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Modbury (St. George)

MODBURY (St. George), a market-town and parish, in the union of Kingsbridge, hundred of Ermington, Ermington and Plympton, and S. divisions of Devon, 36 miles (S. W. by S.) from Exeter, and 208 (W. S. W.) from London; containing 2048 inhabitants. This place, called in Latin records Motberia, was in the possession of Wado in the time of the Confessor, and subsequently became the property of the Champernownes, of whom Richard Champernowne, in 1334, obtained permission to fortify his manorial residence here. During the contest between Charles and the parliament, the fortress was taken by the garrison of Plymouth, and in February, 1643, Sir N. Stanning, when intrenched here with 2000 soldiers, was defeated by the Devonshire clubmen. The town is situated at the junction of roads from Plymouth, Kingsbridge, and Dartmouth, and occupies the bottom and declivities of a valley; it consists of four streets, which meet at right angles, the point of union being in the lowest part of the town: the inhabitants are supplied with water from three conduits.

The manufacture of woollen goods, which was formerly of great extent, has decayed: there is still some weaving of long ells; also a considerable trade in corn and malt. A creek, navigable for barges, extends from the estuary of the river Erme, which bounds the parish on the west, to within two miles of the town, and facilitates the importation of coal, and the export of the produce of the soil. The principal general market is on Thursday, and there is another on Saturday for butchers' meat; also a great cattle-market on the second Tuesday in every month. A fair takes place on the 4th of May, unless that day fall later in the week than Thursday, in which case it is postponed till the following Tuesday. The town is governed by a portreeve and subordinate officers, who are appointed at one of the courts leet, which are held at Michaelmas and Lady-day. The borough sent two members to parliament in the 34th of Edward I., but was afterwards relieved from making returns, on the plea of its inability to pay their expenses.

The parish comprises 5977 acres, of which 229 are common or waste; the surface is varied, and the scenery in many parts is highly picturesque. The substratum abounds with limestone, which is quarried both for building and for burning into lime; there are also some quarries of slate-stone. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £19. 11. 0½.; net income, £302; patrons and impropriators, the Provost and Fellows of Eton College. The church, which stands upon an eminence south-westward of the town, is an ancient embattled structure, with modern additions; the tower, rebuilt in 1622, is surmounted by a spire. Here are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, and Wesleyans. Some years since, there were slight remains of Modbury House, and also of a Benedictine priory, founded in the reign of Stephen, and dedicated to St. Gregory, as a cell to the abbey of St. Peter sur Dive, in Normandy; its possessions, valued at £70 per annum, were given by Henry VI. to Eton College. Sir John Fortescue, a celebrated lawyer, and lord chief justice in the reign of Henry VI.; and Sir George Baker, M.D., president of the Royal College of Physicians, born in 1722; were natives of the place.

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