Burlescombe (St. Mary)

BURLESCOMBE (St. Mary), a parish, in the union of Wellington, partly in the hundred of Bampton, but chiefly in that of Halberton, Cullompton and N. divisions of Devon, 5 miles (S. W. by W.) from Wellington; containing 958 inhabitants. This parish comprises 3768a. 16p. of land, of which about 200 acres are wood, and the rest arable and pasture in nearly equal portions; the soil is various, and in general of inferior quality. The Exeter and Bristol railway, and the small river Lyner, run through. The road from Wellington to Exeter, also, passes for four miles through the parish, which it enters near the Red Ball Inn, on Maiden Down: skirting Uffculm Down, it follows the track of the Roman portway from the city Uxella (Taunton) in its progress to Isca Danmoniorum (Exeter). Maiden Down was inclosed in 1803, and Lyner Moor in 1810. There are considerable mountains of primitive limestone, of which great quantities are burnt, and sent away by the Grand Western canal, whose summit level is in the parish. Small pieces of pure silver have been found; manganese is supposed to abound, and there are indications of the existence of coal. The woollen manufacture was formerly carried on, but the only trade at present is the making of chairs.

The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £11. 15. 10.; patron and impropriator, E. Ayshford Sandford, Esq. The great tithes have been commuted for £235, and the small for £330; the vicar's glebe consists of 3¼ acres. The demesnes here of the ancient abbey of Canonsleigh, comprising more than 800 acres, are tithe-free. The church is a venerable structure in the later style of English architecture, with a tower of four stages, embattled, and crowned with a turret; it consists of a nave, chancel, and north and south aisles. The stone steps to the ancient rood-loft, and the screen separating the chancel from the nave, are still remaining; the latter is richly ornamented with crockets, finials, and roses. Within the rails of the communion is an altar-tomb, with monks bearing shields under enriched canopies, erected by Nicholas Ayshford, in 1500; and in the north aisle are four more ancient monuments to the Ayshford family, who had a chantry chapel at the east end of the aisle. Attached to the villa of Ayshford is a chapel, for which an endowment has been charged upon the estate. There is a place of worship for Wesleyans.

A priory for Augustine canons was founded at Leigh, thence called Canonsleigh, in the parish, in the reign of Henry II., by William de Claville. It was originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist; and there is now at Exeter a deed dated prior to 1247, to which is appended the seal of the convent, representing the Virgin Mary and St. John. In 1284, the establishment was surrendered to Maud, Countess of Gloucester and Hereford, who converted it into a nunnery dedicated to St. Etheldreda; and in 1286 the abbess obtained the grant of a weekly market. It continued to flourish till the Dissolution, when its revenues were estimated at £202. 15. 3.: the remains consist principally of the porter's lodge, which is entire, and the gateway, in which is a fine Norman arch. Attached to the establishment were the chapels of St. Thomas and All Saints. At Westleigh was a chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity, now converted into two cottages; there was also a church in the parish in honour of St. Theobald, long since razed to the ground; and the remains of an ancient chapel are discernible on the farm of Fenacre, near the site of the abbey. The water of a spring at Ayshford possesses properties similar to those of the sulphureous waters of Harrogate, in the county of York.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.