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Molton, South (St. Mary Magdalene)

MOLTON, SOUTH (St. Mary Magdalene), an incorporated market-town, a parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of South Molton, South Molton and N. divisions of Devon, 28 miles (N. W. by N.) from Exeter, and 181 (W. by S.) from London; containing 4274 inhabitants. This town derives its name from the river Mole, on the western bank of which it is situated, having Exmoor on the north, and Dartmoor faintly perceptible on the south; the streets are well paved, flagged, and lighted with gas, and the inhabitants are supplied with water from wells. The principal branch of manufacture is that of woollen goods, which are occasionally furnished to the East India Company; shalloons, serges, and coarse woollencloth, are the articles chiefly made. The manufacture of lace has been lately introduced. The general market is on Saturday, and others are held on Tuesday and Thursday: there are cattle-fairs on the Wednesday before June 22nd, and the Wednesday after Aug. 26th; and great markets, also for cattle, on the Saturday after February 13th (noted for its fine show of North Devon cattle), and the Saturdays before May 1st, October 11th, and December 12th. For several successive weeks in the spring, there are large markets for sheep.

The town received two charters, one in 1590, granted by Queen Elizabeth, and another in 1684, bestowed by Charles II.; but the government is now vested in a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, under the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76. The mayor and late mayor are justices of the peace, possessing jurisdiction concurrently with the county magistrates, who hold petty-sessions in a building over the cornmarket. The powers of the county debt-court of South Molton, established in 1847, extend over the greater part of the registration-district of South Molton. The borough sent representatives to parliament once in the reign of Edward I. The town-hall is a handsome stone building; the prison was erected at an expense of £2000. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £200; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Canons of Windsor, whose tithes have been commuted for £840, and who have a glebe of 233 acres. The church is a very spacious structure in the ancient English style, repaired in 1829, at a cost of £2000, and contains a richly carved pulpit of stone. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans. A free school was founded in 1684, by Hugh Squire, who endowed it with an annuity of £40; a Blue school was established in 1711; a Diocesan commercial school has been instituted, and a national school is supported by subscription. The union of South Molton comprises 29 parishes or places, containing a population of 20,978. Some vestiges of ancient encampments are visible at Cadbury and other places near the town. The late Mr. Justice Buller received the early part of his education at the free school here; and the Rev. Samuel Badcock, who distinguished himself in a controversy with Dr. Priestley, and assisted Dr. White in writing his celebrated Bampton Lectures, was born at South Molton in 1747.

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