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Plympton St. Mary

PLYMPTON ST. MARY, a parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Plympton, Ermington and Plympton, and S. divisions of Devon, ½ a mile (N. W. by W.) from Earl's-Plympton; containing 2757 inhabitants. This parish derives its name from its situation on the river Plym, and the dedication of its church to St. Mary. A college was founded here during the heptarchy by one of the Saxon kings, and afterwards augmented by Edgar, for Black canons; but in consequence of the disobedience of the monks to the injunction of celibacy, it was dissolved in 1121 by William Warlewast, Bishop of Exeter, who established a priory for Canons regular of the order of St. Augustine, which he amply endowed, and dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul. The revenues of the priory were much increased by the families of Baldwin and Valletort, and by the munificence of the nobility and gentry in the neighbourhood. Among its possessions were the tithes of this and several adjoining parishes, various landed estates, St. Nicholas Island, and part of Plymouth, in which town the prior had great authority, with the privilege of giving the casting vote in the appointment of mayor; and until lately the custom of calling his name, and waiting a certain time for his appearance, before the mayor was sworn in, was observed. The priory continued to flourish till the Dissolution, when its revenues were estimated at £912. 12. 8. The only remains are a garden and orchard, in all about eight acres, and some mouldering ruins, adjoining the churchyard.

The parish comprises 9538 acres, of which 1052 are common or waste land; it contains the villages of Ridgeway, Underwood, Colebrook, Hemerdon, Sparkwell, Venton, and Lee Mill Bridge. The scenery is beautifully diversified, and the views abound with interest. The parish is intersected by the road from Exeter to Plymouth; the river Plym flows at one extremity of it, the Erme at the other, and the Tory through its centre. Slate and paving-stone of excellent quality are found; and on the banks of the Plym is Cann quarry, belonging to the Earl of Morley, from which large quantities of slate and paving-stone are sent to London, Brighton, and other parts of the kingdom: the stone is very durable, and resembles the Dove marble in appearance. A canal and railroad, communicating with the Plymouth and Dartmoor railway, have been constructed by his lordship's lessees at a great expense, affording a facility of conveyance for the produce of the quarries. There are likewise some copper and tin mines, of which the largest and most flourishing is called Bottle Hill mine. A cattle-fair is held at Underwood on the festival of St. John the Baptist.

The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, about £150; patrons, the Dean and Canons of Windsor, to whom the tithes, now yielding £1800 per annum, were granted by Edward VI., and who pay an annual stipend to the minister. The church, which stands within the cemetery of the priory, is a large and spacious structure, chiefly in the later English style, with a handsome tower; in the chancel are three sedilia and a piscina of early date. In the north aisle is a monument erected in 1460, to the memory of Richard Strode, of Newnham; and in the south, a similar one to a member of the Courtenay family: there are also several tablets in the church. The poor-law union of Plympton St. Mary comprises nineteen parishes or places, and contains a population of 19,817. The old workhouse occupied the site of an hospital for lepers, founded in the reign of Edward III.; the adjoining lands, forming part of the endowment of the hospital, and called the Maudlyn lands, produce £46 per annum, now appropriated to the relief of lunatics.


Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.