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Okehampton

Okehampton is located within West Devon local authority area. Historically it formed part of Lifton Hundred. It falls within Okehampton 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 1500 in 1801 3223 in 1901 . Figures for other years are available on the local studies website. In the valuation of 1334 it was assessed at £01/12/08. The lay subsidy of 1524 valued the community at £12/09/05. In 1641/2 318 adult males signed the Protestation returns. It is recorded as a borough from 1086 and was incorporated in 1623. It had parliamentary representation from 1640-1832. A turnpike was established in 1760. The community had a grammar school from 1591. A market is recorded from 14c.-1935.

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

Okehampton area on Donn's map of 1765 (sx59.don)

On the County Series Ordnance Survey mapping the area is to be found on 1:2,500 sheet 76/4 Six inch (1:10560) sheet 76NE
The National Grid reference for the centre of the area is SX589952. On the post 1945 National Grid Ordnance Survey mapping the sheets are: 1:10,000 (six inch to a mile: sheet SX59NE,SE, 1:25,000 mapping: sheet Explorer 113, Landranger (1:50,000) mapping: sheet 191. Geological sheet 324 also covers the area.

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

Okehampton Castle, Devonshire (sc1826-3)

A fair is known from: 14c.-1935. [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:

OKEHAMPTON is surrounded by a large parish known as Okehampton Hamlets, of which Kigbeare and Chichacott were Domesday manors, and Meldon occurs in the 12th century The parish rises S. to the high moorland of Dartmoor and includes its two highest points-High Willhays (2,039 ft.) and Yes Tor (2,028 ft.). Yes Tor, probably the name originally given to the whole hill of which High Willhays is part, is recorded as Emestorre and Yernes-torte in a 13th century perambulation of the Moor, meaning "eagles' tor." The military have had their grip on this part of the Moor for fifty years or more, but one may on occasions gain access to the summit of Yes Tor, from which there is an extraordinary view: N. over most of Devon, W. as far as Bodmin Moor, S. a vast, awe-inspiring, and desolate prospect into the deepest recesses of the Moor.

Okehampton town was founded by Baldwin de Brionne, the Norman sheriff of Devon, shortly before 1086, on a new wedge-like site between the East Okement and West Okement rivers, and the Saxon site was gradually abandoned except for the church (All Saints), which now stands alone. The 15th century church was entirely destroyed by fire in 1842, except the fine granite tower. It was rebuilt by Hayward of Exeter in 1843-4. Because of the distance of the parish church from the new town, a chantry chapel of St. James was erected in the town. This was rebuilt in 1862, except the 15th century granite tower. Okehampton is a singularly dull town, with very little to look at. The only building of any merit is the Town Hall, a handsome structure erected in 1685 by John Northmore as a town house, and converted to its present use in 1821. Just outside the town, to the N., is Oaklands, a mansion erected in 1820-2 by C. Vokins for Albany Saville, who had bought the castle and manor of Okehampton from Henry Holland.

Okehampton was incorporated in 1623. From 1640 to 1832, when it was disfranchised, it regularly returned two members to Parliament. About 1 m. SW. of the town, on a commanding site above the West Okement river, is the castle, of which there are substantial remains. A strong site was made even stronger by an artificial cut on the W. side, above which towers the square keep. The keep may be late Norman in date, but the other buildings represent mostly a rebuilding of c. 1300. On the N. side of the bailey are the remains of the great hall and buttery, stores, and the kitchen with its two ovens; on the S. side the lodge, ward-rooms, and a very picturesque chapel. The whole site is romantically beautiful. (For a fuller description of the castle, see Young, Okehampton, 35-8) The position of the castle, beside the main road from Exeter into Cornwall, probably accounts for its building and early importance.

At Brightley, about 2 m. N. of the town, is an ancient house, and the remains of a chapel, now used as a barn. Here Richard fitz Baldwin founded a religious house in 1133, and on 3 May 1 136 a superior and twelve monks arrived from Waverley Abbey to build a new monastery. They abandoned Brightley in 1141 and were given a new site at Ford in East Devon, which subsequently became Ford Abbey.

At Meldon, about 21 m. SW. of the town, are great quarries of limestone. Meldon Viaduct, near by, is a notable piece of railway engineering, carrying the railway over a deep ravine at a height of 160 ft. The scenery around here is of striking beauty. Between Meldon and Okehampton, on the hillside below the military camp, is the site of Okehampton Park, the chase of the medieval Courtenays, now a wild spot covered with ancient hawthorns, holly trees, and great furze bushes.