Plympton St Maurice / Plympton Earl
A Topographical Dictionary of England
Samuel Lewis (1831)
Transcript copyright Mel Lockie (Sep 2016)
PLYMPTON (EARL'S), a parish and borough and market-town, having separate jurisdiction, though locally in the hundred of Plympton, county of DEVON, 39 miles (S. W.) from Exeter, and 210 (W. S. W.) from London, containing 762 inhabitants. This place was the head of an ancient barony, and had a magnificent castle, supposed to have been erected by Rivers, Earl of Devon, to whom the barony was given by Henry I., about the year 1100, and delivered up to Stephen by certain knights who held it during the absence of Earl Baldwin, who had rebelled against that monarch: the lords of the barony were invested with the power of inflicting capital punishment.
The town is beautifully situated on an elevation rising out of a vale, south-eastward of the river Plym: it is small, but of respectable appearance, and the surrounding scenery is rich and picturesque. The market is on Friday; and fairs are held on February 25th, August 12th, eve of the Ascension, eve of the Annunciation (0. S.), and October 28th. The charter of incorporation, and for permission to hold a market, is said to have been obtained by Earl Baldwin, and subsequently confirmed by Edward III. and other sovereigns. The town is governed by a mayor, eight, aldermen, and a recorder, who constitute the common council: the mayor, recorder, and the senior alderman, are magistrates. A court of record, for the recovery of debts to any amount, is occasionally held, under a charter of William and Mary, but it is used only to a trifling extent. The guildhall, which bears date 1696, is a neat and substantial edifice, supported on pillars and arches, and in the dining-room are some ancestorial portraits of the Treby family, also one of Sir Joshua Reynolds, by himself. The borough first sent members to parliament in the 23rd of Edward I., and was constituted a stannary town in 1328; the right of election is vested in the mayor and freemen: the freedom is elective, and dependent on the common council; the number of voters is about forty, the mayor is the returning officer, and the influence of the Earl of Mount Edgecumbe, and of Paul Treby Treby, Esq., is predominant. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry of Totness, and diocese of Exeter, endowed with £400 royal bounty, and £600 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the Dean and Canons of Windsor. The church, which contains some interesting monuments, was anciently the chantry chapel of St. Maurice. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyan Methodists. A grammar school was founded and endowed, in 1658, by the trustees of Eliza Hele: the school-house, a spacious building in the ancient English style, with large antique windows, and a piazza of nine arches, supported on stone pillars, was erected in 1664: the master is appointed by the trustees, but there are no scholars on the foundation. Sir Joshua Reynolds, the celebrated portrait painter, who was born here in 1723, received the rudiments of his education at this school, under the tuition of his father, at that time master. Some of his earliest sketches were inscribed upon the walls, and preserved for many years, but were at length obliterated. A few vestiges of the ancient castle are still visible: the artificial mount on which it was erected is considered one of the most perfect specimens of the kind now in existence.