General history: Religious houses, boroughs, markets and fairs

Magna Britannia: Volume 6, Devonshire. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1822.

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Daniel Lysons. Samuel Lysons, 'General history: Religious houses, boroughs, markets and fairs', in Magna Britannia: Volume 6, Devonshire, (London, 1822) pp. xxxi-xxxviii. British History Online [accessed 22 May 2024].

Daniel Lysons. Samuel Lysons. "General history: Religious houses, boroughs, markets and fairs", in Magna Britannia: Volume 6, Devonshire, (London, 1822) xxxi-xxxviii. British History Online, accessed May 22, 2024,

Lysons, Daniel. Lysons, Samuel. "General history: Religious houses, boroughs, markets and fairs", Magna Britannia: Volume 6, Devonshire, (London, 1822). xxxi-xxxviii. British History Online. Web. 22 May 2024,

In this section

Monasteries, Colleges, and ancient Hospitals.

The Benedictine monks had a priory at Exeter; a mitred abbey at Tavistock; a cell at Pilton, near Barnstaple; an alien cell at Cowick, near Exeter; and another at Modbury. The nuns of this order had a priory at Polesloe, near Exeter. The Austin canons had monasteries at Frithelstock, Hartland, and Plympton; a cell at Marsh, near Exeter; an alien priory at Otterton; and, according to Leland, cells at Axmouth and Sidmouth. The nuns of this order had priories at Canonleigh and Cornworthy. The Cistertians had abbies at Buckland Monachorum, Buckfastleigh, Dunkeswell, Ford in Thorncombe, (removed from Brightley, in Oakhampton,) and at Newenham in Axminster. The Cluniac monks had priories at Barnstaple, and at Carswell in Plymtree, and an alien priory dedicated to St. James, near Exeter. The Premonstratensians had an abbey at Tor. The Austin friers had priories at Barnstaple and Tavistock; the Dominicans had a priory at Exeter; the Franciscans, or Grey friers, had convents at Exeter and Plymouth; the White friers one at Plymouth; and the Trinitarians one at Totnes: Tanner mentions a priory of the latter order at Blakedon. In the year 1331 Sir Richard Stapeldon had the King's licence for founding a Carthusian monastery on any of his estates in the bishopric of Exeter (fn. n1) : but it does not appear that such foundation was effected.

There are said to have been some monasteries at Exeter, destroyed at an early period, and priories at Churchill in East Downe, Townstall, Dartmouth, and Indio in Bovey Tracey; but the existence of some of these is doubtful, and no particulars are known of any of them. The Knights Templars had a preceptory or hospital at Clayhanger.

The churches of Axminster, Beer Ferrers, Chulmleigh, Clovelly, Crediton, Haccombe, South Molton, Ottery St. Mary, Plympton, Slapton, and Stoke in Teignhead, were formerly collegiate. There was a collegiate chapel within the castle at Exeter. The only collegiate bodies remaining are the dean and chapter, and the vicars choral of the church of St. Peter Exeter, unless we reckon under this head Tiverton, which, having four portionists, has sometimes been deemed a collegiate church.

Some of the ancient hospitals, founded before the Reformation, still remain, as St. John's, St. Mary Magdalen's, and God's House, founded by William Wynard, at Exeter; the ancient hospital of St. Mary Magdalen, at Honiton, endowed by Abbot Chard; that of St. Margaret at Pilton, near Barnstaple, and Greneway's and Waldron's almshouses at Tiverton.

There were ancient hospitals, now demolished or disused, at Barnstaple, Clist Gabriel, Crediton; St. Alexis' cell, and Lord Bonville's almshouse at Exeter, and ancient hospitals at Plympton, Tavistock, Teignmouth, and Totnes.

Borough and Market Towns.

Besides the two county members, Devonshire sends 24 members to parliament; two for Exeter, and two for each of the following boroughs: Ashburton, Barnstaple, Beer Alston, Dartmouth, Honiton, Oakhampton, Plymouth, Plympton, Tavistock, Tiverton, and Totnes. The following boroughs formerly sent members to parliament: Bradninch, Crediton, Fremington, Lidford, Modbury, South Molton, and Great Torrington. The ports of Exmouth and Teignmouth sent representatives to the great councils for maritime affairs. It has often been said that what are called the disused boroughs, which formerly sent members to parliament, ceased to send them in consequence of having been excused, under the plea of poverty, from what was considered as a burden, since the boroughs paid the expenses of their members during their attendance in parliament. I have never found any record in confirmation of this tradition, except in the instance of Great Torrington: a copy of the record is given in the note. (fn. n2) It seems that the burgesses of Torrington, to get rid of the burden of which they complained, did not scruple in their statement to deviate a little from the truth, since they represent it as a new burden imposed on them by the sheriff, they never having been summoned to send burgesses to parliament till the 21 of Edw. III. It is even stated that they had searched the rolls to prove this fact. Yet the burgesses for Torrington are regularly entered from the 23d of Edw. I. to the 15th of Edw. III. It appears therefore that they did not carry their researches back beyond the 16th. It is clear that the sentiments which the burgesses of Torrington express were by no means universal at that period, for about the same time we find their neighbours at Barnstaple claiming the right of sending burgesses to parliament, as an important privilege.

The editor of the Magna Britannia (1720) enumerates 40 markettowns in this county; Bradninch is reckoned among them; Moreton Hampstead and others are omitted. Among Mr. Chapple's Collections is an imperfect list of market-towns, dated Oct. 1775, amounting to 40, including Bow, Bradninch, Dodbrook, Hartland, Lifton (fn. n3), Sheepwash, Thorncombe, and, with a query, Beer Alston: at all these there are now no markets. He refers to a list, which he calls Thorn's list, which had omitted the markets of Beer Alston, Bradninch, &c. Mr. Chapple says, that Teignmouth had then lately assumed a market, although he does not insert it in his list; he observes, that the market-towns of Devon had generally been reckoned at forty.

Appledore Wednesday and Saturday.
Ashburton Saturday.
Axminster Saturday.
Bampton Wednesday and Saturday.
Barnstaple Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.
Bideford Tuesday and Saturday.
South Brent Friday.
Brixham Saturday.
Chagford Saturday.
Chudleigh Saturday.
Chulmleigh Friday.
Collumpton Saturday.
Colyton Thursday and Saturday.
Crediton Saturday.
Culmstock Friday.
Dartmouth Friday.
Exeter Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday.
Hatherleigh Tuesday and Saturday.
Holsworthy Wednesday.
Honiton Saturday.
Ilfracombe Saturday.
Kingsbridge Saturday.
Modbury Thursday.
South Molton Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Moreton Hampstead Saturday.
Newton Abbot Wednesday.
Oakhampton Saturday.
Ottery St. Mary Tuesday.
Plymouth Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Plymouth Dock Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Plympton Friday.
Sidmouth Tuesday and Saturday.
Stonehouse Wednesday.
Tavistock Friday.
East Teignmouth Saturday.
Tiverton Tuesday and Saturday.
Topsham Saturday.
Torrington Saturday.
Totnes Saturday.
Uffculme Wednesday.

The principal corn-markets are Exeter, Tavistock, Totnes, Barnstaple, Plymouth, and Kingsbridge.

A market is about to be established at Torquay.

Disused Markets.
West Allington. Denbury. Newton Poppleford in Aylesbeare.
Awliscombe. Dodbrooke.
Beer Alston, in Beer Ferrers. Ermington. Paignton.
Harton. Pilton.
High Bickington. Broad Hembury. Rackenford.
Bovey Tracey. Holcombe in Winkleigh. Sidbury.
Bow or Nymet Tracey. Ipplepen. Silverton.
Bradninch. Kenneford in Kenne. Tamerton Foliot.
Buckfastleigh. Kenton. North Tawton.
Buckland Monachorum. Langford in Collumpton. Thorncombe.
East Budleigh. Lidford. Witheridge.
Canonleigh in Burlescombe. Moreleigh. Woodbury.
Newport in Bishop's Tawton. South Zeal in South Tawton.
Bishop's Clist.
Cockington. Newton Bushell in Highweek.
Comb Martin.
Fairs and Great Markets.
Towns, &c. On what day held. Remarks.
Alphington First Wednesday after June 20; Wednesday in the week after Michaelmas day.
Ashburton First Thursday in March; first Thursday in June; first Thursday in August; and first Thursday in November. The November fair has a great show of sheep.
Ashwater First Tuesday in May; and first Monday after August 1.
Axminster First Tuesday after April 25.; first Tuesday after June 14.; and first Wednesday after October 10.
Bampton Tuesday in Whitsun-week; and last Thursday in October. Great markets — Wednesday before Lady Day; and the last Wednesday in April. The October fair is one of the largest fairs in the west of England for sheep.
Barnstaple September 19. Great markets — Friday before April 21.; and second Friday in December. Cattle and horses.
High Bickington May 14.
Bideford February 14.; July 19.; November 14.
Bovey Tracey Easter Monday; Ascension-Day; first Thursday in July; and the first Thursday in November.
Bow Ascension Day; and November 22. Great market — third Thursday in March.
Bradworthy September 9.
Brent The last Tuesday in April; and the last Tuesday in September.
Bridestowe The second Wednesday in June, unless on a Saturday or Tuesday; in which cases it is held on the Monday following.
Bridgetown, in Berry Pomeroy July 25. Now only a holiday fair.
Buckfastleigh The third Thursday in June; and the second Thursday in September.
Buckland Brewer Whit-Tuesday, and November 2.
Buckland Monachorum Trinity Tuesday.
Chawleigh May 6.; December 11.
Chadleigh Easter Tuesday. Horses, bullocks, and sheep.
Third Thursday in June; October 2., unless on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, in which cases it is held on the Tuesday following. Sheep and bullocks.
Chulmleigh Third Friday in March; Wednesday in Easter-week; and the last Wednesday in July.
Churchenford, in Church Staunton January 25.; and March 6.
Broad Clist First Monday in April, and the first Monday in September.
Collumpton The first Wednesday in May, and the first Wednesday in November. Cattle, cloth, &c.
Colyford, in Colyton The first Wednesday after March 11.
Colyton May 1.; October 14.
Comb Martin Whit-Monday.
Cornwood The first Monday in May, and the fourth Monday in September.
Crediton May 11.; August 21.; (but if on Friday or Saturday, the Monday following,) and September 21. Great markets — Saturday preceding the last Wednesday in April.
Culmstock May 21.; and the Wednesday before September 29.
Dawlish Easter-Monday A holiday fair.
Dodbrooke Wednesday before Palm-Sunday.
Ermington February 2.; June 24. On the decline.
Exeter The second Wednesday in March, June, August, and December. Great market—the second Tuesday in every month.
Hartland Wednesday in Easter-week, and September 25. Great market—the second Saturday in March.
Hatherleigh May 21.: June 22.; September 7.; November 9.
Broad Hembury November 30.
Holsworthy April 27.; July 9.; and October 2. If the latter day happen on Friday, Saturday, or Monday, it begins on the Tuesday following. The last is a great fair for cattle and all sorts of commodities.
Great market on the second Wednesday in February.
Honiton Wednesday after July 19.
Ilfracombe April 14th; and the first Saturday after August 23.
Lifton February 2.; Ascension Day; and October 28.
Modbury May 4., if it happen on Tuesday or Wednesday; otherwise, on the Tuesday following. A great fair for cattle, cloth, &c. &c.
Great market—the second Tuesday in every month.
North Molton Tuesday after May 11.; November 12.
South Molton Wednesday before June 22.; Wednesday after August 26. Horses and cattle.
Great markets — Saturday after February 13., and March 25.; before April 23.; August 1.; October 10.; and December 12.
Moreton Hampstead The third Thursday in July, and the last Thursday in November. Great market — Saturday before Whitsun-week.
Newton Abbot Midsummer-Day, if on a Wednesday; if not, the Wednesday following; September 11., under the same rule; November 6.
Newton St. Cyres Monday before Midsummer Day.
Bishops Nympton April 14.; October 20.
Oakhampton The second Tuesday after March 11.; May 14.; the first Wednesday after July 6.; August 5.; the first Tuesday after September 11.; the first Wednesday after October 11.
Saturday after Christmas. A great holiday fair.
Great market — Saturday before Christmas.
Ottery St. Mary Tuesday before Palm-Sunday; Tuesday before Trinity-Sunday; August 15.
Paignton Tuesday in Whitsun-week. A holiday fair.
Plymouth The first Monday in April, and the first Monday in November. Great market — the second Thursday in every month.
Plympton February 25.; eve of the Annunciation, O. S.; August 12.; and October 28.; unless it fall after Thursday, in which case it is held on the Tuesday following.
Rackenford Wednesday before September 19.
Sampford Peverell The last Wednesday in April. A great horse fair.
September 9. A holiday fair.
Seaton Whit-Tuesday. A holiday fair.
Silverton The first Thursday in March, and the first Thursday in July.
Stokenham Easter-Tuesday. A holiday fair.
Stonehouse The first Wednesday in May; the second Wednesday in September, and the day following.
Tamerton Foliot The third Wednesday in July.
Tavistock January 16.; May 6.; September 19.; October 10.; and December 11. Great markets — the last Friday in June, and the first Friday in November. It has recently been determined, that in lieu of these fairs and great markets, there shall, after the first of January 1822, be fairs on the second Wednesday in January, May, July, September, October, November, and December.
North Tawton The third Tuesday in April; October 3.; and December 18.
East Teignmouth The third Tuesday in January; the last Tuesday in February; and the last Tuesday in September.
Thorncombe Easter-Tuesday.
Thorverton The last Monday in February. Fat sheep.
Monday after July 18. The most celebrated fair for lambs in the west of England.
Tiverton The second Tuesday after Trinity. Cattle, horses, &c.
Michaelmas-Day. Great markets — the second Tuesday in March; Tuesday before April 25.; August 26.; December 14., when on a Tuesday, otherwise the Tuesday after.
Topsham The first Wednesday after July 10.
Torrington May 4.; July 5.; October 10. Great market — the third Saturday in March.
Totnes May 12.; October 28.
Twobridges, in Lidford Wednesday after August 16. Horses, sheep, cattle, &c.
Uffculme Wednesday in Passion-week; June 29.; and the middle Wednesday in September. On the decline.
Ugborough Great market the third Tuesday in every month.
Underwood, in Plympton St. Mary July 5.
Whimple Monday before Michaelmas. Chiefly for sheep.
Wilmington, in Widworthy Monday after St. Matthew.
Winkleigh Monday after July 7.; but if that day happens on a Sunday, it is then held on the Monday se'nnight.
Witheridge June 24. A small fair.
Great markets — the last Wednesday in April; the first Wednesday after September 21.; and the first Wednesday in November On the decline.
Yealmpton Great market — the fourth Wednesday in every month.


  • n1. Rot. Pat. 5 Edw. III.
  • n2. Rex ballivis et probis hominibus et toti communitati villæ de Toriton in comitatu Devoniæ salutem. Ex parte vestra nobis est mandatum quod cum villa prædicta ad mittendum aliquos homines pro eadem villa ad parliamenta nostra onerari non debeat, nec aliquos homines pro dicta villa ad parliamenta nostra, vel progenitorum nostrorum quondam Regum Angliæ non miserit, nec mittere consueverit, ante annum regni nostri vicesimum primum, quo tempore vicecomes noster comitatus prædicti, qui tune fuit, dictam villam de Toriton burgum, et duos homines pro eodem burgo, ad veniendum ad Parliamentum nostrum dicto anno vicesimo tentum summonitos fuisse malitiose in cancellariam nostram retornavit. Et sic eadem villa de Toriton ab eodem anno vicesimo primo ad inveniendum duos homines pro eadem villa in singulis annis Parliamentis nostris tentis, prætextu retornati prædicti onerata extitit. Et vos ea occasione laboribus ct expensis multipliciter gravati fuistis, ad vestrum dampnum non modicum et depressionem manifestam; super quo nobis supplicastis vobis remedium adhiberi opportunum. Et quia scrutatis rotulis et memorandis cancellariæ nostræ, non est compertum nomina aliquorum hominum pro dicta villa seu Burgo Toriton, ad veniendum ad Parliamenta nostra ante dictum vicesimum primum retornata fuisse. Nos nolentes dictam villam de Toriton occasione prædicta indebite onerari, vos et villam prædictam ad inveniendum seu mittendum aliquos homines ad Parliamenta nostra, de cætero communis summonitionis parliamentorum eorundem, habemus et tenemus excusatos: et vos inde exoneramus per præsentes in perpetuum. In cujus rei testimonium, &c. Teste Rege apud West. 18 die Maii.
  • n3. Lifton never had a regular market; but some years ago butchers' meat was exposed to sale weekly.