[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]

"OKEHAMPTON, a parish, market town, and municipal borough, locally situated in the hundreds of Lifton and Black Torrington, county Devon, 21 miles W. of Exeter, and 195 W. by S. of London. It is situated in a wooded valley on the northern border of Dartmoor, near the confluence of two rapid trout streams called the East and West Okement. These streams, issuing out of Cranmere Pool, on Dartmoor, flow E. and W., but, after rounding a succession of hills, again converge, and unite their waters about a quarter of a mile below the town. The borough, which is co-extensive with the parish, includes, besides the town of Okehampton, the villages of Cheesacott, Kingbear, and five other hamlets In the immediate vicinity of the town, which is built in the lowest part of the valley, are some rich meadows.

Shortly after the Norman conquest this manor was given by William I., with the earldom of Devon, to Baldwin de Brioniis, who distinguished himself at the battle of Hastings. In Domesday Survey it is described as held of the king by Baldwin the Viscount, who had his castle here, and at which place were four burgesses and a market. Subsequently it became the property of the Courtenays, the hereditary county sheriffs, and keepers of the castle of Exeter, who for several generations resided at Okehampton Castle, which stood on the summit and eastern slope of a rocky eminence about a mile to the S.W. of the town. Of this once imposing structure the principal remains are the keep, the rest having been dismantled by order of Henry VIII. The town, which is a borough by prescription, received its first charter from Robert de Courtenay in the time of Edward I.; but this being found inadequate, a new charter of incorporation was granted to the burgesses by James I. in 1623, with many special privileges, which were confirmed and amplified by Charles II. Under this charter it is still governed by a mayor or portreeve, recorder, justice of the peace, and 8 burgesses. It sent two members to parliament once in the reigns of Edward I. and Edward II., and again in 1640, from which time it continued to make regular returns till disfranchised by the Reform Act.

The town, which consists of several streets irregularly laid out, contained, in 1851, 2,194 inhabitants, but had decreased in 1861 to 1,929. Some of the inhabitants are employed in weaving serges, or long ells, for the Chinese market; and there is a considerable retail trade for the supply of the surrounding country. The lordship of the borough is vested in the mayor and burgesses, but the manor and castle belong to A. B. Saville, Esq., of Oatlands. The Okehampton Poor-law Union comprises 28 parishes and townships, the union poorhouse being situated in this parish. It is also the head of a superintendent registry and new County Court districts. The tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £350, and the glebe consists of 200 acres.

The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Exeter, value £600. The church, dedicated to All Saints, stands on rising ground some distance W. from the town. It is a modern structure, rebuilt at a cost of £3,000, the former one having been burnt down in 1842. Besides the parish church there is a chapel-of-ease, dedicated to St. James, situated in the market-place. This edifice, which was originally founded as a chantry, is small, but has a massive tower of granite, and is now the property of the corporation. The Independents and Wesleyans have each a place of worship. There are National and infant schools situated in the town, and a literary society with a small library. The parochial charities produce about £120 per annum. Market day is Saturday.

Fairs are held in the months of March, May, July, August, and September, chiefly for cattle."

"BRIGHTLEY, a hamlet in the parish of Okehampton, hundred of Lifton, in the county of Devon, not far from Okehampton."

"CHEESACOTT, a hamlet in the parish of Okehampton, in the county of Devon. It is situated in a pleasantly wooded country."

"KILBEAR, a hamlet in the parish of Okehampton, county Devon, 2 miles N.W. of Okehampton."

"LOWER FARTHERFORD, a hamlet in the parish of Okehampton, hundred of Black Torrington, county Devon, 21 miles W. of Exeter. It is situated in the vicinity of the town of Okehampton.

"MADDAFORD, a hamlet in the parish of Okehampton, county Devon, in the vicinity of the town of Okehampton."

"MELDON, a hamlet in the parish of Okehampton, county Devon, near Okehampton."

"SOUTHACOTT, a hamlet in the parish of Okehampton, county Devon, 3 miles W. of Okehampton."

Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003