A Topographical Dictionary of England
Samuel Lewis (1831)
Transcript copyright Mel Lockie (Sep 2016)
COMBE-MARTIN, a market-town and parish in the hundred of BRAUNTON, county of DEVON, 4½ miles (E.) from Ilfracombe, and 176 (W. by S.) from London, containing 1032 inhabitants. This place derives its name from its situation in a deep valley, and its adjunct from its proprietor at the time of the Conquest. In the reign of Edward I. some mines of lead, containing a considerable portion of silver, were discovered, which in the reign of Edward III. produced such a quantity of that metal as to assist him materially in defraying the expense of carrying on the war with France. These mines, after remaining in a neglected state for many years, were re-opened in the reign of Elizabeth, and worked with considerable advantage under the direction of Sir Beavis Bulmer; a cup made of silver found here was presented to William Bourchier, Earl of Bath, and another, weighing one hundred and thirty-seven ounces, to Sir Richard Martyn, Lord Mayor of London. They were unsuccessfully explored in 1790: in 1813 a more profitable attempt was made; but after four years, during which time two hundred and eighty tons of silver were extracted, the works were discontinued. The town is situated in a deep romantic glen, extending in a north-west direction, and opening into a small cove on the Bristol channel, which formed a convenient port for shipping the mineral produce, and still affords the inhabitants the means of conveying coal and lime to other towns, from which they receive corn and bark in return. The houses, many of which are in ruins and overgrown with ivy, extend for nearly a mile in an irregular line along the side of the vale: the surrounding scenery is strikingly magnificent, and in many points of view highly picturesque. The market has been discontinued; but the charter, granted to Nicholas Fitz-Martin by Henry III., in 1264, is still retained by the exposure of some trifling article for sale on the market days; the market-house is rapidly falling to decay: a fair is held on Whit-Monday. The county magistrates hold a petty session for the division, on the first Monday in every month, at a small inn. The living is a rectory, in the archdeaconry of Barnstaple, and diocese of Exeter, rated in the king's books at £39. 8. 9., and in the patronage of the Rev. William Toms. The church, which is a handsome structure, is dedicated to St. Peter. There is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. A school for teaching forty children reading, writing, and arithmetic, was endowed, in 1733, by George Ley, Esq., with a house and land producing £25 per annum: the premises have been lately rebuilt. Thomas Harding, a learned Roman Catholic divine and controversialist, was born here, in 1512.