"CREDITON, (sometimes called KIRTON), a parish, market town, and extinct borough, in the hundred and union of the same name, in the county of Devon, 8 miles N. W. of Exeter, and 180 from London by road, or 201 by the London and South-Western railway. It is a station on the North Devon line, and is situated in the northern division of the county, on the W. branch of the river Creedy, and upon the road from Exeter to Barnstaple and South Melton. The parish is, divided into 8 tythings-Posbury, Cannon-Fee, Rudge, Knowle, Borough-Town, Uford-Town, Woodland, and Uton, besides the market town of Crediton which was a place of importance in the Saxon times, and was designated Crediantun, or the town on the river Creedy.
Upon the division of the diocese of Sherborne it became the seat of a diocese, of which, a collegiate church founded here in 905 was the cathedral. In the reign of Canute the see of St. German's was annexed to that of Crediton, and the prelates assumed the title of bishops of Devonshire. In 1050 the united see was removed to Exeter by Edward the Confessor, but the old collegiate church continued to be a chapter, the revenue of which, at the Reformation, was £332 17s. 5d. In the reign of Edward I. it returned two members to a parliament held at Carlisle, and in the 16th century it opposed the Reformation, but the forces assembled here were dispersed by Sir Peter Carew. Creditors was occupied by Prince Maurice for Charles I., and taken by Fairfax in 1645. In the year 1743 a large part of the West Town, comprising 450 houses, was consumed by fire; and half a century later another conflagration took place which destroyed many of the houses which had been rebuilt.
The present town consists principally of one main street, nearly a mile in length, but partially paved, with low cottages at each extremity, and some good houses near the centre. It is divided into two parts, called the East and West Towns, and stands in a hollow between two hills; that on the S. overlooking the town. The East Town contains the church and railway station, but the public-rooms and principal shops are in the West Town. There is no municipal corporation, the town being under the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, but the local affairs are managed by a portreeve, bailiff, and constables, annually chosen at the two courtsleet (one for the West Town and the other for the East), which are held by James Wentworth Buller, Esq., lord of the manor. A County Court is held monthly at the public-rooms, and petty sessions at the new police station, which is a handsome building. Crediton is also the head of a Poor-law Union, and of a superintendent registry, and a polling-place for the N. parliamentary division of Devonshire. In the High street is situated the public-rooms, a large and handsome building, erected in 1852 by a public company; it contains a set of rooms for public meetings, balls, and concerts, for the latter of which it is considered particularly well adapted. There is a literary society, numbering about 160 members, the library of which is kept at these rooms, and has of late been greatly increased. The market-house, erected in 1836, is a spacious and well-constructed edifice.
In the town are flour-mills, woollen and coarse linen manufactories, and a tannery. Much cider is made here for the London market, and shoe-making employs many hundreds of the inhabitants. The manufacture of serges, for which this town was for many centuries celebrated, is entirely discontinued. Being the centre of a very rich agricultural district, a monthly cattle market has been lately established, which is largely supplied with oxen and sheep; and on the Saturday preceding the last Wednesday in April is held the largest fair for cattle in the West of England. The locality of Crediton is proved by returns made to the registrar-general to be one of the moat healthy places in the kingdom, and many of its inhabitants have attained the age of 100 years.
The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Exeter, value £500, with residence and an acre of glebe, in the patronage of the twelve governors of the church of Crediton, who hold the tithes of the large parish of Crediton, as also those of Sandford and Exminster, which together produce about £4,000 per annum. There is also an assistant minister or chaplain, who has an income of £200, in the same patronage The church, dedicated to the Holy Cross, was rebuilt in the reigns of Henry VII. and VIII., and was partially restored in 1856. It is a fine cruciform building in the perpendicular and decorated English styles of architecture, consisting of a nave, aisles, chancel, chancel aisles, and transepts; in the centre is a massive square tower, containing a peal of eight bells. It contains a fine old organ, and an ancient font, but the unsightly high pews sadly disfigure the interior of this noble building. There is a chapel-of-ease at Posbury, which is dedicated to St. Luke; and there are remains of a very ancient chapel, which was dedicated to St. Lawrence. The Baptists, Wesleyans, Independents, Unitarians, and Plymouth Brethren have chapels.
The charities of Crediton are very numerous, amounting to above £3,760. The largest charity is known by the name of Hay-ward's Charity, the funds of which for several centuries have been in the Court of Chancery; at length the approval of the Court has been obtained by Mr. Ward for a method of applying the accumulated fund, amounting to above £20,000, which method provides principally for the clothing and educating of poor children, and the apprenticing of the most worthy scholars to useful trades. Amongst the remaining charities much money is given away at Christmas, including several hundred pounds arising from the borough lands and the interest of various sums of money left by benevolent persons and invested in the Funds. The governors of the church also grant £13 a year each to eight poor men. There is a large free school, supported out of the fund in the hands of the twelve governors of the church of Crediton, the masters of which are elected by the governors. The grammar school, founded and endowed by Edward VI., and further endowed by Queen Elizabeth, has three exhibitions at either University, tenable for five years. There are besides Hayward's blue-coat school, and Dunn's mathematical school. The principal residences are Creedy Park, the residence of Sir H. R. F. Davie, Bart., M.P.; Downer, that of J. Wentworth Buller, Esq., M.P., the lord of the manor; Shobrooke Park, Newcombes, and Okefield.
Saturday is market day, and fairs are held on the 11th May, the 21st to 23rd August, and the 21st September."
"BUDGE, a tything in the parish and hundred of Crediton, county Devon, near Crediton."
"CANNON-FEE, a tything in the parish and hundred of Crediton, in the county of Devon."
"COPPLESTONE, a hamlet in the parish and hundred of Crediton, in the county of Devon, 7 miles N.W. of Exeter."
"KNOWLE, a tything in the parish and hundred of Crediton, county Devon, 2 miles N.W. of Crediton. The village is considerable. It was formerly the seat of Colonel Montague, whose collection of birds is now in the British Museum."
"POSBURY, a chapelry in the parish and hundred of Crediton, county Devon, 9 miles N.W. of Exeter, and 2 from Crediton. It is situated in a hollow near the river Creedy. The living is a perpetual curacy in the diocese of Exeter. The church is dedicated to St. Luke."
"TOWN, a tything in the parish and hundred of Crediton, county Devon."
"UFFORD, a tything in the parish and hundred of Crediton, county Devon, 3½ mile S.W. of Crediton."
"UTON, a tything in the parish and hundred of Crediton, county Devon, 2 miles S.W. of Crediton."
"WOODLAND, a tything in the parish and hundred of Crediton, county Devon, 1 mile from Crediton."