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Plympton St Maurice, Devon

Historical Description

Plympton Earls or Plympton St Maurice, a small town and a parish in Devonshire. The town stands in a fine valley, 1 mile SSE of Plympton station on the G.W.R., and 4½ miles E by N of Plymouth. It has a post, money order, and telegraph office. Acreage of parish, 232; population, 1139. The town is supposed to take the first part of its name from the river Plym, but this is doubtful; the ton is Saxon. It belonged anciently to the Norman Earls of Devon, from whom it takes the affix-name Earls. It contains the ruin of a castle, built in the time of Henry I. by the first Earl of Devon; was the headquarters of Prince Maurice during the siege of Plymouth in 1643; was taken in the following year by the Earl of Essex; was once and long a stannary town; sent two members to Parliament from the time of Edward I. till disfranchised by the Reform Act of 1832; and was the birthplace of Sir Joshua Reynolds. It consists chiefly of two streets, crossing each other in the form of the letter T; contains many houses of ancient appearance, and some projecting on arches like those of Totnes; and has a town-ball, a church, Congregational and Wesleyan chapels, and a grammar school. The keep of the castle stood on a large artificial pre-Norman mound, and the earthworks had an oblong form, with surmounting walls. The ruins cover about an acre of ground. It was surrounded by a ditch, now dry and used as gardens. The fortress is said to have been dismantled and demolished almost to the ground by order of King Stephen, and is now represented only by the earthworks and fragments of the massive works of the keep. The grounds form an agreeable promenade, and command extensive and beautiful views. The town-hall was built in 1696, and formerly had a portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds, painted by himself, which is now in the possession of the Earl of Egremont. The church, dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury, but more generally known as St Maurice from the dedication of a chantry in the church, is an ancient building containing portions of various dates-Transitional, Norman, Early English, Decorated, and Perpendicular-and is a small structure with a lofty tower. The grammar school was founded in 1658; is a quaint structure, with piazza, portico, and high roof; and had Sir Joshua Reynolds' father as a master. The old house containing the room in which Sir Joshua was born is now pulled down. The school has £180 a year from endowment. A market for horses, cattle, and sheep is held on the first Monday of every month. The manor belongs to the Earl of Morley. Plympton House was formerly the seat of the Treby family, but was converted into a lunatic asylum in 1835. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Exeter; gross value, £120 with residence. Patrons, the Dean and Canons of Windsor.

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

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 Plympton St Maurice


Online maps of Plympton St Maurice 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:

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.

CountyCity of Plymouth
RegionSouth West
Postal districtPL7
Post TownPlymouth