The Widecombe-in-the-Moor Website
Widecombe History Group Talk
On Wednesday 3rd December Dr Frances Billinge, who has been writing articles on the local history of where she lives, gave us a talk on the Ancient Borough of Bovey Tracey.
This research was based on evidence from the Domesday survey, charters from 1219, the Church Rate of 1596, the Gulielmus Map held at Devon Heritage Centre, Court books from 1654, the 1841 Tithe Map, and census data. A charter for markets was given in 1219, and a subsequent one for fairs and the establishment of the borough in 1260. This is when the new town was laid out and burgesses bought narrow plots of land which opened on to the main streets. The front was a shop, living and workshop quarters were behind and then a long garden plot area which often included an apple orchard. Some of these plots, called burgage plots, still exist along Mary Street and East Street. The burgesses ran the town through a Court Leet. The town made its money from markets and fairs and would have been an important local trading centre. The boundaries of the borough can be traced, starting from the lower edge of the town at Pludda. The mill, mentioned in Domesday, was near here at the site of the Dartmoor Garage and the Dolphin Hotel. A little further on was Stray Park where the borough rounded up stray animals and charged a toll for their release. The bridge over the River Bovey was an important crossing and the site for the ford is still evident today. Water for household use would have been collected at the bridge, as shown in Spreat's illustration of 1844. The green was where the current Town Hall now stands. Markets and fairs were held here and it also provided the town with a water supply. They come to life by seeing their weights and measures which are exhibited in the Town Hall. The eastern end of the borough was at the top of East Street, before the parish church, which was not part of the borough. Interestingly, the tithes from the church went to St. John's Hospital, Bridgewater. From East Street at the top of Trough Lane lies Portreeve's Park. This is one of the two fields owned by the borough. The other is along the road to Moretonhampstead. They were said to be a gift from an early Lord Courtenay as Lord of the Manor. The income from these fields paid for the annual beating of the bounds with its accompanying feasting and drinking. When the borough was subsumed by Newton Abbot Rural District Council it refused to give up these fields and put them into a trust. That trust sold them to build almshouses and continues to offer educational grants to local people. So the work of the ancient borough continues. Although a house on East Street is called Manor House this is not where the manor stood. It was outside the borough in the prestigious setting where Parke house now stands. One of the ancient boundary stones of the borough is sited in the wall of Cross Cottage. This is not its original setting, as it was moved from near Attway Farm when the road was widened. The beating of the bounds at Rogationtide beats this stone with a bunch of nettles in the ancient tradition. This research has led to much interesting work within the borough. A Garden Finds day was held at Bovey Tracey Library supported by Devon County Council, Bovey Tracey Town Council, The Devonshire Association, Dartmoor National Park Authority and Bovey Tracey Heritage Trust. Part of the stimulus for this day was from Dr Billinge being involved in the North Hall excavation at Widecombe. Test pits have been dug in several burgage plots and Dr Billinge and her husband Malcolm brought along a range of the finds so far so that we could see them. It is helping to build up a picture of the early borough.
Dr Billinge will be leading us on a walk to beat the bounds of the borough at 6.30 pm on Wednesday 29th April 2015. This is being hosted by the Bovey Tracey Heritage Trust, who will kindly provide us with refreshments.
Widecombe-in-the-Moor - The Heart of Dartmoor
Site Copyright © 2017 Widecombe History Group Registered Charity Number 1144684