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Okehampton, Devon

Historical Description

Okehampton, a municipal borough, a township, and a parish in Devonshire. The town stands in a valley, at the confluence of the East Okement and the West Okement rivers, and on the N border of Dartmoor, amid a complete environment of hills, its least elevation being 500 feet above the level of the sea, 3¾ miles N by E of the summit of Yes Tor, over 2000 feet high, with a station on the L. & S.W.R., 197 miles from London, and 22 W by N of Exeter. It has a head post office. It was known at Domesday as Ockmenton, and was the head of the barony or earldom of Devon, and the seat of the hereditary county sheriffs, keepers of the castle of Exeter. The barony was one of the largest in the kingdom; was given by William the Conqueror to Baldwin de Brioniis; went by marriage in the time of Henry II. to the Conrtenays; continued with them till the time of Edward IV., and was then forfeited by Thomas, Earl of Devon, for taking part with Henry VI.; passed thence, till the accession of Henry VII.) through various hands; was, at Henry VII.'s accession, restored to the Courtenays; was again forfeited, early in the time of Henry VIII., in consequence of alleged or real treason by Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter; went back in the time of Mary to the Courtenays; and passed by marriage in the time of Charles I. to the Mohuns, who became Barons of Okehampton and failed in 1712. The barons wielded great power throughout the barony, exercised the right of capital punishment over eight manors, and acted as stewards at the installation of the bishops of the diocese. A stately castle was built at the side of the Okement, about three-quarters of a mile SW of the town, by Baldwin de Brioniis; appears to have been extended, restored, and beautified by subsequent barons; served as the seat of the great baronial power till the forfeiture in the time of Henry VIII.; and was then dismantled and the grounds connected with it laid waste, so that it was never again inhabited. The ruins of it still stand, and form, with the objects around them, a very striking picture; they occupy the summit and slopes of a rocky mount, thickly clothed with trees; they show the castle, as to both position and structure, to have been very strong; they form a large mass or group of masonry, and yet are so embosomed in wood as to be but slightly visible from the road approaching them; and they include a crowning small quadrangular keep of Decorated or Later English date, and lower buildings, with great hall, numerous chambers, and part of a chapel, ranging in date from Early English to Perpendicular. The town was visited twice by Charles I. and twice by Sir Thomas Fairfax during the Civil Wars. All the circumjacent parts of Dartmoor abound in picturesque and romantic scenery, and at the same time afford pasture to numerous flocks of sheep.

The borough is well supplied with water obtained from Dartmoor, and it has an efficient drainage system, and is one of the most healthy resorts in Devonshire. In 1887 the east bridge was widened about 10 feet. There are three flour mills and some large cabinet and joinery works. It is a seat of petty sessions and county courts, serves as a convenient centre for excursions in Dartmoor, and has three banks, a good hotel, several excellent inns, two bridges, a town-hall, a market-house, two churches, four dissenting chapels, a workhouse, and charities. The town-hall stands in Fore Street, is a large building, and is used for the courts. The market-house adjoins the town-hall, and was built in 1826. A butter and poultry hall was built in 1880. The parish church stands on a bold eminence about half a mile W of the town, was destroyed by fire except the tower in 1842, was soon rebuilt at a cost of £3500, and is a large and handsome edifice in the Gothic style with lofty tower. St James' Chapel stands in the town, was originally a chantry chapel, dates from some time prior to the 13th century, has been restored, and has two beautiful stained glass windows and a tower containing an interesting old bell which has been rung as the curfew every evening from time immemorial. It is also rung every morning. There are Congregational, Baptist, Wesleyan, and Bible Christian chapels. The workhouse has accommodation for 150 persons. A weekly market is held on Saturday, a large cattle market is held on the first Saturday in every month, and a fair for cattle is held within the borough on the second Tuesday after 11 March. The town is a borough by prescription, sent two members to Parliament in the time of Edward I. and Edward II., and from 1640 till the passing of the Reform Act in 1832, and was disfranchised by that Act. It is now governed by a corporation consisting of a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors, who form the urban district council. Population of the municipal borough, 1879. Since the last census, however, a considerable increase has taken place, many houses having been and are still being erected, and its low death-rate makes it a popular place of residence and summer resort. Oaklands is a handsome seat in the neighbourhood. Okehampton is a great centre for artillery practice. The parish contains also the hamlets of Kigbear, Chicacott, Brightley, Fartherford, Meldon, Southacott, and Maddaford. Acreage, 12,989; population, 2469. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Exeter; net value, £395 with residence.

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


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyDevon 
Ecclesiastical parishOakhampton All Saints 
Poor Law unionOakhampton 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

Findmypast, in association with the South West Heritage Trust, Parochial Church Council, and Devon Family History Society have the Baptisms, Banns, Marriages, and Burials online for Okehampton

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Okehampton from the following:


Online maps of Okehampton are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

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

Villages, Hamlets, &c

Brightley (Okehampton)

Visitations Heraldic

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

The Visitations of the County of Devon, comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564, & 1620, with additions by Lieutant-Colonel J.L. Vivian, published for the author by Henry S. Eland, Exeter 1895 is online.

DistrictWest Devon
RegionSouth West
Postal districtEX20