A Topographical Dictionary of England


 Samuel Lewis (1831)

Transcript copyright Mel Lockie (Sep 2016)


ASHBURTON, a parish and borough and market-town, in the southern division of the hundred of TEIGNBRIDGE, county of DEVON, 19 miles (S.W.) from Exeter, and 192 (W. by S.) from London, on the road to Plymouth, containing 3403 inhabitants. This town, anciently called Alsbertone, in the time of Edward the Confessor belonged to Brietrie, and at the Conquest to Jukel de Totnais: it, was subsequently annexed to the see of Exeter, and, in 1310, Bishop Stapylton obtained for it a grant of a market and two fairs. In 1672, Mr. John Ford procured another market, chiefly for wool, and yarn spun in Cornwall, which has long been discontinued. It was made a stannery town by charter of Edward III., in 1328, being then noted for the mines of tin and copper which abounded in its neighbourhood. Ashburton, in the parliamentary war, having been previously occupied by the royal troops under Lord Wentworth, was taken by Sir Thomas Fairfax, on his march westward, in January 1654. The town, situated about a mile and a half from the river Dart, consists principally of one street of considerable length; the houses are built of brick and roofed with slate, which latter is obtained from quarries in the vicinity. The inhabitants are well supplied with water; the river Yeo, a rapid stream, runs through the town, and turns several mills. There is a book society; and card and dancing assemblies, and music meetings, are frequently held in a handsome suite of rooms at the Lion inn. The manufacture of serge for the East India Company is carried on to a very great extent, the annual returns being stated to exceed £100,000; there are some mills for fulling cloth and for the spinning of yarn, and, in addition to the slatequarries, mines of tin and copper are still worked in the neighbourhood. The market is on Saturday; and fairs are held on the first Thursdays in March and June, the 10th of August, and the llth of November, which last is a great sheep fair. Ashburton is a borough by prescription: a portreeve, bailiff, constable, and subordinate officers are appointed annually at a court leet held by the steward of the manor, but they have no magisterial authority: a stannary court is held occasionally. The borough made two returns to parliament, in the 26th of Edward I. and the 8th of Henry IV., but none subsequently until 1640, when the franchise was restored by the last parliament of Charles I, since which time it has regularly returned two members: the right of election is vested in the inhabitant freeholders; the portreeve is the returning officer.

The living is a vicarage, with the perpetual curacies of Bickington and Buckland in the Moor annexed, in the peculiar jurisdiction and patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, rated in the king's books at £38. 8. 11½. The church, dedicated to St. Andrew, was formerly collegiate: it is a venerable and spacious cruciform structure, in the later style of English architecture, with a square tower rising from the centre; There are places of worship for Particular Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyan Methodists. The free grammar school was founded, in the 36th of Elizabeth, by William Blundell, Esq., and endowed with lands, a portion of which belonged to the dissolved chantry of St. Lawrence, a fine ancient building, with a tower and a small spire, now appropriated to the use of the school, for parliamentary elections for the borough, and for other public meetings: the original endowment has been augmented by subsequent benefactions, and the management is vested in trustees chosen from among the inhabitants. The free school, in which one hundred children are educated, was endowed, in 1754, by Lord Middleton and John Harris, Esq., then representatives for the borough, in gratitude for the liberality of their constituents. There is also a school for ten poor girls, established in 1805, by Miss Mary Dunning. Inconsiderable vestiges of a chapel, which belonged to the abbot of Buckfastleigh, are still discernible in the walls of Parham House. John Dunning, Baron Ashburton, the celebrated lawyer, was born here, October 18th, 1731: he died August 18th, 1753, and was interred in the church. Dr. Ireland, Dean of Westminster, and the late Mr. Giiford, editor of the Quarterly Review, were also natives of Ashburton.