FINDING CULLOMPTON'S HISTORY
By David Pugsley
Cullompton & District Weekly News, October 1989
Transcribed by Nick Savage, and provided here by kind permission of the author.
1. The standard history of Cullompton is by Murray Toogood Foster (1867-1953). It began as a paper read at the meeting of the Devonshire Association held in Cullompton in July 1910 and was published in Transactions of the Devonshire Association, volume 42, together with the Rev. E.S. Chalk's account of the church, T.C. Hughes' paper giving details about the vicars of Cullompton, and other papers of local interest, (available in Cullompton library). A second edition, shortened, revised and updated of the contributions by Murray Foster and Chalk was published in 1964. This is the only general history of Cullompton going into any detail that has been published. It has been out of print for many years (available in Cullompton library).
2. The Rev. Geoffrey Watkins Grubb, Vicar of Cullompton 1937-1946, wrote a massive history of the town under the title, 'The People, the Parish and the Parsons, Collumpton in Devonshire'. It runs to 540 A4 pages of typescript. Grubb left Cullompton in 1946 before he had time to publish, or even revise it. Some of it was written before electric lighting was installed in the church just before the war. Chapters IV, 8 B and V, 6 B overlap heavily and some passages repeat each other word for word. It is not always reliable. Grubb thought that Sykes sold the patronage to the Earl of Devon in 1857, apparently relying on a letter from Sykes' London solicitors to the Courtenay agent at Powderham asking him to value the patronage. A quick reference to the Clergy List shows that Sykes did not sell the patronage until 1861 and then not to the Earl of Devon. Grubb thought that Vicar Templer's widow presented the Rev. John Hodge to the living in 1830, when he was nearly 80, so that she could continue to live in the vicarage with her family and act as his housekeeper. In fact Hodge was an absentee vicar, widow Templer and family moved out of the vicarage and Sykes moved in. The choice of an eighty-year old vicar was due to technical reasons, connected with the law of simony. Nevertheless, Grubb's. History does conveniently gather together in one place an enormous amount of material about the history of Cullompton. Part one deals with St. Columba, King Alfred, and William the Conqueror and the Domesday Book. The remaining four parts contain separate chapters on the life and times of each vicar, from William, the first known vicar in 1181, to Prebendary Davis, vicar 1887-1892. Each chapter is divided into two sections: A, dealing with the vicar himself; and B, dealing with the general historical and social background of the time. The work has never been published as a whole. The chapter on John Willcocks, vicar 1733-1756, appeared in Notes and Queries, reprinted in the Devon and Somerset News, 27th March, 1946, (in Tiverton Museum). And much of the material in the B Sections had appeared in a more or less different form in a series of articles in the Church Magazine in 1944 and 1945 under the title Gleanings for the Past. Those articles have now been collected and reprinted in Old Cullompton (1986).
3. The Rev. Henry Overy, Curate of Cullompton 1873-1874, wrote extensive Notes of Cullompton and its Parish Church. He left Cullompton for Canada in October 1874 before he had time to complete or revise them. After his return to Plymouth a year later they were published in serial form in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette at the beginning of 1876 (there are photocopies in the Cullompton library in the box file in the New Street window.) More details about the Notes and extracts from chapter VI may be found in Pages from the Past (1986). Overy also became involved in the controversy over the correct way of spelling Cullompton: the full story is set out in the Town on the Culm (1985).
4. Murray Foster, Watkins Grubb and Henry Overy all relied heavily on the Materials for a History of Columpton compiled by Murray Foster's uncle, James Murray Foster (1837-1879) in 1868. The Materials run to over 200 manuscript pages slightly larger that A4, and simply reproduce the relevant material in manuscript (in those days before the invention of the photocopier), with details of author and source. There are illustrations, diagrams and maps, and lists of vicars, churchwardens (incomplete), and ways of spelling Cullompton. It is extraordinary the extent to which the energies of Cullompton historians have been diverted on to that comparatively minor issue. The note on the front cover says that it was Foster's intention to compile and publish the History complete at some future occasion, but he went out to Nazeerah, Assam, before he could do so. He returned to Cullompton at Christmas 1877 and was still thinking of publishing his history (The Town on the Culm, p.37), but died on 2nd August 1879. The history of Cullompton since 1868 has been badly neglected.
5. There are other, smaller, but nevertheless useful, works. There are potted histories of the town in all the County Directories from the 1840's onwards (photocopies in the box file in Cullompton library: They contain a certain amount of interesting detail, and lists and addresses of the leading inhabitants.
6. P.C. Delagarde read a paper to the Exeter Diocesan Architecture Society in October 1847 on the Church of St. Andrew, Cullompton published in October 1847 in the Society's Transactions, volume 3, page 62, with a note by Edward Smirke on the inscription round Lane's aisle. When the church was restored in 1849 and the wall paintings were rediscovered, Delagarde prepared a supplement which was published, with annexes, in the Transactions of the Diocesan Architectural Society, copied out by hand by James Murray Foster and republished separately in book form by Delagarde in 1850. Further details may be found in Pages from the Past (1986) pages 20-24.
7. In 1851 the Postmaster, J.C. Mitchell, wrote a brief history and description of the town for a small booklet containing Eight Views of CuIllompton and Neighbourhood. Six of those views have recently been reprinted and are available from Toogoods. Presumably the booklets sold out very fast: it was not known to James Murray Foster.
7a. James Murray Foster's Materials contain extensive extracts from G.L. Scott's manuscript history of Cullompton (1860). I have been unable to find any trace of this work or its author. In fact he seems merely to have copied out by hand what Postmaster Mitchell had already printed.
8. In 1854 an inspector was sent to the town to make a preliminary enquiry under the Public Health Act, and his report was published (photocopy in the box file in Cullompton library.) It is full of information about local government, roads, lighting, water supply, drainage, burial grounds etc., most of it negative. 'There is no local Act for the management of the affairs of the parish or town'. 'The town is without lighting of any description'. 'There is no main sewer; nor are there any underground drains.' Nevertheless the report confirms that Cullompton was always free from cholera, even in the epidemics of 1832 and 1849.
9. Lewis Upcott (1851-1947) wrote a small work entitled Our Vicars. It is a short, irreverent and anecdotal account of four vicars, covering the period of about 1860-1875. It is not known when or why it was written. It was used heavily by Watkins Grubb in his history, in quotation and paraphrase, but without citing the name of the author. The manuscript was rediscovered in the Upcott family papers in 1983 and the work was published for the first time in 1985.
10. F.J. Snell wrote three long articles on Cullompton - Its Story published by the Devon and Somerset News in March 1933 (Tiverton Museum).
11. Eleanora Carus-Wilson, Professor of Economic History in the University of London, published an article in Mediaeval Archaeology vol. 1, (1957) pages 104-117, to re-establish that John Lane was not a wool merchant, dealing in raw wool, but a clothier, dealing in the manufactured product (photocopy in box file in Cullompton library).
12. Dr. Pearson Macek has published an article in the Bulletin of the University of Michigan Museums of Art and Archeology on the four figure bosses in the north aisle of the church. As far as I know she is the first person, local or foreign, who has noticed them. I cannot find any reference to them in any account of the church. They are most remarkable.
13. A major source of information on Cullompton's history of which very little use has been made so far are the local newspapers: the county newspapers, Trewmen's Exeter Flying Post, the Western Luminary, Woolmer's Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, and the Western Times: and the local newspapers Tiverton Gazette from 1858 and the Devon and Somerset News from 1893. The county newspapers are in the Devon and Exeter Institution or the West Country Studies Library, where there is an index to the Flying Post, which, for all its defects, can still be a useful instrument. Coverage of Cullompton is on the whole erratic and sparse before the 1880's when the Tiverton Gazette expanded twice, in 1880 and 1885. Reporters rarely came to Cullompton, and the papers relied on local correspondents, so that coverage was uneven and often biased.
14. There is much information about Cullompton to be found in the records of its leading families. A large collection of Upcott family papers has recently been deposited with the County Record Office, including a typescript history of the family written in 1949. The Clarkes, of Bridwell, Uffculme (though the house itself is in the parish of Halberton). were among the leading landowners in Cullompton in the nienteenth century, by inheritance from the Cullompton heiress Mary Richards. The family still has extensive records, including a typescript family history.
15. Primary sources may be found in the County Record Office, the West Country Studies Library and Tiverton Museum. The CRO has the Tithe Maps 1839/41 and the Burrow Papers, which give a fascinating solicitors-eye view of Cullompton throughout the nineteenth century. The West Country Studies Library has the census records for 1841 and 1851, l.vson's unpublished correspondence, and a lot of miscellaneous and uncatalogued files (photocopies of some of them in Cullompton Library box file). Tiverton Museum has a miscellaneous collection of old documents, posters, sales particulars, etc.