Extracted from pp. 180-2 of

The handbook for Torquay and its neighbourhood, ...
London: Hamilton & Adams [1854] viii, 287p.[Westcountry Studies Library - sB/TOR 7/1853/HAN]

Prepared by Michael Steer


Bovey Tracey, or South Bovey, a small place consisting of a single street. The manor anciently belonged to the Tracey's, barons of Barnstaple. Sir William Tracey, who took the lead in the assassination of Thomas à Becket, is said to have erected the first church here in 1170.The manor is now the property of the Earl of Devon. In January 8th, 1646, Cromwell, with the van of the army of Fairfax, attacked Lord Wentworth who was lying here and totally defeated him, taking four hundred horse and seven colours, one of them the royal colours with a crown and CR upon it. Cromwell's coup de main so astounded the Royalists, that indeed at Ashburton next day, their rear guard was driven through the town with the loss of nine men and twenty horse, which enforced their horse to flie several ways and one hundred and twenty who escaped to Ilsington Church fled also away. The principal officers of the Royalist army at Bovey were engaged at cards, when Cromwell burst in upon them with his troopers from Crediton, and only escaped by throwing their stakes of money out of window among the Roundheads; 'which, while our soldiers', says Sprigge. 'were scrambling for, they escaped out at a back door over the river, and so saved their best stakes'. SHORTT, Antiquities of Devon.

Upon an open space in the village are the steps and shaft of an ancient cross, and in the street above it a wayside monument of a similar description which is now built into a house. The church contains a coloured stone pulpit and some curious inscriptions to the memory of Archbishop Laud and others, which were placed there by the expelled vicar Forbes after his restoration in the reign of Charles II.

The neighbouring valley, which is called Bovey Heath Field, is the lowest land in Devonshire. In all probability it was at one time a lake in which the detritus of decomposed granite, brought down by the rains from Dartmoor, were gradually deposited and formed the mixed sands and clays which are now used in the manufacture of china.

The pottery is close to the village. It was established in 1772, and of late has been much extended so as to be well worthy a visit. The pits from which the Bovey coal, or lignite, is procured, are also close by. It is a bituminous fuel, a sort of half made coal, which burns with a disagreeable smell, and is consequently only used in the potteries, in lime-kilns, and in the houses of the poor. Large pieces of fir tree are sometimes found entire in it.

Bovey is situated at the foot of a great range of hills, which is crowned towards the east at the village of Hennock, by the Bottor Rock, an interesting Tor of trap, the fissures of which are lined with byssus aurea. A lead mine is worked near Hennock.