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CREDITON is an ancient market town, picturesquely seated between two hills, on the western bank of the river Creedy, near its confluence with the small river Yew, eight miles N.W. of Exeter. It is approached by excellent turnpike roads. and is near the line of the intended Taw Valley Railway, which will here join the Exeter and Crediton Railway, which terminates in the Bristol and Exeter Railway, near Cowley Bridge, but will not be opened till 1850, though the rails have been laid more than twelve months. Owing to unfortunate disputes, the Taw Valley line may not be finished for some years. CREDITON PARISH comprises no less than 12,039 acres of fertile land, and had 5947 inhabitants in 1841. It is in eight divisions or tythings, of which the following are the names, with their population in 1841, viz., Crediton Borough, 2245; Canon Fee, 1411; Town, 663; Uford, 286; Uton, 384; Knowle, 392; Rudge, 265; and Woodland, 301. These tithing comprise many scattered farm houses, &c., and several handsome mansions, and extend more than two miles north, west, and south of the town. The soil is generally fertile, and the surface rises in bold hills from the two rivers. Crediton gives name to this Hundred, to the large Union noticed at page 267, and to a Polling and County Court District, as well as to a Petty Sessional Division. The latter comprises this Hundred and that of West Budleigh. Messrs. J.G. and F.E. Smith are clerks to the magistrates, and Mr. G. Tanner is clerk of the County Court, held on the first Monday of every month. Crediton is an ancient borough, without either parliamentary or municipal privileges, though it sent two burgesses to the parliament which assembled at Carlisle, in the reign of Edward I. Jas. Wentworth Buller, Esq., is lord of the manor, and Mr. W. Rawlings is steward of the COURT LEET, at which a portreeve, bailiff, chief-constable, and other officers are appointed yearly. The manor and hundred of Crediton belonged to the Bishops of Devonshire from a very early period, and here were the Cathedral and Palace of the Bishops till 1050, when the See was removed to Exeter, as noticed at page 74. There were twelve Bishops of Crediton, the first of whom was Aidolf, or Eadulphus, and the last Leofric, or Leofricus. All traces of the Cathedral disappeared some centuries ago, and its site, near the church yard, has long been occupied by houses. The manor and hundred continued to belong to the Bishops, and the Palace probably to be their occasional residence, till the reign of Henry VIII., when Bishop Vessey surrendered them to the Crown, after having been compelled to convey Crediton Park, to the royal favourite, Sir Thomas Dennis. They were afterwards granted to Lord Darcy, of Chiche, but having been subsequently restored to the See, they were conveyed by Bishop Babington, in 1595, to Wm. Killigrew, groom of the chamber. The parish afterwards passed to various families, and now belongs to many freeholders, the largest of whom are J.W. Buller, Esq., Sir H.R.F. Davie, Benj. Cleave, Esq., J.H. Hippisley, Esq., and John Quicke, Esq. The fee-farm rent of £146. 8s. 3¼d., formerly payable out of the manor to the Crown, is now vested with Thomas Porter, Esq. Downes, in the town tything, is the pleasant seat of J.W. Buller, Esq. Fulford Park, partly in this and partly in Shobrooke parish, is noticed at page 267. Yewe, in the tything of Uton, was long held of the Bishops by the Barons of Okehampton, by the service of being stewards at their enthronization. It now belongs to the Rev. S. Pidsley. Tedbourn and Posbury, in the same tything, belongs to J.H. Hippisley, Esq. Knowle, Higher and Lower Dunscombe, Fordton, Trowbridge, Coplestone, and other estates in this large parish, belong to various owners. Crediton is said to have been the birth place of St. Boniface, Archbishop of Mentz, by whose influence with Ethelbald, King of Mercia, the Holy Scriptures are said to have been read in this country in the English language. It is sometimes called Kirton by the vulgar, and its great antiquity has passed into a proverb, which says, "Kirton was a market town; when Exeter was a fuzzy down."
The town is about a mile in length, and is in two parts, called East and West Town. The latter was formerly much more extensive than at present; upwards of 450 houses being destroyed by a great fire, in 1743. A second fire, in May, 1769, consumed many of the new houses that had been built on the sites of old ones, together with the Market house and Shambles; but these were afterwards rebuilt. Of late years the town has been much improved, chiefly at the expense of the lord of the manor, J.W. Buller, Esq., who, in 1837, erected a neat and commodious covered Market Place, on the north side of High street, in lieu of the old one, which stood in the middle of the street. A respectable Inn has also been erected, with a large room for balls, concerts, &c.; and the road, instead of entering the town on one side, now enters by a broad carriage way, from east to west. These and other improvements have been made under the powers of an act of Parliament. Gas Works were established in 1843, by a company, with a capital of £2000, in £5 shares. The market, held every Saturday, is well supplied with all sorts of provisions: and on the Saturday before the last Wednesday in April, there is a great cattle market. Here are also three annual fairs for cattle, "c., held May 11th, Aug. 21st, and Sept. 21st, or on the Tuesdays following, when those dates fall on a Friday or Saturday. The town was one of the principal seats of the woollen manufacture from its first introduction into this county, and was long famed for serges, kerseys, "c., as well as for fine yarns; hence the proverb, "As fine as Kirton spinning." The serge market was removed from Crediton to Exeter in the reign of Elizabeth (see page 63) but the manufacture of serges was carried on here extensively till after the great fire in 1743, when about 1500 pieces are said to have been made in the town and neighbourhood weekly. The woollen trade is now obsolete here, but at Fordton there is a manufactory of coarse linens, dowlas, sail cloth, &c. Crediton was for a short time possessed by the rebels of 1549, and was occasionally occupied by the Royal and Parliamentary forces during the civil wars of the 17th century. (See page 56.) The town is highly salubrious, and has never been visited by plagues or Asiatic cholera.
The CHURCH (Holy Cross,) is a spacious and handsome cruciform structure, erected in the 15th century, near the site of the ancient cathedral, which was dedicated to St Gregory. It was enlarged, repaired, and beautified, some years ago, by the Governors of the Church Corporation Trust. It has a massive tower, containing eight bells, and rising from the centre to the height of 100 feet. The large east and west windows are decorated with rich tracery, and over the south porch is an old parochial library. Among the monuments is one of Sir Wm. Periam, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, with his effigy in his judge's robes; and another with an effigy in memory of John Tuckfield, Esq., who died in 1630. The altar-piece represents Moses and Aaron sustaining the Decalogue. At the time of the removal of the See to Exeter, there had been twelve Bishops of Crediton, and the succeeding prelates still remained patrons of the Chapter or College of Crediton, which consisted of 18 canons, or prebendaries, and 18 vicars, and was valued at the dissolution at £322 per annum. It was dissolved by Edward VI., who vested the tithes of Crediton, and other possessions formerly belonging to it, in twelve trustees, or Governors, for the support of the vicar, the assistant minister, and the master of the Grammar School, and for other purposes, as afterwards noticed. These Governors are patrons of the vicarage, valued in K.B. at £30, and in 1831 at £425, and now held by the Rev. Samuel Rowe, M.A. The Chapel of St. Luke, at Posbury, in this parish, about two miles S. of the town, was built in 1835, by the late R. Hippisley Tuckfield, Esq., whose successor, J.H. Hippisley, Esq., is patron of the curacy, which is now held by the Vicar. It is a small but neat stone fabric, in the Gothic style, and is conveniently situated as a chapel of ease for the southern parts of this large parish. There are five Dissenting Chapels in the town, belonging to the Unitarians, Independents, Baptists, Wesleyans, and Plymouth Brethren. The Unitarian Chapel was built by Presbyterians, and from 1739 to 1719 it was under the ministry of Micaiah Towgood. (See page 89.) The parish has several endowed schools and almshouses, and a large amount of trust property for public and charitable uses. It has also a Mechanics' Institution and several Friendly Societies. CREDITON UNION is already noticed at page 267.
CHURCH CORPORATION TRUST AND GRAMMAR SCHOOL Edward VI., in the first year of his reign, by his letters patent, incorporated 12 parishioners by name of the the Governors of the hereditaments and goods of the Church of Crediton, and vested with them the lands, tithes, &c., which had belonged to the late College of Crediton, and the chapel of St. Swithen, at Sandford and directed them to apply the yearly profits thereof for the support of the vicar and chaplain of Crediton, the vicar of Exminster, and the chaplain of Sandford; for the support of a Grammar School, the reparation of the churches, &c., and for other charitable and public uses. Queen Elizabeth, by letters patent in the second year of her reign, augmented the possessions of this trust. The trust property having greatly increased, it has been several times the subject of litigation in the Court of Chancery, and new schemes have been sanctioned for the extension and general management of the charity, which has again become the subject of another Chancery suit. The tithes of about 20,000 acres in the three above-named parishes, belong to the trust, and their annual value in 1823 was £2550, of which £1223 was derived from the tithes of Crediton. There is also belonging to the trust a farm of 110A. at Exminster, let for about £150 per annum. The Vicarage House at Exminster was rebuilt in 1803, and. the expense was defrayed by the governors, chiefly from the proceeds of a fall of timber on this farm. There are belonging to the trust in Crediton, six houses, occupied rent-free by the vicar, the chaplain, the master of the Grammar School, the master of Dunn's School, and the clerk and sexton; and a range of small dwellings, occupied by paupers. At Sandford, a house belonging to the trust is appropriated to the residence of the chaplain of that place. The three parsonage houses in Crediton and Sandford were rebuilt in the early part of the present century, at the cost of about £4800. The governors are patrons of the benefices of the three parishes, and also of Kennerleigh rectory. Out of the income derived from the trust property, they pay the following yearly stipends:- £400 to the vicar, and £200 to the chaplain of Crediton; £250 to the vicar of Exminster; £200 to the chaplain of Sandford; about £150 to the master of the Grammar School; £6. 13s. 4d. each to three exhibitioners at the University; £2 each to four poor scholars at Crediton School; £27 to the United English and Blue School; £8. 8s. to four almsmen of Crediton; £22 to the parish clerk; and £6. 16s. to the sexton. Out of the tithe rents they have to pay about £700 per annum for poor rates, &c., and they occasionally expend large sums in repairing Crediton church, and the parsonage houses of the three above-named parishes. They also contribute towards the support of schools at Exminster and Sandford. In 1820-1 they expended £30 in erecting a new gallery in Crediton church. The present Governors are Sir H.R.F. Davie and J.W. Buller, J.H. Hippisley, P. Francis, D. Tremlett, E.T. Ward, J. Yarde, B. Cleave, sen. and jun., Wm. Pope, E. Norris, and E. Empson, Esqrs.
SIR JOHN HAYWARD, KNIGHT, in 1635, left extensive property in Kent to Sir Richard Buller and other trustees, in trust that they should sell it and apply the proceeds for the relief of the poor of Rochester and such other parishes as they thought proper. This charity was not established till after the lapse of many years, and much expensive litigation in the Court of Chancery. The trust property was sold about 1800 for and in 1805 the trustees obtained the sanction of the court to expend about £2700 in the erection of an Almshouse and School of Industry at Crediton. After these were erected, the inhabitants of Rochester instituted several proceedings in Chancery for the recovery of an equal share of the charity funds, and this they accomplished in 1822, when the court determined that the moiety belonging to Crediton consisted of £10,300. 12s. 6d. three per cent. consols, which yield an annual income of £309. 0s. 4d., to which is added about £15, as the rent of a field and several gardens belonging to the Almshouse and School of Industry, which are now mostly occupied by the United Blue and English Schools, and by the school in which poor girls are instructed in making gloves. Three or four old men have apartments in the building, and are allowed weekly stipends of 5s. each, with clothing and medical attendance when required. The rest of the income is expended in setting to work and apprenticing poor children. J.W. Buller, Esq., and others, are the trustees.
DAVIE'S ALMSHOUSE, near the churchyard, consists of four small dwellings, for two married couples and two poor single people. It was founded in 1610, by John Davie, who endowed it with a yearly rent-charge of £20, out of Creedy and Longbarn estate, now belonging to Sir H.R.F. Davie. He also charged the same estate with the expense of keeping the almshouse in repair.
SPURWAY'S ALMSHOUSE comprises four dwellings for as many poor parishioners, and was founded by Humphrey Spurway, in 1555, and endowed by him with a garden of 1R. 3P., at Crediton, and four cottages and SA. 20P. of land at Witheridge, let for about £11 per annum, which is divided among the almspeople.
The BOROUGH LANDS were partly purchased in 1638, with the profits which the burgesses had made out of the tolls of the market, during the 99 years they had held them on lease under the Bishop of Exeter, at the yearly rent of 20s, Other portions of the trust property were purchased with savings of income, &c. The whole comprises about 50A., six cottages, and several gardens, let for £87 per annum, which is distributed at Christmas among all the poor of the parish, together with three-fourths of the rent of two houses and about 16A. of land, called Rookwood, which are let for £55 per annum, and were purchased in 1625, with £200, given by John Newcombe and Walter Young, one-fourth for the poor of Inwardleigh, and the rest for the poor of Crediton.
VARIOUS CHARITIES.- In 1771, Edward Smith left £1000 to be placed out at interest, and the yearly proceeds distributed at Christmas among the poor parishioners. This sum, with savings of interest, was invested, in 1780, in the purchase of £2008. 7s. 4d. three per cent. consols. In 1787, WM. LAKE left for the same purpose £500, which was laid out in the purchase of £590. 12s. 6d. new four per cent. stock. The yearly sum of £83. 17s. 6d., derived from the two above-named charities, is distributed about Christmas among all the poor parishioners who have not received parochial relief during the preceding six months. In 1802, ELIZABETH TUCKFIELD bequeathed to the 12 governors of Crediton £3000 three per cent. annuities, upon trust to apply the yearly dividends to various charitable uses in Exeter, Crediton, Shobrooke, Morchard-Bishop, Thorverton, and Tedburn St. Mary, as noticed with those parishes. The share belonging to Crediton consists of the annual sums of £20, for distribution among the poor not receiving parochial relief, and £10 towards the support of the Blue School. As noticed with Exeter, Sir John ACLAND left an annuity of £2. 12s. for a weekly distribution of 1s. worth of bread at Crediton church. For the same purpose, JOHN WELSH left a yearly rent-charge of £2. 12s., in 1656, out of Welsh's tenement. In 1734, THOMAS COLLITON charged Dickersham field with the weekly payment of 1s. for the poor, and 10s. per annum for the charity schools. Mrs. Thomasine Colliton, in 1768, left a yearly rent-charge of £2. 12s. for a distribution of four threepenny loaves every Friday. Robt. Buckingham left for the poor 1¼A. of land, now let for £6, which is dispensed in weekly doles of bread, together with the three following annuities, viz., £2. 8s., left by John Burrington, in 1643; £2. 12s., left by Thos. Please, in 1643; and £3, left by John Dunscombe, out of the manor of Coldridge, which is also charged with 6s. 8d. per annum for the vicar. Thos. Channon, in 1656, left 1 ½A. of land in trust to pay 10s. yearly to the poor of Otterton, and to expend the remainder of the rent in clothing the poor of Crediton. This land is now let for £6 per ann. In 1712, ANDREW JEFFERY gave Broad Close in trust that the rent should be distributed yearly among poor decayed master weavers or their widows. Part of this close is now an orchard, and the rest is the site of five cottages and a cider-pound house, all belonging to the charity, and now let for £24 per ann. Among the same objects are distributed the rent of a small close, let for £4, and purchased with the gifts of George and Agnes Ivie and other donors. In 1718, Cphr. Saunders left a yearly rent-charge of 25s. for the poor attending the Dissenting Meeting-house. Twenty poor housekeepers of Crediton have the interest of £100, left by John Welsford, in 1821. The poor of Knowle have 20s. a year out of an estate in that tithing, now belonging to Mr. Newcombe. The dividends of £1250 three per cent. reduced annuities, purchased with £1000, left by Grace Mann, in 1776, are distributed among poor widows and fatherless children.
ENGLISH AND BLUE SCHOOL.- Two Charity Schools, called the English School, and the other the Blue School, were united in 1814, and placed under one master, in the building which was erected by the trustees of Sir John Hayward's Charity, as noticed at page 272. Various sums given for the support of the English School by John Cole and other donors, were laid out in the 17th century in the purchase of about 8A. of land, now let for about £30. There is also belonging to the same school, a sum of £200 three per cent. consols, of which £100 was given by John Tuckfield, in 1707. The funds, which belonged exclusively to the Blue School, consist of £1400 four per cent. stock, (purchased with the gifts of Mrs. Honor Prouse, Wm. Luke, and other donors;) and the following yearly sums, viz., a rent-charge of £4, left Mary Trenchard, in 1728; 10s. out of a field, left by Thos. Colliton; £4 as the interest of £100 vested in two turnpikes; and an annuity of £10 from Eliz. Tuckfield's Charity. Since the union of the two schools, the charity has received several legacies, among which are £100 three per cent. consols, left by George Bodley, in 1817, and £52. 10s. new four per cents., left by Wm. Elston, in 1821. From the above sources, the charity derives about £116 per annum, to which is added £27, given out of the Church Corporation Trust, and also about £100 per annum, raised by subscription and collections after sermons. The united schools are attended by about 140 boys and 90 girls; and 55 of them are clothed at the expense of the charity. They are all instructed gratuitously, and provided with books and stationery. The master has a yearly salary of £72, and the mistress £20, and they have the free use of a house adjoining the school.
DUNN'S SCHOOL.- Samuel Dunn, in 1794, left to the "Governors of Crediton," £600 in trust to pay the yearly proceeds thereof to a schoolmaster for teaching writing, navigation, mathematics, &c., to at least six boys of the Church of England; preference to be given to those of the names of Dunn and Harris. This legacy was laid out in the purchase of £630 new four per cent. stock, for the dividends of which a schoolmaster teaches 12 boys of Crediton, in the house at Bowdon hill, which was formerly appropriated to the English School.
Brian Randell, 13 Feb 1999
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