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English Topography Part III Derbyshire - Dorsetshire
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[Page 132]


[1826, Part I., pp. 17, 18.]
In May, 1819, some workmen employed in forming a tan-yard on the site of the Priory called St. Magdalen in Barnstaple, laid open the foundations of many extensive walls, thick and formed of very solid masonry ; the mortar cementing the stones being harder even than the stones themselves. They were covered by immense heaps of stones, slates, and rubbish, apparently thrown over them at the demolition of the buildings. Amongst the rubbish were fragments of columns, ribs of groins, paving tiles glazed with a flower de luce on them, and some stones with crosses. Two stones were very perfect, and retained, in high preservation, the arms of which I send you an exact copy.

The whole of these foundations and rubbish had been covered for ages by a fine green sward, and now being only partly uncovered, and the rubbish again thrown back, as suited the convenience of the workmen, it was not possible to form a correct idea either of the extent or form of these buildings.

Two skeletons were found, one was very perfect, and a man's. Near this skeleton lay a small bell, such as is tinkled in the Catholic Churches during the celebration of mass; it was of bell metal, and not in the slightest degree corroded, the clapper, being of iron, was destroyed by rust. Several coins were found, and some, as I heard, of silver; but of the latter I could not obtain a sight.

A souterrain was laid open, but whether it was an extended passage, or merely the cloaca, it neither suited the purse nor inclination of the tanner to ascertain. There is a tradition that there once existed a subterranean communication under the river Yeo, from this place, to a religious establishment at Bull Hill, near Pilton Church, where the pope's indulgences were sold. I believe, however, there are few places where similar traditions do not exist. The Nuns and Friars were believed to have secured to themselves the means of frequent and secret meetings.

[Page 133]

There is also a tradition that a stone coffin had been found here, containing the body of a man in complete armour. A clergyman informs me he had seen it mentioned in some printed book, but does not recollect the author's name.

We consider the arms on the Barnstaple stone to be those of Thomas, Duke of Clarence, second son of King Henry IV, by Mary one of the two daughters and coheiresses of Humphry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton. We cannot, however, account for their being found at Barnstaple, or for the omission of the label over the royal arms, as borne by him, and we believe still to be seen on his plate in St. George's Chapel. The crescent seems to have been used instead, as a difference; but it is unusual to find the Duke's arms with that distinction.

The second coat is Bohun Earl of Hereford: and the fourth, Bohun Earl of Northampton : both were united in the above Humphry. The third coat appears to be Stafford ; but we do not at present see how it was introduced into the escutcheon. The Duke of Clarence was slain at the Battle of Bangy, 1422, without issue ; and was buried at Canterbury.


[1800, Part II., p. 949.]
In the Churchyard of Barnstaple, Devon. ...

"To the memory of their fellow-soldier, ROBERT*____, who died March I8th, 1762, aged 19. This stone was erected by the voluntary contributions of the private men of the Kingston company of the first battalion of the Surrey militia." [Verses omitted.]

On the west side of Barnstaple Church. ...

"JOHN HOPKINS, esq. late a major on the Bombay establishment, in the service of the Hon. East India Company, died Oct. 28th, 1799, aged 62 years." [Verses Omitted.]

[Page footnote]
*The grave-stone is here broken and defaced.

Additional Extracts About Barnstaple

From the section on: Ancient Church Architecture.

[First extract]
Breadth and extent of building are among the striking characteristics of the churches in Devonshire. The former is perhaps more remarkably conspicuous than the latter. Triple aisles-those on the sides of the chancel and body, in many cases as wide, or nearly as wide as the centre space - almost uniformly compose the plan, whose general figure, as seen in its complete elevation, has seldom sufficient height to give the triple gables which terminate the roof a graceful external appearance. A tower of stately proportions at the west end on the south side was calculated to ennoble the design; but Barnstaple and Bideford, and some other large churches, have towers remarkable for their insignificance; and perhaps the ancient fashion building churches, in Devonshire, could not be exemplified by instances more ungraceful, I had almost said apposite, than these ; for, generally speaking, magnificence and extent of structure are not united in the ecclesiastical architecture of Devonshire.

[Second extract]
But so obstinately indifferent in many instances are the guardians of churches to propriety and decency towards the sacred memorials of founders and benefactors, that they can witness without regret the gradual extinction of sepulchral trophies, the antiquity of which, instead of lessening attachment to them, ought rather to strengthen our respect for memorials which have been reverenced and preserved through many ages. Except in the instance of the cathedral the system of innovation, or rather destruction, when once admitted, is of a sweeping nature, and admits of no augmentation. The church at Barnstaple may be named in confirmation of this remark. It is an ancient and very extensive building, composed of three aisles of equal dimensions. The arches and pillars which sustained the triple roof have been entirely demolished, and with these every vestige of antiquity which the interior contained, save only the huge tower in the centre of the south aisle, which was left for want of means to destroy its massy walls. The exterior now assumes an aspect at once heavy, coarse and ungracious. The church at Bideford, on the same plan, has been partly subjected to the same system; but the mnemoclasts of this place, more considerate for the clustered pillars which were designed to support the church, have removed them into the churchyard, where they serve as gate-posts before the porch of the temple to which in better days they belonged.

[Page 133, cont]


[1755, pp. 445-448.]
Bideford was anciently written "By-the-Ford," there having been a ford just above the bridge, on a spot where a house is still standing, called Ford House.

It is situated on the sides of two hills, between which a fine river runs through it. Over this river is a bridge, and many errors have been propagated concerning both.

It has been said that the arches of the bridge are so wide and lofty, that vessels of 50 tons may sail through them; but though ships of much less burthen cannot sail through, yet ships of much greater may go through without masts. It has also been said that the water runs quite out of the river at ebb, and that carts not being permitted to come on the bridge, take this opportunity permitted to come on the bridge, take this opportunity to pass over the sands; but this is wholly false, for at the lowest water there

[Page 134]

is a channel in the middle sufficient to float pleasure boats; and not only carts but waggons of three tons weight are permitted to cross the bridge, upon paying an acknowledgment to the bridge warden. Some authors have asserted that though the foundation of the bridge is firm yet it will shake at the lightest tread of a horse; but this is also a mistake, for the foundation is immovable; the arch, indeed, not being covered with a sufficient weight, is so elastic that it yields and springs up again under the rapid motion of a coach.

The boats used on the river for hire are passage boats, ballast boats and lighters; in the passage boat a passenger is carried from Bideford to Appledore, three miles, for a penny. and the hire of a lighter that will carry 10 tons, for a whole ride, is 5s.

The town in general is well built, particularly a new street fronting the quay, which is Bridge Land, and inhabited by people of fortune. The quay itself is in the body of the town, and so commodious that ships of 200 tons may lay their side to it, and unload without the use of a lighter. It is a place of considerable trade, but the herring fishery has failed for some years, and so has the manufacturing rock salt into what was called salt upon salt, by first dissolving it in sea water and then boiling it again. Great quantities of potter's ware are made and exported to Wales, Ireland and Bristol.

The merchants of Bideford lost almost all their vessels in the the French war, but by buying and building, have again made up their number near 100, most of which now lie by, as the hands that should have navigated them were swept away by the press and others cannot be procured.

It sends no member to Parliament.

It is governed by a mayor, aldermen, recorder, capital burgesses, town clerk, sergeants, etc., and has a particular court, in which actions of debt and upon the case may be brought for any sum.

The Granvilles have been lords of this place ever since the Conquest till very lately, in the eleventh year of Queen Anne, it gave the title of baron to George late Lord Landsdown.

There is it market three days in a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; the Tuesday's and Saturday's markets are most considerable. Tuesday's being well served with corn and other provisions, Thursday's is called the little market, and is held in a different part of the town.

The price of provisions is very variable. wheat is from 3s. 6d. to 10s. per bushel ; the common price is from 4s. to 5s. Beef is from 2½d. to 4d. per pound, and butter from 3½d. to 9d.

The number of houses is about 500, and, allowing five persons to each house, the number of inhabitants will be about 2,500.

The church—though it is large, and has two aisles and two galleries, can yet but just contain the number of persons that attend divine worship. Great part of it has been lately new built; the whole has been repaired and beautified, and new seats have been

[Page 135]

made. It was first furnished with an organ about twenty-five years ago, and the organist's salary is £20 per annum. It has also a good ring of six bells, and the tower being near the river, the tone is rendered more oft and musical. The motto on the treble is " Peace and good neighbourhood," and that on the tenor, " I to the church the living can, and to the grave I summon all."

The church is in the manor of Biddeford, the diocese of Exeter, the hundred of Shebeare, and the deanery of Hartland. The present rector is the Rev. Mr. John Whitfield, M.A. His predecessors were the Rev. Mr. Nichols, Dr. Herbert Bedford, and —Ogilby, who was chaplain in ordinary to King Charles II.

The living is worth £200 per annum, and the present patron is the Right Hon. the Lord Gower.

There is an epitaph in the western Wall of the churchyard that fixes a point of chronology, and shows that the plague raged with great violence at Bideford in 1646. The persons buried under it are three children of Henry Ravening, surgeon, who were the first that the disease carried off and Were supposed to contract it by playing on some bags of wool that were just landed on the quay.

There are two dissenting meeting houses, one of which is pretty large, the number of dissenters being computed to be nearly one fourth of the whole.

The parish register began in 1561 when there were no dissenters. The number of christenings for the first twenty years was 473, for the last twenty years 1,151 ; so that the whole number of christenings for the last twenty years must be 1,151 ; and one-fourth more, being nearly 1,535. Marriages for the first twenty years were 114, for the last 70 years 395. The burials in the first twenty years were 255, and the last 1,597.

There is a grammar school endowed with about £20 per annum.

About two miles down the river is a place called Hubblestone, from a large stone of the same name, of which they relate the following story: In the reign of King Alfred, one Hubba, a Dane, having desolated South Wales with fire and sword, came to Appledore with thirty-three sail of ships, and, landing his troops, besieged the castle of Kenwith, but being opposed with great courage by the Devonshire men, he was slain and buried under this stone, to which they gave his name, and called it Hubba's Stone. In the " Magna Britannia" this castle is said to be at that time called Hennaborough, but I believe it to be the place now called Henny Castle, situated on a hill about a mile north-west of Bideford.

As to remarkable or illustrious persons, there is in the church, near the communion-table, the monument of a warrior; he lies extended, is completely armed, and has a dog by him. On an arch that is turned over him is an inscription, which I read thus:

"Hic jacet Thomas Grauntvild, miles patronus istius ecelesiæ, obiit xviii. in die mensis Martii, A.D. 1513, cujus animæ propitietur Deus.  Amen."

[Page 136]

This gentleman was of the illustrious family of Granville, but nothing is known of him more than the inscription tells.

There is also a monument to Mr. John Strange, an eminent merchant. The life of this gentleman was rendered remarkable by many incidents, that seemed as if he was brought into the world and preserved by providence for a particular purpose, which he lived to accomplish, notwithstanding several accidents that would otherwise have been fatal, and then died when it might reasonably have been expected that he would have had a longer life. When he was very young he fell from a very high cliff without receiving any hurt, and he was afterwards struck on the forehead by an arrow, which just raised the skin and glanced away, without doing him any farther injury. When the plague broke out in Bideford the mayor deserted his trust, and fled the place. This was the crisis for which Mr. Strange seems to have been born. He was chosen mayor instead of the fugitive, and during the whole time that the pestilence raged he went into the infected houses, to see that the sick were properly attended, to prevent the house of the dead from being plundered, and to see that the bodies were properly interred. After he had performed this good work, and there was none sick of the disease in the place, he sickened of it, and being the last that it destroyed, his death crowned his labour and conferred his reward.

As to the natural history, Bideford is bounded to the north by Northam, to the north-east by Westley, to the south-east by Ware Giffard, to the south by Littleham, and to the west by Abbotsham. It is remarkable that though Northam is two miles north of Bideford, yet part of the parish is a mile south of it.

The soil is hilly and rocky, with blackish mould yellowish clay, ferns, marsh, wood, arable, pasture and heath. The chief product is wheat, barley, peas and beans. There are many good quarries of hard, durable stone for building in the rocky part, and in the clay part very good earth for bricks. There is also a culm pit, which was worked for fuel a few years ago, when coal, which is usually sold for one shilling per bushel, double Winchester, was very dear.

The principal manure is lime, ashes, dung and sea sand, that in colour resembles unburnt umber, but is lighter and more yellow; a sea weed called oar-weed, is also sometimes used, but principally for gardens. The ashes are made by spading the turf from the surface of the ground and lime burning it in heaps.

The springs are generally found at the depth of about 16 feet and the water is very sweet and soft, except near the quay, and there it is a little brackish.

The air is in general healthy, though the place is frequently covered with thick fog from the sea. . . .

It is high water at the bridge at new and full moon about six o'clock, but sometimes the wind considerably alters the time. In

[Page 137]

stormy weather it has sometimes fallen about a foot after high water, and then risen again as high as before. If the wind blows strong at south-west, a high spring tide seldom fails to overflow the quay, and rise so high under the arches of the bridge that the smallest boat cannot pass. A common spring tide, without the concurrence of a south-west wind, generally lays all the marshes under water.

As to wages, day labourer have per diem Is., house-carpenters and masons 1s. 6d., ship carpenters on old work 2s., on new 1s. 6d., and the master has 2s. 6d.

In the bay, latitude 5° 14" N. lies the island of Lundy, which is five miles long and two broad, but so encompassed with rocks that it is accessible only in one part, and the avenue there is so narrow that a few men might defend the pass against a multitude. If to this natural fortification a small fort had been added, the petty French privateers who lurked there in Queen Anne's war, to our great loss, might have been driven away. They took so many of our vessels, for which they lay in wait in this place, that they called it Golden Bay. But though no fort is yet built, yet the Bristol privateers so effectually protected the trade in this place during the last war that not a single vessel was taken. Wrecks are very frequent on the rocks about the bay, and a proposal was lately made to erect a lighthouse on Hartland Point by a gentleman remarkable for public spirit, who offered, if this proposal was complied with, to erect a mathematical school in Bideford, and endow it with £50 per annum. No lighthouse is yet erected.

The island is four league distant from the nearest land, but it abounds with fine springs of fresh water. The soil in the southern part is good, but the northern part is rocky. There is, among others, one craggy, pyramidal rock, so remarkable for the number of rats burrowing about it that it is called Rat Island. The whole island abounds with rabbits and wild fowl. It is said that no venomous creature will live upon it. It is inhabited by only one family, who sell liquors to such fishermen as put on shore there. It is said to be in the hundred of Banion, and to be the property of Lord Gower.

On Northern Burroughs, which is distant from Bideford about four miles below the bridge, there is a beach of pebbles, about three miles long, of very considerable breadth and depth, so that although they have been long used as ballast, the number is not perceptibly diminished. These stones are from 6 to 18 inches long, curiously variegated with veins of different colours. and sufficiently hard to take a fine polish ; on the outside of them grows a great quantity of the Lichen marinus, or sea liverwort, which is much esteemed by the neighbouring inhabitants as a wholesome and pleasant food, being gently opening and anti-scorbutic. It is frequently packed up in earthen pots, and sent to London.

Of the places above bridge none are worth notice except Ware

[Page 138]

Giffard, which is also distant from Bideford about four miles; at this place the water of the river first becomes fresh, and sometimes rises so suddenly that the inhabitants on the quay are not only confined to their houses, but driven to the upper rooms. The fish above bridge are trout, gravelling salmon, flukes, flounders, eels, bass and millet; and below rock, bass, cod, oysters, cockles and mussels, though of the shell fish mussels only are plenty, the oysters being generally brought from Tenby in Wales, and sold at about 1s. per six score. Mackerel are also brought in their Season by the Comb boats, and herrings from Clovelly in such plenty as to be sometimes sold at the rate of seven for a penny.

In the parish of Fremington are great quantities of reddish potter's clay, which is brought and manufactured at Bideford, whence the ware is sent to different places by sea. And near Ware Giffard there is plenty of fine pipe-maker's clay, many ship-loads of which are annually exported to Bristol, Liverpool, Chester and other places.
[This communication is again printed 1789, pp. 973-4, 1069-70.]

[1755, p. 564.]
Adjoining to Bideford on the north is Raleigh, probably so called after some of the illustrious family of Sir Walter Raleigh. Just above the bridge is a little ridge of gravel of a peculiar quality without which the potters could not make their ware. There are many other ridges of gravel within the bar, but this only is proper for their use, and for some particular purposes in masonry. This ridge is often washed away by the freshes, but always gathers again, exactly in the same place, as soon as they abate. About a mile above the bridge on the west is Lancras, said to be the birthplace of General George Monk, afterward Duke of Albemarle. At a little more than three miles above the bridge, in the parish of Monkleigh, is Annery, said to be the birthplace of Walter Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter, and lord high treasurer of England.

About four miles from Bideford, in the parish of Alwington, is a place called Yeo, now the seat of — Bruton, Esq., a very ancient and handsome building. It is said to derive its name from a pleasant stream of water, which in French is called Eau, whence by corruption Yeau, and at last Yeo, At this place are the remains of a chapel, in which was a dormitory for the dead.

[1799. Part II., pp. 556, 557.]
Dr. Watkins, in his "History of Bideford," Devon,* published in 1792, writes thus:
" We find the name of this town written various ways in records and books, as Bedeford, Byddyford, Bedyford, Bydeford, Bytheford, Biddeford but more properly Bideford, which is compounded of the

[Page footnote]
* Dr. W. modestly calls his work an " Essay toward a History of Bideford."

[Page 139]

Saxon Bi situated, and ford, a shallow place in a river that may not easily be passed over. ..."

Notwithstanding the observations of the historian of Bideford, and the invariable practice of the best informed inhabitants of the town and its environs the error and its confident confusion appear to be increasing. Mr. Crutwell, who ought to have inquired for and examined the history of Bideford, spells in his gazetteer Biddeford. And such is the obstinacy of the person involved in the General Post-office to distribute the post marking instruments, that though the postmaster of the town expostulated with him on the subject, and pointed out the right method of spelling the name, the distributor continues to send instruments which make the post-mark Biddeford.

From another topographical error of the aforesaid distributor it might be supposed that he was originally a Devonshire clown, and still retains his provincial dialect. Chumleigh is by him spelled Chimley, according to the pronunciation of the lowest ranks in Devon, who pronounce u in many words as i — brish for brush, rin for run, sich for such, etc.

As one great design of your publication is to correct literary as well as moral errors, I am encouraged to hope that you will favour this with a speedy insertion.

A. B. C.