BELSTON, or Belstone, is a parish and small village picturesquely seated 2½ miles S.E. of Okehampton, at the northern extremity of Dartmoor Forest, between and near the sources of the rivers Taw and East Okement, where there are many rocky tors and highly interesting Druidical remains. Its parish, which is in Okehampton union, county court district, and rural deanery, Hatherleigh petty sessional division, Southern division of the county, Black Torrington hundred, Totnes archdeaconry, had 134 inhabitants (63 males, 71 females), living in 37 houses on 1500 acres of land. The parish includes 784 acres of open commons and wastes, and the hamlet of Prestacott. The parishioners enjoy the right of pasturing cattle and sheep, and cutting turf, &c., in the forest, on the payment of a small acknowledgment to the Duchy of Cornwall, under the name of Venville (or Fenfield) money, as noticed at page 49. The name of Belston is supposed to be derived from Bel's-ton, the town of Bel or Belus, where the Druids had a temple for the worship of the sun; or from Belstone, or Bel-tor, the rock of Belus. In support of the latter derivation, there is in the adjacent part of the forest a large logan stone. In support of the former derivation, there is upon Watchet Hill a small idol temple, formed of a double circle of erect stones, the inner one referring to the phases of the moon, and the outer to the sun. The river Taw, which rises in the northern part of the forest, derives its name from a deity of the Druids, called Ta-autos, or the thunderer. The old Roman road, between Exeter and Launceston, passed through this parish, entering it at the ford, near the serge mills, and leaving it by the steep hill, west of Sticklepath. The manor of Belstone belonged to an ancient family of its own name till the reign of Henry III., when their three co-heiresses married into the families of Specot, Chamberlayne, and Fulford. Two-thirds of the manor now belong to the Hon. Mark Rolle, and the other third to the present rector. The CHURCH (Virgin Mary) is a small but interesting specimen of Anglo-Saxon architecture, and has a tower and five bells. It is built of granite, and an ancient cross formerly belonging to it is now placed in the wall of an adjacent stable. A very antique stone, bearing a circle and cross, was found in 1861, while pulling down the steps leading to the ancient vestry, and placed in the rector's garden. In the interior are some ancient oak seats, with carved ends, as well as a finely carved old oak screen. The east window was filled with painted glass in 1876. The church was restored in 1877. The Register dates from 1553. The living, a rectory, valued in K.B. at £9 0s. 1d., has £110 in lieu of tithes pursuant to a commutation in 1841, and is in the patronage of the executors of the Rev. Thomas Roberts, and incumbency of the Rev. Arthur Whipham. The glebe is 75 acres. There is a small chapel in the parish, used by BAPTISTS and WESLEYANS. A Reading and Recreation room was built in 1877 by Mrs Lefevre, by whom it is supplied with newspapers, and who intends presenting a library to the same.
LETTERS by foot post at 8 a.m. viâ Okehampton, which is the nearest Money Order Office. There is a WALL LETTER Box cleared at 5.10 p.m. week days only.
Transcribed from History, Gazetteer and Directory of Devon, by William White, 2nd edition, 1878-9