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History of Chillaton

A History of Chillaton, Devon.

by John Dawe, with some additional family history too!

 

BC - Before the Birth of Chillaton

Here is the Lyd Valley, which I like to call “Lidtonnia”, this means the lands of the River Lid. Recorded in the Domesday Book and seen in the mid distance were the manors, called East Lidtonne and West Lidtonne. This shows that by this time the Domesday Book was written, the original manor Lidtonnia has been divided. (which is now called Liddaton)

 

Key to the picture of Lyd Valley below –

 

1-Dartmoor

2-Liddaton (The Domesday Book, Manor of Liddintone)

3-Chillaton Village, only becomes a village as a result of mining, about 1840

4-Site of the old Burns Hall until 1850 (The Barton Farm or Tieth Barn of the Manor)

5-Burns Hall, Built 1850 by the Duke of Bedford as a model farm and Buildings.

6-The River Lyd is the fastest flowing river in England for its length.

It flows off Dartmoor through Lydford George past Coryton and Lifton, then into the Tamar.





If I were asked to tell about Chillaton, I would say much had happened before it came to be a Village of that Name. 

During the Palaeozoic era of geological time 570 - 245 million years ago, the rocks of Devon were formed from the sediments that rose out of the sea from the pressure of the molten mantle inside the earth's crust. Previously the planet had been one big sea and a single continent.

Movements that disturbed the whole of South-west England at the close of the Carboniferous period, the rocks of the lowland area surrounding Dartmoor, folded along north-south in waves and afterwards east-west. Wheou go up the road by Higher Chillaton towards Ram's Down you can see the rounded hills and valleys. Towards the Tamar, the boundary between Devon and Cornwall, sunken valleys were formed near Plymouth that gave rise to the harbours of Plymouth Sound.

Faults were formed along the line of the bends within these folds, (north/south and west/east).  The magna rose from the centre of the earth finding it's way-out between these faults in the rock strata throughout the Tavistock area. The same time that volcano of Brentor may have been active. If you look at Brentor Hill it is apparent a explosion had taken place, blowing out one half of the hill and great piles of soil can be seen between the hill and the present day “iron railings cross roads on the way to Tavistock”

A broad range of minerals was formed - Gold, Silver, Lead, Copper, Iron, Wolfram (tungsten) Manganese and on a line from Bridestowe to Lifton veins of marble (molten calcium carbonate). We will return to these later.

About 10,000 years ago most of Dartmoor covered with scrub woodland. Only a few small patches of open heath would have been seen around the highest tors. Then along came Man. By the Mesolithic period (6,000 BC) our forefathers had started to change the landscape, especially by the use of burning. This enabled areas of blanket bog to expand into the heath and wet grassland. The tree line gradually moved lower down the slopes and blanket bog continued to spread. By the Bronze Age (4,000 to 5,000 years ago) much larger areas of Dartmoor were being cleared of forest for farming. Sheep, cattle and ponies were being introduced and eventually soils were exhausted through farming. The land became increasingly waterlogged and acidic. When the climate became cooler and wetter, these conditions provided another opportunity for the blanket bog mosses to extend over a far larger part of Dartmoor than before. Since then the layer of peat has grown metres thick in places.

From around 3500bc Neolithic or the New Stone Age, it is thought that the settlers were familiar with the basic principle of cultivation of corn, stock breeding, and the crafts of pottery and weaving. They had colonised the high ground of Southern England and Dartmoor, as findings of flint tools on the moor are linked to this period. In fact a flint arrowhead has been found in a field at Burns Hall. Have you ever wondered when driving up the hill from Merrivale toward Princetown why Bronze Age men came to choose the sites for their hut circles? Perhaps there was a question of balance of power between man and wild animals within the Tamar Valley - climate may have had a factor. You can see evidence of trees in the peat bogs of Dartmoor. It is quite likely that there were tigers, bears, wolves and deer. It is believed that beavers were around to dam up the rivers causing large areas of boggy marsh, (2000 -500bc).

The ground above Chillaton Barton is associated with the Iron Age and mention of an Iron Age fort. Near Warstone Farm (Newman's History of Coryton) on the north bank of the Lyd by Liddaton and around Rams Down. Getting nearer in time the Druids probably populated the Dartmoor. They taught the immortality of the soul with a reincarnation doctrine and were experts in astronomy, the religion of the Celtic peoples of the pre Christian Britain and Gaul. They regarded the oak as sacred and they were early converts to Christianity.

When the Romans conquered Britain the lowlands corresponded to the region of cities, villas and villages, while the old British population, in Roman terms the 'uncivilised,' gravitated to the highlands. The lowlands have always occupied a more important position in history - they were richer, more populous, better recorded, the focus of political action..

The highland areas of Britain are the most ancient surviving contact with prehistoric pastoral life in these islands. Here there is not merely a change from the village society, with its arable economy, which has dominated the Domesday story in lowland England, to the hamlet and the isolated farmstead. A change from one way of thinking to another.

The division, deeply rooted in British history, has been described as the most constant frontier in the history of Britain. The frontier is still recognisable today, even if its lineaments no longer have the same forceful identity that they possessed even as late as the sixteenth century, when to travel into the hill country of Devon was to enter a different world, distinct from the towns and villages and managed landscape of the lowlands: a different kind of social organisation and a different way of life

Transh mance, the word that describes the moving up to the higher reaches for summer pasture (Dartmoor) remained a way of life for centuries. The traveller on the fringes of Dartmoor will still find the intricate patterns of prehistoric and early medieval field enclosures now abandoned but marking the higher limits of earlier cultivation. Customs and language enshrined the old upland way of doing things.

When the Saxons first occupied the South West Peninsular they found it dotted with Christian churches and chapels of Celtic origin.

The Britons of Cornwall had been joined an army of Danes. They were preparing to invade the Kingdom of Wessex. But they were forestalled as in 71O AD. Ine and Nunna defeated Geraint of Dumnonia, probably on Hingston Down, above Gunislake on the Tamar so completing the Saxon conquest of Devon and Cornwall.

The King’s Visit to Lifton

On 11th of November 931 King Athelstan celebrated the feast of St Martin, “the leader of the saints of the west”, with his court at Lifton downstream from Chillaton. It had been a long year, in which the kings itinerary had taken him in the spring to Colchester, then Whitsun  at Winchester. In early June to his residences in Hampshire, such as East Wellow, with a great summer assembly of his tributaries at Worthy; he may have been up in Mercia later

in the summer. By October he may have stayed at Kingston-on-Thames before making the long journey down to Devon - a typical year for a Dark Age king, constantly on the move. This was a society with few means of delegating power safely, especially outside the heartland of the dynasty. In his own country a king could rule through his local earls, through the local assemblies. But in the outer reaches of the imperium cohesion and unity were always at risk, and constantly showing yourself to friend and foe alike was a reliable means of communicating, controlling, reassuring allies and cowing enemies.

There were also economic reasons for this itineraries or travails. With no centralised system, in the modern sense, it ...was necessary for kings like Athelstan, Edgar or William the Conqueror to be constantly on the move. They had to staff and keep in good repair a string of royal residences, each one of which was the centre of a local network which drew in the agricultural produce of the neighbourhood to feed the court. Many of the royal residences had the kings farms, are still recorded as such in Domesday. The king would travel from one to another, stay for a few days at most, use up all the supplies which had been laid in and then move on, he was constantly proceeded, by messengers checking stocks of food and standards of accommodation.

Lifton was perhaps no more than a hunting lodge, by the River Lyd - at Domesday its staff numbered a mere fifty workers and a dozen slaves. In the kings company that November day, perhaps mainly lodged in tents, were many of the most important figures in Britain - both archbishops, King Hywel Dda of D~ King Idwal Foel of Gwynedd,

 17 bishops, 15 earls (many from the Danelage), 5 abbots and 59 top thegns over one hundred magnates in all. If one adds to this enormous assembly, the service staff, retainers, hangers-on and the rest upwards of a thousand people would have been 'rejoicing under the wing of royal generosity'. On the day after the feast the king turned to business. One of the jobs of kingship was to reward the thegnly class, particularly in land. Several times a year the king supervised the transfer of estates to his thegns, usually giving a charter – which a kind of medieval tenancy for three people’s lives (the recipient, his son and his grandchild).

On the 12th of November Athelstan rewarded a then young Wulfgar, with land for his services. Wulfgar had been with the king throughout the year on his travels, acting as a court officer, a task performed in rotation with other noble companions. The special significance of the Lifton grant is that the original copy of the charter still exists, with all the witnesses laid out in order of precedence; this document found its way into the archive of the bishopric of Winchester after Wulfgar's death, and still attached to it is Wulfgar's will, also in a contemporary hand. Together these two remarkable survivals give a close-up view of how land holding was developing under the Anglo-Saxon empire.

The pattern of farmsteads scattered over the West Devon area was established by the time of the Domesday Book and varied only slightly over the next two centuries. This had been a period of change from wood construction to stone. The wooden houses had thatched roofs supported by centre posts - this was the so-called long house in its primitive form - houses were some times of considerable size, up to eighty feet in length and fifteen in breath. When buildings became constructed of stone, they had a cross passage with entrances opposite other, shared by humans one end and cattle the other, which kept the building warm in winter. In the eighteen square miles in the ancient parish of Tavistock, there were only three new farm names recorded for the first time after 1320.

Tavistock Abbey - Five Hundred years under the Monks

To make for cohesion in the unity of the English realm that had recently been achieved. The Saxon king, Edgar son of Alfred the Great, founded the Tavistock Benedictine Monastery to be above all a centre of piety and learning. But the monks were also landowners and dependants of the crown. From a reference in Alfred's will it appears that a substantial portion of the king's land was attached to Lifton (his wife may have come from the Werrington area) which was in the hands of Ordulf, the king's brother and his second wife Aelfwynn. In 981 AD the Abbey was ready for its charter, issued in the name of the boy king Ethelred and within its boundaries the Abbot would enjoy rights previously vested in the king. The Scilly Isles were part of the lands given to the monastery. Perhaps two monks kept an eye on the Islands that was the home of pirates of various nationalities but islands did not contribute much to the monastery.

The first charge against the endowments of any monastery is the livelihood of the monks themselves. Tavistock was never a large community. Perhaps its numbers varied between ten and twenty monks with about a household staff of twenty servants. In addition to their prayers, the monks clothed and fed the poor and a ready welcome was given to every traveller. It was common for laymen in their declining years to enter a monastery so that they might receive medical attention in the infirmary. At Tavistock the community build a leper hospital at the western end of the borough where a half dozen patients were under the care of the master or the prior of the Maudlin (Magadalene). The hospital was under the general supervision of the convent almoner who paid a weekly pension of two pence to each inmate. In 1291 Abbot Champeaux assigned the income from West Liddaton Manor to the almonry, to be spent on shoes and clothing for the poor. These gifts were handed out in the cloister each year on All Souls Day (November 2nd) perhaps buying three hundred yards of cloth for the occasion.

From earliest times the monastery was a centre of learning and the senior monks had often gained degrees in canon law and divinity. They taught the novices, who sometimes were given scholarships to Oxford. The Benedictine Order had sponsored a common house for studies at Gloucester College in Oxford which Tavistock had helped to establish Tavistock Grammar School that has now has become Tavistock Community College, it has direct links back to this time.

The administrative staff were the points of contact between the monastery and the outside world and these were numerous. The sacristan or sexton was endowed with the burgage (borough)  rents which were put to the care of the abbey church and cemetery. The precentor looked after the library and choir. The cellarer was in charge of the catering department, he was assisted by the garnerer responsible for the supply of corn and a salsarius or purveyor of salted meat and fish and medarius or purveyor of mead and other drinks. A lay auditor or supervisor, who seems to have usually been a neighbouring landowner, attended on law days to keep an eye on the business of the manor. Then there was the rent collector or the beadle's whose task it was to collect the revenue from the lords courts. The granger conducted the operation of threshing, winnowing and accounted for the supplies of grain. As a rule, these officers were filled by bondsmen nominated by the jury of the manor court. During their term of office the Beadle and the Reeve paid no rent and were excused from labour service. The obligation of providing armed men in wartime and of contributing towards the upkeep of bridges and fortifications still applied. From all other national burdens Tavistock was henceforth to be exempt . The Abbey lands were to be held in perpetuity and on no account might they be sold, exchanged or granted away. By the introduction of knight service, William 1 had transformed the Abbott into a feudal baron.

William the Conqueror's half brother Robert, the Count of Mortain was given a large proportion of Cornwall. The Domesday Book of Cornwall declares - "Listone" ( - which I speculate is not the usual translation - that of Lifton, but in French Le/La Stone -Lanson or its long spelling Launceston) the Cornish Domesday says of 'Listone' - "the Count has his castle there". The Abbeys land Werrington near Launceston was also ceded to him. A string of Manors that lie between the Count of Mortain and the Tavistock Abbey lands were give to the Duke of Aamale. These lands were eventually restored to the Abbey.

In the doomsday book it shows that the Tavistock Abbot supplied ten knights in times of need, which included Reginald de Liddintone (East Liddaton in Brentor) and William Gurdet West Liddaton Manor, (Chillaton in Milton Abbot). By 1086 territorial endowments had been allocated from the abbey lands to support its fifteen knights. Godffrey had been granted the Manor of Liddaton which is in the Lyd Valley below Lydford Gorge.

The countryman who could not stake out for himself a freehold on undeveloped land or claim stannary privilege might become a tenant by knight service on a small scale by the subdivision of the knight's fees. All over Devonshire the descendants of the doomsday are settled on the land that he now cultivates for his own profit. He now fends for himself and is expressed by a new legal designation, he is no longer 'servus' - but a 'nativus bondmad, 'villien' or 'serf.

The furlong - (the long furrow of 220 yds), became in Devon the ferling, a unit of land measurement about 32 acres, all kinds of land could be included - enclosures, strips in arable, common fields, lots in common meadows and open moor, which would support the family of a 'villein.

Social Structure - The fundamental maxim of feudal society was that all land was held conditionally on some form of service that was rendered to the lord. From which it was deduced a man's personal status, the tillers of the soil were classified into three catorgeries - the 'freeman', the freed man and the 'slave! A freeborn cottage perhaps undertook extra work on the lord's  home-farm in return for the lord's help during times of economic stress. A slave could own no property hence all that a serf had belonged to his lord

 

Tavistock Abbey - Five Hundred years under the Monks

To make for cohesion in the unity of the English realm that had recently been achieved. The Saxon king, Edgar son of Alfred the Great, founded the Tavistock Benedictine Monastery, to be above all a centre of piety and learning. The monks were also landowners and dependants of the crown. From a reference in Alfred's will it appears that a substantial portion of the king's land was attached to Lifton (his wife may have come from the Werrington, the Manor north of Launceston ) which was in the hands of Ordulf, the king's brother and his second wife Aelfwynn. In 981 AD the Abbey was ready for its charter, issued in the name of the boy king Ethelred and within its boundaries the Abbot would enjoy rights previously vested in the king. The Scilly Isles were part of the lands given to the monastery. Perhaps two monks kept an eye on the Islands that was the home of pirates of various nationalities but did not contribute much to the monastery.

The first charge against the endowments of any monastery is the livelihood of the monks themselves. Tavistock was never a large community. Perhaps its numbers varied between ten and twenty monks with about a household staff of twenty servants. In addition to their prayers, the monks clothed and fed the poor and a ready welcome was given to every traveller. It was common for laymen in their declining years to enter a monastery so that they might receive medical attention in the infirmary. At Tavistock the community built a leper hospital at the western end of the borough where a half dozen patients were under the care of the master or the Prior of the Maudlin (Magadalene). The hospital was under the general supervision of the convent almoner who paid a weekly pension of two pence to each inmate. In 1291 Abbot Champeaux assigned the income from West Liddaton Manor to the almonry, to be spent on shoes and clothing for the poor. These gifts were handed out in the cloister each year on All Souls Day (November 2) perhaps buying three hundred yards of cloth for the occasion.

From earliest times the monastery was a centre of learning and the senior monks had often gained degrees in canon law and divinity. They taught the novices, who were some times were given scholarships to Oxford. The Benedictine Order had sponsored a common house for studies at Gloucester College in Oxford which Tavistock had helped to establish Tavistock Grammar School that has now has become Tavistock Community College, it has direct links back to this time.

The administrative staff were the points of contact between the monastery and the outside world and these were numerous. The sacristan or sexton was endowed with the burgage (borough) rents that were put to the care of the abbey church and cemetery. The precentor looked after the library and choir. The cellarer was in charge of the catering department. He was assisted by the garnerer responsible for the supply of corn and a salsarius or purveyor of salted meat and fish and medarius or purveyor of mead, cider and other drinks. A lay auditor or supervisor, who seems to have usually been a neighbouring landowner, attended on law days to keep an eye on the business of the manor. Then there was the rent collector or the beadle's whose task it was to collect the revenue from the lord's courts. The granger conducted the operation of threshing, winnowing and accounted for the supplies of grain. As a rule, these officers were filled by bondsmen nominated by the jury of the manor court. During their term of office the Beadle and the Reeve paid no rent and were excused from labour service.

The obligation of providing armed men in wartime and of contributing towards the upkeep of bridges and fortifications still applied. From all other national burdens Tavistock was henceforth to be exempt. The Abbey lands were to be held in perpetuity and on no account might they be sold, exchanged or granted away. By the introduction of knight service, William had transformed the Abbott into a feudal baron. Alongside many of the Norman Knights who had been with him at the Battle of Hastings (1066).

William the Conqueror's half brother Robert, the Count of Mortain was given a large proportion of Cornwall. The Domesday Book of Cornwall declares - "Listone”- (which I speculate is not the usual translation - that of Lifton), but the French, La Stone -Lanson, this is how the town’s name is still is often pronounced and written. I saw “Lanson”. It's long spelling Launceston. The Cornish Domesday says of  'Listone' - "the Count has his castle there" this fits the site of o the ruins of the Norman Castle set upon defensible rocky outcrop, but on the other hand there is a farm named “Castle Farm”  with earth works above Lifton which fits also. The Abbeys land Werrington near Launceston was also ceded to him. A string of Manhat lie between the Count of Mortain and the Tavistock Abbey lands was give to the Duke of Aamale. These lands were eventually restored to the Abbey.

In the doomsday book it shows that the Tavistock Abbot supplied ten knights in times of need, which included Reginald de Liddintone (East Liddaton in Brentor) and William Gurdet West Liddaton Manor, (Chillaton in Milton Abbot). By 1086 territorial endowments had been allocated from the abbey lands to support its fifteen knights. Godffrey had been granted the Manor of Liddaton which is in the Lyd Valley below Lydford Gorge

The countryman who could not stake out for himself a freehold on undeveloped land or claim stannary privilege might become a tenant by knight service on a small scale by the subdivision of the knight's fees. All over Devonshire the descendants of the doomsday are settled on the land that he now cultivates for his own profit. He now fends for himself and is expressed by a new legal designation, he is no longer 'servus' - but a 'nativus bondmad’ 'villien' or 'serf.

The furlong - (the long furrow of 220 yds), became in Devon the ferling, a unit of land measurement about 32 acres, all kinds of land could be included - enclosures, strips in arable, common fields, lots in common meadows and open moor, which would support the family of a 'villein.

Social Structure - The fundamental maxim of feudal society was that all land was held conditionally on some form of service that was rendered to the lord. From which it was deduced a man's personal status, the tillers of the soil were classified into three catorgeries - the 'freeman' the freed man and the 'slave! A freeborn cottager perhaps undertook extra work on the lord's home-farm in return for the lord's help during times of economic stress. A slave could own no property hence all that a serf had belonged to his lord

By writ from 1116, the Abbot had the rank of a baron - and possessed the status of a hundred-lord. He was recognised as the head of administrative district and unit of public jurisdiction. In the actual administration of justice the Abbot was little more than a sleeping partner. He took the profits but left the execution of the work to his officials under the control of the sheriff. The charter gave Tavistock its oldest fair and was not answerable or subordinate in any way to the hundred of Lifton. Four of these manors came from the hundred of Lifton namely, Chillaton, Youngcott, Week Daubarton (as Week Farm was known in the Middle Ages) and East Liddaton Manors.

The Monastery had an obligation to provide a granary and mill on the Manors it held, such as Splatt Mill in Chillaton and Coryton Mill below Liddaton. In return there were services required such as cleaning out the mill-leat, weeding of the lords cornfields, and preparation of the sward for tillage. Throughout the whole district the general practice that has prevailed from time immemorial is to divide the arable lands of each farm into two parts ... Infield and Outfield. The infield, as the name implies, is that portion of ground which is nearest to the farmstead, and usually consists of about one-fifth part of the whole arable ground in the farm This is kept in perpetual tillage; and the invariable system of management was to have it divided into three equal parts to be cropped thus: First Year (barley), with all the dung made by the beasts housed on the farm laid upon it. Second and Third, oats . That part of the farm called out-fields was divided into two unequal portions. The smallest, usually about one third part, is called folds, provincially falds; the other larger portion is denominated faughs. The fold ground usually consists of ten divisions, one of which each year is brought into tillage from grass. With this intent it is surrounded with a wall of sod the last year it is to remain in grass, which forms a temporary inclosure that is employed as a pen for confining cattle during the night time and for two or three hours each day at noon. Thus gets a tolerably full dunging, after which it is ploughed up for oats during the winter. In the same manner it is ploughed successively for oats for four or five  or as long as it will carry any crop worth replacing. It is then abandoned for five or six years during which time it gets by degrees a sword of poor grass, when it is again as to the same rotation.

The faughs never receive manure of any sort; and they are cropped in exactly the same manner as the folds, with this difference, that instead of being folded upon, they are broke up from grass by what is call rib-ploughing about midsummer; one part of the sward being turned by the plough upon the surface of an equal portion that is not raised, so as to be covered by the furrow. This operation on grass land is called faughing, from when the division of the farm takes its name. It is allowed to lie in this state until autumn, when it is ploughed all over ... and is sown with oats in the spring. It produces a poor crop and three or four succeeding crops still poorer and poorer till at last they are forced to abandon it by the plough after it will scarcely return the seed.

 

The  Medieval Borough

The declaration of a borough was in the first instance the self assertion of local peasants who deliberately sought this means of emphasising their free status It is not known when Tavistock assumed it's borough status and it could have been long before the conquest. Tavistock was granted a charter to be a borough whose inhabitants were not serfs, but tradesmen like the thatcher and blacksmith who had set up a local market, it became a "port" or "place of trade" so that the reeve who was the lords official collecting his dues, became the port-reeve. The names, borough and burgher are derived from the Latin for port-man - burgensis.

 

Wool

Wool was another mainstay of the area. After the short Dartmoor wool was carded and spun, it was put through a tucking mill where it was pounded by heavy wooded hammers driven by a water wheel (similar to the tinner's stamps used to crush ore). This pounding or milling process produced a cloth, not woven but made by thickening or felting the wool in the manner of paper making. It was placed on racks and partly dried before the surface could be raised by teasel heads, cropped and sheared to make a nap.

Medieval Dartmoor wool was coarse, short and spiky. It was worked up with lamb's wool and flock to make it saleable under the name of "Tavistocks" a light coarse serge. The importance of its prosperity to Tavistock is still evident in the coat of arms - a fleece.

 

Stanary Law.

All Dartmoor was a stannary area which had its own laws and customs, was a term for the self governing state within the state for the production of tin, its own courts and goal, and it bestowed upon all working tinners the rights and privileges which placed them above common law. Tavistock was one of five stannary towns where the taxes were levied. This was the mainstay of freedom that provided the ancient mining industry of the south west. The second half of the twelfth century saw a rapid and considerable expansion of the Dartmoor tin trade was fostered by the central government and regulated by the assize of mines. In 1251 a royal mandate forbade Devon land owners to molest the Dartmoor tinners in their ancient liberties or extract from them any dues or services other than those which had been customary. The profits from the mines accruing to the exchequer had brought about a virtual alliance which offered the humblest countryman the chance of becoming or remaining his own master. They had the authority of the king to dig for minerals on anybody's land, which caused considerable strife.

The tinners used their own Stannary (Mining) Laws which were held very much in the Celtic practice of people assembling to hold court. The action of the Crockern Tor parliament in 1494 prohibited anyone owning estate worth more than £10 a year. Perhaps this was an early form of the trade’s union closed shop. Medieval tin mining was usually on moorland where the heavy black stone and sand from the tin veins had been deposited in beds. These varied in thickness from 1 to 10 feet in breadth and from 6 feet to almost the width of the valley. They were usually fan shaped as the rock fanned out from the parent load. A rough preliminary smelting took place near the mine with a peat fire.

 

The Manors of Sydenham and Coryton.

 

The manors of Sydenham and Coryton were under King Alfred's patronage with its seat at Werrington (near Launceston).

Here follows some items which are lifted from Thomas Newman's book, History of Coryton, The Church, founded by St Curig in Celtic times. The Celts had been pushed westwards from their forts, Holdstrong and Warstrong. by the Saxons. Sydenham was handed to Judhael of Totnes after the Norman invasion of 1066, in 1086 Drogo de Geoffrey a Norman family, took the name de Sydenham, the other manor

Coryton - de Coryton and this family of Coryton lived for about 400 years at Kid Knowle. It is said that in 1428, there were no more than 10 persons in Coryton, on the account of the terrible plague, "the black death". From 1684-1808, four generations of Tremaynes, all called Arthur lived at Sydenham. The Manor of Coryton was sold by the Tremayne's of Collocombe (in Lamerton) to Lysten Newman in 1808.

Newmans were originally merchants of Dartmouth, and in the 1600s were pioneers sailing schooners and brigs that carried many small boats known as "Dorys" to fish cod on the 'Newfoundland Banks". Then they sailed to Portugal and would barter the dried cod for wine. The wine was sometimes taken back to St. Johns as ballast in the sailing ships, but more often brought to England - Their ships flew the house flag was 'Newmans Chequers (blue and white)

The Disillusionment of the Monasteries and rise of The Duke of Bedford.

The dissolution of the mon

asteries under the rule of Oliver Cromwell's Parliament, on the 3rd March 1539. Dr. John Tregonwell came to Tavistock and the Abbott and twenty monks assembled within their beautiful octagonal chapter house for their last time in their accustomed stalls they signed and sealed the deeds of surrender.

 

Orders were now given to dismantle the shrine of St Rumon to convey its gold, silver and jewelled ornaments to the town of London, to sell the fittings from the church and monastery and to stripe lead from the roof, six bells were sold for £50 1Os. 6d. The wardens of the Parish Church paid £5  6s. 8d. "To the kyngs visitours" for the paving stones, etc. The commissioner brought with them a warrant signed by Cromwell, appointing pensions for the Abbott and his brethren of £ 100 and lesser amounts to the monks. According to tradition, the Abbott lived on for another ten years in Tavistock at the top of the hill in West Street.

 

The government set up a Council of the West with jurisdiction over Devon, Cornwall, Somersett and Dorset, with Tavistock the town furthest West - John - 1st Baron Russell, was appointed president of the Council, he also possessed lands and offices valued at £556 a year that lay outside Devon and Cornwall, insufficient to sustain the quasi-viceregal dignity now conferred upon him. Accordingly on the 4th July 1539 the king granted him the site of Tavistock Abbey and the greater part of its possessions temporal and spiritual it’s Abbey with nearly 6000 acres of its former lands, and Awliscombe bringing a gross value of his new property to £1,050 per year. Although Hatherleigh, Abbotsham, Roborough, Isles of Sicily and the Tamar Fishery were exchanged for The Manor of Blackawton, the Dominican Friar at Exeter the rectories of Dunkeswell.

 

It is apparent that the gift was subject to considerable drawbacks that entitled the King to take possession not only of the Tavistock Estates but of all of Russell's other property whenever it passed by inheritance to a minor who would be aged under fourteen. The King also had the right to put the heir's marriage up for sale in a highly competitive market. Secondly the act of 1536 had provided that in granting away the monastic property the Crown should always reserve a tenth of the annual value

 

The Civil War.

 

Civil War (1644-6) In 1644 the Earl of Bedford cast his lot with the Parliamentary Army, which was garrisoned at Fitsford Tavistock but Launceston were Royalist. A sermish took place between the two sides, between Week and Quither on the field known as Battle Field. (My father Edmund lived at Week, remembers finding a sword in the field called Battle Field). Plymouth resisted the siege for all through the war as it could be supplied from the sea.


The geographical features of the Tavistock  Area.

 

Up until the first half of the nineteen century there was more reliance on pack horses than wheeled vehicles. It was a feature of the pack horse routes that they made direct connections, point to point, uphill and down dale, for example the road from Tavistock to Liddaton went past Sandy Park, which is now the home of the Tavistock Rugby Club, skirting Brentor to Bowden Hill and straight down a steep rough track to Liddaton Manor near where Providence Chapel stood. Another old road was a line from Milton Abbott Church over Rams Down, pass Splatt Mill, Marystowe and Lewtrenchard Churches coming out at Lewdown School.

Communications out of the Tavistock area were limited as it is bounded by the River Walkham running into the Tavy before it reaches the Tamar to the South, then upstream to Lifton, where the River Lyd also meets the Tarnar to Dartmoor. This means the only routes out of the Tavistock area were to Roborough and Cornwood in the South, Princetown in the East, through Lydford for Okehampton, by crossing the Lyd to Lewdown and Lifton in the north and lastly to Cornwall in the West by the three bridges Greystone, Horsebridge and Newbridge. This resulted in the Tavistock area being isolated and self contained. In 1798 John Taylor a nineteen-year old came to Tavistock to manage the Wheal Friendship copper mine at Mary Tavy. There was virtually no wheeled transport in the area nor any roads fit to it. Mineral ores coal lime, etc. Carried to and from Mowellham over step, muddy and wet tracks by horse and mule trains, thirty or fifty in number often with great cruelty. Starting from the Abbey bridge, Taylor was in charge of the construction of the Tavistock Canal that is only four and a half miles from the Quay at Morwellham. It took fourteen years to construct the canal, tunnelling one and a half miles under Morwell Down. When the Tavistock canal was finished in 1817, it had a 237 ft double track (railway) incline down to the quays at Morwellham worked by water wheel. The Quays could take ships of two hundred tons with a timber yard, blacksmith shop and copper ore yards. Shipping the heavy ore away, by the mid 1800s 16000 tons had been transported but it made little profit. The canal is now used to supply water to the present day hydroelectric station. Taylor Square in Tavistock is named after him.

Following the Napoleonic wars there was an increase in England's population in the 1820's, with the shift to industrial areas giving a great shortage of food, the reduction of agricultural labourers and rising of farm prices. This encouraged the Duke of Bedford to modernise his land holdings around Tavistock and he set about building new farmsteads, consolidating the small farms into larger holdings, the farms were built using specified designs which included the following - a stack yard for corn, a barn thresher driven by a water wheel or sometimes a horse round (a horse driven shaft) a granary, chaff, mangle, store for fattening cattle, tie ups for cattle and a covered dung yard to prevent leaching of the fertiliser in the dung.

Chillaton comes of age as a Village.

George Brendon was born at Uppaton, a fine horse man, said "about 1870 there was a ford across the steam in Chillaton, later it was bridged over and the square levelled, shute of clean water supplied from the manganese mine". The Landlord of The Chichester Arms fixed a light over it. People use to dance by the light of it. When it was stolen, the poem went something like this -

                 "the light has gone to Kingdom come,

                 or up some street or lane,

                 Rasher's lamp will never be seen again"

Nibby Rasher was the landlords nickname.

It is interesting, a square glass globe with the words 'Chichester Arms' on three sides has been found. It had not appeared in any pictures of the pub over the last hundred years. Is this the one referred to in the poem?

He told of another story - "a wagon load of quick lime from Lee Quarry going into the river by the ford - the result of a gunshot - the horse bolted - spilling the lime into the stream, All the fish downstream to Sydenham were killed". Later George Brendon ran The Falcon Hotel Bude and operated North Cornwall Stage Coach Company, one of which was the Stage Coach Service - Bude to Bideford was the last horse drawn stage service in England 1923.

The Meeting Place to sell Livestock.

In former years, there were livestock sales at Milton Abbot and Lewdown besides those at Tavistock and Launceston. Probably the closest sale field to Chillaton was on the road to Tavistock, where the road meets the Brentor road, now known as Iron Railing, on Heathfield. You can still see the little triangular beech wood near the crossroad's, which was known as "The cow and Calf', after two white quartz stones which are seen standing close to the road hedge. Bunches of cattle that had been collected here, perhaps they would bought for 'The Royal William Yard' to victual The Royal Navy Ships, sailing from Devonport. The cattle would then be driven by a man called a drover using some smart dogs, covered the junctions so the animals did not run off, down side roads. One man who name escapes me at the moment, did not have any arms, either he had been born like that or had lost them in an accident. He made living as a drover. It is difficult to think of a trade a man could have done, having such a disability, could have done in those times. He lived on the roads by his wits. To eat he would ask for his food to be put in a bowl, then eat it like a dog. In his pocket, he kept a handkerchief - and asked someone to wipe his face. He had in his pocket, money to pay his way. If anyone thought they could take advantage of him, his dog soon put them in their place. Some cattle, which were transported arrived on the foreshore, outside the Royal William Yard, they were then driven through the gates- killed in the abettor and salted down into salt beef for the English naval ships.

 

The Gubbins on Heathfield.

To be called "a silly gubbins", was a local term of abuse - said when you had done something forgetful or out of character. Gubbins was the name for the wild people who lived in Lydford Gorge and on Heathfield, they lived outside society, who I believe lived by hunting and poaching, they may have been be a relic of the Celtic forebear's.

 

Dartmoor and it's Livestock

Geographically Devon farming falls into three regions, there was little trade in livestock across their boundaries. As the breeds suited the areas farmed.

  • South Devon, the 'South Hams' - fertile red soil, sometimes hilly with their own breeds of cattle and sheep, called South Devons.
  • The Dartmoor Region stretching from the Bere Alston peninsular northwards to Lidford, the over the Moor to Mortonhamstead and Ashburton. This was the home of the Black Cattle, celtic cattle related to the Welsh Black, who in Victorian times they were breed to the Galloway from Scotland. The sheep were large with longwool known as Greyface Dartmoors. They produced a heavy wool with a long staple, rams fleeces weighed sometimes up to 40lbs when shorn. Farmers of this area moved there stock through the year with the season. For example at Tavistock Goose Fair, someone from Bere Alston might meet and know someone from across the Moor and perhaps drive his stock home from market.
  • Lastly North Devon, which is generally everything North of the present 'A30'. The Culm Measures or clay country which are not suited to growing corn and soft and muddy in the winter. Home of the smaller North Devon Cattle or 'Red Ruby. The sheep were smaller - Devon Closewools.

 

Mining and Minerals.

 

In the early 1800's the seventh Duke of Bedford in the exploitation of minerals had become very wealthy and to facilitate the development of mining and general infrastructure and connections to the railheads promoted new carriage roads in the district which can often be seen as diverging away from the old tracks and can be seen by the emergence of toll houses. This also had the effect of providing employment in the downturn in the mines due to exploitation of alluvial tin in the far east. For example the Toll House at the Chillaton Hill down around Windwhistle Corner to the square by-passing the old road behind the pub. Then a new road was built from the White House to Lewtrenchard and on to Lewdown.

With the demand for arsenic there was a revival of mining fortunes. Amongst others there was a mine at Mary Tavy where the ore was heated and condensed in long corridors with doors and the arsenic was collected off the walls. This was loaded into wooden barrels and shipped to America where it was used in the control the 'cotton bole weevil'. Every year there was enough arsenic produced to kill the world’s population many times over.

Manganese began to be used increasingly in the production of chlorine gas for bleaching cotton and in the manufacture of steel, armoured plate for the great Battleships being built. The mines worked lodes on an east/west strike for about four miles either side of Chillaton, it is reputed John Prout found the manganese - a shaft was named after him. He gave a double rose on midsummer day in leewe of rent.. When the new road around Windwhistle Corner was surveyed by Dan Ward of Ward and Chowen and Chichester the mining entrepreneur, they found manganese that was to become the Hogstor Group of Mines, there were also mines at Quither and Littery. This caused Chillaton to be developed, with the introduction of trades to serve the mines and many of the workmen who flooded into the village. The pub at Chillaton changed from the Carpenters Arms to the Chichester Arms. Chichester owned the land from Park Farm to the Round House which also included the little triangle of land where the Public Hall and Reading Room stood which was sometimes used as an overflow from the school opposite and now they are now dwelling houses.

On the other side of the River Lyd at Coryton there is extensive slate mines (T & W Symonds), producing roofing slate. A similar quarry with kilns for burning lime was dug at Lee (Wrn & R R). The lime was used for building, whitewashing and on farmland, neutralising the acidic soil. The 1908 Ordinance  Survey  Map, shows the floor covering an acre or more, with a tramway system and incline slope. The now derelict office and lime kiln and spoils can be still be seen from the quarry near the railway line. However, because the level of the floor was lower than the river, it flooded in a matter of days when there was a ingress of water from the Lyd. It was worked by the Mounce family, who are still agricultural engineers at Lifton. After being flooded out the quarry, they developed a new quarry up the hill for building aggregate and they built a flume to wash the stone down to the road leading into Lee Farm. It was worked by water that was pumped up from the lake that is now Lee Quarry. After the Second World War the stone machinery was converted to corn drying.

Survey in the Chillaton Leats, Water Wheels, Mines & the Turbine at Burns Hall.

 

The Railway

With the coming of the Railways Brunels Broad Gauge was brought from London to Plymouth (1848) to Tavistock (1858) and later progressed to Lydford, down the Lyd Valley with a station at Coryton and on as far as Launceston (1865), it was converted to standard gauge after 30 years of operation and was to become part of

The Great Western Railway. The Railways encouraged the import of heavy goods and products of the industrial revolution with the concentration of manufactured products, which has continued to this time. It affected local tradesmen who did not have the scale of production to compete. As in recent history it has led to the closure of local specialised shops - bakers butchers etc. in favour of the supermarket.

The London & South Western Railway later to become the Southern Railway was a late arrival (1874), to Lydford where it terminated and transhipped in goods shed to the broad gauge Then for several years was able to travel over the road gauge route using a third rail to Plymouth. Later it had its own track to Plymouth via Tavistock and Bere Alston, (where there was a branch line to Callington opening in 1890).

The Great Western Railway Exeter and the Southern skirted Dartmoor in opposite directions. So trains for Plymouth left Exeter (St David's) in different directions, were to arrive in Plymouth (North Road), again from the opposite

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