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Exmoor, Somerset

Historical Description

Exmoor, a quondam extra-parochial tract, now a parish, in Somerset, round the head-streams of the rivers Exe and Barle, 13 miles NW of Dulverton station on the G.W.R. It has a post office under South Molton; money order office, North Molton; telegraph office, South Molton. Acreage, 20,344; population, 269. Some parts are enclosed and cultivated, but most are wild, moorish, and upland. Woods anciently covered the whole area, and are said to have been consumed at the ancient adjacent iron-works of Exford. Druidical rites were practised in the woods, and many rude remains of ancient times, sepulchres, small standing-stones, earthworks, and small circular entrenchments, supposed to be Druidical, still exist. Hardy sheep and horses are bred on the hill pastures, and red deer may sometimes be seen browsing on the wastes. An Act, passed in the 55th year of George III., ordained that the forest should-,be made a parish as soon as its population should so increase as to require a church, and that Act took effect in 1854. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Bath and Wells; net value, £220 with residence. Patron, Viscount Ebrington. The church was opened in 1854. Exmouth, a town and a chapelry in Devonshire, situated in the parish of Littleham. Exmouth has long outgrown the village which gives its name to the parish, and from an obscure fishing town has developed into a popular health resort. Part of the town embraces a section of Withycombe Rawleigh. Exmouth stands on the left bank of the mouth of the Exe, and has a station on the L. & S.W.R., 181 miles from London, and 10 from Exeter. It was anciently called Exanmouth. It made resistance to the Danes in 1001, and had then a castle which has disappeared. It sent two members to Parliament at Westminster in the 14th year of Edward III., and furnished 10 ships and 193 men towards that monarch's expedition against Calais. It was the place where the Earl of March, afterwards Edward IV., went on shipboard after the defeat of the Yorkists at Ludlow. It was occasionally held by both the Royalists and the Parliamentarians during the Civil War, and was finally taken by the latter in 1646. It afterwards fell into decay, and about the middle of last century was only a poor fishing town; but it rose into notice as a sea-bathing resort in consequence of one of the Judges of the Circuit having gone to it an invalid and returned from it in health; and it now ranks as the oldest and one of the best frequented watering-places in Devon. It is well sheltered from NE and SE winds by some high hills, which rise almost close behind it and supply it with excellent water, and it enjoys a fine climate, and has a convenient bathing-beach. The old part of it occupies the river-side and the skirt of a hill, while the new part fronts the esplanade and ascends the hill in terrace after terrace, and displays handsome houses among clumps and lines of trees. The Beacon, Louisa Terrace, Trefusis Terrace, Alexandra Terrace, and Morton Crescent, have many of the best houses, and command extensive and beautiful views over both sea and land, as do also a large number of detached villa residences. Walks and a shrubbery are on the slope of Beacon Hill, and a promenade 1800 feet long lies along the beach. The harbour is spacious, deep, and good; a battery commands its entrance; and docks were formed in 1865-69 at a cost of £60,000. There is a coastguard station and a head post office. It has a ferry across the Ex—, connecting it with the G.W.R. at Starcross, a good bathing establishment, a market-house, libraries, assembly rooms, a public hall, two banking establishments, an hospital, a church and two mission chapels (Church of England), two Congregational chapels, three other dissenting chapels, and a Roman Catholic chapel. The church was built in 1824 at a cost of —£12,000, and afterwards enlarged, and is a noble structure in the Gothic style. A weekly market is held on Saturday; a regatta takes place in August and Sept.; and two weekly newspapers are published. The town gives the title of Viscount to the family of Pellew. The little village of Littleham, distant some 2 miles inland, though completely dwarfed by its prosperous neighbour Exmouth, still retains the parish church, of which the various Church of England edifices in Exmouth are offshoots. The patrons of the living are the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, and its value is about £275. The chief occupation of the townsfolk is fishing.

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 CountySomersetshire 
HundredWilliton and Freemanners 

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

Church Records, in association with Somerset Archives & Local Studies, have images of the Parish Registers for Somerset online.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Exmoor from the following:


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

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Somerset papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Somersetshire, 1623 is available on the Heraldry page.