Frederick John Snell.

The chronicles of Twyford, being a new and popular history of the town of Tiverton in Devonshire: with some account of Blundell's School founded A.D. 1604 online

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Online LibraryFrederick John SnellThe chronicles of Twyford, being a new and popular history of the town of Tiverton in Devonshire: with some account of Blundell's School founded A.D. 1604 → online text (page 1 of 45)
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Chronicles of Twypord

Being a New and Poptjlae

In Devonshire:
Pounded A.D. 1604.




Printbd and Published by
Ga«(»OBY, Son, «& Tozkr, " Tiverton Gazkttk " Office, Tiverton



Stationers'-hail-court, E.G.





One who

On leaving Blundell's School
Received a Book with this Inscription :

roberto baker carew






H. S.

18 4 2

And who has ever worthily sustained

The high traditions op his ancient and honourable line :

An excellent clergyman, an able magistrate

And a kind friend ;

These pages

Are by permission





Previous histories of Tiverton comprise : (1). A small duodecimo
volume of about 66 pages, by Mr. John Bluudell, published in 1712.
(.2). Some irregular memoirs written in a lar^e folio book by William
Hewett, merchant, who was churchwarden in 1720. This book in 1790
was in the possession of the Rev. John Newte, and was consulted by
Martin Dunsford. What has become of it, I cannot say. (3). Martin
Dunsford, third of the name, published in 1790 Historical Memoirs of
the Town and Parish— a work reflecting great credit on the author.
(4). In 18i5 Lieut.-CJolonel Harding published a General History of
Tiverton and a full account of the Lords of the Manor ; and in 1847, a
second volume, crammed with valuable information relating to the
Borough charities and local institutions," with biographical notices,
abstracts of the charters, &c.

The " Chronicles of Twyford," however, are not a mere supplement
bringing down the narrative of events to the current year. The
accounts both of Martin Dunsford and Harding have been amplified in
many important details : and the whole has been re-written. The
original bye- laws of the town, and the other documents copied in the
appendices, have never before been printed; and a number of other
sources have been drawn upon to impart variety to the contents, as well
as to supply accurate information on points in which the inhabitants of
Tiverton may be supposed to be interested.

The title " Chronicles of Twyford " is not without precedent. Sixty
years ago, when it was the fashion in country towns to write "squibs,"
a number of leaflets appeared in Tiverton, entitled "The First Chapter
of the Chronicles of Twyford," "The Real Chronicles of Twyford," etc.
This circumstance, and the fact that the word " Chronicles '' has come
through association to express something less formal than history,
suggested the name of the present volume.

In gratefully acknowledging the assistance wliich has been given to
me on all hands, I feel that special thanks are due to Mr. John Sharland,
of Exmouth, a large part of the second chapter relating to the Georgian
era being practically his work. The extensive knowledge which Mr.
Sharland possesses of Old Tiverton was derived, in great part, from
listening when a boy to the tales of his grandfather. With respect to

" I

Tiverton races and other sporting topics, my cMef informant has been
Mr. William Hooper, who acted as " starter " at the races for many
years. I have also to thank Mrs. G. W. Cookram for permission to
inspect valuable papers left by her late husband ; and Mr. R. F.
Loosemore for giving' me access to his collection of political leaflets, &c.
Mr. G. B. Cockram, whose efforts for the prosperity of the town have
made him exceptionally well acquainted with modern developments, has
not only revised and amplified important sections, but was also good
enough to place in my hands a mass of valuable materials (collected by
his late partuer, Mr. W. Partridge), out of which the narrative has, in
many places, been constructed. Nor must I forget the information I
have gleaned from the writings of the late Mr H. S. Gill, a recognized
authority on numismatics aal ecolesiology. The sketch of the
restoration of St. Peter's Church has been condensed from a
contemporary account published by the Rev. J. B. Hughes, M.A.
Acknowledgments are due to Mr. R. 1). Blackmore for permission to
reprint some interesting passages of " Lorna Doone "' ; and to Dr. 8.
Smiles for a similar favour. I have also to thank the following gentle-
men for help rendered in various ways: the Rev. J. Dickinson, M.A. ;
the Rev. D. M. Owen, B.D. ; Mr. H. J. Carpenter, M.A., LL.M. ;
Mr. J. F. Ellerton; Air. W. H. Snell ; Mr. F. A. Payne; Mr. C. Marshall
Hole; Mr. Thomas Clarke; Mr. Siddalls; Mr. W. Beck ; Mr. W. Davey ;
Mr. Upton, &c., &c. Lastly, I must cordially recognize the
ungrudging assistance of Mr. Alfred Gregory, through whose enterprise,
mainly, the " Chronicles of Twyford " now see the light.

At some future date, I hope to deal, in another volume, with Tiverton
elections and electioneering "squibs."


Bampton, December 8th, 1892.


























181 — 218
2iy — 200
207 — 344
345 — 394




Before the Conquest

c^j^K«r^GrE^EABLT with precedent, though doubtless for
many of my readers the information will be
superfluous, I begin this history by indicating the
exact position of Tiverton on the map and its
comparative distance from places of greater note.
Be it known, then, that in respect to longitude
the town is 3"29 degrees W. of Greenwich, while
as to its latitude it is 50*54 degrees N. of the
equator. It is in England, in the County of
Devon, and in the N.E. section thereof. In
Dunsford's time it was 176 miles W. of London, but Harding,
writing about fifty years later, computes the distance at about 160
miles. As no geographical changes are on record to account for
the discrepancy, we must assume that these writers used different
methods of calculation, the former perhaps taking his measurement
by the coach route, while the latter may have fitted a pair of
compasses to a given scale, or, to use the good old phrase, may
have reckoned "as the crow flies." Anyhow, by the Great
Western Railway, the managers of which have particular reasons
for being exact, the distance is 184 miles. I have to add that it
is about 14 miles IST. of Exeter, the county town, 24 miles S. of
the Bristol Channel, and nearly the same distance N. of the
British Channel. It is situated at the confluence of two rivers —
the Exe and the Lowman.

This, however, I cannot but feel, is a stiff and pedantic way
of entering on our subject. I venture, accordingly, on a new
beginning. Geography, in school or out of it, is not a subject
to be treated lightly, and before proceeding with the history, or,
as I have chosen to call it, the chronicles of Tiverton, it is well


that we should make up our minds where Tiverton is. In a
general way this has been done. We are now certified as to the
longitude and latitude, and concerning other facts also we are not
perhaps in such heathen darkness as we might have been but for
the formal and uninspiring prelude above given. But while few
persons are possessed by a passion for geography, it is a sports-
manlike instinct to wish to know something of the surrounding
country ; and the votary of nature, however idealist, will scarcely
disdain an acquaintance with the names of places, which have
caught his eye and rivetted his admiration. The question arises
how it will be best to impart this information. There is ancient
but perhaps not very reputable authority* for taking people up
into an exceeding high mountain, from whose summit they may,
as Doctor Johnson observes,

Survey the world from China to Peru.

Unfortunately in this case there is no exceeding high mountain,
but only, as Mr. Carpenter says, " arching hills." We must
therefore, make the best of what we have got, and 1 invite the
reader to ascend with me in imagination to the top of Shortridge,
about a mile-and-a-half beyond Seven Crosses,t where, it may be,
he will see more things than he had hoped. Premising that it is
a clear day — which in the spring and autumn can generally be
obtained after showery weather — we gain, as we gaze over the


tWestcote, in his " View of Devonshire " p. 273, gives the following sage
account of the origin of this name. Having stated that the Earl of
Kichmond was the possessor of the Manor of Chumleigh and the Earl of
Devon of the borough, he thus proceeds : " Of one of their noble ladies
(which should be the Countess of Devon, for never can I find an Earl of
Richmond inhabiting here) is left unto us this tale, (commonly spoken
and constantly believed). A poor labouring man, inhabiting this town,
had many children ; and, thinking himself overburdened by such a multi-
plied blessiutj of God in that kind, intended by a politic natural course to
avoid all such future charge, absented himself seven years together from
his wife, and then returnincf again and accompanying her as formerly.
She was within a year thereafter delivered of seven male children at one
birth, which makes the poor man think himself utterly undone ; and
hereby despairin^^, put them all in a basket, with a full intent to have
drowned them; but Divine Providence follokwing him, occasioned a lady
to be coming at this instant of time in his way, who demanded of him
what he carried in his basket. The silly man, stricken dead well near
with that question, answered they were whelps, which she desired to
see ; and finding the lady was resolved, and by opposition became more
earnest in her purpose, fell on his knees and discovered his intent, with
all former circumstances ; which understood, the Countess went home
with them, provides nurses, and all things also necessary. Ihey all live,
are bred in learning, and being come to man's estate,gives each a prebend
in this parish ; which I think are vanished, not to be seen ; but the
Seven Crosses near Tiverton, set up by this occasion, keeps it yet in
memory, unless they are appropriated to the free school there erected."


fertile Exe Valley, a distinct view of the sea off Exmouth, and by
the aid of a pocket telescope vessels are seen wending their way
in various directions. Plainly discernible also are the Warren
and the still waters between it and Starcross ; and standing in
bold relief the Exmouth tower, with its four pinnacles. Follow-
ing the course of the sun from this point, our attention is first
arrested by some very distant hills along the coast, but soon the
remoter prospect is intercepted by the hill which rises over Bick-
leigh Court Between this and Cadbury Castle, which is next in suc-
cession, the heights of Haldon show themselves, with the Belvedere
at their apex. Just beyond Cadbury Castle appears a part of the
ridge called in the vernacular " Kaddon Tap," and well-known to
the inhabitants of Poughill, who cross it perforce on their way to
Exeter, Next is the Windmill Hill, in the parish of Cheriton
Fitzpaine, and over this may be observed at an immense distance,
the southern escarpment of Dartmoor, beyond South Brent, and
at least forty miles away. Further to the right is a remarkable
conical hill, which is, I am informed, Eippon Tor, near Ashburton;
and apparently not far from this may be seen the double peak of
Heytor. Hence to the northern extremity of the moor, near
Okehampton, rise sharp and clear against the south-western sky
three immense masses of primitive rocks, evidently upheaved by
some mighty convulsion of nature. About five miles from Oke-
hampton is one of the highest points of the moor, Cosdon or
Cawsand Beacon. This tor is 1730 feet above the level of the
sea, and from Shortridge is distinctly visible, overtopping its
fellows. Further westward the view is not so distant, but still
extensive. In this direction it appears to be bounded by Wither-
idge Moor. To the N.W. is Templeton hill, church, and village ;
next comes Gibbet Moor, and further northward and more remote
are the highlands near MoUand and East Anstey. Then follow
the far distant regions of Exmoor, Dunkery Beacon, and Brendon
Hill. On the top of Dunkery, by the aid of a glass, may still be
seen the ruins of five hearths, from which in perilous times blazed
the beacon fires of our ancestors. This extraordinary hill does
not seem so high as it really is owing to its gigantic base, which
is twelve miles in circumference. It is, however, 1700 feet above
the level of the sea. But I must not linger. To the east, just
above Chevithorne Barton, appear some portions of the Quantock
Hills, which stretch across West Somerset from Durston to
Watchet. Further on, over Ilockworthy, we catch a glimpse of
the same range, capped by a tovvei-. The next conspicuous feature
in the horizon is Jilackdown with the Wellington monument.
Beyond this the distant landscape is, for a short space, masked by
a shoulder of Exeter Hill, near Gogwell Lane. Then, due east,
appear the Scythe Stone Hills, full of "antediluvian remains"
and fossil shells ; and, after these, the more distant range extend-
ing from Honiton to the south coast. The break in this range


which goes by the name of " Sidmouth Gap " cannot be seen from
Shortridge, being concealed by an eminence called " Criss Crass "
(Christ's Cross), over which lofty hill passes the old turnpike
road from Tiverton to Exeter. To the right of " Criss Crass " are
well-wooded heights, topped by an old hill-fort called " Woodbury
Castle," and then the high ground round Budleigh Salterton
brings us back to the point we started from.

Dunsford dwells with just and loving appreciation on the
woodlands, orchards, and pleasant pastures, tenanted by white
sheep or red oxen, and the hill-sides, covered with wheat, barley,
and oats, which environed his native town. Then, as now, the
ancient tower of St. Peter's peeping out amid a group of tufted
trees assured the wayfarer that here was a community of Christian
men ; and what with the villages, seats, farms, and cottages,
which dotted the landscape in every part, we must needs believe
that Tiverton in 1790 was an earthly paradise, which only the pen
of a Marmontel could describe. I will not disturb the illusion by
seeking to enquire whether in very truth Tiverton ^vas such a
beatific place at the date in question, but will content myself
with observing that this record commences at a period very much
earlier than 1790. At what period exactly the narrative does
begin, it is difficult to determine, but it appears to take its rise
in a great, dark, prehistoric past, from which only a few broken
hints have come down to us, but which, we may be sure, was
sufficiently unlike the present. Among other changes the lovely
scenery, which so captivated the heart of honest Martin Dunsford,
has been superinduced over a ground which in any other age
would be deemed harsh and repellent. Carrington's hnes on
Dartmoor (though the first limps a little) well describe such a
landscape and its eifects on the unregenerate human soul :

Devonia's dreamy Alps ! now I feel

The influence of that impressive calm

That rests upon them. Nothing that has life

Is visible : no solitary flock

At wide will ranging through the silent moor

Breaks the deep-felt monotony ; and all

Is motionless, save where the giant shades,

Flung by the passing cloud, glide slowly o'er

The grey and gloomy woods, etc.

The Exe winding through narrow dales, almost approaching
to glens, between hanging woods, and its little sister the
Lowman, are perhaps the only features which have remained
substantially unchanged since the time when ' wild in woods the
noble savage ran ' ; and we are tempted to claim as the earliest
inhabitant of these parts the delicate trout, whose attractions
indeed, may have been the loadstar which drew the genus homo
hither, to try their luck, as many generations have since done,
with rod and line I have assumed that the aspect of Tiverton


in the earliest times is fairly rendered for us hj Exmoor and Dart-
moor Forest as they exist now. This in any case could hardly be
termed an extravagant supposition, but there is strong confir-
matory evidence of its truth. At a distance of only five miles
from the town is Gibbet Moor still in virgin freedom, and several
local names — Pinnex Moor, Moorhayes, Cranmore, Cowleymore
and Elmore — point to a time, relatively speaking, not so very
distant, when a large part of the country immediately adjacent
was an uncultivated heath. Even so late as the beginning of the
eighteenth century Elmore was still in this condition, for as a
preface to Blundell's Memoirs we find this very horrid '' poetry " :

Within this County's Boieels lies a Moor

Of Old calVd Ell Down ; from ivhose mountains roar

Combined Fountains ; which, without delay.

Towards the Ocean do their Streams display ;

And, as if overtired, make their Graves

Betwixt the Northern a7id the Southern Waves.

West, a7id beneath this disinal Forest lies

A fruitful Vale, in form triangle-wise ;

Wherein stands Tiverton, etc. *

The thing, therefore, as it seems to me, may be treated like a
sum in proportion. If Tiverton, and especially Ell-down, was like
this in the eighteenth century after Christ, what must it have
been like in the eighteenth century before our era ? The answer,

* It is possible that some, after digesting the above extract, may find
themselves in the condition of Oliver Twist, desirous of more. Though
I doubt the expediency of gratifying such a perverted taste, and though
the original quotation was introduced solely in the way of business, I
have decided to be indiscreet, and here produce the remainder :

xvhose glorious State
Has been much darkened by the Checks of Fate,
But yet her Abbies and her Mon'ment Stories
Are strong Assertors of her Ancient Glories

Trading {the life of Places) here's to pull
The finest Lock of all the Cornish Wool,
Which into Yarn her People do convert.
And other Tradesmen other-7vhere impart
To make those famous Serges which are hurVd
By Ships from England, thro' the boundless World.
Yet, not the meanest part of Wool here brought,
Is by herself into fine Kersies wrought ;
Whose wonted Goodness in the strength of wear
Needs not the Passport of the AUenger

Her Suburbs, or Precincts, two miles do stretch,
Upon the lOast and Westward four do reach :
Three Miles upon the South she bra ncheth forth;
And claims six Miles directly on the North.

And 'bounds in Fishing, and fair Milages,
Woods, WiiU'v, pleasant Groves, a?j^/ Tillages.
Her grazing Pastures CarmfA-like for feeding ;
Her Mountain-tops like liashan-liills for breeding.


of course, must be to a certain extent conjectural, but from the
paucity, or, as I think we may say, the complete absence of any
primitive remains, such as flint weapons, etc., dug up from the site
of the present town, we are forced- to the conclusion that in the
youth of the world Tiverton was all Ell-down, all barren waste,
and wood.

Old, very old Tiverton, was on a hill, but our accounts of it are
extremely vague, for the Dunmonians, who it is supposed, pre-
ceded us in the occupation of the place, have left behind them
few traces and absolutely no records. How then do we know that
any such people existed or were domiciled in the locality ? In the
first place, certain Greek geographers, Solinus, Ptolemy, and
Heracleota have referred to them as inhabiting the western-most
part of Britain, and in the Antonine Itinerary Isca (^Exeter) is
named after them " Isca Dunmoniorum." Ptolemy mentions
other towns, Voliba, Uxela, and Tamara, as belonging to the
Dunmonians, but there is nothing in his writings to connect any
of these names with Tiverton. In spite, however, of the want of
any historical clue we have good reasons for believing that the
Dunmonians had a settlement in the neighbourhood. Just as
there are sermons in stones, so there are mute witnesses in
mounds. When numerous and sporadic, they tell of some for-
gotten battle ; arranged in a continuous line, they mark the limits
of some ancient village or town. The unaccountable prejudice
that the Eomans were the only people who had sense enough to

Nor is she barren: For her sliallotvst Brook
Affords rich matter for the Anglers Hook;
Salmon. Trout, Peal, and luscious Fish
With her's no Dainty, but a usual Dish.
There store likewise of Fennish Fowl do sivint
In Winter-tione, upon sweet Ex's britn :
And other kind in Covies fly and hop
From every Valley to each Mountain top.
Her Fields and Woods yield liketvise noble Game;
With Hawk and Hound her Hunters range the same.
To start the Hare and rouse the fallow Deer,
Pursue the Fox mth Ho ! See Ho I See Here .'

Her ivell-fiird Channels, for the People' s use.
Thro' every Street their chrystal Streams diffuse ;
These palisaded, with revengeful poiver.
The stony Pavement do most neatly scour

Her Air without is u-holesome. A7id icithin
Her hidden Boivels lie rich Mines of Tin ;
And will, in little time, with Coals supply
Her oxen Inhabitants and neighbours by.

Advance then Tiverton, no longer lie
InroVd in Sheets of dark Obscurity ;
May Generations on thy Name insert
Proper-shoiid Honour to thy gi eat Desert ;
And when that envy dares to wound, thy Name
Let her grow Leaner by thy rising Fame.


handle a spade, at any rate for military purposes, has led some
excellent people to see in every instance of circumvallation, not
indubitably modern, evidence of a Roman camp. (It happens,
however, that the Roman camps were rectangular, whereas many
of these enclosui'es are of a form which only a mathematician
could describe). When compelled to give up the designation
" Roman camp," they substituted for it " British fort," which,
though more accurate as regards nationality, is also probably a
misnomer. By this we mean that the enceinte was not, as the
word " fort " would seem to imply, a kind of barracks devoted
exclusively to soldiers. It is much more likely to have been the
abode of the inhabitants generally. The Kelts, we know, are a
very excitable race, and if we may draw an analogy from the con-
dition of Ireland at the epoch of the English Conquest, and that
of the Highlands of Scotland in still later times, there would have
been no lack of feuds among the various tribes of Dunmonians, so
that a rampart was almost a necessity. To what, it will be asked,
do these observations tend ? Simply to the fact that we have on
Skrinkhills, just above Collipriest, an example of such casti'a-

Cranmore Castle, for by this name the encampment is known,
is thirty-three acres in extent. Time and cultivation have done
their work in wearing down the banks, which probably at one time
reached a height of several feet, but the outlines are still distinctly
traceable. In the centre dominating the camp is a circular
mound, which was used most likely for a beacon. It was by no
means an isolated town. Within easy reach of it is Cadbury
Castle, and to the north of Tiverton, at Stoodleigh, Huntsham, and
Bampton, are similar works. While, as has been said, the "fort "
is not to be distinguished from the " town," it does not follow
that all the inhabitants lived within this area The needs of a
growing population — if indeed by the favour of Mars it did grow —
would naturally lead to some members of the community making-
homes for themselves outside, providing always that they were
on amicable terms with the tribes their inmiediate neighbours.
Thus, in the case before us, if I may hazard a guess, the space now
occupied by the courts and alleys of Little Silver may have been
used for a suburb, in which, during peaceful times, the redundant
Cranmorians lived sans souci, but from which, on the lirst signal
of alarm, they fled as a bird to the mountain. If this was so, all
signs of their occupancy have long since disappeared, for the

Online LibraryFrederick John SnellThe chronicles of Twyford, being a new and popular history of the town of Tiverton in Devonshire: with some account of Blundell's School founded A.D. 1604 → online text (page 1 of 45)