The Widecombe-in-the-Moor Website
Widecombe Group History Talks
The Life and Times of 17th C Moretonians – Bill Hardiman
Bill gave a very interesting talk on Mortonhampstead (longest place name in England) which started out as Moreton in the Moor. The Alms Houses were built in 1450 in the Italian loggia style and had a ‘make over’ in 1637. 16 families lived there and they became the work house. They nearly fell down in 1939 and the National Trust took them over in the 1950’s.
Mortonhampstead is made up of several Manors. One of which was the Manor of Doccombe owned by one of the knights involved in the murder of Thomas Beckett. As atonement it was given to the monks of Canterbury. Mardon, another Manor, has the largest hut circle in England. Moreton is mentioned in the Exeter Book and was a Royal Manor.
The W.H. Smith family owned 5,500 acres and what is now Bovey Castle
Bill gave some interesting dates. One of which was 1310 when the Courtenay family took over as Lords of the Manor and remained as such for 600 years. Sir Simon Leach was given Moreton as security on a loan of £3,000 to Courtenay, who was his God son. He was the son of a blacksmith from Crediton who apparently bought some iron bars which turned out to be gold. He trained to be a lawyer as they were the ones who made the money (nothing’s changed there then).
There was no rector in Moreton before the 17th Century and in 1672 a non conformist chapel was built, one of the first in the country. During the Civil War Moreton was for the Parliamentarians and Chagford for Royalists.
Customery Tenants were governed by Manorial Laws and could hold the tenancy for ‘3 lives’ (a ‘life’ is 33 years as Christ lived for 33 years).
Wool was the main source of income and in 1698 wool merchants petitioned against Irish ‘imports’.
The population of Moreton grew between 1544 and 1861 because of the wool and tin and then declined.
The Manors carried on until the 19th C and even in 1920 they still had control over woods.
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