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English Topography Part III Derbyshire - Dorsetshire
Devon
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[Page 177]

Honiton.

[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 this.

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

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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'œil, 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


[Page footnote]
**See Sir William Pole's "Collections on Devonshire," 4to., Nichols, 1791.
† 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 elected.
¶ By an Act passed 30 Geo. III. for improving the town.


[Page 179]

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-
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[Page 180]

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 pulpit plain,


[Page footnote]
** 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."


[Page 181]

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


[Page footnote]
** 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," folio.
|| 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.


[Page 182]

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*.

Year. Bap. Mar. Bur. | Year. Bap. Mar. Bur.
1780 - - 66 24 111 | 1786 - - 62 17 52
1781 - - 75 25 59 | 1787 - - 44 19 57
1782 - - 61 19 60 | 1788 - - 42 23 49
1783 - - 60 20 96 | 1789 - - 44 16 56
1784 - - 54 19 52 | 1790 - - 64 16 84
1785 - - 54 69 13 | 1791 - - 70 14 46

J. FELTHAM.

[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.


[Page footnote]
** 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.


[Page 183]

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.
1681, Ditto.
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. [Inscription omitted.]

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.

JOHN FELTHAM.


Engraving from The Gentleman's Magazine Library, page 330 - Image Copyright 2002 Ann Andrews
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