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Crediton (Holy Cross)

CREDITON (Holy Cross), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Crediton, and extending also into that of West Budleigh, Crediton and N. divisions of Devon; comprising the tythings of Cannon-Fee, Crediton, Knowle, Rudge, Town, Uford, Uton, and Woodland; and containing 5947 inhabitants, of whom 2245 are in the borough and tything of Crediton, 8 miles (N. W.) from Exeter, and 180 (W. by S.) from London. This place, which takes its name from its situation near the river Creedy, was for many years the seat of a diocese, of which a collegiate church founded here in 905, and dedicated to the Holy Cross, became the cathedral. In the reign of Canute, Levinus, Bishop of Crediton, prevailed upon that monarch, with whom he had great influence, to annex the see of St. Germans to that of Crediton; and the united see was removed to Exeter by Edward the Confessor, in 1049. A chapter, consisting of a dean and twelve prebendaries, continued to be maintained in the old collegiate church under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Exeter, the revenue of which, at the Dissolution, was £332. 17. 5.: the church, with some lands belonging to it, was granted to twelve of the inhabitants, who were incorporated as governors in the reign of Edward VI. In the reign of Edward I. this borough sent members to a parliament held at Carlisle; and in 1310, Bishop Stapleton obtained for it a grant of a weekly market and three annual fairs. Towards the middle of the sixteenth century, the opponents of the Reformation assembled their troops at Crediton, but were compelled to withdraw by Sir Peter Carew, who was sent against them with a superior force. In 1644, Charles I. reviewed his soldiery at this town, which was subsequently held by the army under Sir Thomas Fairfax. In 1743, a fire destroyed a considerable part of it; a similar calamity occurred in 1769, and in 1840 a fire broke out in the eastern portion of the town, by which 22 houses were consumed.

Crediton is pleasantly situated in a vale near the Creedy, which unites with the river Exe between this place and Exeter. It is divided into two parts, east and west, of which the former, containing the church, is the more ancient, and the latter the more extensive; these have been connected by a line of road lately constructed, and the town now consists chiefly of one main street, nearly a mile in length, containing low cottages at each extremity, with a few well-built houses in the centre. A new market-place has been erected in Northstreet, by J. W. Buller, Esq., lord of the manor, and many other improvements have been made within the last few years, under an act obtained in 1836. Assemblies and concerts take place occasionally, during the winter, in a good assembly-room, conveniently fitted up. The town has long been celebrated for the manufacture of serge, chiefly for exportation, but the business has much declined, and the principal trade is now in making coarse linen-cloth, called brin. An act was passed in 1845 for making a railway to Exeter, and another act in 1846 for a railway to Barnstaple. The market, which is well attended, is on Saturday; and on the Saturday preceding the last Wednesday in April is a large market for cattle, at which more than 1000 head are frequently sold. Fairs for cattle are held in the eastern division of the town, on May 11th and Sept. 21st; and on St. Lawrence's Green, in the western division, on the 21st of August, if it happen on Tuesday or Wednesday, if not, the fair is postponed till the following Tuesday: this fair continues for three days. The town is within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who hold a petty-session every month; and its local affairs are under the superintendence of a portreeve, bailiff, and constables, chosen annually by a jury at the court leet of the lord of the manor. The powers of the county debt-court of Crediton, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Crediton.

The parish is ten miles in length from east to west, and about four miles in extreme breadth, and comprises 10,469 acres, of which 569 are common or waste. The soil in the northern and central portions is a rich red loam, well adapted for grain, with some excellent pasture, and in the southern portion of a clayey nature, coarse, and alternated with copse and brake. The surface is hilly, and richly wooded; the elm grows profusely in the hedge-rows, and the scenery, enlivened with the streams of the Creedy and Exe, is finely varied. At Posberry is a quarry of trapstone, of excellent quality for building and road-making. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £30, with a net income of £425, and in the patronage of the twelve Governors, by whom the church is kept in repair, to whom the impropriation belongs, and who elect a chaplain to assist the vicar: the great tithes have been commuted for £1770. The church, rebuilt in the reign of Henry VII., is a spacious and magnificent cruciform structure, in the later English style, with a square embattled tower rising from the centre. The nave is separated from the aisles by massive columns with ornamented capitals, supporting arches of the decorated English style, and is lighted by an elegant range of clerestory windows with flowing tracery; the original roof of oak, richly carved, and ornamented with transverse ribs and bosses at the intersection, is now concealed by a flat plain ceiling. On the south side of the choir are three stone sedilia; a piscina of a highly interesting character is still remaining, and the church has many ancient monuments, altar-tombs, and brasses. At Posberry is a church dedicated to St. Luke, forming a separate incumbency. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, and Unitarians.

The grammar school was founded and endowed by Edward VI., and further endowed by Queen Elizabeth, who by her charter vested the patronage in the twelve governors of the church, directing them to elect four boys, under the name of Queen Elizabeth's Grammar Scholars, to each of whom 40s. are annually given: there are three exhibitions, of £6. 13. 4. each, to either of the universities, tenable for five years. The Bluecoat school, founded about the year 1730, by subscription, and since endowed with various benefactions, was united with an English school in 1814, and placed under one master, in a house erected in 1806 by the trustees of Sir John Hayward's charity: the annual income is £116. A mathematical school was established in 1794, by Mr. Samuel Dunn, who endowed it with £600 stock, now in the four per cents. The poor law union of Crediton comprises 29 parishes or places, and contains a population of 22,076. Near the church are some slight remains of the episcopal palace; and part of a chapel dedicated to St. Lawrence, connected with one of the prebends of the collegiate church, has been formed into cottages: in the Dean's street is an ancient building said to have formed part of the dean's house, in a portion of which, supposed to have been the refectory, the old ceiling is still preserved. At Yeo is the gable of a barn, formerly a chapel, the east window of which is in good preservation; and on the hill above Posberry is a triple intrenchment of great antiquity. Winifred, Archbishop of Mentz, and legate under several of the popes, who was eminently successful in promulgating Christianity among the Mercians, and suffered martyrdom in the year 354, was a native of this place.

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