Magna Britannia:

Being a concise topographical account of the several counties of Great Britain


Rev Daniel Lysons, AM, FRS, FALS, & Samuel Lysons Esq, FRS, FAS.

Vol VI, Devonshire. London: Thomas Cadell (1822).

Bovey Tracey section (pp. 56-58)

Prepared by Michael Steer

Unlike similar works in the 17th and 18th centuries, this series of volumes remains valuable today because its authors included content on such topics as population, manufacture and commerce. They were also less preoccupied than many antiquarians with coats of arms and pedigrees, and did not overstate the grandeur of the counties, as local topographers were apt to do. This rare and much sought-after book was produced digitally from a copy in the Bayerische Staatsbilothek Munchen collection and can be downloaded from Google Books. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers

Bovey Tracey, in the hundred of Teignbridge and the deanery of Moreton, lies about four miles from Chudleigh and about five from Newton Abbot.

A market at Bovey on Thursdays, and a fair for three days at the festival of the Translation of St Thomas the Martyr, was granted to Henry de Tracey in 1259. There are now four cattle fairs; Easter Monday, Holy Thursday, the first Thursday in July, and the first Thursday in November. The town is governed by a bailiff and portreeve; the bailiff is elected annually at the lord's court, and the year after serving this office he fills that of portreeve. It seems probable that the latter office was originally called mayor; an ancient procession for perambulating the bounds of the parish or manor with a large garland of flowers, etc, similar to that at Bodmin in Cornwall, is still called the mayor's riding. This procession takes place on the Monday after the third of May, called Roodmass Day. The portreeve has during his year of office, the profits of a piece of ground called Portreeve's park, for defraying the expenses of this procession etc.

Bovey-Tracey being at this time the quarters of a part of Lord Wentworth's brigade, was attacked in the evening of the 9th of July, 1646. by Lieutenant-general Cromwell with a part of the parliamentary army then under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax. The greater part of the Royalists who were thus dispersed escaped through the darkness of the night, a major with some other officers and about 50 men being taken prisoners.

The manor, which had belonged to Earl Harold, was given by the Conqueror to Jeffery, Bishop of Constance, his lieutenant at the battle of Hastings, and was one of the five manors held by that prelate in demesne. It afterwards became parcel with the barony of Barnstaple, and passed by the same title, till the death of the last Holland, Duke of Exeter. Margaret, Countess of Richmond had a grant of it for life in 1487. Sir Thomas Putt, Bart, died seised of this manor in 1686. Some years later it was purchased by Charles Heath Esq. by John Langdon Esq. Mr Langdon, who resided at Park in this parish, after the death of his only daughter, which happened in 1747, bequeathed the manor of Bovey-Tracey and other estates to his brother-in-law, Sir William Courtenay, afterwards Lord Viscount Courtenay. It is now the property of the present viscount, who has also the manor of Brinley in this parish. The manor of Bovey-Tracey pays a reserved rent of 58l. 15s. 10d to those who claim under the Crown. The lords of this manor had formerly the power of inflicting capital punishment. Park is now the property and residence of Charles Clapp Esq. barrister at law.

The manor of Knighton was for many generations in the Franckcheneys, whose heiress brought it to Strode. It was afterwards successively in the families of Ellyott, Dennis and Putt. Another manor of Knighton or Knighton Heathfield was in the Southcotts, who had an ancient seat in this parish called Indiho, said to have been a priory, but I find no record to confirm that tradition. The Southcotts also had the manor of Little Bovey. These manors are now the property of George Templer Esq. of Stover House. Indiho was afterwards the seat of Sir John Stawell, KB, and at a later period the families of bale, Inglett and Tufnell. In 1773 the house was enlarged, and applied to the manufacture of earthen ware. This manufacture is still carried on, Mr Steer being the present proprietor. The manor of Wreyland in the parish is the property of Francis Daniell Esq.

In the parish church are two monuments without inscription, of Eveleigh and Hele; the former has the date of 1620; there is the monument also of Sir John Stawell, KB 1669, and Thomas Stawell Esq. 1694.

The impropriate tithes, which belonged to the priory of Bridgewater, were sold in lots about the year 1805, by the Rev John Templer of Lindridge, and purchased chiefly by the landholders. The vicarage is in the gift of the crown.

There is a meeting house in this place for the Particular Baptists, and another for the Wesleyan Methodists.

The charity school at Bovey Tracey is endowed with an income of 40l per annum arising from lands, for which a master instructs 24 children in reading, writing and arithmetic, but I have not been able to procure the name of the founder, or the date of the foundation.