(from 'A History of St Philip and St James, Escot - available from the church)
The church of St Philip and St James was originally (1838) a chapel in the Parish of Ottery St Mary, erected by Sir J Kennaway, bt. of the nearby Escot House. It was consecrated on 1 May 1840 with the Rev. PW Douglas MA being appointed as perpetual curate. A district was assigned on 11 June 1844, taken out of Ottery St Mary and Talaton, where the Kennaways of Escot House had previously worshipped. The incumbent became a vicar in 1868 and the parish retained its independance until 1958 when the Rector of Talaton became Vicar of Escot and Priest in Charge of Clyst Hydon and Clyst St Lawrence. In 1989, reorganisation led to its linkage with Feniton and Buckerell in a United Benefice under the Rev. WHC Kingston BSc, as Rector. After his death in office, he was succeeded by Rev Robert Gordon, who was designated Priest in Charge of the parishes. Rev Gordon left for St Peter's, Tiverton in 2009.
After another reorganisation in 2005 a Team Rector was appointed, based in Ottery St Mary to oversee the work of several parishes which became the Otter Vale Team Ministry. Escot, Feniton and Payhembury churches were included in this and this remains the situation at the present time with our current Rector being Rev Catherine Edmonds.
The interior is plain, with a rib-vaulted chancel having leaf bosses at intersections and figurehead corbels. The reredos is immediately noticeable with its Gothic pinnacles and mosaic inlay incorporating the traditional Greek symbols, the Alpha and Omega (first and last), Chi Rho (Christ), Ichthys (the fish, made up of the initials standing for Christ, God and Saviour). Tradition has it that the mosaic was brought back from Italy by Sir John (3rd baronet) when he returned from his honeymoon.
The tall pulpit has linenfold panelling and was dedicated as a memorial to Miss Augustus Kennaway on Easter Day 1896. The benches are mainly original, although one, near the south-west door, was added in 1936. The lectern is in the Arts and Crafts style and has panels of beaten copper.
A memorial table in the nave records the early achievements of the Kennaway family. John Kennaway 1758 - 1836 (later Sir John) was in the service of the East India Company in Bengal with his brother, Richard, and became the first British resident of Hyderabad. Returning to England at the age of 35 the two brothers purchased the Escot estate from Sir George Yonge for £26,000. Sir John's own tomb is at Talaton while more recent Kennaway memorials are placed in the nave above the Kennaway pews.
Two memorial tablets to the Ponsonby family were placed in the chancel 'tempoarily' in 1941 when their original home, the church of St Mary-le-Bow was bombed.
On the north wall is a memorial shaped like the section of a ship which commemorates a naval officer, George Shergold Smith, Lieut. RN.
Another group of memorials represent the Douglas family who provided the first incumbent, Phillip William Douglas.
A futher table commemorates the death of Colonel Hugh Hill and his sister Eliza Ann.
A church school was originally founded by Miss Augusta Kennaway and Miss Susan Kennaway in a cottage opposite the front lodge of Escot House. As it became too small, the school moved to Taleford. When the day school closed in 1945 the building continued in use as the village hall, which remains its function today.
The original windows carried a geometric pattern with a small dove above the east window, but four have been replaced.
In the south wall of the nave is a memorial window dated 1873 to Sir John Kennaway, 2nd baronet, founder of the church and responsble for the rebuilding of Escot House. The upper half depicts Jesus calling his disciples and the lower half Moses with the serpent.
On the north wall at the west end is the War Memorial window which commemorates those who fell in World War 1. A plaque nearby commemorates those lost in World War 2.
The two replacement windows in the south wall of the chancel are of exceptional interest the one with a 'female figure, wise virgin, snowdrop border' was purchased from James Powell and Sons, London by Miss Vyvyan of London and Miss Smith of Rull, Whimple in memory of a young lady (Emily Charlotte Kennaway). It was almost certainly designed by Henry Holiday (1839-1927), some of whose work is displayed in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
The second window in teh chancel was ordered by Sir John Kennaway, 3rd baronet in memory of Archibald Francis Arbuthnot and depicts The Last Supper and the Walk to Emmaus.
The Church Bell
This was originally housed in a bellcote above the west end but was later removed as a safety precaution and placed indoors.
Graves to the south side of the church are mainly ccupied by members of the Kennaway family and their senior servants. Benches against the south wall commemorate Herbert John Baker and the other onald and Doris Vinnicombe of Taleford.
A number of trees have been planted in the churchyard as memorials to commemorate local persons and significant events.
A number of local family groups have their graves in the 1907 extension to the churchyard which occurred to the north and east of the original site.