From White's Devonshire Directory of 1850

PLYMPTON ST. MARY adjoins Plympton-Earl, and is an extensive parish, on the east side of the vale of the river Plym, from 3 to 5 miles N.E. of Plymouth. It contains 9984A. of land, and 2757 inhabitants. It has no village of its own name, but includes those of RIDGWAY, UNDERWOOD, and COLEBROOK, and the hamlets of Hemerdon, Sparkwell, Venton, and part of Lee Mill Bridge. It includes the seats of Saltram, Newnham Park, Furzdon, Beechwood, Hemerdon House, Goodamore, Chaddlewood, &c., and many scattered farm-houses, some of them about four miles N.N.E. of the church, among the hills on the southern borders of Dartmoor Forest. RIDGWAY is a large and respectable village near the church, and Plympton Railway Station, 3½ miles N.E. of Plymouth. It has three inns, at one of which (the George,) petty sessions are held every alternate Tuesday, by the magistrates of Ermington and Plympton Division, to whom, Mr. T. Kelly, of Yealmpton, is clerk. UNDERWOOD is a considerable village, near Ridgway, and in it is the Union Workhouse, as noticed at page 551. This workhouse is a large stone building, in the Elizabethan style, erected in 1841. There is a cattle fair at Underwood, on the 5th of July. A College was founded at Plympton St. Mary, by one of the Saxon kings, for a dean and four prebendaries, or canons; but it was suppressed by Bishop Warlewast, in 1121, because the chapter "wold not leve their concubines." The bishop founded on the site of the college a Priory of Black Canons, which was endowed by the Earl of Devon, Walter de Valletort, and other benefactors, and became one of the most opulent monasteries in the county. Its revenues were valued at the dissolution at £912 per annum. In 1534 it was surrendered by John Howe, the last prior, who, with twenty monks, subscribed to the king's supremacy. The site, with the demesne, was granted to Arthur Champernowne. and was afterwards sold to the Strodes. The estate was subsequently sold in parcels, and the immediate site of the Priory now belongs to Mr. Heal, corn miller. The Earl of Morley is lord of the manor and barony of Plympton, and resides at SALTRAM, a stately mansion, in an extensive and finely wooded park, on the east side of the river Plym, about 2 miles E.N.E. of Plymouth. In the reign of Charles I., Saltram was the property and residence of Sir James Bagg, Knight. Having been forfeited to the crown, it became the property of Lord Carteret and Mr. Wolstenholme, who sold it in 1712 to Geo. Parker, Esq., great-grandfather of the late Earl of Morley. In 1774, John Parker, Esq., was created Baron Boringdon; and his son, in 1815, Viscount Boringdon and Earl of Morley. The latter died in 1840, and was succeeded by his eldest son, the Right Hon. Edmund Parker, the present Earl, who was born in 1810, and his eldest son in 1843. The noble mansion of Saltram is the largest in the county, and was mostly built by Lady Catherine Parker, mother of the first Lord Boringdon, and daughter of Earl Poulett, who was Secretary of State to Queen Anne. The superior beauty of this situation induced the Parkers to continue the enlargement of the mansion and the embellishment of the grounds, and to leave their ancient family sent of Boringdon, which is now a farm-house, but its deer park is still preserved as an adjunct to the grounds of Saltram,, which possesses many singular attractions; for, exclusive of a great diversity of landscape, and many massy woods, the prospect of Plymouth Sound, the town, citadel, Mount Edgecombe, and the endless variety of effects peculiar to the sea and harbour, are extremely interesting and amusing. The groves and lawns of Saltram, overlooking the waters of the estuary of the Plym, called the Lara, are the scenes of many pic-nic parties during the summer season. The house has been much improved by the late and present Earls, and is surrounded by a beautiful lawn and grounds of about 300 acres. Its western front is 170 feet, and its southern and eastern fronts 130 feet in length. It contains many large and elegant apartments, and an extensive and costly collection of paintings of the most famous ancient and modern artists; as well as many other choice and rare articles of virtu. Among the paintings are some of the finest works of Titian, Rubens, Michael Angelo, Vandyke, Paul Veronese, Guido, Domenichino, Vandervelde, Poussin, Salvator, &c. In the great staircase is a magnificent picture of the Assumption, by Sabbatini; and in the library are some fine portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds. The ceilings of the grand saloon and dining room were painted by Zucchi. Not far from this princely mansion, is an extra-parochial piece of land, of 175 acres, called Chelson Meadow, which was recovered from the tides in Chelson Bay, by means of an embankment, 2910 feet long, and about 16 in height. This improvement was effected by the late Earl, at the cost of £9000, in the early part of the present century, and he received for it the gold medal of the Society of Arts. Plymouth races are held on this meadow. Among other improvements effected by him, may be named the new approach, which, after passing through a gloomy wood, leads the visitor to a most delightful prospect of the sea, and its promontories, bays, harbours, &c. He also constructed a dry dock in Catwater Bay, for the repairing of large vessels.

A great part of the parish of Plympton St. Mary belongs to Geo. Strode, R.Z. Mudge, E. Tolcher, H.H. Treby, Geo. Woollcombe, G.W. Saltau, and Wm. Bratton, Esqrs., Mrs. Symons, and several smaller freeholders, most of whom have pleasant seats here. The Earl of Morley owns Colebrook, which came to his family with the heiress of the Mayhews. Hemerdon House is the seat of Geo. Woollcombe, Esq. Newnham, the ancient seat of the Newnhams and Strodes, is now a farmhouse; but the mansion in Newnham Park, built about the beginning of last century, is the handsome residence of Geo. Strode, Esq., several of whose family have at various periods represented the borough of Plympton in Parliament. Beechwood House, built in 1797, is the seat of Colonel Mudge; and Chaddlewood, anciently belonging to the Snellings and Martyns, is now the seat of Mrs. Symons. Goodamore is the pleasant seat of H.H. Treby, Esq., and was purchased by his grandfather, the late Commissioner Ourry. The Church of Plympton St. Mary was anciently the conventual church of the Priory. It is a spacious and handsome structure, built at the period when a mixture of the decorated and perpendicular styles prevailed. It consists of a chancel, north and south porches, a fine tower, and a spacious nave, with two side aisles, and also two exterior aisles, which have anciently been chapels. The columns are clustered and composed of granite. The chancel has three ancient sedilia, with a cinquefoiled arch, and a piscina. The east window is very rich in marygold tracery, and below it is a neat Gothic altar screen of stone, in five compartments, recently erected. The rood loft and screen are gone, but the spiral staircase which led to the loft remains. The crypt, under the chancel, is the burial place of the Earl of Morley's family. There is a piscina in each of the exterior aisles, and in that on the north side is a highly enriched monument of 1460, in memory of Richd. Strode, Esq., and another in memory of Sir Wm. Strode and his two wives, with their effigies, dated 1637. In the south chapel is an ancient tomb, with a recumbent effigy in armour, to the memory of one of the Courtenays. The tower contains six heavy bells, and rises to the height of 82 feet, exclusive of the four octagonal turrets, crowned by small crocketted spires, which increase the height to 110 feet. The south porch is finely groined, and has a stoup and three canopied niches in the interior, and one on the exterior. On entering the church, the eye is struck by its extent, there being no galleries to intercept the view of the columns and arches, which present themselves in their full proportions and unusual combination. After the dissolution of the Priory, the Dean and Canons of Windsor became appropriators of the tithes, and patrons of the perpetual curacy, now valued at £150, in the incumbency of the Rev. W.J. Coppard, M.A. He has a yearly stipend of £54. 12s. out of the tithes, and the benefice has been augmented with £300 from Queen Anne's Bounty, and a parliamentary grant of £1000. The tithes were commuted in 1840 for about £1500 per annum, and are leased to the Earl of Morley. There are small Wesleyan Chapels at Ridgway and Lee Mill Bridge. There are large NATIONAL SCHOOLS at Ridgway and Sparkwell, the former founded in 1844, and the latter built by Col. Mudge, and used as a chapel of ease for that part of the parish, which is four miles from the church. The Maudlin Lands, comprising about 10 acres, are let for about £30 a year, which is distributed among the poor parishioners. They formerly belonged to a small lepers' hospital here, but have been long vested in trust for the poor. An old almshouse was sold in 1810 for £163, which was expended in erecting five rooms adjoining the old parish workhouse. The poor have also £2. 5s. 6d. yearly out of the Crown Rents, under the name of "a pension for the poor men of Plympton Hospital." The Earl of Morley and others are trustees. The rent of a small garden is applied in aid of the church rates.

Brian Randell, 6 Mar 1999