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Combe Martin

Combe Martin is located within North Devon local authority area. Historically it formed part of Braunton Hundred. It falls within Shirwell 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 819 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 £01/11/01. The lay subsidy of 1524 valued the community at £08/01/04. In 1641/2 246 adult males signed the Protestation returns. It is recorded as a borough from 1249. A turnpike was established in 1838. A market is recorded from 14c.-1600.

A parish history file is held in Combe Martin 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 Combe Martin area on Donn's one inch to the mile survey of 1765.

Combe Martin area on Donn's map of 1765 (ss54don)

On the County Series Ordnance Survey mapping the area is to be found on 1:2,500 sheet 5/3,4,8 Six inch (1:10560) sheet 5NE
The National Grid reference for the centre of the area is SS580470. On the post 1945 National Grid Ordnance Survey mapping the sheets are: 1:10,000 (six inch to a mile: sheet SS54NE, 1:25,000 mapping: sheet Explorer 139, Landranger (1:50,000) mapping: sheet 180. Geological sheet 277 also covers the area.

Illustrations: The image below is of Combe Martin as included in the Library's illustrations collection. Other images can be searched for on the local studies catalogue.

Comb (sic)  Martin (SC0413)

A fair is known from: 14c.-1822. An extract from The glove is up! Devon's historic fairs, by Tricia Gerrish, by kind permission of the author.

COMBE MARTIN LOCATION:A399. On North coast between Blackmore Gate and Ilfracombe.

ORIGINAL CHARTER 1222. Granted to Nicholas Martin (also known as Fitzmartin). To take place at Whitsun for 4 days.  

A fair was granted to Nicholas Martin  (also known as Fitzmartin) in 1222 as part of a charter for ‘Cumbermartyn’. The four day fair was to begin on Whitsun Eve. A further charter given by Henry III to William, from the same family, in 1265 confirmed the date.

It either lasted the test of time or was revived, as the same fair is recorded in  Magna Britannia as being held on Whit Monday in 1822, but it is not mentioned in official listings c.1890. This cessation may have connections with celebrations known as Hunting the Earl of Rone which greatly exercised the village over Whitsun. The tradition continues at the fixed Spring Bank Holiday in the 21st century.

Extract from Devon by W.G.Hoskins (1954), included by kind permission of the copyright holder:

COMBE MARTIN is a village of immense length, mostly a single street running down a long combe to the bay (plate 46). The valley is warm and fertile, and produces large quantities of fruit and vegetables for Ilfracombe and Lynton. Hemp was formerly extensively grown here, and large quantities of shoe-makers' thread spun from it in the village. In recent years, Combe Martin has become increasingly popular as a centre for summer holidays for those who like something less crowded and sophisticated than the neighbouring resorts. The cliff scenery E. of the village is superb, the Little Hangman and the Great Hangman (1,044 ft.) being especially notable. Holdstone Down, a little farther E., reaches 1,146 ft. From here and the Hangman cliffs there are wonderful views across the Bristol Channel to the Welsh coastline and mountains. Challacombe was a medieval mansion. The present house clearly shows that a 15th century hall, open to the roof, was remodelled in the early 17th century.

The silver-lead mines of Combe Martin have been worked at intervals since the end of the 13th century down to 1875, when they were finally abandoned. The whole district is full of adits and shafts, some passing under the village street. Iron ore was found at Wild Pear Bay under Little Hangman, and considerable quantities were shipped to S. Wales in the late 18th early 19th century Manganese was mined at Rawnes.

Thomas Harding (1516-72), the great opponent of Bishop Jewel, was born at Buzzacott, a farm in this parish.

Combe Martin church (St. Peter ad Vincula) is a most interesting building in a rose-coloured sandstone. The chancel is 13th century, but the remainder of the church is mostly 15th century, including the very fine tower (99 ft. to the battlements) which approaches the Somerset type, and is in the class of Chittlehampton and Cullompton. The S. porch was built in 1724. The 15th century rood-screen and parclose screen are exceptionally fine. There is a most beautifully sculptured marble effigy of Judith Ivatt (1634) in the dress of the period. In the N. chancel aisle are some 16th century carved bench-ends.