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Old Parish Property

The Parish AlmshouseThe Church HouseThe WorkhouseJohn Sopers GiftThe Tannery – The Plot of Ground in the Old Way

The Parish Almshouse

In 1597 legislation created a new parish officer post, that of Overseer of the Poor. The law required at least two officers but in Chudleigh there were four. Their duties were to work out how much money would be needed for the relief of the poor and set the poor rate accordingly. Their duty was also to collect the poor rate from property owners and then to relieve the poor by dispensing either food or money and supervise the parish poor-house. Although space at the church house had already been put to use for paupers along with a house rented for the purpose from a Mr John Keene (in some records as John Reeve), the new legislation and the passing of the 'Elizabethan Poor Law' in 1601 made it apparent that the space those properties afforded was not sufficient for a parish the size of Chudleigh.

In the year 1607, as was then usual at the Whitsuntide parish meeting at the church house, the usual officers were elected for the coming year including the Overseers of the Poor. Mindful of the ongoing responsibilities to the poor Mr Thomas Clifford (1572–1634, and ordained 1611) having already collected some money towards the scheme, proposed a larger almshouse in place of the buildings in the old way previously used for that purpose. The money collected was allowed to stay with him until the parish agreed to build a suitable building. In 1610 a contract was signed with Mr Jasper Luscombe for the work and the building erected in the old way and completed in 1611. The costs were ultimately defrayed partly by public funds and partly private subscription.

In 1597 the parish had acquired from Thomas Bridges various properties that would be rented out and the monies applied for the benefit of the poor. One of the acquisitions was a plot of ground lying in the old way between Chudleigh town and Broomsland Gate. It was on this piece of land that the almshouses were built. Mary Jones (1852) described the building as consisting of two storeys of five rooms each with a wooden gallery outside leading to the upper apartments. She also remarked that the premises were located in Pottery Lane near the junction with Fore Street but in reality they were more likely located where Lee Terrace stands today.

The new almshouse of 1611 was also referred to at times as the hospital and like the church house, placed quite a financial burden on the parish. The parish accounts show the following:

1627 The Almshouse was cleaned out and littered with straw for the accommodation of sick soldiers, home from the wars with Spain, France and Austria.
1679 'Pd. John Shut for work done upon the Alms House, for stones and lyme and laths and nayles and pines and all materials £9 10s 2d.' Also 'paid for 155 kitches of reed for the Parish House in the old way £1 11s.' and 'paid Thomas Spray for 2 boards and nayles and labour about the Almshouses 6s 8d.'
1734 'mending the glass of the Almshouses 3s 9d.'
1750 An annual payment first appeared in this year 'paid for sweeping the Almshouse chimneys 2s 6d.'
1771 'lyme for the Almshouses £3 12s 6d. Paid Mr John Bowden for Slatt for the Almshouses £2 5s, paid labourer three days work at the Almshouse 3s 6d and eighty pound coarse wool mix with the Lyme at the Almshouses 14s 8d'

For a short time during the period 1795–1800 officers and men of the North Devon Militia were billeted at the almshouses and the building was then referred to as 'The Barracks'. In 1820 the premises with its outbuildings gardens and orchards was held under lease from the parish by Mr John Flood, an earthenware manufacturer whose trade had given its name to the lane referred to up until then as the old way. With the workhouse in Fore Street built and the Pottery Lane buildings in a poor state, John Flood demolished them and rebuilt on the site at his own expense. In 1823 the Charity Commissioners described the then existing premises as a messuage, tenement houses, out-houses, buildings, courtlage, orchard and gardens, bounded by the street leading from Ashburton, towards Exeter, on the south.

The Armshouses in old way – at this time known as The Barracks.
Picture by Hendrik de Cort, dated 1798

Today, the site of the old almshouse and pottery has long been built over, developments including the Oldway houses (1930s), Lee Terrace (1993) and the Great Hill housing development (1988). But reference to old parish maps the long thin plot lying along the old way on its north side and mainly opposite Skaigh Engineering can be traced quite easily.

Sometime in the early 1900s the parish were gifted a property that was then let out as an almshouse. The Mid Devon Advertiser reported on 26 November 1904 that 'some time ago' Miss Winter gave a dwelling house pleasantly situated near the station now under the management of the Charity Governors that was large enough for two old couples but that remained empty. The donor, Anne Winter was originally from London and at the 1891 census date had been staying with the Wright family at the adjacent Coburg House. She presumably had acquired the cottages at about that time.

The house referred to in the newspaper was the dwelling since called Old Pound Cottage located where the Parade becomes Station Hill. The Weekly Express described the accommodation as 'each having a bedroom and sitting room, with the occupiers having to bring their own furniture. There will also be one spare bedroom and a kitchen which each set of occupants will share'.

In March 1926 the council minutes indicate correspondence with the Charity Commissioners in connection with the proposed sale of the two cottages and one year later at the Town Hall was an auction, at which Miss James of 'Fairfield', (No. 3 Parade) was the purchaser at £355. The Lot was described as 'two semi detached cottages, known as Chudleigh Almshouses, formerly one house'. Miss James also took the Old Pound for the previously agreed price of £20. The Weekly Express also added that 'the ancient "Chudleigh Pound" was one of the few left in the county and whose usefulness was long past'. Miss James subsequently took up residence at the cottage, the building returning to use as a single residence. Miss James lived at the house until her death in 1953.

The Church House

From the earliest times church houses co-existed alongside the parish church and through the various uses to which they were put generated an income for the church which was then administered via the vicar and churchwardens for the benefit of the poor.

In Chudleigh the earliest mention of its church house is in a deed dated 1 May 1597 although it is likely that it could have existed for at least fifty years by that date. Surviving church houses elsewhere and surviving documents associated with them point to some being constructed as early as 1400. Church houses are still commonplace in some villages, particularly in the Teignbridge area. A number have survived as inns and the large two-storey church house at Kenton still serves as the village primary school. A church house open to the public is the one administered by the National Trust and located at Widecombe-in-the-Moor.

The buildings always served purposes for the parish and in the early days often provided a meeting room for matters that were not considered appropriate for discussion in the church. It was common for parts to be let as accommodation for an aged widow or paupers, depending on the space available. Beer would be brewed and bread baked and sold to generate funds for the church who would in turn distribute payments back to the poor. It has been suggested that their first use was to provide shelter for builders/masons working on the church. Another regular use was to provide living accommodation for the sexton and to provide space for teaching a small number of poor boys of the parish. The master would receive a payment for his services and in return maintain the property and be provided with living accommodation.

In common with others of the type the building was of basic construction and design, likely with walls of stone, under a roof of thatch and having two floors. The Chudleigh building was located at the junction of Vicarage Lane and Fore Street and today the open space in front of the entrance to Swanston House roughly marks its former location. It seems to have been a long building and followed the Swanston House boundary along Vicarage Lane for some distance. The upper storey was reached by an outside staircase and it has been suggested that this was roughly in line with the (now closed up) door in the north chancel wall of the church. There was a natural space between it and the last building in Fore Street (today No. 34, Diamond Cut) and so it was not consumed in the Great Fire which occurred on 22 May 1807.

From the parish accounts the building seems to have been a constant drain on parish resources and on many occasions was under repair, for example in 1561: 'for stopping the roof and timber for same'; in 1679: 'schoolhouse stairs, timber work 8s 6d'; and in 1683: '£4 paid toward the reparation of the schul-house being fallen (part of it)'.

In 1595 one of the tenants was Walter Comings who also rented 'a garden plot' adjoining. Parish records show that he fell into arrears with his rent, was arrested and sent to the Exeter debtors prison – for how long was not recorded.

For nearly 150 years the job of sexton was held by a family named Adams. From about 1790 Jonas Adams was living rent free at the church house and remained there until his son took over in about 1835. He carried out the duties of sexton for the next thirty years although he had moved out of the church house shortly following 1841, moving to a cottage in Clifford Street. He died in 1869 and was replaced by his son, James. By June 1905 he was replaced by his son, William who was initially verger and then in addition, sexton. On 29 September 1939 William Adams celebrated his fiftieth year as verger. His son went on to follow him in the same role up until the 1970s. Quite a record of achievement for one family.

Surviving records dating from 1605 specifically mention its use as a place of teaching and until the founding of Pynsent's Free Grammar School in 1668 it was the only educational foundation mentioned in the parish records. The salary per quarter was 10s and the school was kept when there was a master to teach the children. It seems though that teaching was not continuous in those early days and in 1658 records reveal that there was a great need of an able schoolmaster and the Seven Men agreed with a Mr. William Pollexfen to come and reopen the old school as master to commence from 1 February 1659 receiving £13 6s 8d for his first year. He was to teach six poor men's children of the parish and in return he would also 'keep the schoolroom and chamber adjoining in convenient repair.' He was provided with two chambers for his own occupation but if he was not satisfied with them then the parish would pay 20 shillings towards the rent of a chamber 'he shall procure himself of his own liking.' The Pollexfen family were an ancient one and originally seated at Kitley House in the parish of Yealmpton. The 1660 Poll Tax Return for Chudleigh lists Mr William Pollexfen schoolmaster and his wife.

Rev. Richard Eastchurch Rector of Manaton in his will dated 14 March 1692 provided an annual sum to the church wardens of £4 12s 6d, half of which was to provide bibles and 'other good books' by the minister and the remainder to be paid 'to such person or persons as should diligently teach four poor children to read the scriptures.' Additional funds from the parish increased the master's annual salary to £10. At a subsequent time the number of poor children eligible increased to nine. The payment was out of his estate at Chattishole (Cats Hole), near Farley Mill. He was originally of the Lawell Eastchurch family.

In 1781 the schoolmaster was Mr. William Hooper. He put forward a petition to the vicar and churchwardens requesting that he be able to carry out his teaching duties from his home. His request was granted and from that point the future masters also taught from their homes rather than use the room at the church house. In 1783 Mr. William Bond, originally of Kenton, was next appointed as master of the school and at about the same time he was also appointed as vestry clerk. As was by then usual he taught nine boys at his home that had been selected by the vicar and churchwardens. He still had use of the church house but only used the accommodation as a lumber store. Mr George Flood next followed Mr Bond in 1827 but he too chose to use his home rather than the church house for the schooling of the parish children.

From at least the 1820s the church house had seen little gainful use and by the mid-1850s was in a very dilapidated state. The vicar and churchwardens then sought permission from the Charity Commissioners to sell the building rather incur the expense of carrying out extensive repairs. John Williams the occupier of adjacent Elm Grove, and a member of the vestry committee, bought the property from the church for £125 and in 1859 the building was taken down. The space it created allowed for a new entrance to Elm Grove and gave better access to the principal north eastern entrance to the churchyard which had been constructed a few years earlier in 1847. This new entrance had replaced earlier steep steps from Fore Street which were located almost opposite the church tower.

The Weekly Express newspaper briefly reported the demise of the church house in August 1859:

'The demolition of the building has been commenced, and those to whom the reminiscences of school-boy days, were agreeable or displeasing, will be cheered by the prospect of a considerable improvement being made in respect of appearance on Church Hill. The removal of this sterile pile will afford a more pleasing view to the occupants of the opposite houses'.

With the benefit of hindsight it is a pity that a building of such antiquity has not survived. Today, no doubt it would be architecturally regarded as a building of considerable historical interest.

The Workhouse

The original building that served as the parish workhouse adjoined the Plymouth Inn (Bishop Lacy) on its south side and was of considerable antiquity. From recollections of old inhabitants, Mary Jones in her History of Chudleigh (Second Edition 1875) described the building as having small lattice windows, stone-arched doorways and was 'an altogether imposing structure, part of which was a spacious room, supposed by some to have at one time served as a chapel'.

It appears that it, and the neighbouring inn (today the Bishop Lacy), which still displays many old architectural features, were part of the same complex of buildings. In the ownership of the church it has been suggested that they were used as accommodation by the clergy on the occasions when the bishop was resident at the nearby palace. It is said that a tunnel once connected the buildings to the parish church directly opposite, though there is no known written or physical evidence for this.

Bishop Lacy was Bishop of Exeter from 1420 to 1455, the latter date being the year of his death and it was he that had a residence built at Chudleigh. It is reasonable to assume that the buildings had their origins at that period. The palace seems to have fallen out of use following his death and does not appear in records until the time of Bishop Vesey, who was bishop 1519–1551. The Reformation took place towards the end of his incumbency (1547–1550) and it was the case that the palace and its associated property were sold into private hands at that time.

An indenture survives in the parish records dated 10 June 1675 that particularly mentioned this building which was likely at least 100 years old by then. Within that document the 'messuage, tenement, houses and gardens' were transferred from the ownership of Nicholas Stuckie of Ashcombe to Hugh Lord Clifford and twenty-one others of the parish of Chudleigh for the sum of £140. The intent set out in the indenture was that 'its profits, use and benefit should remain for the better maintenance and relief of the poor by settling the same for a common workhouse and by setting the poor inhabitants on work according to law'.

From the outset part of the building had also served as the town gaol, which probably in reality was better described as a lock-up, likely consisting of a couple of small rooms with stout doors. The gaol was mentioned in parish records as having repairs in 1678, 1689 and 1730. On 16 May 1744 at a parish meeting it was decided that from then on, as it had become impossible to board out all the aged poor and infirm that the old gaol only be called the workhouse and solely used for employing and maintaining the poor. Mr John Daymond was appointed as governor at a yearly salary of £10. It was also decided that 'Mr William Caunter in whose possession it now is on a lease for his life be relieved of the high rate now paid by him in return for giving it up and be paid 40s per year for his life.'

The building was at least of two floors, the large ground floor room likely serving as the communal space and dining-hall. No doubt there was a large kitchen area and probably outbuildings which would have contained a bath room, wash-house and brew-house. One of the main occupations of the paupers was that of oakum picking and there would have been a separate room set aside for this. The upper floor would have accommodated the men, women and children, of all ages in separate dormitories. It is also likely that two separate rooms were set aside as schoolrooms for boys and girls where they would be taught to read. Additionally the boys would learn gardening and shoemaking and the girls housewifery. At the rear would have been the fairly extensive grounds, at least with a piggery, possibly stables and space for chickens to roam. Here too would be the vegetable plots, grown for the benefit of the inmates.

The building continued to serve its purpose down through the years but was not usually kept in a good state of repair. In 1753 various remedial works were carried out and again in 1772 substantial work must have been required as the sum of £93 8s 8d was paid out; specific things mentioned were plastering the chimneys and repairing the roof. By the time of the fire in 1807 the accommodation was considered unfit even for emergency living space. The roof in particular needed re-slating before those displaced by the fire could be accommodated. Despite its poor condition it appears that schooling in some form was still continuing under the direction of schoolmaster Mr James Efford whose main occupation was that of printer.

In 1821 the workhouse governor was William Burnell who may be the same person that owned The George Inn (Mill Lane) until it became The Kings Arms c1816. He died in 1829, ten years before the workhouse finally closed.

In 1811 The National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church in England and Wales (the National School) was founded and within two years plans were in hand to expand the teaching facility at the workhouse by creating a school for boys and girls using the principles promoted by Mr. Bell, known as the Madras system of education.

The lack of general maintenance to the building seems to have continued so much so that by 1818 the decision was taken to demolish it and build a replacement. Whether the building was completely demolished and rebuilt is not known but in any event the schooling would have been disrupted for a period. Schooling continued at the new workhouse building and in 1833 the Parliamentary Return showed that there were 30 boys and 35 girls in attendance, the master's salary being £25 per year and the mistress £20 per year.

The parish continued to support its own poor until the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 which decreed that several parishes should form a union to be administered by a board of governors. Subsequently Newton Abbot Union was constituted which comprised a total of thirty-nine parishes. Building of the Newton Abbot workhouse commenced in 1837 and was ready for its first paupers in 1839; those at Chudleigh at that time were duly transferred. On census day in 1851 of sixty-one inmates at Newton Abbot fourteen showed their birthplaces to have been Chudleigh.

With the paupers moved to the Newton Abbot workhouse the majority of the building was then basically redundant and the parish were probably unsure what to do with it. Schooling had however continued there and it was likely at this point that town benefactor John Williams stepped in. He purchased the building from the parish and at his own expense arranged for the necessary works to provide spacious boys, girls and infants schoolrooms along with a committee room and accommodation for the female teacher. It is possible at this point that a third floor was added. This new National School operated on the five weekdays and provided a Sunday school. He continued to cover the expense of all ongoing maintenance of the building and thus presented it to the school committee free from any expense whatsoever.

From the time of the improvements Mr. Henry Brown, originally of London was the headmaster for the years 1837 to 1839. He then returned to Shoreditch and his place was taken by local man Mr William Shamler who stayed until 1849, at which time he moved to Plymouth. Mr. Henry Brown had come back to Chudleigh by that time with his wife and children and lived in a parish-owned cottage in Pottery Lane that had been built on the site of the earlier parish almshouse.

The Mistress from the time of the 1838/39 improvements was local-born Miss Mary Martin who lived in Culver Street. When the boys and girls moved out to their new school in 1858 she moved into the teacher's accommodation and supervised the infants until they moved to their new accommodation in 1860 at which point she retired. She then moved to a cottage at Wych (now Parkway Road) where she died in 1872. The school, whose average annual expense in the 1850's was stated as £125 continued to be supported entirely by voluntary contributions.

On 3 July 1855 the children of the Chudleigh National Schools received their annual treat in the Play Park and the local newspaper records that their number totalled 223. The article continued: 'their appearance and behaviour was highly satisfactory and reflected great credit on all who were concerned in their training.' Amongst the distinguished visitors present was Mr. John Williams, 'the liberal patron of these schools, and to whom we are mainly indebted for their continuance.'

In 1857 a local directory shows that the average number of boys attending in the previous year was sixty-six, girls forty and infants forty. Mr. Brown was still the master and Miss. Martin the mistress although by then the previous infant teacher, Miss Mary Hoare, had been replaced by Miss. Mary Widdicombe.

The following year it was decided by the committee that the accommodation was no longer suitable for the purpose and so fresh premises were sought. A new building, to accommodate 248 children was built for £1200-£1500 (which now houses the library and youth club) the costs of which were again through the benevolence of John Williams and that time additionally by Sir David Dunn of Rocklands.

By the end of 1860 the school had fully vacated the premises and parts of the building were then let to a number of tenants over the next thirty years, a latter owner of the premises being a Mr T Ball. The Mid Devon Advertiser reported in May 1895 that his sister, a Mrs Elliott had 'purchased some freehold property formerly known as the Workhouse' for £497.

On 1 January 1896 a Constitutional Club was formed in the town and it was that club who took over the majority of the premises later that year. In 1909 the club was enlarged by the absorption of a couple of cottages to the rear of the building. At about this date a balcony was erected at the front of the building from which the results of elections were announced. 'The Con Club' is still the current occupier, having been so for over 110 years.

John Sopers Gift

In the Charity Commissioner report of 1822 and published in 1829 it gives details of a house given by will dated 1622 to Chudleigh parish that belonged to John Soper. The house 'in which Walter Cumming dwelt' under the yearly rent of £1 6s 8d, was given 'to the poor of Chudleigh for ever'. When their report was compiled the house was in the occupation of William Bailey. At the time of the 1807 fire a William Bailey (a tailor) claimed £44 5s 6d and was reimbursed in full, was this the same person perhaps?.

The premises gifted to the parish were described in the lease as a house and herb garden thereto adjoining and at that time (1822) the house had been divided; one tenement occupied by William Bailey; another that consisted of a room on the ground floor and a chamber over, let by him to an under-tenant; and also a chamber situated over a room, which was understood not to be property of the parish, and which chamber was under-let by him to the occupier of that room. Their report went on to say that the house was old but in tenantable repair. Income from this property was used to provide smocks and shoes to the parish needy.

It is not apparent where these premises were located but from other sources we know they stood opposite the church in Fore Street. In the parish church is a plaque headed 'Gifts to the Poor of Chudleigh'. Included is the entry 'Mr John Soper gave his House near the Churchyard for ever'.

The tablet in the church recording John Soper's gift

In 1621, the year before the date of his will, an enquiry was instituted as to the use of the pot water. It was allowed free 'to the shute at Jno. Soper's house'. This would suggest that the house gifted by him was not the one he personally resided in as the pot water did not run in that part of Fore Street opposite the church. Eleven years later (1632) the Overseers' Accounts mention 'John Sopers house in Towne' so this would suggest he was at a more central location and probably on the Clifford Arms (east) side of the main street where we know the pot water ran across the rear garden plots.

In the churchwarden's accounts of 1799 is an entry showing that £2 was paid for shirts and shifts given to the poor 'on account of the high rent for Sopers House'.

Mary Jones in her second edition of 1875 said:

'John Soper gave a house, in which Walter Cumming dwelt, under the yearly rent of £1 6s 8d to the poor of Chudleigh for ever. This house, near the church, was taken down many years ago, and two other tenements built thereon, which by the recent expiration of a long lease has fallen into the hands of the trustees of the parish lands.'

On Saturday 1 June 1878 at the Clifford Arms an auction was held of parish property, lot 3 being:
Two cottages situate in Fore Street, opposite the church called 'Soper's Gift', and the garden and out-houses belonging thereto, now in the occupation of Messrs John Truman and William Wellington'. The first bid was £100, and after good competition it was knocked down to Mr C H Coose for £200.

Both Truman and Wellington were still in Fore Street at the 1881 census date and it appears that the two houses they were occupying were what are today 54 Fore Street (Wellington) and 55 Fore Street (Truman). These being the middle (The Olde Well House) and right-hand two of three that present their gables to the street immediately to the right of the Bishop Lacy.

The Tannery in Exeter Way

The first evidence of leather being produced in the town was the will of John Soper, described as a tanner of Chudleigh who died in 1640. We also know that his son, of the same name was also a tanner as on 25 March 1650 he was described as such in a sale deed whereby he conveyed Mills Park, a close of land adjacent to the three mills called Park Mills to Andrew Cholwich. The next reference found dates to the year 1707. In that year William Caseley was recorded as a tanner.

An old deed dated 24 November 1724 between John Westcott, tanner and 'The Seven Men' (the early parish council) is a further reference to a tanner in the town. The deed refers to a water supply to Westcott from the Town Leat, basically stipulating that if he paid £3 each year he could take as much water as could run through a round hole of a half inch diameter to his courtlage provided there was always sufficient water at the Western Shute by the Free School (now The Old House).

Nearly twenty years later (1743) a John Westcott was still recorded as a tanner and someone (a son probably) was still running a tanning business in the 1780s.

In 1638 certain premises had been gifted to the parish and were from that time under the care of the Charity Governors and it seems that the tannery, four cottages, various outbuildings and gardens, (all collectively known as The Bell House), located in Exeter Way (Old Exeter Street) were leased out. The resulting income then used 'for the benefit of the poor'.

In a 1798 town directory is listed Thomas Pulling as tanner and nine years later at the time of the fire he claimed (as a tanner) the sum of £253 3s 6d. However, his claim was not upheld in full and he received £207 7s 3d. In the same list of claimants another tanner, by the name of William Lemon claimed £32 16s 11d and received £22 16s 10d. The tannery, located in the 'V' of Culver Street (New Exeter Street) and Exeter Way (Old Exeter Street) no doubt suffered badly in the fire and is particularly reflected in Thomas Pulling's claim.

At the time of the Charity Commissioner report into town charities carried out in 1822, William Lemon was still a lessee of the Exeter Way premises as was George Pulling who it was stated had followed a John Pulling.

In 1823 it appears the leasehold was for sale, the following appeared in the local press:

'Covenient dwelling house with an excellent tan yard in the centre of the town of Chudleigh together with Drying House, Drying Loft, Pound House, Bark Linhays, Stable. Store-room &c. NB. These premises have lately been put in complete repair...have a never failing stream of water, and lie in the midst of a country abounding with oak timber...for viewing the Premises apply to Mr Geo. Pulling Chudleigh.'

The advertisement caught the eye of Moretonhampstead man, John Berry who by 1830 was running 'a considerable tannery business' according to the Chudleigh town directory of that year. His son John also joined him in the business which was still flourishing twenty years later. Water for use in the tanpits came from the Town Leat (Pot Water) that flowed down the street from the dividing chamber (near Highlands Park today) conveniently passing the premises as it flowed on to The Square.

John Berry senior had died prior to the 1861 census and the business was then in the hands of his son who only survived his father a few years, dying in February 1870. His widow Prudence Berry continued the trade but not for long. In the October of that year the tanyard was advertised for sale and included a 'capital horse-power bark mill'. Although the yard was supplied from the leat it would seem that extra power was required for grinding the oak bark and so a horse mill would have been essential. Prudence Berry it seems did not continue into the 1870s and it was likely the yard and outbuildings were leased to others. One of the cottages later found use as The Chudleigh Library and Reading Rooms.

The parish undertook a sale by auction of much of its property in 1878 and The Bell and its adjoining tan yard (said to contain 4,500 feet of space), cottages and gardens were together sold in two lots. A total of £679 was realised from the sale which was then invested by the Charity Governors in Consols.

Today, the site contains only residential property but a memory of the trade once carried out there lives on in the name Tannery Mews.

The Plot of Ground in the old way & Broomsland Gate

What is today (and since 1913) called Oldway was formerly called Pottery Lane. This latter name had been associated with the lane since at least 1781, before that it was simply the old way. The pottery premises that gave their name to the lane were held on lease from the parish by John Flood who in the town directory for 1822 was described as an earthenware manufacturer. Parish Apprenticeship Indentures mention a John Flood, potter, at various dates in the period 1787–1836 and in the latter year as a builder involved with the rebuilding of Crocombe Bridge over the Teign at Trusham. It is likely with the span of years that there were two persons of the same name, most likely a father and son. Indentures also have a John Flood (but may have been Floud) innkeeper at the Red Lion in 1811 and 1812.

In 1823 the Charity Commissioners carried out a review of the property owned by the parish and in the list of rentals was the following:

John Flood (lessee). Tenements, two houses, workshop, garden and orchard, in the old way between Chudleigh town and Broomsland gate. Term – 99 years from 21 May 1781.

The Commissioners observations were that the lessee ' has taken down some old cottages, and has built the present tenement at considerable expense'. Mary Jones said that the parish almshouses stood in Pottery Lane close to the junction with Fore Street and that they were taken down in the early 1820s. It would seem that the 'old cottages' referred to by the Commissioners were in fact those used as the almshouses from 1610. It would also be reasonable to assume that the parish almshouses would have been built on parish property and on land which according to the original indenture was always to be put to use 'for the benefit of the poor'.

Separately in their description of parish property they also mentioned a messuage, tenement houses, out-houses, buildings, courtlage, orchard and gardens, bounded by the street leading from Ashburton, towards Exeter, on the south. This may or may not be the same property that John Flood was leasing from the parish but seems likely. Both Pottery Field and Pottery Meadow lie to the south of the lane referred to as old way and opposite the 'plot' belonging to the parish.

The town directory for 1830 shows John Flood in the same trade as do the Electoral Rolls in each of 1832 and 1833 in which his location was given as 'in the old road'. In the same lists was William Hayes whose freehold land and houses were located 'near the Pottery'. William Hayes was a farmer and lived at Moors House, what is today Great Hill Farm. He died 11 January 1874 aged 85, his wife pre-deceased him on 8 January 1871 aged 72. They are buried in the churchyard and have a gravestone marker. Another of the same name (his son perhaps?) appears as a 'cider retailer' in directories at Pottery Lane through to 1873.

Moors House was likely the house of James Moor who in 1717 drew up an indenture to the effect that income from his Broomsland or Brownsland fields be directed toward the 'maintenance of a Protestant minister to officiate, preach, and pray in the said Meeting House.' (Congregational Chapel). Immediately adjacent to his house was Moors Meadow and just along the old way to the south was Broomsland Gate, the entrance to the fields of the same name, which on the 1838 Tithe Apportionment listing were called 'Bransdons Meadow' (sic) and 'Lower Brownsland Field'.

There is an entry for John Flood in the 1835/38 Electoral Rolls although then the location was given as 'old way Skinners'. The premises described as leasehold houses, garden and orchard. It would seem that the pottery ceased at about that time as there is no evidence of its existence on the 1841 census. With its demise the dwellings were let by the parish to a succession of tenants. The 1851 census shows one of these to be Mr Henry Brown and family who at that time was the master of the National School in Fore Street.

The Charity Commissioner, when reviewing the old parish deeds referred back to the indenture dated 1 May 1597 which included, amongst other lands and premises 'a plot of ground, being in the old way between Chudleigh town and Broomsland gate, on the south part'.

Looking at the tithe map of 1838 it appears that the plot referred to was the thin strip of land lying along the north side of the old way and opposite to the two fields called Pottery Field and Pottery Meadow. Quite when the pottery was first established has yet to be discovered but seems to have been about 1781. Travelling down Oldway from its junction with Fore Street the fields were to be found on the left side of the lane and their boundary corners with the road can be marked with the modern bungalow 'Morcote' and ending just before Beechwood Cottage. A quarter acre of Pottery Field was sold off in 1868 (vendor Samuel Whiteway of Town Mills, for £85) for the building of the gas works. The pottery was on the right side probably somewhere in the vicinity of Lee Terrace or just beyond.

An auction was held on Saturday 1 June 1878 at the Clifford Arms. This auction comprised five lots of parish property, lots four and five were described as follows:

Lot 4. A parcel of land, orchard, and garden plots, in the old way, extending from Broomsland Gate to the eastern (sic) [should be western wall] of the linhay, together with the cottage and outbuildings thereon, occupied by Mr Samuel Lendon and Mrs Sarah Bowden. The lot was bought by Mr H A Crook for £177.
Lot 5. Another parcel of land in the old way, extending from the said linhay up to the southern corner of the lane leading to Winsor's Meadow, and the dwelling house and premises thereon, in the occupation of Elias Brimmicombe, and the cottage, yard and outbuildings adjoining thereto. The lot was bought by Mr George Tucker for £145.

At the 1881 census date, Elias Brimmicombe, then a 47 year old labourer, was with his wife and family in Pottery Lane. It would seem that he was residing just beyond the location of the house later named Torview and today 88 Oldway. Almost opposite Broomsland Gate is a small brick built house. Believed to have been originally built for the chauffeur to Col. Buchan (Collingwood, Parade) this may in fact have been the original gas works employee accommodation.

Today the strip of land comprises part of the 1930s Oldway development, what was formerly the gas managers house (88 Oldway), Lee Terrace, the entrance through to the Great Hill development and a small row of modern houses leading up toward Fore Street. The first specific reference to this name appeared in an indenture of May 1597 of which the following is an extract:

Thomas Bridges sells to Hugh Clifford and the governing body of the Parish for £150, the markets and fairs the market halls, weekly fairs, by-annual fairs, playing grounds and all profits and revenues for the support of the poor of the Parish together with a plot of ground in Oldway between Chudleigh town and Broomes Land Gate on the South part.

The following year Thomas Bridges sold Brownes Lands, Tingemarsh (Teign Marsh), Oxencombe, Bathe Place and Parke ground to Trente. Initially it would seem that Broomes Land and Brownes Lands were different places but with the benefit of access to a number of different sources it is the case that the one name has often been spelled differently, for example we have:
  Broomes Land
  Brownes Land
  Branchlands and

The name was a familiar one at least into the 1870s when the parish still owned the plot of ground in the old way. However since then the name passed into disuse and it is only now with some in depth research that the location of the Broomsland Gate and the fields of the same name have been accurately plotted on the map. The fields in question lie halfway down Oldway on the right side just before the lane known as Dark Lane that leads under the dual carriageway to Putts Hills wood.

A deed of 12 October 1713 mentions the fields; Mr George Geer of Kenn purchased on a mortgage fee of £300 to Mr John Hornbroke of the Lower Bromeland alias the Western or Nether Bromelands with one quillet of land lying in the land called Teignmarsh, near adjoining to the same anciently called by the name of Balls or Hunts.

By 1717 the fields were in the ownership of James Moor who lived approximately where Great Hill farm is located today. He was a member of the Congregational Chapel and set up an indenture to the effect that income from his Broomsland or Brownsland fields be directed toward the 'maintenance of a Protestant minister to officiate, preach, and pray in the said Meeting House.'

In the Overseers' of the Poor accounts in 1758 we have Mr Paddon for Branslands and in 1777, there is a reference to 'Mr Joseph Yeo for Bransland Coxs'.

We then move forward to the time of Mr William Bond, schoolmaster who had come to Chudleigh in 1780 and remained here until his death in 1829. The Land Tax records for the years 1797 to 1829 inclusive show him to be the proprietor (owner) of the field(s) referred to as Coxs Brownsland.

Then by reference to the Electoral Rolls we find that for the period 1835 to 1837 we have 'freehold Browneslands, old way' in the ownership of Frendus Mayhew who was stated to be of London.

The 1838 Tithe Apportionment shows Bransdons (sic) Meadow (field number 1365) in the ownership of William Boult and occupation of Daniel Wotton the acreage being 2 acres 2 roods and 1 poles. Lower Brownsland Field (field number 1367) – separated from the other by Bottom Meadow (field number 1366) – was in the ownership of Rev Dr Henry Perkins and in the occupation of William Cleave, this field extended to 14 acres 1 rood 2 poles.

Those who farm the area today were not aware of the Broomsland name (or its location). It was common knowledge from at least 1597 to the late 1800s and then fell into disuse. It has therefore been very satisfying to be able to unearth the location from the various fragmented records and maps and make it known once again.

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