Combe Martin in White's Gazetteer (1878-1879)

Extract from W. White's Directory

The History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Devon (1878-1879)

Archived original publication

William White, Birmingham

Simpkin, Marshall, & Co. London

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Quoted verbatim from W. White's Directory 1878-1879 pp. 234-235.

"COMBE MARTIN, or Combmartin, parish is in Barnstaple union, county court district. Northern division of the county, Braunton petty sessional division and hundred, Barnstaple archdeaconry and Sherwell rural deanery ; it had 1418 inhabitants (692 males and 726 females) in 1871, living in 337 houses, on 3815 acres of land.

It gives name to a decayed market town, in one long, irregular street, in a deep and picturesque valley, on a fine cove of the north coast of Devon, and 4 miles E. of Ilfracombe. In the parish were 1454 acres of open commons and hilly moorland, but they were enclosed some years ago.

The manor was given by William the Conqueror to Martin de Tours, ancestor of the Lords Martin, from whom it passed to the Lords Audley. It afterwards reverted to the Crown, and was granted by Henry VIII. to Sir Rd. Pollard, by whose descendants it was dismembered many years ago." [Sir Richard Pollard played a major role in assisting Thomas Cromwell in administering the Dissolution of the monasteries].

The Manor, or Barton House, and lands subsequently belonged to the Bullers, whose heiress married Admiral Watson, ancestor of the present proprietor.

The lands, formerly the demesne of the manor, are now called the Four Lords Lands, from being left in 1662 by Richard Roberts to his four daughters, who all married.

The Fursdon, Pyke, and other families have estates in the parish. The market and fair granted in the year 1265 by King Henry III. were discontinued last century [18th C.], but part of the market house is standing.

Hemp was formerly grown in the neighbourhood, and shoemakers' thread was spun from it in the town. Coal vessels and fishing smacks resort to Comb Martin Cove, where pilots for the Bristol Channel are generally to be found.

The houses extend more than a mile along the valley, amid woods and ridges of rocks, tufted with foliage down to the level of the sea.

The scenery is magnificent, and the mines in the parish and neighbourhood have long been celebrated for their argentiferous lead ore.

According to [Tristram] Risdon [Survey of Devon], the Combmartin mines were first found in the 22nd year of Edward I. (1294), at which time 337 men were brought from the Peak of Derbyshire to work them.

Afterwards, in the reign of King Edward III, they yielded great profit towards the maintenance of the French wars, and Henry V also made good use of them.

These mines were reopened in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, under the direction of Sir Bevis Bulmer, who in 1593 gave a rich and fair silver cup to the Earl of Bath, another weighing 137 ounces, with a ' kiver [shallow vessel],' to the Lord Mayor of London, to continue to the said City for ever.

An autograph letter was written by Charles I, three months before his death, on the subject of the Combmartin mines; and the working of them was strongly recommended to the Long Parliament in 1659.

With the North Devon mines were usually associated those of Beer Alston, the ore of which frequently contained from 80 to 120 ounces of silver to the ton of lead. In 1784-85, the latter mines produced 6500 ounces of silver, and the returns from Huel Betsy near Tavistock, about the year 1824, amounted to 4000 or 5000 ounces annually.

The principal entry dating in the last [18th] century is the shipment of 9293 tons of ore from Combmartin to the opposite coast of Wales, between the years 1796 and 1802. 

Between the years 1796 and 1802, 9293 tons of lead and silver ore were sent to Wales, and in 1813, 203 tons were sent to Bristol. The mines were closed in 1817, but another attempt to work them was made in 1837, by a company with a capital of £30,000, but after a short season of varied success they were again closed. Since then they have been worked by several different companies.

Market gardening is carried on extensively in the parish ; the farms are mostly let in small lots. There are also several lime works here. The Church (St. Peter) is a handsome structure, consisting of nave, chancel, north aisle, transepts, and very fine tower, containing six bells. During the last thirty years £500 has been spent in repairing and reseating the church.

The chancel aisle and the nave are separated from the chancel by two ancient carved oak screens. Several windows are filled with stained glass, and are chiefly memorial. The church contains a brass in memory of William Hancock (died 1587).

There is a handsome life-size marble monument of Judith, wife of William Hancock, and afterwards of Thos. Ivatt (1634) ; besides memorials of the Ley and Harding families. The living is a rectory, in the patronage and incumbency of the Rev. LI. W. Toms.

The tithes were commuted in 1844 for about £400 a year. The Baptists and Wesleyans have chapels here. The National School was originally founded in 1733, by George Ley, who endowed it, now let for about £40 a year, subject to '20s. a year for poor parishioners.

The present boys' school was erected in 1854, and enlarged in 1877, by the addition of a girls' school and class rooms.

The outlay was £600, of which £300 was raised by the sale of the old building, and about half an acre of land attached to it, and the rest by subscriptions. It is attended by 220 children.

The celebrated [controversialist] Dr. Thomas Harding, Jesuit professor of theology at Louvain, was born here in 1512. Harding was appointed Doctor of Divinity at the University of Louvain. He died in 1572.

Post and Money Order Office and Savings Bank at Mr. John Norman's. Letters are despatched at 4.10 p.m. to Barnstaple."

Combe Martin Names and Occupations (page 235)

White, William (1878-1879): HISTORY, GAZETTEER AND DIRECTORY OF THE COUNTY OF DEVON. "Combe Martin", pages 234-235.