Bovey Tracey


Dr. Fraser Halle. Letters Historical and Botanical: Relating chiefly to places in the Vale of the Teign.
London: Houlston and Stoneman (1851), pp. 30-33.

Prepared by Michael Steer

This small book consists of seven sections styled 'Letters', and focuses primarily on the history and botany of Chudleigh, Lustleigh, Canonteign and Bovey Tracey. The chief object of the work, according to its author "is the extension of the study of natural science". To this end he included "some geological notices" by his friend, Dr Croker, of Cross Cottage, Bovey Tracey. Croker's medical journals reveal that in 1822 he had experimented with vaccination for smallpox and whooping cough on his own children, giving dates of birth and vaccination, and unhappily the dates on which many of them had died.

Bovey Tracey is an irregular collection of houses on one of the sloping extremities of Hennock Hills. It received the name that distinguishes it from North Bovey from the Traceys, Barons of Barnstaple. The church which contains some old monuments of the Hele and Stawell families, and a curiously carved old pulpit, is dedicated to St Thomas a Becket, and is supposed to have been built by the heir of that Sir William de Tracey who took a leading part in the murder of the prelate. There is an altar tomb at Morthoe, North Devon, which is supposed to contain the remains of this de Tracey. It commemorates, however, William de Tracey, Rector of Morthoe, who in 1308 founded a chantry in that church and died in 1322.

The last vicar of Bovey Tracey was the brother of the celebrated Macaulay. The present is the late chaplain to her Majesty, the honourable Leslie Courtenay, son of the present Earl of Devon.

The street on the right, from Heathfield, in the centre of the town, leads to some higher ground, whence some pretty views may be enjoyed of the Dartmoor scenery. There is an interesting chapel-like cottage on the hill at the end of this street which is the residence of Dr Croker; from whom I have received much valuable information respecting the geology of the neighbourhood. The mansion and grounds on the hillside in front belong to his brother-in-law W. Hole Esq. On the left, as you approach Cross Cottage, a new mansion is in course of erection, by C. Bentinck Esq., on the site of an ancient one called Indio, and by Prince Indeho, a name supposed to be derived from in deo. The property belonged formerly to the Priory of Black Friars at Bridgewater and has only recently paid tithes. The hedges adjoining the Heathfield, near the Pond Garden, may still be seen, where the religious used to walk unobserved. This water of the pond is brought from the Haytor Hills, a wise provision of our ancestors. In pulling down the ancient house some shillings of Elizabeth were found. Dr Croker, of whom I have just spoken, belongs to one of the most ancient families in the county. Their name was anciently written Crocker. The primitive seat of the family in Devon is supposed to be Crocker's Well, now Crockern Well, a small hamlet in Drewsteignton. They have also given its name to Crockern Tor, Dartmoor, where the parliament was wont to be held for stannary cases. Sir John Crocker, "who was cup bearer to Edward IV, and signally distinguished himself in the war against Perkin Warbeck" dwelt at Lineham "a pleasant seat by the river Yaum or Yalham near Plymouth," and his posterity flourished there when Prince wrote his "Worthies." The family monuments are still to be seen in Lineham church. Courtenay Croker, of Lineham told Prince, "that when he was in Saxony, he met some gentlemen there who used the same coat of arms." The Crokers of Lineham have intermarried with several ancient houses, amongst others with those of Arundel, Daunay, Bonville, and Courtenay Pole. The present John William Croker of literary celebrity is of this family.

Bovey Tracey is about four miles, west by south, from Chudleigh. The population amounts to about two thousand. Near the town, close to the Bovey-coal pits, is a pottery for the manufacture of earthenware which employs about three hundred people; some of whom are from the Staffordshire potteries. The potter's clay, of which hereafter, is found in the neighbourhood. During the stay of the parliamentarians in the town they made their usual assault on the noses of church images. The brass eagle-lectern in the chancel, was buried in a ditch until the restoration of Charles II. The Earl of Devon is lord of this manor.