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Ashburton (St. Andrew)

ASHBURTON (St. Andrew), a borough, market-town, and parish, in the union of Newton-Abbott, hundred of Teignbridge, Teignbridge and S. divisions of Devon, 19 miles (S. W.) from Exeter, and 192 (W. by S.) from London, on the road to Plymouth; containing 3841 inhabitants. This town, anciently called Aisbertone, in the time of Edward the Confessor belonged to Brietric, and at the Conquest to Judael de Totnais. It seems by Domesday book to have then been part of the demesne of the crown, being therein described as "Terra Regis." The place was subsequently annexed to the see of Exeter: in 1310, Bishop Stapylton obtained for it a grant of a market and four fairs; and in 1672, another market, chiefly for wool and yarn spun in Cornwall, was procured by Mr. John Ford, which has long been discontinued. It was made a stannary town by charter of Edward III., in 1328, being then noted for the mines of tin and copper which abounded in the neighbourhood. Henry IV., in the third year of his reign, granted a charter, declaring that "the men of the manor of Aisbertone, which is ancient demesne of our Crown," should be free from paying toll throughout the kingdom. It also appears that Ashburton belonged to the crown in the time of Charles I., as that king bestowed the manor upon his son Charles, when he created him Prince of Wales. How it was alienated by the crown is unknown; but in the reign of Charles II. it was the property of Sir Robert Parkhurst, and Lord Sondes, Earl of Feversham, the former of whom sold his moiety to Sir John Stawell, of Parke, in South Bovey, by whose executors it was sold to Roger Tuckfield, Esq., from whom Lord Clinton, the present proprietor of one moiety of the borough, claims. The other moiety was, about the same time, purchased by Richard Duke, Esq., and is now vested in Sir L. V. Palk, Bart. In the parliamentary war, Ashburton, having been previously occupied by the royal troops under Lord Wentworth, was taken by Sir Thomas Fairfax, on his march westward, in January 1646.

The town is situated about a mile and a half from the river Dart, and consists principally of one street of considerable length: the houses are built of stone, and roofed with slate, which is obtained from quarries in the vicinity. The inhabitants are well supplied with water; the river Yeo, a rapid stream, runs through the town and turns several mills. There is a book society; and card and dancing assemblies, and music meetings, are frequently held in a handsome suite of rooms at the Golden Lion inn. The environs abound with objects of interest, and the scenery on the banks of the river is celebrated for its picturesque and romantic beauty. The manufacture of serge and other woollen goods for the East India Company is carried on to a very great extent in the town and neighbourhood; there are some mills for fulling cloth and for the spinning of yarn, and in addition to the slate-quarries, mines of tin and copper are still worked. An act was passed in 1846, for constructing a railway from the South-Devon railway at Newton-Abbott to Ashburton, 10½ miles long. The market is on Saturday; and fairs are held on the first Thursdays in March and June, the first Thursday after the 10th of Aug., and on the 11th of Nov., which last is a great sheep fair. Ashburton is a borough by prescription: a portreeve, bailiff, constables, and subordinate officers are appointed annually at a court leet held by the steward of the borough; but they have no magisterial authority. A stannary court is held occasionally. The borough made two returns to parliament, in the 26th of Edward I. and the 8th of Henry IV., but none subsequently until 1640, when the franchise was restored by the last parliament of Charles I.; and until the passing of the Reform act it continued to return two members. It now returns only one, the elective franchise being in the resident freeholders and the £10 householders of the entire parish; the portreeve is the returning officer.

The parish comprises 5074 acres, of which 584 are common or waste. The living is a vicarage, with the livings of Bickington and Buckland-in-the-Moor annexed, valued in the king's books at £38. 8. 11½.; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Chapter of Exeter. The great tithes have been commuted for £390, and the vicarial for £528; the glebe consists of 60 acres. The church, which was formerly collegiate, is a venerable and spacious cruciform structure in the later English style, with a square embattled tower. There are places of worship for Particular Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyans. The free grammar school was founded in the 3rd of James I. by William Werring, and endowed with lands, a portion of which had belonged to the dissolved chantry of St. Lawrence, a fine ancient building with a tower and small spire, now appropriated to the use of the school, and for public meetings: the original endowment was augmented by subsequent benefactions; and two scholarships, each of £30 per annum, in Exeter College, Oxford, were founded in favour of boys educated at the school, by the late Mr. Gifford. The free school, in which 180 children are educated, was endowed in 1754, by Lord Middleton, and John Harris, Esq., then representatives of the borough, in gratitude for the liberality of their constituents; and in 1831 an excellent school-house was built, at the expense of £500. Inconsiderable vestiges of a chapel, which belonged to the abbot of Buckfastleigh, are still discernible in the walls of a house occupied by Mr. Parham. John Dunning, Baron Ashburton, the eminent lawyer, was born here, Oct. 18th, 1731; he died Aug. 18th, 1783, and was interred in the church. Dr. Ireland, Dean of Westminster, and Mr. Gifford, editor of the Quarterly Review, were also natives of the place. The title of Baron Ashburton was revived in 1835, in the person of Alexander Baring, Esq., nephew, by marriage of his father's sister, of the celebrated lawyer above noticed.


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