UK Genealogy Archives logo

Devon, England

(Devonshire, Devonia)

Historical Description

Devonshire or Devon, a maritime county, bounded on the N by the Bristol Channel, on the NE by Somerset, on the E by Dorset, on the SE and S by the English Channel, on the W by Cornwall. Its length southward is 72 miles, its greatest breadth 68 miles, its aggregate of coast-line about 144; miles, its total circuit about 280 miles, its area 1,661,914 acres. The only English counties which exceed it in size are Yorkshire and Lincoln.

The surface is exceedingly diversified, and exhibits a vast amount of picturesque scenery. The coasts for the most part are rocky and abound in striking scenes. North Devon, comprising one-fourth or more of all the area, has moorish, mountainous grounds on the east, and some moors and heights on the west, but presents over the most part a rich display of varied contour, fertility, and beauty. West Devon, a much. smaller tract in the south-west, is characterised by narrow vales, deep valleys, and steep flanking banks. Dartmoor, immediately east of this, is a wondrous region of mixed. grandeur, ruggedness, desolation, and romance. The South Hams, extending from Devonport to Torbay, blends with the finest skirts of Dartmoor, and spreads away to the sea in bold swells, winding coombes, and rich vales. East Devon, lying between Dartmoor and Dorset, is prevailingly champaign in the centre and the south, billowy or hilly in the east, sweetly beautiful in many parts, and moorish and mountainous in the north-east. The chief rivers, all more or less estuarial and navigable, are the Taw, the Torridge, the Tamar, the Tavy, the Plym, the Yealme, the Erme, the Avon, the Dart, the Teign, the Exe, the Otter, and the Axe. The chief bays in the north are Morte and Bideford; in the south, Plymouth, Start, and Tor. Springs, brooks, and rivulets abound more than in any other English county, and there are chalybeate spas at Bellamarsh, Bampton, Brixham, Cleaves, and Ilsington.

Granitic rocks occupy Dartmoor, old red sandstone or Devonian rocks form the northern part of North Devon, and most part of West Devon and South Hams; lower carboniferous rocks, limestone and shale, form a belt along the north side of Dartmoor, and a broader band thence to ths western boundary; upper carboniferous rocks, chiefly millstone grit, occupy most of the western, central, and southern parts of North Devon, and extend thence to Chudleigh, the neighbourhood of Exeter, Tiverton, and the boundary near Wellington; new red sandstone rocks occupy the southern and central parts of East Devon, and form a belt westward, past Crediton, to the vicinity of Hatherleigh; lias rocks form a small tract on the eastern border round Axminster; and upper greensand and gault rocks form considerable tracts, interspersed with the new red sandstone in the eastern parts of East Devon. Granite, building-stone, paving-stone, slate, and. limestone are extensively quarried. Marble of good quality is found in some places, and worked into numerous articles. Porcelain clay, pipe clay, and gypsum largely occur, and the first is sent to the Worcester and Stafford potteries. Tin, copper, lead, and iron ores are worked. Silver exists largely in the lead ores, and some gold, cobalt, manganese, and antimony are found. Bituminous coal has been vainly searched for, but lignite coal and anthracite are found and worked.

The soils include little alluvium, and derive their character generally from the underlying rocks. Those of Dartmoor are very poor; those of North Devon are mainly pure yellow or white clays, and partly a clayey loam; those of South Hams vary in frequent changes from a heavy clay to a light calcareous earth, and are so fertile as to have occasioned the region to be called the garden of Devonshire; those of the tracts round Crediton, Exeter, and Honiton, are chiefly rich loams, either sandy or dark hazel; and those of other tracts are for the most part good, indifferent, or bad, according to the nature of the subjacent rocks. The farms range mostly from 100 to 200 acres, and leases run from 6 to 10 years. Butter, cheese, cider, and live stock are the chief produce for exportation. The bovine cattle are a wide-horned red or light-brown breed, excellent both for working and for fattening, but not much esteemed for the dairy; the sheep are of many kinds, but largely a middle-woolled small breed, very similar to the Dorsets, and the native horses are small animals, resembling the Welsh and the Highland breeds. Mackerel, herrings, and other fish are largely caught.

The chief mineral products of the county are arsenic, of which the output is about 2500 tons a year, and value about £24,000, arsenical pyrites (output over 3000 tons), copper ores (nearly 3000 tons), iron ore and manganese ore (each about 800 tons), and lignite (about 4000 tons). There is besides a very large production of potter's and China clays, amounting in the aggregate to 128,000 tons, valued at nearly £60,000 yearly. Manufactures in coarse woollens, worsteds, carpets, silks, linens, cottons, lace, gloves, shoes, and earthenware, are carried on.

According to the census returns issued in 1893, the chief occupations of the people of the county were:—Professional, 27,836 males and 8756 females ; domestic, 2929 males and 50,473 females; commercial, 21,724 males and 436 females; agricultural, 45,719 males and 1368 females; fishing, 2610 males and 9 females; industrial, 85,132 males and 30,860 females; and "unoccupied," including retired business men, pensioners, those living on their own means, and others not specified, 43,341 males and 174,264; females; or a total in the county of 229,291 males and 266,166 females. The number of men employed in the leading industries was as follows:—Agricultural labourers, 25,126 ; general labourers, 12,972; navy, 10,878; farmers, 9042; and boot and shoe makers, 3909. The chief occupations of women are, domestic service, with a total of 40,287; and milliners and dressmakers, 12,581. There were also in the county 784 blind persons, 355 deaf, 336 deaf and dumb, and 2411 mentally deranged.

Devonshire is connected with the canal system by the Great Western Canal from Taunton to Somerset, passing by Tiverton to Exeter. The Tavistock Canal, the Stover or Teingrace Canal, and the Torridge Canal are small canals to extend river navigation. The Bude and Holsworthy Canal connects the Bude and Launceston Canal with the river Waldon. The harbours are very fine and numerous. The county is traversed by more than 7200 miles of roads; and connected with the G.W.R. by the Bristol and Exeter line, which extents along the coast, under the name of the South Devon Railway, to Cornwall. There are branches from Newton to Torquay and Dartmouth, and from Taunton to Barnstaple. There are also the London and South-Western and the North Devon and the West Cornwall railways.

For parliamentary purposes the county is divided into eight single-member divisions, viz. :—East (Honiton), northeast (Tiverton), north (South Molton), north-west (Barnstaple), west (Tavistock), south (Totnes), Torquay division, and Mid (Ashburton). It also includes the parliamentary boroughs of Devonport, Exeter, and Plymouth. There are ten municipal boroughs (exclusive of the county boroughs of Devonport, Exeter, and Plymouth), viz., Barnstaple, Bideford, Dartmouth, Honiton, Okehampton, South Molton, Tiverton, Torquay, Torrington (Great), and Totnes. There are 28 petty sessional divisions. The county contains 451 entire civil parishes and part of one other. Devonport contains one entire civil parish, Exeter 22 parishes, and Plymouth two. There are 506 entire ecclesiastical parishes or districts and parts of five others. Tlie county is almost entirely in the diocese of Exeter. It is governed by a lord lieutenant, and a county council consisting of 78 councillors and 26 aldermen, and is in the western military district, and the western judicial circuit. The assizes and the quarter sessions are held at Exeter. The county jail is at Exeter.

Devonshire was called Dyfnant by the ancient Welsh, and Dennan by the Cornish Britons, and is supposed to have got its name from a word signifying "deeps" or "glens." It was originally inhabited by the Cimbri, who got here the designation of Damnonii or Danmonii, and it had ancient commercial transactions with the Phœnicians, the Greeks, and other nations. It was included by the Romans first in their Britannia Prima, then in their Flavia Cæsariensis, and it afterwards formed part of the kingdom of Wessex. Cynegilsus, king of the West Saxons, vanquished it in 614. The Danes made inroads into it with various fortune in 806, 876, and 894. William the Conqueror met stiff resistance from it in 1067 and 1069. William Rufus and Stephen also were resisted at Exeter. The French, till the middle of the 16th century, made attacks on the maritime towns, but elicited few events of any note. The wars between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians agitated the county and caused several riots, but did not produce any battle. The Reformation caused an insurrection in 1549, leading to a number of armed engagements. The Civil War, in the time of Charles I., involved general broils, many incursions, several skirmishes, and one sharp action, and came to an end in the taking of most of the towns by Fairfax. The Prince of Orange landed at Torbay in 1688, the French fleet cannonaded and plundered Teignmouth in 1690, the combined fleet of France and Spain appeared off Plymouth in 1779, and Napoleon Bonaparte was a prisoner in the Bellerophon and the Northumberland men-of-war in Plymouth Sound in 1815. The county gives the title of Earl of Devon to the Courtenays, and that of Duke of Devonshire to the Cavendishes. Icknield Street crosses the county from Dorset through Exeter into Cornwall, the Fosse Way joined or crossed Icknield Street near the eastern border of the county, and the Port Way went from Exeter toward the centre of Somerset. Ancient British remains, variously cromlechs, Druidical circles, logan-stones, cairns, and vestiges of rude houses, are at Drews-Teignton, Withecombe, Haldon Hill, and Grimpspound; ancient camps are at Woodbury and Hembury; ancient castles are at Compton, Okehampton, Plympton, Tiverton, Berry-Pomeroy, and Lydford; ancient abbeys or priories are or were at Tavistock, Ford, Newnham, Tor, Wear, Weycroft, Frithelstoke, Hartland, Buckfastleigh, and Ottery; and ancient churches are at Ashburton, Axminster, Chegford, Crediton, Exeter, and other places.


Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Archives and Libraries

DEVON RECORD OFFICE
Great Moor House,
Bittern Road,
Sowton,
Exeter
EX2 7NL
Tel: 01392 384253
email: devrec@devon.gov.uk

WEST DEVON RECORD OFFICE
Unit 3, Clare Place,
Coxside,
Plymouth
PL4 OJW
Tel: 01752 305940

NORTH DEVON RECORD OFFICE
North Devon Library and Record Office,
Tuly Street,
Barnstaple
EX32 7EJ
Tel: 01271 388607/388608


Church Records

We have some of the Devon Parish Registers transcribed in fully searchable databases. See what we have available on the Baptisms, Marriages, Burials pages.


Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

List of Registration Districts in Devon from 1837 to 1974.


Country Seats

A listing of Seats of the Nobility, Clergy and Gentry in Devonshire


Directories & Gazetteers

The Historical Directories web site have a number of directories relating to Devon online, including:
Kelly's, Pigot, Slater, etc.

We have transcribed the entry for Devon from the following:


Historical Geography

A listing of the Hundreds and Liberties in Devon, with the parishes contained in them.


History

We have A View of Devonshire in MDXXX with a Pedigree of most of its Gentry by Thomas Westcote, Gent. available to browse. This contains a fascinating account of Westcote's travels through the county in 1630, and describes each place.


Maps

Old map of Devonshire circa 1848 (Samuel Lewis)

Old map of Devonshire circa 1895 (Gazetteer of England and Wales)


Newspapers and Periodicals

A part transcript of the Western Antiquary or Devon and Cornwall note-book.

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers covering Devon online:


Parishes & places

Abbots Bickington
Abbotsham
Abbotskerswell
Alphington
Alverdiscott
Alwington
Appledore
Arlington
Ashburton
Ashbury
Ashcombe
Ashford
Ashprington
Ashreigney
Ashton
Ashwater
Atherington
Aveton Gifford
Awliscombe
Axminster
Axmouth
Aylesbeare
Babbacombe
Baggy Point
Bagtor
Bampton
Barnstaple
Barricane
Beaford
Beaworthy
Beer
Beer Alston
Beesands
Belstone
Bendon
Benjie Tor
Bere Ferrers
Berry Head
Berry Pomeroy
Berrynarbor
Bickington
Bickleigh (Plympton)
Bickleigh (Tiverton)
Bicton
Bideford
Bigbury
Bishops Clist
Bishops Nympton
Bishops Tawton
Bishopsteignton
Bittadon
Black Down
Black Tor
Black Torrington
Blackawton
Blackborough
Blackpool
Bolt Head and Bolt Tail
Boltbury
Bondleigh
Boringdon
Borough Island
Bottor Rock
Bovey Brook or Wrey River
Bovey Tracey
Bovisand
Bow or Nymet Tracey
Bow Tor
Braddons
Bradford
Bradmere Pool
Bradninch
Bradstone
Bradworthy
Brampford Speke
Branscombe
Bratton Clovelly
Bratton Fleming
Braunton
Brendon
Brent Tor or Brentor
Bridestow
Bridford or Bridgeford
Bridgend
Bridgerule
Brixham
Brixton
Broad Clist
Broad Nymet
Broadhembury
Broadhempston
Broadwood Kelly
Broadwood Widger
Brook
Brookhill
Brownestone
Brushford
Buckerell
Buckfastleigh
Buckish Mills
Buckland Brewer
Buckland Filleigh
Buckland in the Moor
Buckland Monachorum
Buckland Tout Saints
Bucksmills
Bulkworthy
Bull Point
Burlescombe
Burr
Burrington
Butterleigh
Butterton Hill
Cadbury
Cadeleigh
Calverleigh
Cann Quarry
Canonteign
Castle Ditch
Castle Dyke
Castle Hill
Caton
Cawsand Beacon or Cosdon
Chagford
Challacombe
Charles
Charleton
Chawleigh
Cheldon
Chelsea Meadow
Cheriton Bishop
Cheriton Fitzpaine
Chinehead
Chittlehamholt
Chittlehampton
Chivelstone
Christow or Cristow
Chudleigh
Chulmleigh
Church Stanton
Churchstow
Churston Ferrers
Clanaborough
Clawton
Clayhanger
Clayhidon
Clovelly
Clyst Honiton
Clyst Hydon
Clyst St George
Clyst St Lawrence
Clyst St Mary
Coaxdon
Cockington
Cocks
Coddon Hill
Coffinswell
Cofton
Coldridge or Coleridge
Colebrooke
Collaton St Mary
Collumpton
Colyton
Colyton Rawleigh
Combe Martin
Combe Pyne
Combe Raleigh
Combinteignhead
Compton Castle
Compton Gifford
Cookbury
Cornwood
Cornworthy
Coryton
Cotleigh
Countess Weir
Countisbury or Countesbury
Cove
Cowick
Cranbrook Castle
Cranmere Pool
Creacombe
Crediton
Crockem
Cruwys Morchard
Culmstock
Cut Hill
Daddy Hole
Dalwood
Dartington
Dartmoor
Dartmoor Forest
Dartmouth
Dawlish
Dean Prior
Denbury
Devonport
Dewarstone
Diptford
Dittisham
Dodbrooke
Doddiscombsleigh
Dolton
Double Water
Dowland
Down St Mary
Dowrish
Drewsteignton
Dumpdon
Dunchideock
Dunkeswell
Dunkeswell Abbey
Dunsbrook
Dunscomb
Dunscomb Cliff
Dunsford
Dunterton
Durium Amnem
East Allington
East and West Leigh
East Anstey
East Buckland
East Budleigh
East Down
East Ogwell
East Ottery Hill
East Portlemouth
East Putford
East Woolfardisworthy
East Worlington
Eddystone
Egg Buckland
Eggesford
Ellacombe
Endsleigh
Erme Bridge
Ermington
Escot
Esprick
Exbourne
Exbridge
Exeter
Exeter Canal
Exminster
Exwick
Faringdon
Farway
Feniton
Fenworthy
Filleigh
Fingle Bridge
Fitzford
Ford (Seat)
Foreland
Fox Tor
Fremington
Frithelstock
Fulford, Little
Fur Tor
Gallantry Bower
George Nympton
Georgeham
Germansweek
Gidleigh
Gittisham
Glenthorne
Golden Inn
Goodleigh
Goodrington
Grand Western Canal
Grassington
Great and Little Knowle
Great and Little Mewstone
Great Englebourne
Great Kneeset
Great Links Tor
Great Torrington
Greenlands Foot
Greenway House
Haccombe
Halberton
Haldon, Great and Little
Hall
Hall Cellar
Halsands
Halwell
Halwill
Hamilton Down
Hangman Hills, Great and Little
Harberton
Harbertonford
Hare Tor
Harford
Harpford
Harracott
Hartland
Hartland Tor
Hatherleigh
Haven Cliff
Hawksdown
Hayes Barton
Hayne (Seat)
Haytor
Hazel Tor
Heanton House or Heanton Satchville
Heanton Punchardon
Heavitree
Heddons Mouth
Helesborough
Heltor or Whitestone Rock
Hemyock
Hennock
High Bickington
High Bray
High Tor or Heytor
Highampton
Highweek
Hill Bridge
Hittisleigh
Hockworthy
Holbeton
Holcombe Burnell
Holcombe Rogus
Hollacombe
Holne
Holstone Barrow
Holsworthy
Holy Street
Honeychurch
Honiton
Hooknor Tor
Horrabridge
Horwood
Huish
Huntsham
Huntshaw
Huxham
Iddesleigh
Ide
Ideford
Ilford Bridges
Ilfracombe
Ilsington
Instow
Inwardleigh
Ipplepen
Ivybridge
Jacobstowe
Jump
Kelly
Kenn
Kennerley
Kentisbeare
Kentisbury
Kenton
Kenwith Castle
Kilmington
Kilworthy
Kimworthy
King Tor
Kings Nympton
Kingsbridge
Kingsbridge Road
Kingskerswell
Kingsteignton
Kingston
Kingswear
Kis Tor
Kitley
Kitts Hall
Knackersknowke or Crownhill
Knowstone
Ladram Bay
Laira
Lamerton
Landcross
Landkey
Landscove
Langtree
Lapford
Lee Abbey
Lethitor
Leusden
Lewtrenchard
Lifton
Lindridge
Little Englebourne
Little Hempston
Little Torrington
Littleham
Littleham (Exmouth)
Loddiswell
Loxbear
Loxhore
Luffincott
Lundy Island
Luppitt
Lustleigh
Luton (Bishops Teignton)
Lydford
Lympstone
Lynmouth
Lynton
Maidencombe
Maker
Malborough
Mamhead
Manaton
Mariansleigh
Marldon
Marsh Mills
Martinhoe
Marwood
Marystow
Marytavy
Meadfoot
Meavy
Meeth
Membury
Merton
Meshaw
Mewstone
Milehouse
Millaton
Milton Abbott
Milton Damerel
Mis Tor, Great and Little
Modbury
Molland
Monk Okehampton
Monkleigh
Monkton
Moor End
Moorton
Morchard Bishop
Morebath
Moreleigh
Moretonhampstead
Morice or Morice Town
Morte Bay
Morthoe
Morwellham
Morwenstow
Mounts
Musbury
Needlesham Cove
Nether Exe
Netherton Hall
Newbridge (Dartmoor)
Newbridge (Huish)
Newbridge (Tavistock)
Newport
Newton Abbot
Newton Ferrers
Newton Poppleford
Newton St Cyres
Newton St Petrock
Newton Tracey
Nine Stones
North Bovey
North Brook
North Huish
North Leigh
North Lew
North Molton
North Petherwin
North Tawton
Northam
Nymet Rowland
Oakford
Offwell
Okehampton
Old Barrow
Oldcombe
Oldridge
Oldstone
Otterton
Ottery Hill
Ottery St Mary
Paignton
Pancrasweek
Parkham
Parracombe
Payhembury
Pen Beacon
Penny Cross (Pennycross)
Peter Marland
Peter Tavy
Petit Tor
Petrockstow
Pickwell
Pilton
Pinhoe
Pinney
Pitt
Plym Bridge
Plymouth
Plymouth Charles the Martyr
Plymouth Sound
Plymouth St Andrew
Plymouth St Mary
Plympton St Mary
Plympton St Maurice
Plymstock
Plymtree
Poltimore
Porridge
Portsmouth Arms
Posbury
Poughill
Powderham
Prawle
Preston Berry
Pridhamsleigh
Princetown
Puddington
Pynes
Pyworthy
Rackenford
Rattery
Revelstoke
Rewe
Ringmore
Rippon Tor
Roborough
Roborough (E down)
Roborough (SW down)
Rockbeare
Rockleigh
Rolls Tor
Romansleigh
Roosdown
Rose Ash
Salcombe
Salcombe Regis
Salterton
Saltram
Sampford Courtenay
Sampford Peverell
Sampford Spiney
Sandford
Satchfield Clist
Satterleigh
Scotland
Seaton
Seven Tors
Shaldon St Nicholas
Shaugh Prior
Shebbear
Sheepstor
Sheepwash
Sheldon
Sherford
Sherwell
Shillingford St George
Shobrooke
Shute
Sidbury
Sidmouth
Silverton
Sittaford
Skerries
Slade (Ivybridge)
Slapton
Smallmouth
Sourton
South Brent
South Huish
South Milton
South Molton
South Molton Road
South Pool
South Tawton
South Zeal
Southleigh
Sowton
Spanhead
Sparkwell
Spreyton
St Budeaux
St Giles in the Wood
St Giles on the Heath
St Leonard
St Marychurch
St Nicholas
St Thomas by Exeter
St Thomas the Apostle
Starcross
Start Point
Staverton
Sticklepath
Stockland
Stockleigh English
Stockleigh Pomeroy
Stoke Canon
Stoke Damerel
Stoke Fleming
Stoke Gabriel
Stoke Point
Stoke Rivers
Stokeinteignhead
Stokenham
Stoodleigh
Stowford
Street or Strete
Sutcombe
Sutton on Plym
Swimbridge
Sydenham Damerel
Talaton
Tamerton Foliott
Tavistock
Taw Bridge
Tawstock
Tedburn St Mary
Teigngrace
Teignmouth
Templeton
Tetcott
The Avon
The Axe
The Bathenn
The Becky
The Cad
The Catwater or Plym
The Claw
The Clyst
The Coly
The Cowsic
The Creedy
The Culme
The Dart
The Deer
The Erme
The Fortin
The Hamoaze
The Harburn or Harborne
The Ken
The Leman
The Lew
The Lid or Lyd
The Lyme
The Meavy or Mew
The Mole
The Okement or Ock
The Otter
The Plym
The Sid
The Tamar
The Tavy
The Taw
The Teign
The Torridge
The Yealm
The Yeo
Thelbridge
Thornbury
Thorverton
Throwleigh
Thruscross or Thurcross
Thrushelton
Thurlestone
Tipton
Tiverton
Tiverton Junction
Topsham
Tor Bay
Tor Moham
Torbryan
Torquay
Torre
Torwood
Totnes
Trentishoe
Trusham
Twitchen
Uffculme
Ugborough
Ugbrooke Park
Uplowman
Uplyme
Upottery
Upton Helions
Upton Pyne
Venn Ottery
Venn Ottery or Fen Ottery
Virginstow
Walkhampton
Warkleigh
Washfield
Washford Pyne
Watermouth
Wear Gifford
Wellcombe
Wembury
Wembworthy
Werrington
West Alvington
West Anstey
West Buckland
West Down
West Leigh
West Ogwell
West Worlington
Westward Ho
Whimple
Whitchurch
Whitestone
Widecombe in the Moor
Widworthy
Willand
Winkleigh
Witheridge
Withycombe Raleigh
Woodbury
Woodbury Road
Woodbury Salterton
Woodland
Woodleigh
Woolacombe Bay
Woolborough
Woolfardisworthy
Yarcombe
Yarnscombe
Yealmpton
Yes Tor
Zeal Monachorum

Population

The population of Devon in 1801 was 340,308; 1811, 382,778; 1821, 438,,417; 1831, 493,908; 1841, 532,959; 1851, 567,098; 1861, 584,373; 1871, 601,374; and in 1881, 603,595; and in 1891, 631,808. The population of the ancient or geographical county in 1901 was 661,341. The population of the administrative county and county boroughs in 1901 was 662,196. The population in 1911 was 699,703.


Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of the County of Devon in the year 1564, with additions from the earlier visitation of 1531, is online.


Wills

A list of transcripts of Will, Probate and Administration documents of Devonshire people.

Map of Devonshire