TORRINGTON with MONKLEIGH and FRITHELSTOCK
A Handbook for Travellers in Devonshire (9th ed.),
London, J. Murray. (1879)
Bideford to Torrington (Rail) 6 m.
Torrington Terminus, 1 m. from the town (Inn: Globe), is situated very pleasantly on an eminence sloping to the Torridge (Pop. 3298). It is an ancient place, containing fragments of a castle founded by Richard de Merton in the reign of Edw. III. The site is now a bowling-green, and commands an extensive view.
Torrington and its neighbourhood have some historic associations. Gytha, the mother of Harold, was endowed with lands of this tything. Torrington afterwards became the head of a barony, which was possessed for 5 descents by a family named from it. It was then divided among co-heiresses, one of whom married a member of the Merton family, by whom the castle was built. During the Rebellion stirring incidents occurred in the town and on the adjacent hills. In 1643 a body of rebels advanced from Bideford to attack Colonel Digby, who had marched upon Torrington to cut off the communication between the N. of Devon and Plymouth. No sooner, however, were they met by a few of the Royalist troopers than they "routed themselves," to quote Clarendon's words, and were pursued with much slaughter. The consequences of this action were the immediate surrender of the fort of Appledore, and subsequently of the towns of Barnstaple and Bideford. "The fugitives," says CIarendon, "spread themselves over the country, bearing frightful marks of the fray, and telling strange stories of the horror and fear which had seized them, although nobody had seen above six of the enemy that charged them." In 1646 the townspeople were witness to a far more fatal engagement, when Fairfax came by night upon the quarters of Lord Hopton. The action which ensued was furious but decisive, and the Royalists were totally defeated. Upon this occasion the ch., together with 200 prisoners and those who guarded them, were blown into the air by the explosion of about 80 barrels of gun-powder. The capture of Torrington was the death-blow of the King's cause in the west. After the fall of the town, the famous Hugh Peters, then Chaplain to the Army, preached in the market-place, and, according to Whitelocke, made many converts to the parliamentary cause. In 1660 General Monk was created Earl of Torrington. In 1689 the town gave the title of Earl to Admiral Herbert; and, in 1720, of Viscount to Sir George Byng.
The Monks were seated for many generations at the manor-house of Potheridge, near Merton, a village 7 m. distant, between Torrington and Hatherleigh; but their mansion, sumptuously rebuilt about 1670 by Gen. Monk, when Duke of Albemarle (he was born at Potheridge), was pulled down in the last centy. The stables, however, remain to this day, and will give the visitor some idea of the magnificence of the ancient building. Monk's education, says Clarendon, "had been only Dutch and Devonshire." - Potheridge formerly paid 3l. per annum to the rector of Merton, in lieu of his Sunday's dinner, and the keep of his grey mare, to which he had been entitled before this composition.)
The valley of the Torridge here is rich in fine timber, and displays some beautiful scenery.
2 m. N.E. of the town is Stevenstone (Hon. Mark Rolle), standing in a large and picturesque deer-park.
John Howe, a dissenting minister of some celebrity, b. 1630, lived for several years at Torrington.
Col. Palmer, R.A., has here a beautiful early portrait, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, of Mrs. Field, sister-in-law of the Rev. Joshua Reynolds, as well as family portraits by William Doughty. Sir Joshua's eldest sister, Mary, married John Palmer, Esq., of Torrington. The house is near the ch, and in its arrangements little altered since Dr. Johnson dined in it, 1762.
Torrington Ch., originally Dec., suffered in the Civil War (see ante). In the Ch. of St. Giles-in-the-Wood, 3 m. E. (Stevenstone is in this par.), are Brasses for Eleanor Pollard -1430; Margaret Rolle and children, 1592; John Rolles, 1570; and Joan Risdon, 1610. There is a small ch. at Little Torrington (2 m. S., Pop. 622), which has been excellently restored with stained glass, &c.
(The scenery between Bideford and Torrington well merits notice, the oak being abundant. The road skirts the river, and commands a good view of the Aqueduct of the Torridge Canal, which crosses the valley on 5 arches. This canal, completed in 1824, was one of the patriotic works of the late Lord Rolle. It enters the river near Wear Gifford about 3 m. from Torrington.)
At Wear Giffard, 2 m. N., is a very curious manor-house, described ante, Exc. from Bideford.
Annery, on the opposite side of the river (Mrs. Somes), was for a long period the seat of the Bankfords. Here was born and died Sir William H., Chief Justice in the reigns of Hen. V. and VI.; the judge who, according to the Devonshire tradition, committed P. Henry. (Mr. Foss, however, has shown that the judge who committed P. henry was Sir William Gascoigne; and that so far from reappointing this judge on his succession to the throne, Hen. V., made Sir William Hankford Chief Justice 8 days after he became king. The scene and speech in Shakspeare's 1 Hen. IV.' (Pt. IL, act 4, sc. 2) are therefore not historical). His monument may be seen in Monkleigh Ch. A local tradition asserts that he was shot in his own park at Annery, by his keeper, whom he had reprimanded for negligence. He had "plotted for himself a violent death," says Westcote. An oak in the park, under which he is said to have fallen, is still called the "Hankford oak." The old house was famous for a long gallery (taken down in 1800), in which 30 beds might be placed in alcoves, on each side, so as not to be seen.
At Frithelstock, 2½ m. W., are the remains of a priory, founded by Robert de Beauchamp In the reign of He. III. It was for Augustinian Canons, who were brought here from Hartland. The 2 houses remained so far connected that the Abbot of Hartland had a vote in the election of the Prior of Frithelstock, and vice versa. The annual revenue, at the Dissolution, was 127l. Part of the Priory Church remains, with E.E. windows, no doubt of the time of the foundation. In the neighbourhood of Torrington are Cross House (Mrs. Stevens), at present occupied by Sir Trevor Wheler, Bart.; and about 6 m. towards Hatherleigh, Heanton Satcheville (Lord Clinton), who has interesting pictures, among them Eastlake's portrait of Napoleon on board the 'Bellerophon.'
Transcribed - Brian Randell, 18 Jul 1999