North Aisle, the cross in the third window marks the death of Major C. H. Mallock who died in 1917 in World War 1 and the window also contains the names of all the parishioners who died in the two world wars.


In St George’s chapel there is also a bible on display which contains the 27th letter of the alphabet of the original alphabet. 


The pulpit is thought to have come from a Spanish warship during the time of the Spanish Armada.  It was washed up in the bay and taken to the Spanish Barn where it lay untouched for centuries before being installed in Cockington.  Some say it was from where the captain preached and others, that it was the crow’s nest.


The rood screen was constructed between 1915 – 1923 by a Herbert Read in Exeter and is a beautifully carved example.  There are 14 birds feeding on the vine depicted. The two shown show a bird eating a caterpillar and another singing.  Other show them eating a grape and represent the soul of man feeding on the True vine, overcoming evil depicted by an earth-bound creature and praising the creator.


The helmet, which hangs in the sanctuary is the burial helmet of Sir George Cary


The misericords were used by monks and priests who had to stand throughout the services which in olden days could have taken up to 3 three hours.  The seat when lifted would form a slightly higher bench so that the priests could partly sit/partly stand.   The depiction on the raised version is of St Luke and the oxen.


And what about the people of the church over the past nine hundred and fifty years.


Little is recorded of the de Cockington’s other than several were members of parliament at the time of the rotten boroughs. But since most of the extensions were in done during their tenure of the court we can only imagine that they were God fearing people.


On the other hand, much is recorded about the Cary family.  The most famous is Sir George Carey who died in 1617.  Sir George was prominent during the Spanish Armada and was responsible for the defence of Torbay.  When the Spanish galleon, Nuestra Senora del Rosario, was grounded in Torbay, 397 sailors were taken to the Spanish Barn at Torre Abbey under his direction.  Sir George advanced the money to, and I quote, “relieve the misery of the Spanish prisoners, otherwise they must have perished.” The cost being £84 8s 11d.

In 1609, Sir George built alms houses near the court when in his latter years he “Being grown somewhat aged he resolved to live the residue of his days to God and himself and knowing how pleasing a sacrifice to God charity and good deals are (must have been a mason) he proposed to do something for the poor.

The Alms houses were taken down in 1810 and rebuilt outside the park because the Mallock in charge at the time didn’t want the poor living outside his windows.

Another artifact that is not seen by the general public as it is usually under the carpet in front of the altar is the brass commemorative plaque denoting the grave of Sir George Cary.


The last Cary to own the court was Sir Henry Cary.  He is famed for fighting for the Royalists in The English Civil War.  He was in charge in the battle for Kingswear Castle, in 1647, which was the last stronghold in this area to be taken by the Roundheads.  After this his assets were confiscated.  He appealed against the confiscation by saying that “He was young and was persuaded to help the Royalists.”  He won the appeal and the grounds were returned to him but a heavy fine of £1985, which was estimated to be one tenth of the value of the land,  was enforced.  Nothing much happened in the area until 1651 when he was found to be trying fund the return of the king.  Another heavy fine and the cost of keeping the court going ended in 1654 when he had to sell it to the Roger Mallock, a silversmith from Exeter.  The Mallocks were not particularly remarkable in what they did.  Several were vicars, doctors etc. some held commissions in the army and Richard Mallock became MP for Torbay.  It was Richard Mallock who gave the ground on which is built St Matthew’s Church at the top of Walnut Road.

However, the last Mallock to reside in the court was not so benevolent.  In 1929 Richard Herbert Mallock had a staunch gate erected at the entrance to park so that no members of the public, including parishioners wishing to visit the church, were allowed in the grounds.  This was hotly contested by the church authorities and they won a high court ruling that vehicles of parishioners were allowed in as far as the fork for divine services and that any member of the public could enter the park on foot between the hours of 9am and 6:30pm.  The court was finally given to Torbay in 1932.  It is interesting to note that the boss of the present owners, Torbay Coast and Countryside trust,  last year tried to ban cars altogether until we were able to show Damien Offer the ruling clearly logged in this book.


Cockington Church, although in existence for 950 years, was not made a parish in its own right until 1882 after the influx of thousands of people into theCockington/ Chelston area thanks to the railway being extend down to Torquay in 1876.  For example the population rose from 371 in 1881 to 1717 in 1891.  


From reading the magazines from 100 years ago Reverend Henning seemed to have been an excellent vicar.  He was responsible for the building of St Matthew’s church in 1896, the reconstruction of the belfry at Cockington in 1908 and the acquisition of church meeting rooms in Sherwell Road, which is now the Christian delphian’s building.

His successor, Rev Walters, on the other hand, was not so successful, and from his letter of resignation of which he talks of his shame one can only believe that today he would have been denounced as a child sex abuser.

Rev. Chatfield was vicar for the longest period and in his time he saw the opening of the third church in the Parish, St Peter’s in Queensway, in 1962 to cater for the new housing estate.

And finally, the ghost of Cockington Church. 

Is there one?  One day Ron Ashcroft, husband of the Church Warden, was clearing weeds outside in the east end when a chap game running around the corner of the building asking where the monk went.  Ron somewhat taken aback said “What monk?”  The visitor said his wife was in the church and looking out of the window saw the figure of a monk pass.  He seemed disappear around to where Ron was working.  Now, obviously, she could have been completely mistaken and it was someone wearing a long brown coat taking a look in the porch.  Strangely though, the place where she thought he went used to be a monk’s room before 1800. There is a squint in the wall by the altar which allowed the monk to see what was happening...


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