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Bradninch is located within Mid Devon local authority area. Historically it formed part of Hayridge Hundred. It falls within Cullomton Deanery for ecclesiastical purposes. The Deaneries are used to arrange the typescript Church Notes of B.F.Cresswell which are held in the Westcountry Studies Library. The population was 1187 in 1801 1521 in 1901 . Figures for other years are available on the local studies website.In the valuation of 1334 it was assessed at £02/16/08. The lay subsidy of 1524 valued the community at £11/17/03. In 1641/2 370 adult males signed the Protestation returns. It is recorded as a borough from 1157 and was incorporated in 1604. It had parliamentary representation from the 14th century. A market is recorded from 1208.
A parish history file is held in Cullompton Library. You can look for other material on the community by using the place search on the main local studies database. Further historical information is also available on the Genuki website
Maps: The image below is of the Bradninch area on Donn's one inch to the mile survey of 1765.
On the County Series Ordnance Survey mapping the area is to be found on 1:2,500 sheet 57/9 Six inch (1:10560) sheet 57SW
The National Grid reference for the centre of the area is SS998038. On the post 1945 National Grid Ordnance Survey mapping the sheets are: 1:10,000 (six inch to a mile: sheet SS90SE,ST00SW, 1:25,000 mapping: sheet Explorer 030, Landranger (1:50,000) mapping: sheet 192. Geological sheet 325 also covers the area.
Illustrations: The image below is of Bradninch as included in the Library's illustrations collection. Other images can be searched for on the local studies catalogue.
fair is known from: 14 cent.. [It is intended to include the local section from The glove is up! Devon's historic fairs, by Tricia Gerrish, by kind permission of the author].
Extract from Devon by W.G.Hoskins (1954), included by kind permission of the copyright holder:
BRADNINCH lying in a fold of the hills that rise W. from the Culm valley to 850 ft. at Christ Cross, is a decayed borough and market town with a long history. In the 12th century it was held as an honour or barony with the earldom of Cornwall by Reginald, natural son of Henry I, who created a borough here by charter between 1141 and 1175. (D.A. 24(1951), 204.) King John's charter of 1208 granted the burgesses of Bradninch all such liberties and free customs as the city of Exeter enjoyed, together with a Saturday market and a four-day fair at the feast of St. Dionysius; and in 1238 King Henry III granted the borough a Thursday market and a three-day fair at the festival of the Holy Trinity. In 1337 Bradninch, with other estates, was absorbed into the Duchy of Cornwall, to which it still belongs. The borough was incorporated by James I in 1604, and given a mayor, 12 masters, and a recorder. The Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 removed Bradninch from the list of boroughs, although the report of the commissioners showed that it was far from being as scandalously corrupt as most of the Devon boroughs. Of the annual income of £64 10s., the corporation spent exactly one-half on feasting themselves.
Like many of the East Devon towns, it had a considerable woollen industry and was also noted for its lace manufacture. Both these industries decayed to nothing by the late 18th century, and when Lysons wrote (1822) he tells us that all the fairs and great markets had long been discontinued; even the weekly market had not been held within living memory. Bradninch would, indeed, have sunk to the level of Plympton Earl and passed away in its sleep but for the timely establishment of paper mills on the Culm, whose water was eminently suitable for paper making. A grist mill at Hele was converted to a paper mill in 1762, and in 1767 two more mills were started at Kensham, near by. The Hele Mills are still flourishing and produce high-grade paper. It was here that John Dewdney produced the first glazed writing paper in England in the 1840s; he was called on to supply the paper for the catalogues of the Great Exhibition in 1851. (Crosslegh, History of Bradninch) The mills were burnt down in 1821 and rebuilt. With the houses and cottages around, Hele makes an attractive group.
The town has little to commend it. It consists chiefly of one main street flanked by drab roughcast or red brick, lifeless and unattractive. The usual series of fires, so common in the cob- and-thatch country, has destroyed most of the old buildings, though away from the main street are one or two buildings in the old vernacular style. The church (St. Dionysius) is entirely 15th to early 16th century in date, with an over-restored interior (1845). Only the rood-screen is of any interest. It is twelve bays in width, with fifty-two panels having painted figures or subjects. Two niches retain their ancient statuettes. The date of the screen is said to be 1528. Across the tower arch is a fine 15th century screen, formerly the N. parclose screen.
The manor house was built by Peter Sainthill in 1547, but not much of this house is left. About 1712 the central block was rebuilt in brick. Though the house is somewhat plain externally, it retains a good deal of very fine carved Jacobean woodwork, most notably in the so-called "Job Room." This room has a splendid internal porch strongly resembling that at Bradfield'; and the ceiling is a good example of the Devonshire school of plasterwork. The 17th century library fireplace is also notable. Bradninch was the head-quarters of King Charles's army on 27 July 1644, when the King slept at the manor house. In October 1645 the town was the headquarters of Fairfax.