Hatherleigh (St. John the Baptist)

HATHERLEIGH (St. John the Baptist), a market-town and parish, in the union of Oakhampton, hundred of Black Torrington, Black Torrington and Shebbear, and N. divisions of Devon, 29 miles (W. N. W.) from Exeter; containing 1882 inhabitants. This place appears to have been formerly a borough, and to have enjoyed a separate jurisdiction: until within a comparatively recent period there was a pillory in the town. The manor originally belonged to the abbots of Tavistock, one of whom granted to the inhabitants of the borough exclusively the common of Hatherleigh, comprising about 476 acres of extremely good land, abounding with fine springs. The parish contains 7048a. 2r. 26p. of a productive nature; the soil is partly a red mould, in great estimation, and partly dun land on a clay bottom. The surface exhibits much variety of hill and dale, enriched with wood, and enlivened by the rivers Lew, Oke, and Torridge, which bound the parish; the environs are pleasant, and the higher ground affords extensive views. The town, which is situated on the road from Plymouth to Barnstaple, is small and irregularly built, consisting chiefly of low cottages of red loam, roofed with thatch; it has, however, been recently much improved, and is amply supplied with water of excellent quality. About a mile to the north is a handsome and substantial bridge, built over the river Torridge, at the expense of the county, in 1812. A public library was established in 1808, and in 1821 subscription-rooms were fitted up, in which business of a public nature is transacted. The woollen manufacture is carried on; but the inhabitants are principally employed in agriculture, and in working some quarries of good freestone. The market-days are Tuesday and Friday, and a large cattle-market is held on the Friday nearest to the 21st of March; a new market-house has been built. The fairs are on May 21st, June 22nd, Sept. 4th, and Nov. 8th; but if those days happen on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, they are held on the Tuesday following. The town is governed by a portreeve, elected annually at the court leet of the lord of the manor; at which time, also, a jury is sworn, and a tythingman, two constables, and scavengers are appointed.

The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £20, and in the gift of the Trustees of the late James Ireland, Esq.; the impropriation belongs to Mrs. Boughton: the vicarial tithes have been commuted for £224. 10., and the impropriate for £335. 15.; the glebe consists of 51 acres, with a house. The church is in the early English style, with a tower at the west end, surmounted by a neat spire: the windows are embellished with armorial bearings in stained glass; the pulpit is richly carved, and on one side of the altar is a piscina; there are some ancient monuments, among which is a handsome one to the memory of John Lethbridge, who left £100 to the poor. In the churchyard are some elmtrees of large dimensions, completely hollow, and presenting a very picturesque appearance. Here are places of worship for Baptists, Bible Christians, and Plymouth Brethren. Some houses near the church, supposed to have been a college belonging to the abbey of Tavistock, and after the dissolution of that establishment, to have been given to the parish towards the repair of the church, are appropriated as residences for the poor, for whom, in addition to the bequest of John Lethbridge, above noticed, there are some almshouses, and several other charitable donations. In the parish is a spring of exceedingly pure water, which, from its supposed efficacy in curing diseases, is called the Holy Well, and to which, on Holy-Thursday, many people from the neighbouring parishes resort; on Hatherleigh Common, also, is St. John's Well, thought to have been consecrated at the same time as the church. At a short distance from the town is a tenement called Hatherleigh Chapel, considered to have been a religious house, and in the cemetery of which many graves have been discovered. Jasper Mayne, D.D., chaplain to Charles I., and celebrated as a preacher and a dramatic writer, was born in the parish, in 1604.

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