Gentleman's Magazine Library, 1731-1868
|English Topography Part III Derbyshire - Dorsetshire
[1793, Part I., pp. 113-116.]
Honiton, in the south-east border of Devon, constituting part
of the Axminster hundred, is 156 miles west of London, near
the river Otter, which hence, after a course of 10 miles, and
passing the town of Ottery St. Mary, falls into the English
Channel at Otterton. It is bounded on the east by the parishes
of Moncton and Offwil, on the south by Farway and Sidbury,
on the west by Gittisham and Awliscombe, and the river on the
north divides it from Crombrawleigh. The parish is small, being
about 8 miles in circumference, and is in good cultivation.
The soil, which varies, is chiefly a rich loam and clay, and
mostly pasture and meadow land. About five tons of butter are
sent weekly to London during the season from the vicinity ;
of course the cheese is defective in quantity and quality.
The inclosures, which are small, are screened by luxuriant
hedges. Trees, but not of a large kind, are numerous. The cyder
made in the adjacent parishes is greater and better than in
The manor of Honiton was possessed by Drago, a Saxon, but was
given by William I. to his half-brother, Robert, Earl of Moreton,
afterwards Earl of Cornwall, son of Harlotta, the Conqueror's mother,
to whom succeeded William his son, who, taking part with Robert
the Norman against Henry I., was taken and lost his possessions.
The manor, now in the gift of Henry, was presented to De Redvers,
Earl of Devon. Isabella de Fortibus, the last of this family, sold
it to Edward I., who then transferred it to Sir John Knovil. On
the restoration of Hugh Courtenay to the Earldom of Devon, he,
probably by purchase, obtained the manor ; for Hugh Courtenay,
the second earl, gave it to his son, Sir Philip, a proof the property
was not annexed to the title. With this family it has continued
ever since, William Lord Viscount Courtenay being the
VOL. XIV. 12
present proprietor. The parish includes some
smaller manors.* Battishorn, which Sir Gilbert Knovil reserved,
had Humphrey Arundel for its lord, who headed the Cornish rebels
in Edward VI.'s reign. It was bought by Walter Yonge, Esq., and
belongs now to Sir George Yonge, K.B. The town is on the great
western road, 16 miles east of Exeter, in one of the finest parts
of the county, in a vale adorned with the majestic promontories
of Hembury Fort, St. Cyres, and Gittisham Hills, whose variegated
sides always produce the charm of novelty ; these, with a distant
view of others beyond Exeter and Cullumpton, give a coup d'il,
which for gracefulnes and beautiful scenery may vie with Italy.
Honiton is a borough by prescription from Edward I.'s time;
but neglecting its right near 400 years, it was by William Pole,
Esq., in the 16th Charles I., restored to this distinctive honour. The
right of election being in those paying scot and lot, and housekeepers'
potwallers not receiving alms, which right of the latter was exercised
every succeeding election ; and on a petition against Walter Yonge,
Esq., In 1701, it was confirmed by a committee of commons; but in
1710, upon a special return of Sir William Drake, Bart., Sir Walter
Yonge, Bart., and James Sheppard, Esq., the portreeve referred the
matter to the house, who then decided it to be in those paying scot
and lot only ; but in 1724 it was again settled to be likewise in
potwallers not having received alms. This borough, in common with
many others, suffered a total extinction of its ancient rights by
James II. giving it a charter and investing the right of election
in freemen only, all of whom were packed country gentlemen.§ The
usual routine of officers were chosen,|| and met in the
town hall ; but of that, or of the records of the court, there are
now no direct traces. On the Revolution it reverted to its old constitution.
At the last election 373 persons polled. A portreeve, chosen annually,
is the returning officer. The place consists principally of one large
open street, paved, lighted, watered, and provided with common sewers,
and in an improving state.¶ The buildings convey
no trace of antiquity, being mostly new built, the fires of 1747
and 1765 leaving scarcely any part unburnt ; they are mostly covered
with slate, which gives them a pleasing effect at a distance. The
tenures are renewable life leases, possessing the spirit of feudalism.
The farmers are generally
**See Sir William Pole's "Collections on Devonshire," 4to.,
See Baretti's "Tour to Italy," cum multis aliis.
"Ex dono Gulielmi Pole, armigeri, qui ex amore hanc
oppidam, pene 400 annis intermissi, jam juri burgensium restoravit
in parliamento, 16to regis Caroli, anno Domini 1640, secundum
antiquum sigillum hujus burgis." Engraved round the borough
seal, with the arms of Pole.
§ See Burnet's "History of his Own Times,"
vol. i., fol., p. 625, 1724.
|| Sir Thomas Putt, Bart., was the first mayor; but, being also
chosen member, the king removed him, and John Pole, Esq., was
¶ By an Act passed 30 Geo. III. for improving the town.
tenants at rack-rent. The land-tax raised annually
in the parish is £614 19s. 8d. ; the poor rate, on an average, £550
per annum ; the county rates at present about £20. The workhouse
is large, neat, and healthy. The market is on Saturday, and a fair
is held in July. The woollen manufactory is carried on, and rich
lace and edgings made. A free school is endowed with a house and
small salary. A school of industry for girls is supported by ladies,
and a charity and Sunday-school about to be established by subscription.
The chapel, in which weekly duty and subscription lectures on Sunday
evenings are performed, is of uncertain antiquity, but so ruinous
in 1742 that it was completely taken down-at this time it had a
low obtuse spire with three small bells. The new chapel began rebuilding
by subscription, and advanced so slowly that little more than a
tower with a cupola and six bells was finished in 1765, and which
the great fire that year totally destroyed. The present is a neat
structure with a square embattled tower of flint with six bells,
a clock and chimes, which was completed and opened in 1769. The
tenor, made with the melted metal of a larger size, has the motto
in allusion :
"Corripuit me flamma
vorax depressa resurgo,
Ac aucto didici fortius ore loqui."
The only remains of the ancient building is an effigy placed in
an elevated niche at the west end of the tower, which tradition
reports as the figure of Elizeas Harding, clerk, who in 1523 was
a great benefactor to, if not the founder, of, this edifice. It
is dedicated to All Saints. There are a Presbyterian, an Independent,
and General Baptist meetings. The parish church is half a mile
distant on a bold eminence, the access to which is by a wide road
and walk, which is very ancient. The living is a rectory, charged
in the king's books at £40 4s. 2d.- the present value about £400
per annum. The parsonage is a little to the right of the church,
is a good house, and has an extensive glebe. The tithes are due
in kind, but are at present paid by a composition of 2s. 3d. in
the £, according to the real rent. Near the church are stables
to accommodate those who ride. The chancel, the most ancient part,
was probably a little chapel of mendicant friars - its situation
near the roadside favours this idea. The body, consisting of a
nave and aisles, were added by degrees. Bishop Courtenay, lord
of the manor about 1480, built the tower, which is square, embattled
63 feet high, with five bells. The church, including the chancel,
is 75 feet long, and 48 feet broad. The churchyard is rather small,
adorned with eight fine spiral yews. It has few, but some old,
tombs ; a headstone for Thomas Baker, a butterman, who was robbed
and murdered near Exeter, April 17, 1724. In the north side of
the church a monument for Anne Baker, who died July 24,1770, aged
25 ; also Susan Baker, her mother, relict of Rev. Thomas Baker,
rector of Hungerford, Berks, who died October 25, 1785, aged 74.
Near the door a tomb for Thomas Mar-
wood, gent., physician to Queen Elizabeth, *
who died in the Catholic faith, September 18, 1617, aged above
105; also his wife Temperance, who died October 9, 1644 [no age].
Over the door a monument for Bridget Ford, great grand-daughter
to the above Thomas Marwood, and relict of Edward Ford, of Honiton;
Bachelor of Physic, who died March 3, 1746, aged 86. Arms: gules,
a castle, in base a cross patée or, for Ford, impaling gules,
a chevron ermine, between three goats' heads erased proper for
Marwood. In the north-east comer: A handsome monument for John
Blagdon, Esq., buried December 10, 1714, aged 45, and many of the
family. Arms: Az. three trefoils argent,. on a. chief indented
gules, two annulets or, for Blagdon, other shields with alliances.
On the south side: a monument for James Sheppard, Esq., serjeant
at law, and member for Honiton, who died 1730, aged 49. Arms: quarterly,
first and fourth sable, a fess argent, in chief three battleaxes
paleways of the second, with a label; second and third, argent,
a lion rampant with semée of crosslets fitchy, gules; crest,
a dog sejant argent, spotted with blood, hoofed or, on a wreath
argent and sable. A small marble shield for Elijah Blampin, gent.,
who died December 4, 1787, aged 59. A marble bust of William Gill,
Esq., who died December 4, 1756, aged 72, with others of the family.
Arms: per fess, azure and argent on a bend sable three quartre-foils
of the second; a lion's head erased and crosslet fitchy at top,
and in base counterchanged. On a flat stone in the chancel an elegant
Latin inscription for Ezra Cleaveland, B.D., rector of Honiton,
who died August 7, 1740, aged 80. On two pillars the Courtenay
arms, topaz, three torteaux. On two pillars in the chancel : "Pray
for the soul of John Takell, and Jone hys wyffe," with a mildrine
sable between. The altar-piece is of stone, with gilt tablets
of the creed, etc. ; the railing raised on black and white. marble
lozengy. The organ gallery and screen is finely painted and gilt
and of curious workmanship. The brass chandeliers were given by
Sir William Yonge, K.B. The font is small, lined with lead. The
** During the progress of Charles I. in the West, on the 25th
of July, 1644, he slept one night at Dr. Marwood's, a physician,
in Honiton. "Collectanea Curiosa," vol. ii., No.13.
This was, doubtless, the son of the above. This house is
now the property and residence of W. J. Tucker, M.A., rector
of Widworthy, who is a maternal descendant from both these.
The house was built by John Marwood, physician and Bridget
his wife, 1619.
There are no armorial insignia recorded in the College
of Arms for Takell, now in Sir W. Pole's Collection of Arms of
Devonshire families but the name is arranged in the list. This
John Takell was a person of property, who lived in Honiton in
Henry VII.'s time. He was versed in the law; and his only daughter
married Baldwin Mallet, solicitor to Henry VIII. On two flat
stones, near the above pillars, are these inscriptions:
"Hic jacet Johanna Takell, vidua, quæ obiit 13 die
Julii, 1529." "Hic jacet magister Johannes Rygge, quondam
rector hujus ecclesiæ, thesaurus Crediton.'. No date to
the latter; but to each, "Cujus animæ
parcet Deus. Amen."
over which, at angles in the ceiling, are four
faces, carved and painted, habited separately with wings, a mitre,
a cowl, and armour - perhaps designed for St. Michael, the dedicatory
saint, the bishop, the incumbent, and the patron, emblematic as
supporters of the fabric.*
Of Rectors.-In Edward I., Henry de Pynkenee.
In Edward III., Mr. Sowerdon.
In Henry VIII., Matthew Fayrman, Mr. Bale, Mr. Tripp, Mr. Parke
died in 1564, Henry Steevens, who succeeded, died within the
year 1564, Mr. Slade, Mr. Dowrish, Andrew Cockram, who died 1598,
was succeeded by John Robins.
1605, Philip Nichols.
1613, John Eedes, B.D., who, being a Royalist, was in 1648 sequestered,
and succeeded,. pro tempore, by Francis Sourton, a celebrated
preacher, who, on the Act of Uniformity passing, resigned, and
in 1662 was succeeded by Ozias Upcott.
1698, Ezra Cleaveland, B.D.
1740, Charles Bertie, M.A.
1788, Edward Honywood, B.A.
The patronage in the Courtenay family. At the visitation of the
College of Arms, in 1620, no person entered either pedigree or
arms from Honiton.
Of Benefactions. -These are preserved on two tablets in
the church ; the most remarkable of which is the chapel of St.
Margaret, with a leper house adjoining, and tenements and lands
for its support, (which was left in 1550 by Thomas Chard, the last
abbot of Ford, who was born at Tracey, near Honiton, and took his
degree of D.D. in St. John's College, 1505. By a decree in Chancery,
it is now vested in the rector and churchwardens for the admission
of poor persons. This chapel (see plate II.) has one small
bell, is 33 feet long, 13 feet wide, contains an humble desk, a
form, and books. Prayers, by one of the charity, are read twice
a week. Mr. Prince and Mr. Wood assert Thomas Chard to be the founder;
but Mr. Cleaveland affirms it to have existed before his time.§ Those
whom the vindictive Jeffreys had executed at Honiton, for favouring
Monmouth, were, near this spot, boiled in pitch, and their limbs
placed on the shambles, and other public places: Mr. Potts, a young
surgeon, of Honiton, died with great fortitude.|| The
name of Honiton is of obscure etymology. Ton signifies a
habitation, a town ; honi,¶ in the old Norman
French, signified the same as honte
** This beautiful church is in expectation of a picture from
the pencil of Ozias Humphry, Esq., as a tribute of respect
and love for the place of his birth.
Who was proctor for the Bishop of Exeter in the parliament
held at Carlisle. See Atterbury's "Rights of an English
Convocation," p. 488. The earlier part of the list of rectors
I present on the authority of a memorandum in an old register.
A small acknowledgement is paid to Sir George Yonge, K.
B., the chapel having been built on a spot given from the manor
of Battishorn. A chapel of the same name, and a leper house adjoining,
existed at Taunton prior to Henry VIII. See Toulmin's "History
of Taunton," 4to., 1791.
§ Prince's "Worthies of Devon "; Wood's "Athen.
Oxon." ; Cleveland's "History of the Courtenays,"
|| Locke's "Western Rebellion," 8vo., Taunton.
¶ A tenement of Sir George Yonge's, in Luppit, is called
Honiwell. This shows the word was in use.
does now, that is shame or disgrace.
An old legend relates, that at a certain time almost all the women
of the place were barren, and of course childless; that, to remedy
this evil, they were enjoined by the priests to repair to St. Margaret's
Chapel, and pass one whole day and night there in prayer, when,
by means of a vision, they would become pregnant; and the saint
never abused their confidence. The arms of the borough (see the
great seal, Plate II., fig. 2), which are singular, seem to allude
to somewhat of this kind, although perhaps of Saxon origin. It
represents a pregnant female in devotion to an idol auspicious
to parturient women, an obstetric hand above beneath an honeysuckle,
the whole surrounded with beads. There is now, however, no occasion
for any invocation to the saint, the honi or shame and disgrace,
of the town, being long since completely done away. The vicinity,
though not so populous as more inland situations, boasts a neighbourhood
as replete with friendship, hospitality, and politeness. The representatives
are, Sir George Yonge, K.B. and George Templer, Esq. The prevalent
amusements are dancing and card-assemblies, and reading societies.
I will conclude with a state of the register for these last twelve
years. The earliest register commences in 1564*.
|1780 - -
||1786 - -
|1781 - -
||1787 - -
|1782 - -
||1788 - -
|1783 - -
||1789 - -
|1784 - -
||1790 - -
|1785 - -
||1791 - -
[1793, Part I., pp. 393, 394.]
Inclosed I send a drawing (Plate I.) of St. Michael's church, Honiton,
together with the inscription.
The yew-tree which is at the east end of the church is the only
monument of Mr. William Baker, attorney-at-law, and his wife, who
planted it from his garden, a few years previous to his death,
at the feet of his wife: it is about thirty years standing. The
spiral yews, which adorn the walk, were planted about seventy years
since by Mr. Serjeant Sheppard, some time member for Honiton, from
his garden, now belonging to Mr. Edward Carter, attorney-at-law.
His monument described as above referred, was principally composed
of a marble slab, which used to decorate his hall, as being thought
more durable than any then to be procured.
** In June, 1724, twenty-nine persons died of the small-pox.
In July, fifty-four died; fifty of the same disorder. In
1731, nearly the same number in a month : inoculation was
then little known. 1780, were many children of disease. 1783,
influenza prevailed. Since the tax on baptisms, in 1783,
many persons evade the entering by private baptism. 1788,
three persons were buried in one week, whose united ages
were 272 years.
I subjoin a list of members for Honiton,
more correct than any yet printed :
[transcriber's note: single paragraph in the
book, but listed here for easy searching]
1640, William Pole and Walter Yonge, Esquires.
1660, Sir John Yonge and Samuel Searle.
1661, Courtenay Pole and Peter Prideaux, Esqrs.
1678, Sir Walter Yonge and Sir Thomas Putt, Harts.
1685, Edmund Waldron and Sir Thomas Putt.
1688, Edmund Waldron and Richard Courtenay.
1690,1695, 1698, 1701, 1702, 1705, 1708, Sir William Drake and
Sir Walter Yonge. 1710, Sir William Drake; and a double return
of Sir Walter Yonge and James Sheppard, Esq., decided in favour
of Sir Walter Yonge.
1713, William Drake and James Sheppard, Esq.
1714, Sir William Yonge and Sir William Pole.
1722, 1727, Ditto.
1734, Sir William Yonge and William Courtenay.
1741, Sir Walter Yonge and Henry Reginald Courtenay.
1747, Sir Walter Yonge and John Heath Duke.
1754, Sir George Yonge and H. R. Courtenay.
1761, John Duke and H. R. Courtenay.
1763, Sir George Yongeand John Duke.
1768, Sir George Yonge and Alderman Crosby.
1774, Sir George Yonge and Laurence Cox.
1780, Sir George Yonge and Alexander Macleod.
1781, Sir George Yonge and Jacob Wilkinson, Esq.
1784, Sir George Yonge and Sir George Collier.
1790, Sir G. Yonge and George Templer, Esq.
The following inscription, on a flat stone before the communion
rails in Honiton Church, was written by the Rev. Richard Lewis,
M.A., who died November 27, 1775. He was rector of Fiddeton, in
Somersetshire ; vicar of Buckerel, in Devon ; master of the grammar-school
in Honiton ; chaplain to Lord Bellenden ; and in the commission
of peace for Devonshire. He possessed from nature strong parts,
which he cultivated with the sciences. He died esteemed and regretted.
This stone was placed in compliance with the will of Mr. Cleveland's
only daughter, who married Jonathan Ward, a merchant of Exeter.
From the badness of the stone, this inscription is now totally
obliterated. Mr. Cleveland, in his genealogical history of the
Courtenay family, mentions the tower-window of this church having
the arms of Bishop Courtenay (who was its patron about 1480), impaled
with those of his mother, who was daughter to Lord Hungerford.
This was written in 1735, but I cannot find it now; so that, if
it was painted on glass, it is broken.
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