Moretonhampstead (anciently Moreton Hampstead) is a market town, parish and ancient manor in Devon, situated on the north-eastern edge of Dartmoor, within the Dartmoor National Park. The parish now includes the hamlet of Doccombe, and it is surrounded clockwise from the north by the parishes of Drewsteignton, Dunsford, Bridford, Bovey Tracey, Lustleigh, North Bovey and Chagford.
|OS grid reference||SX752860|
|• London||215 miles (346 km)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Post town||NEWTON ABBOT|
|Police||Devon and Cornwall|
|Fire||Devon and Somerset|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
At the 2011 census the population of the parish was 1,703, and Moorland electoral ward, in which Moretonhampstead lies, had a population of 2,806. The parish church is dedicated to St. Andrew. Moretonhampstead is twinned with Betton in France.
The Domesday Book of 1086 records the manor as MORTONE. This part of the name derives from the Old English for a farmstead in moorland, referring to the town's situation on the edge of Dartmoor. By 1493 "Hampstead" had been added to the name. This addition simply means "homestead", and The Oxford Names Companion (1991) speculates that this may be a family name, or a nearby place. However The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names (2004) simply says the reason for the addition is unknown.
The central region of Devon was occupied by the Saxons soon after 682 AD. It was divided into vast estates, and one of these divisions included all land within the boundaries of the rivers Teign and Bovey, with Moreton as its major settlement.
The present parish of over 6,000 acres (24 km2) is the residue of that ancient royal estate. It remained a royal estate immediately after the Norman Conquest of 1066, as is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it is listed as the 45th of the 72 Devonshire holdings of King William the Conqueror. The manor was held by grand serjeanty from the king by Richard de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster (1259–1326) during the reign of King Edward I (1272–1307), for the annual yielding of one sparrow hawk.
After that time it was the seat of Sir Philip de Courtenay (killed at Stirling 1314), second son of Sir Hugh de Courtenay (died 1292), feudal baron of Okehampton, by his wife Eleanor le Despenser (died 1328), sister of Hugh le Despenser, 1st Earl of Winchester, and younger brother of Hugh de Courtenay, 1st/9th Earl of Devon (1276–1340) of Tiverton Castle. He died childless when Moreton Hampstead was inherited by his elder brother the Earl of Devon, who gave Moreton Hampstead to his third son Robert de Courtenay, who made it his seat. Robert's grandson William de Courtenay (1377–1388) died childless, and eventually the manor became the property of Sir Philip Courtenay (1340–1406) of Powderham, 5th or 6th son of Hugh Courtenay, 2nd Earl of Devon (1303–1377). Thenceforth it descended with the Powderham estate and, in the time of Pole (died 1635), belonged to Francis Courtenay (1576–1638), de jure 4th Earl of Devon.
Wool and (in later years) the manufacture of woollen cloth formed the basis of the town's economy for over 700 years. The economy was evidently healthy when Moreton Hampstead established a water-powered fulling mill before the end of the 13th century.
In 1207 King John granted a weekly market and an annual five-day fair, indicating that Moretonhampstead had developed into an important local community. The town grew steadily through the Middle Ages and remained prosperous until the end of the 17th century, when the wool industry began to decline. The town continued to be a local trading centre and a rest stop for travellers on the difficult routes across Dartmoor and from Exeter and Newton Abbot.
A series of fires in the 20th century destroyed many of Moretonhampstead's ancient buildings, but sufficient still remain to demonstrate the Saxon and medieval heritage, and its later industrial prosperity. Much of the town is a designated conservation area, with many listed buildings being of architectural and historic interest. The whole parish lies within Dartmoor National Park.
When King John granted the town its charter during the 13th century, the rent was set as one sparrowhawk per year. The bird has become something of a symbol for the town and is to be incorporated into works of public art under development by an artist in residence, Roger Dean.
Rev Dr James Fynes (1695 – 1774), a kinsman of the Dukes of Newcastle, served as Rector from 1735 until his death. Previously Vice-President of Magdalen College, Oxford, he married Elizabeth Bertie but they had no children, and his property in Moretonhampstead was inherited by his nephew, also James Fynes (died 1798).
Places of interest
The Cross Tree
The Cross Tree, immortalised by R. D. Blackmore in his 1882 novel Christowell, is now only represented by a cross minus its shaft, which is enclosed near the almshouses. This famous dancing tree, a fine old elm, cut and clipped in the form of a punch bowl (by which name it was also known), has long since disappeared, and in its place a beech tree has been planted. It was around the original tree that the village lads and lasses would dance and it recorded that French officers on parole from Dartmoor Prison at Princetown during the Napoleonic Wars, "did assemble around the Cross Tree with their Band".
Standing behind the Cross Tree are the famous almshouses, built in solid granite. The date of 1637 on the outside is actually the date they were refurbished. Recent research has shown that the main core of these buildings are at least two hundred years older. Early in the 19th century the building was converted from two tenements into four and the facade was damaged. By 1938 they had fallen into disrepair. In 1940 they were purchased for the town and converted back into two tenements. In 1952 they were purchased by the National Trust.
St Andrew's Church
The Grade I listed parish church, dedicated to St. Andrew, is at the eastern end of the town. Its imposing four-stage tower with pentagonal stair-turret was being built by 1418. The entire church is built of granite blocks although the body is roughcast. It has a two-storey porch, battlemented like the tower. Inside, the north and south aisles are separated from the nave by arcades of five bays, constructed of octagonal granite piers. All the windows are of standard Perpendicular design, and according to Pevsner there is "a singular absence of fitments of interest", due to the heavy restorations the church was subjected to in 1856 and in 1904–5. All the ledger stones were removed with the floor flagstones in the first restoration, but above the south door a wall memorial to Rev Francis Whiddon, MA (died 1656) who "was 32 years minister of this parish" survives. There is also a classical monument by Edward Bowring Stephens to a Captain John Newcombe (died 1855), and a tower screen of wood and glass of 1980.
Moretonhampstead relies heavily on tourism, and has done so for a long time. Its position makes it a base to explore both Dartmoor and Devon. The central part of the town stands at an altitude of 700 feet (210 m) but a short stroll within the parish will elevate the walker to beyond 1,100 feet (340 m) and afford views of the surrounding area. Moretonhampstead has four pubs and three cafes. There is a wide selection of hotels, bed and breakfast, self-catering and camping accommodation.
Moretonhampstead has a good range of sporting facilities and the proximity of Dartmoor makes it popular with ramblers and cyclists, in particular for mountain biking.
Moretonhampstead has an annual carnival, held in the fourth week in August which raises funds for local groups and associations. Since 2012 it has also held an annual flag festival: in 2017 it took place in mid-June. Other events include a fireworks night, annual pantomime, food and drink festival and music events spread throughout the year.
Moretonhampstead railway station was opened by the Moretonhampstead and South Devon Railway on the south side of the town on 26 June 1866. It closed to passengers on 28 February 1959, although goods trains continued until 6 April 1964. After this the goods shed and engine shed continued to be used for many years by a commercial road haulage business.
Bus services are from the car park just west of the town centre and include services to Exeter (359/173) and Plymouth (82).
Sport and recreation
Moretonhampstead has King George's Field, a memorial to King George V. This facility includes indoor courts for basketball etc, a gym and also conference rooms to rent. It has cricket fields a camping site, football facilities and a skate park.
- Tozer, a family surname believed to have arisen in Moretonhampstead in the 15th century.
- "Moretonhampstead Parish". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
- "Devon – Moretonhampstead". Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs to 1516. history.ac.uk. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
- "Local Government Act 1972". legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
- "Map of Devon Parishes" (PDF). Devon County Council. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
- "Ward population 2011". Retrieved 18 February 2015.
- Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Devon: Being Observations on Many Churches in Denonshire. George Oliver and John Pike Jones (editors), 1828, Exeter: E. Woolmer.
- Thorn, Caroline & Frank, (eds.) Domesday Book, (Morris, John, gen.ed.) Vol. 9, Devon, Parts 1 & 2, Phillimore Press, Chichester, 1985, Chapter 1:45
- Hanks, Patrick; Hodges, Flavia; Mills, A. D.; Room, Adrian (2002). The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: the University Press. pp. 1131–2. ISBN 0198605617.
- Victor Watts, ed. (2004). The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names. Cambridge University Press. p. 422. ISBN 978-0-521-16855-7.
- Thorn, Chapter 1:1-72
- Risdon, Tristram (d.1640), Survey of Devon, 1811 edition, London, 1811, with 1810 Additions, p.128
- Pole, Sir William (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon, Sir John-William de la Pole (ed.), London, 1791, p.263
- Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.) The Visitations of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620. Exeter, 1895. p.244
- Hoskins, W.G., A New Survey of England: Devon, Newton Abbot: David & Charles. New edition, 1972. p. 440. ISBN 0-7153-5577-5
- Cherry, Bridget & Pevsner, Nikolaus, The Buildings of England: Devon. Yale University Press, 2004. pp. 576–8. ISBN 978-0-300-09596-8
- Church of St Andrew, Moretonhampstead, British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
- The Beauties of England and Wales, or Delineations, Topographical, Historical and Descriptive of Each County, Vol IV. John Britton and Edward Wedlake Brayley. 1803. London.
- "Annual events". Visit Moretonhampstead. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
- Since 1207, Moretonhampstead has held the right to hold a regular market, making it a market town. However, the parish council has not elected to give itself the status of a town as it could do under s.245(6) of the Local Government Act 1972, so it does not have a town council and cannot elect a Mayor.
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