GENERAL HISTORY AND DESCRIPTION OF THE COUNTY OF DEVON
(History, Gazetteer and Directory of Devon, William White, 1850)
DEVONSHIRE, the largest county in England, except Yorkshire, and the most western except Cornwall, ranks among the first in agricultural importance, and the sixth in amount of population. It has mines of copper, tin, lead, and iron ores; inexhaustible quarries of durable granite, slate, lime, building stone, marble, &c.; and is one of the oldest seats of the lace and coarse woollen manufactures, of which it still retains a considerable share, though greatly reduced since last century, by the machinery and factories of the midland and northern counties. Occupying the whole breadth of the central portion of that great south-western peninsula of the British Island, which juts out between the Bristol and English Channels, and having more than 150 miles of sea coast, and some fine navigable rivers and broad estuaries, Devonshire is one of the most important maritime counties in the kingdom. It has many sea ports, spacious harbours, and noble bays, and the great naval station, Plymouth and Devonport, is at its south-western angle, adjoining Cornwall. On its coast are many handsome and delightful bathing places, the principal of which are Torquay, Teignmouth, Exmouth, Sidmouth, Dawlish, and Budleigh Salterton, on the south-east coast, celebrated for their mild and genial climates; and Ilfracombe on the north coast. It comprises 30 market towns, including nine parliamentary boroughs, and its large and handsome capital -- the city of Exeter, which is a county of itself. In picturesque beauties, embracing all the associations of hill and dale, wood and water, fertile valleys, elegant mansions, with sylvan paths and pleasure grounds; lofty moorland hills and dells, and extensive land and marine views, it yields to no county in England. In its greatest length and breadth it extends about 70 miles east and west and north and south; and though of an irregular figure, it may be said to occupy (if we include its large bays,) nearly all the area of a circle 70 miles in diameter, lying between the parallels of 50 deg. l2 min. and 51 deg. 14 min. north latitude; and 3 degrees and 4 deg. 30 min. west longitude. It is traversed in a south-westerly direction by the Bristol and Exeter and South Devon Railways, which have branches to Tiverton, Crediton, and Torquay; but the Taw Valley line and some other projected railways are not yet made, though acts were obtained for their construction a few years ago. The boundaries of Devon are Somersetshire and part of Dorsetshire on the north-east; the Bristol Channel on the north; the river Tamar, which divides it from
Cornwall, on the west; and the English Channel on the south and south-east, where its coast line is more than 100 miles in extent, and is beautifully diversified and broken by numerous bays, estuaries, creeks, promontories, and headlands; presenting in many places high rocky cliffs, fine sandy shores, pretty towns, villages, and villas, and busy ports and fishing stations. The north coast, including the large semi-circular sweep of Barnstaple Bay, is more than 50 miles in extent. The county is in the Diocese of Exeter, Province of Canterbury, and Western Circuit, and comprises 533,460 inhabitants, and about 1,700,000 acres of land, or 2493 Square miles, as will be seen in the following statistical summary of its 32 Hundreds, &c. [LUNDY ISLAND, a detached member of Devon, is noticed at page 565.]
SUMMARY OF DEVONSHIRE, SHEWING THE POPULATION OF THE HUNDREDS, &c., IN 1841, AND THEIR TERRITORIAL EXTENT.
Hundreds. Acres. Population.
*Axminster ...... 52,517 ... 15,197
Bampton ......... 30,000 ... 6,990
Black Torrington 141,600 ... 21,351
Braunton ........ 65,830 ... 24,691
*Budleigh, (East) 52,341 . . 22,001
Budleigh, (West) 52,341 ... 3,372
*Cliston......... 19,552 .. 3,871
*Coleridge....... 51,470 ... 20,987
*Colyton ........ 31,382 ... 8,176
Crediton ........ 36,924 ... 12,055
*Ermington ...... 51,610 ... 10,919
*Exminster ...... 45,169 ... 18,412
Fremington ...... 33,350 ... 9,631
Halberton........ 14,000 ... 3,021
Hartland ........ 30,360 ... 4,966
Hayridge ........ 48,858 ... 13,783
*Haytor.......... 61,256 ... 28,702
Hemyock ......... 28,000 ... 6,089
*Lifton .........136,350 ... 16,020
Molton, (South)...67,930 ... 15,100
*Ottery St. Mary.. 9,944 ... 4,194
*Plympton........ 32,230 ... 10,722
*Roborough ...... 57,870 ... 12,169
Shebbear ........ 79,200 ... 21,741
Sherwill......... 45,790 ... 4,643
*Stanborough .... 61,890 ... 15,633
*Tavistock ...... 23,790 ... 7,697
with Winkleigh... 65 300 ... 13,955
*Teignbridge..... 58,454 ... 14,708
Tiverton ........ 24,000 ... 10,770
Witberidge ...... 80,034.... 10,805
*Wonford ........ 87,516 ... 30,101
Exeter (City of).. 4,000 ... 31,312
*Devonport ....... ..... 43,532
Total .... 1,684,208 533,460
The Hundreds are divided into PETTY SESSIONAL. DIVISIONS, as shewn with the lists of Magistrates, and with the descriptions of the Hundreds. The County is divided into 25 UNIONS, which are described with the parishes from which they are named, and it is shewn with each Hundred to what Unions its Parishes belong. The Unions generally coincide with the COUNTY COURT DISTRICTS.
* PARLIAMENTARY DIVISIONS, &c. - The 16 Hundreds and 2 Boroughs marked thus * are in the Southern Division of the County, which includes also Exeter Castle, but the City of Exeter is a county of itself. All the other 16 Hundreds are in the Northern Division of Devon, which has its chief place of election at South Molton, and has polling places also at Collumpton, Tiverton, Linton, Ilfracombe, Barnstaple, Bideford, Torrington, Holsworthy, Hatherleigh, Chulmleigh, and Crediton. For the Southern Division, Exeter is the principal place of election, and its other polling places are Newton Abbot, Totnes, Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Plymouth, Tavistock, Okehampton, and Honiton. Each Division has two members of parliament, as also has the City of Exeter, and each of the following Boroughs, viz., Plymouth, Devonport, Barnstaple, Honiton, Tavistock, Tiverton, and Totnes. The Boroughs of Ashburton and Dartmouth each send one, making the total number of 22 members sent from this county to the House of Commons. The boroughs of, Plympton, Okehampton, and Beer-Alston, in Devon, were disfranchised by the Reform Act of 1832, previous to which this county sent 26 members.
COUNTY VOTERS.--There are in the county about 8000 freeholders, and a large number of lease and copyholders. The largest number of freeholders polled for the whole county before 1832, was in 1818, when 4190 voted for Lord Ebrington; 3830 for E. P. Bastard, Esq.; and 3814 for Sir T. D. Acland, Bart. The number of electors registered for the county in 1837, was 18,432; of whom 12,561 were for the Southern Division, and 7871 for the Northern Division. Their present MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT are Sir T. D. Acland, Bart., and L. W. Buck, Esq., for the Northern Division; and Sir J. B. Y. Buller, Bart., and Sir R. Lopes, Bart., for the Southern Division.
POPULATION, HOUSES, &c. - Of the 533,460 inhabitants at the last census, 252,760 were males, and 280,700 females, living in 94,704 houses, besides which there were in the county 6129 unoccupied houses, and 901 building, when the census was taken, on the 7th of June, 1841, when there were in the County 51,058 persons born elsewhere. Of the persons above 20 years of age, l31,975 were males, and 158,927 females. In the year 1801, Devon had only 343,001 souls, but in 1811, they had increased to 383,308; in 1821, to 439,040; in 1831, to 494,478; and in 1841, to 533,460, living in 588 parishes, chapelries, and extra-parochial places. The total number of parishes in the county is 465, exclusive of the new district parishes recently established. In 1831, the population consisted of 103,277 families, 36,150 of whom were chiefly employed in agriculture, 33,880 chiefly in trade, manufacture, or handicraft; and 33,247 otherwise employed, or living on their property without trade or profession.
ASSESSMENTS, RENTAL, &c. - The annual rental of the land in Devon assessed to the property tax in 1811, was £1,217,547, but the annual value of real property, (land, buildings, &c.,) was assessed to the same tax in 1815, at £1,897,515. The parochial assessments of the county in 1828, amounted to £227,425, of which £175,412 was levied on land; £47,461 on dwelling houses;£26224 on mills and factories; and £1927 on manorial profits. In l803 the parochial assessments amounted to £179,359, of which £148,565 was expended on the poor. In 1821, these assessments amounted to £272,989, of which £231,097 was expended on the poor. In 1839, after the formation of the large unions, and the erection of extensive workhouses, the sums collected in poor rates in the county amounted to £214,500. The County Rates are levied in Devon on a valuation made under a special act of parliament passed some years ago. They amounted in 1800, to £7031; in 1810, to £23,159; in 1830, to £12,783; in 1838, to £18,459; and in 1849, to upwards of £24,000, exclusive of Exeter, and the boroughs having separate quarter sessions, viz., Barnstaple, Bideford, Dartmouth, Plymouth, Devonport, Tiverton, and South Molton - the latter of which is not a parliamentary borough. The quarter sessions for the County are all held at Exeter, where two assizes are held yearly for the COUNTY and two for the city.
Transcribed by Brian Randell, 25 May 1996