Articles from Chittlehampton Parish Magazine


written by Rev. J.H.B. Andrews

Transcribed by David Ryall

Establishment of Farms in the Parish
Lower Langaton, a lease
Pitt & Blakewell


Some may wonder at what date the farms of the parish were established and the fields enclosed. The answer is that it was a very long process. First came the establishment of the village about twelve hundred years ago, with large fields around it being worked in common. But at the same time there were some outlying farms, clearings in the woodland and waste. Newton, the new farm, was already settled by the Norman Conquest 900 years ago. So also were Whitstone, Bradbury, South Bray, Snydles, and no doubt others of which we have no early record. A great deal of settlement was carried out seven or eight hundred years ago, and in this period we first hear of Brightleigh (-leigh means a clearing in a wood). By 1400 all the principal farms are mentioned. More land was reclaimed 300 years ago, when the wool trade brought a great increase in population. A deed of 1707 describes what is almost certainly Higher Treedown (which means 'at the Down') as 'The New Hall.' In 1691 Heywood was two holdings, the old ground, and 'the new wood ground', implying that there had recently been a fresh clearing of the woods. Land had also been enclosed at Broadmoor Corner, and the names Hudscott Down, Furse Barn, The Downs, all imply rough ground newly settled. By 1700 the parish was much as we know it, except that smallholdings have been absorbed in large ones, and many enclosures thrown into one.

(First published May 1952)


A lease of Lower Langaton dated 'the third year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the second by the grace of God of Great Britain ffrance, and Ireland King Defender of the Faith etc.' (1730) : Samuel Rolle his son and heir apparent 'demise Lease Grant and to ffarm lett and set' to William Smale, yeoman, the tenements known as Langdon Echill and East Barton parks, in consideration of £350 and two broad pieces of gold, for a term of 99 years 'if Nicholas Joce of Ilfordcombe and John Skinner of Bradberry so long shall happen to live,' which means in effect that it was let for the duration of three lives. The tenants were to pay a rent of 22/7½ (£1.13) and also two fat capons or 2/- (10p.) yearly or £5 at the expiry of each life. They were to do suit and service of reeve and tithingman in their turn. They were to keep the premises in repair. Timber was reserved to the landlord. There is no mention of game, for the law then forbade any yeoman, unless owning his own land and worth £100 a year, to kill game. The manor of Chittlehampton had recently been bought by the Rolles from the Giffard family, to whom the manor of Brightley still at this time belonged.

(First published February 1952)


In April 1894 the property known as Pulhams, 11a. or. 10p., let at £40 a year to Richard Courtney was put up for sale at auction, with a reserve of £1,400. Bidding stopped at £1,150, but after the sale Lord Rolle's Trustees agreed to buy it for £1,300. It had been left in his will in 1830 by John Nicholls in trust for his daughter, Mrs. Susan Saunder, and her children. In 1894 George Saunder had a half share in it, part of which was mortgaged, John Troake a quarter share, and the six children of Mary Clarke a twenty-fourth share each. In order to prove a good title the chancery lawyers required eleven statutory declarations, five certificates of death, four birth, two of baptism and one of marriage, two powers of attorney, and eleven affidavits. The vendors did not receive their payments until 1896, and the lawyers fees of £84/9/1 were settled in 1897.

The property had previously belonged to the Wyndham family, being described as 'within and part of the manor of Gambuston'' It had been leased on three lives to William Nicholls in 1785 by the Hon. Percy Wyndham, next brother to the Earl Egremont, and sold by him to William's son John I 1805. Lord Rolle, who died in 1842, left his estate in trust with power to buy and it remained in trust until 1907. Gambuston itself was once part of the manor of Chittlehampton, paying sixpence a year rent. The trustees were thus buying back for the manor what had once been part of it, as they did with a number of other properties in the parish.


Amongst papers belonging to the Wyndham family, of Orchard Wyndham, in Somerset, now preserved in the Shire Hall at Taunton, are some relating to Gambuston. This was the original home of the Gambon family, from whom it takes its name, but they moved at an early date to Moorstone in Halberton, where the hall with its gallery can still be traced, although now divided. Both these estates passed to Wyndham, who continued to own parts of Gambuston for four centuries. In 1541 the annual rents came to £3/5/-, out of which 1s.9d. was paid to the King. In 1647 an exact survey was made, the 'manor' then consisting of: Gambuston, 55 acres; Townsend, 11.75 acres; Strongs, 13.75 acres; Pulhams, 12 acres; Dipford, 47.75 acres; Brimley, 5.75 acres; and three small properties, one of which extended to 2 acres. The total annual value was "98/19/-, which by 1718 had risen to £124. The exact boundaries are given. Thus Gambuston is 'bounded on the east from Biddacott Cross to Ambow by the King's highway leading from Barnstaple to Chulmleigh, on the south side with Ambow ground and Blackdown Ridge, and soe down along as the lake runneth until it comes unto a little plot of wood, and on the west and north by the lands of John Giffard Esq. (i.e.Court). Was it a sign of Royalist sympathy, or only force of habit, which terms the King's highway in the year after the King was beheaded? In the description of Brimley (Brimblehay), which Mary Hill held on a 99 years lease, there is mention of 'the little coppice of wood parcell of the tenement called Gambuston,' which we understand still goes with Brimley. Gambuston itself was sold to the Rolle family before 1800, and Court (18 acres) was annexed to it. The rest of the 'manor' was broken up later. It was in fact part of the manor of Chittlehampton, to which it paid 1s.2d. a year chief rent.


We have been asked to write about Nethercleave, a name which is said to mean 'steep place'. It is first found in a Subsidy Roll of 1330 which mentions a certain Joceus Bynythecleave, but the place is certainly very much older. In 1691 Sir John Rolle (of Stevenstone) is entered as paying 21/2d a year for Nethercleave to the lord of the manor of Chittlehampton. It was, like Gambuston, Hawkridge, and Hudscott, one of the 'ancient free tenements' of the manor, and no doubts dates back to Saxon times. When Denys Rolle inherited Chittlehampton in 1747 he thus found himself receiving 21/2d a year from his brother at Stevenstone for Nethercleave. In 1784 Moggridge, the tenant of Nethercleave, was claiming an ancient right to the fishery from Hoe to Kingford, but Denys Rolle was not the kind of man to acknowledge any such claim. A few years later he bought Nethercleave from his brother (together with Ditchaton Water, Presbury and Slough, all formerly parts of the manor of Chittlehampton, and all the property of Rolle of Stevenstone), an unnecessary purchase, for in 1779 he inherited all his brother's estates. It is impossible now to say which Nethercleave this was. At the time of its purchase it was worth £32 a year, and most probably it was North Nethercleave, now the property of the County Council and divided in two. This in 1842 was 67 acres, some 35 of which were on top of the hill, extending across Blakewell Lane almost to Moor. It cut off Hoe from the rest of the manor of Brightley. All the other Nethercleaves were in Brightley manor, one held by James Ditchhet worth £8, and by Robert Incledon Esq., worth £20. By 1842 there were in all four Nethercleaves, of which Lower Nethercleave, although it still had a house, was held with Hathercombe, Narracot and Eastacott. It was 39 acres. South, later known as Middle Nethercleave, was 35 acres, and Deadman's, later known as South Nethercleave, where the house is now derelict, was 65 acres. This is said to take its name from the fact that Denys Rolle, who although he was the richest man in Devonshire always preferred to walk, died under a tree there in 1797 while walking from Hudscott to Stevenstone.

(First published April 1958)


We have been asked to write about Pitt and Blakewell. The former was part of Brightley Manor. In 1691 it was let to Thomas Chaple at an annual rent of 6s. He also had to work for two days on the demesne land. Its annual value was £7. The tenant would of course, have paid a 'fine' on taking out his lease. In the Tithe Apportionment of 1842 its extent is given as 28 acre, and it was occupied by John Rendle. When the church was reopened in 1872 Mrs. Ogilvie, of Pitt House, presided at the tea-table in Mrs. Manaton's room - was this at 'The Bell'?* - and on her table was a very handsome electric vase with this inscription: 'presented to Robert Ogilvie Esq. by the employees and others connected with the North Devon Railway, as a testimonial of their esteem for him as manager of the above line, Barnstaple, 1871'.

Blakewell was one of the ancient 'free tenements' of Chittlehampton Manor, paying a chief rent of two pence ha'penny a year. It is first mentioned in surviving records in 1277. In 1641 its owner was Thomas Chapple, gentleman. He owned a 20-year annuity of £10 to John Giffard of Brightley, but Giffard stated that by reason of John Chapple's great poverty he was never likely to receive any of it. In 1691 it is called 'Blakewell or Stoneridge alias Stone Down', and was then owned by John Sanders. In 1760 there was still a chapel in ruins in Blakewell, all traces of which have gone, except the name 'Chapel Park' for the two fields next the road below Great Blakewell Lane. (The chaplain in 1541 was Thomas Rowe, one of three former monks then employed as chaplains in the parish). In 1842 Blakewell was divided into Higher Blakewell (94 acres) owned by John Brown of Chittlehamholt Manor, Lower Blakewell (24 acres) owned by Mrs. Crocker, Little Blakewell (1½ acres) owned by John Rendle of Slade, and Blakewell Plantation (6 acres). All were later bought by the Rolle Trustees. Little Blakewell, once three cottages, now supplies the house for Lower Blakewell. The present Chapel (formerly Bible Christian) is the oldest place of nonconformist worship in the parish. There used to be houses and gardens in the western side of the same field, above the well which gives Blakewell its name. There was also a house in the Plantation, making perhaps twelve houses where now there are only three.

* Probably not - William Manaton and his wife Thomazin occupied the Bell Inn as Innkeeper and dairyman as shown in the 1851 and 1861 censuses, but William and Thomazin died in 1865 and 1870 resp. 

(First published December 1957)


Biddacott first appears in surviving records in 1244, but it is a Saxon settlement, Bitta's Cot, going back some four hundred years earlier. Like many other estates it became divided, probably between heiresses. One part, Higher Biddacott, 143 acres, was sold off from the manor of Chittlehampton in about 1638, subject to a chief rent of a shilling a year. The remainder in 1691 was in three parts, the annual value being £12, £12, and £20 respectively. In 1842 there were two parts, Lower Biddacott, 72 acres and Middle Biddacott ½ acre.

In 1802 Lower Biddacott had been leased to William Nickolls on payment of £1,100, on the lives of three of his children, and Middle Biddacott (which served as the farmhouse) on three other lives. He died in 1804, and in 1806 a fresh lease of Middle Biddacott was granted to his widow, who herself died in 1825, the lease of the two properties passing to her daughters, the eldest of whom, Elizabeth, had in 1812 married Thomas Joce, then tenant of Langaton. Shortly after his father's death in 1824 Joce moved to Townsend, 13 acres. Which with Strangs, 15 acres, his father had bought of the reputed manor of Gambuston from the Hon. Percy Wyndham. In 1831 Joce died, leaving his widow owner of Townsend and Strangs, and tenant of Biddacott.

One of Elizabeth Joce's sisters had married John Hancorne, of Gower in South Wales, and another had married Robert Boatfield of Wellesley in Bishops Tawton. Both had an interest in Biddacott, which they found getting very much out of repair. In the following year Joce visited them at Wellesley and 'a great dispute arose about repairs at Biddacott, she was very violent and lost her temper very improperly.' Things did not prosper for her. The Biddacott leases were surrendered to the Rolle Trustees in 1867. When she died in 1873 Townsend and Strangs had been sold, and Rice's meadow left. This was sold in 1874, but Elizabeth's daughter, Elizabeth, continued for the rest of the century to live in the last two of six tumbledown cottages at Rice's Court. The last of a family once prominent in the parish, she died in the workhouse in 1905.

(First published July 1959)

-   Further articles in preparation   -

Brian Randell, 15 Jul 2004