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The Gentleman's Magazine Library, 1731-1868
English Topography Part III Derbyshire - Dorsetshire
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[Page 87]


At Exeter Lent Assizes, 1586, an infectious disorder was communicated by the prisoners, of which the judge, eight justices, eleven jurymen, and several officers of the court died.— The Great Bell, given by Bishop Courtenay, weighs 12,500 pounds.

[Page 88]

At Heavitree, August 25, 1682, were executed three women, natives of Bideford, the last sufferers under the statute against witchcraft.

At Tiverton, April 3, 1598, a fire destroyed 33 persons, more than 400 dwellings, and £150,000 worth of property.—August 5, 1612, a second fire destroyed 600 houses, and goods to the amount of £200,000; and in 1731 a third fire consumed 298 houses, and property of the value of £60,000.

March 15, 1760, the Ramillies, man-of-war, with above 600 men, perished off the Eddystone rocks. A descriptive account of the lighthouse, with plates, in imperial folio, was published by its architect, Smeaton.

Combe Martin was once famous for its silver mines.—In Ottery St. Mary are the remains of the residence of Sir Walter Raleigh.—In Buckland Monachorum is a monument by Bacon in memory of Lord Heathfield, defender of Gibraltar.—Mason has made the romantic story of Elfrida the subject of a fine dramatic poem.

[1819, Part I. pp. 619, 620.]
Your compendium of the county appeared in January magazine, 1817. p. 27; but I have not met with any correction of that account, which is defective in the list of celebrated men. Therefore I take the liberty to point out a few errors into which the writer has fallen, and to supply some omissions that are not peculiar to himself, but are attributable to the larger works to which he must necessarily have had recourse.

" John Davis," discoverer of the celebrated straits that bear his name; but they are not, as is said, situated in South America, but in the North of Europe, in latitude 64° 40' to 66° 30'. By the way, this voyage was performed in two barques out of the port of Dartmouth; and although he made two subsequent attempts by order of Queen Elizabeth, yet " he returned without making any useful discovery, as all others have since done," says Anderson, in his dry prophetical manner (" History of Commerce," vol. i., p. 426). The harpoon was first used in that first voyage, but not then upon the whale.

Sir Francis Drake, the first circumnavigator, Lympstone, sailed from Plymouth. He was not more celebrated for that exploit than for his attacks on the Spanish settlements and the share he had in defeating the Armada. A good and elaborate life of him, by Dr. Johnson, appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine, vols. x. and xi.

" Pollard, Sir Louis." For Nismet, read Nymet; it is now called King's Nympton ; the word nymet alluding to a custom attending the descent of copyhold tenancy in certain parishes in Devonshire, which is well illustrated in the Spectator by the story of a widow, who is there said to ride into the Court (Baron) on a black ram, confessing

[Page 89]

her crime, and demanding repossession of her deceased husband's land.

" Eustace Budgell," one of the authors of the Spectator, with the signature " X" to his papers, and some time Secretary of State in Ireland. He was cousin, by the mother's side, to the celebrated Addison, and to John Duke of Marlborough ; a native of St. Thomas's, adjoining to Exeter, born in 1685, and died by drowning (in a fit of melancholy) in the Thames, 1737.

" John Hooker" is spelt Hoker in his" Account of Exeter," to which was added, with an alias, Vowell—why, I have never learnt.

" John Rainolds." For Pinto read Pinho.

" George Trope," evidently a mistake for the Reverend George Trosse, a very eloquent and energetic preacher among the Presbyterians, the memory of whose labours and good deeds survived him above a century. He died in 1613, and not in 1631. He was not the author of any book of note, single sermons and tracts (six in number) being all that he published.

" Henry de Bracton " was born at Clovelly, near Barnstaple, which is usually described in writings as Bratton-Clovelly, but never as Bratton alone.

" George Peele," chiefly known as a player, was "Master of the city Pageants," and his "merry conceits and witty sayings" were printed 1611, 4to. A copy of this pamphlet fetched a high price at the Roxburgh sale.

" Simon Ockley, Orientalist," is too vague. He wrote a "History of the Saracens."

" Dr. Matthew Tindal," author of "Christianity as Old as the Creation," died in 1733—a work which neither you nor I would take any credit for having written ; yet, as its sale was very great, and caused a good portion of sensation at the time, the Doctor is therefore worthy of a line or two in your Compendium.

" Jacob Bryant," Plymouth, mythologist, 1718. His biographer is mistaken in making him a native of Chatham, in Kent ; he was removed thither when a boy, in 1725 or 1726.

"Sir J. Dodderidge," knight, Barnstaple, 1555. He wrote "Reports of Cases," 2 vols., folio, and several other works connected with his profession, among the rest" The Lawyer's Right, or Directions for Studying," etc., and died in 1628. The curious reader will have noted that, as Bracton and Fortescue were the earliest writers on the common law of the country, their treatises being in Latin, so was Dodderidge the first writer on the same subject in English, and all three natives of the western parts of the county.

Besides Drake, as noted above, your correspondent might have added several others worthy of mention in such a summary as he has given, and wholly indispensable to the work which I have in contemplation, and for which I have collected large materials.

[Page 90]

John Wolcott, M.D., painter and poet, the latter under the assumed name of Peter Pindar, Esq. ; was born near Kingsbridge, 1738, and died January, 1819, at Camden Town.

John Zephaniah Holwell wrote an account of the fall of Calcutta in 1756, and the confinement of 137 persons in the Black Hole there; was a native of Exeter, where he died in 1789. Lempriere is wrong in calling him Governor-General of Bengal, as he is in the year of his decease.

Thomas Mudge, Plymouth, made the timekeeper for the Board of Longitude. He died 1769.

Hugh Downman, M.D., author of "Infancy," a didactic poem; " Lucius Junius Brutus," and other tragedies. Died at Exeter in 1809.

Sir Francis Buller, Bart., judge, and John Heath, judge, were also from the same neighbourhood; and it is worthy of remark that this last-mentioned and Sir Vicary Gibbs, who sat together in the Court of Common Pleas, were born in the same precinct—viz., the Close at Exeter.

I might increase this list of notable persons to an immoderate length, if such a course were at all desirable to your pages; but if I set down merely their names it will be enough for the present, and I reserve the option of being more particular hereafter. You will, however, agree with me that memoirs of many men and women are worthy of preservation, although they themselves can never be objects of imitation; such are the two first.

Bampfylde Moore Carew, "king of the beggars"; Joanna Southcott, pretended prophetess; George Simcoe, soldier; William Jackson, musical composer; Henry Tanner, a pious and profitable Methodist preacher; Samuel Musgrave, the critic and politician ; Bartholomew Parr, M.D., criticism and medicine; Benj. Donne, mathematics ; Rev. John Prince, divine and biographer; Sir James Thornhill, painter; Wm. Tasker, divine and poet; John Manly Wood, divine and critic; Sir James Lucas Yeo, warrior; John Bampfylde, poet; Lord Thomas Clifford, statesman; Lord Arlington, statesman.
Yours, etc.,  BIO-DEV.

Ancient Church Architecture. (1834. Part I., pp. 394-399.]
[There follows a letter about the remains of ancient architecture in Devonshire, not included here]

Two Devon engravings, from Dugdale's from Dugdale's Curiosities of Great Britain, are elsewhere on this website

The Town of Ashburton

Powderham Castle