Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for BIDEFORD

BIDEFORD, a town, a parish, a subdistrict, and a district, in Devon. The town stands on the river Torridge, 5 miles above its influx to the sea, and at the terminus of the Bideford extension of the North Devon railway, 9 miles SW of Barnstaple, and 42 miles by road but 48½ by railway NW by W of Exeter. Its site is chiefly a hillside on the left bank of the river, amid pleasant environs; and commands delightful views of the river's vale. The place was given, soon after the Conquest, to Richard de Granville, a Norman knight; remained with his descendants till 1750; and was then sold by one of the heirs of William Granville, third Earl of Bath, to J. Cleveland, Esq. of Tapley. It gave the title of Baron, in the time of Queen Anne, to Lord Lansdown. Forts were erected at it, on both sides of the river, by the parliamentarians, in the civil war; but they were taken for the king by Colonel Digby, in 1643: and one of them, called Chudleigh fort, a small battlemented structure, is still standing. The plague raged here in 1646 and 1680; and three aged female inhabitants were put to death on a charge of witchcraft, in 1682. The French privateers, in the time of Queen Anne, captured so many valuable vessels, engaged in the town's commerce, in their crossing the bay off the river's mouth, that they called it the Golden bay. The streets are wide and airy; some new good houses have taken the place of old mean ones; and there are a noble mansion and a series of villas in the outskirts. A bridge of 24 arches and 677 feet long, erected in the early part of the 14th century, forms the approach on the NE; was widened in 1863-5, at a cost of about £4,000; and is a favourite promenade. The town hall is an ornamental edifice of 1850, and serves for courts, town-business, and concerts. The parish church was recently rebuilt; superseded an early English structure; and is large and handsome. The Independent chapel was rebuilt in 1859, and is a very fine edifice. The Wesleyan chapel is large, and was much improved in 1865. There are also chapels for Baptists and Bible Christians, a free grammar and other public schools, a working-men's club established in 1864, a dispensary, alms-houses, and a workhouse,-the last built in 1836, at a cost of £3,645. The charities amount yearly to £577; but include £435 for keeping the bridge in repair. The quay adjoins the bridge; is upwards of 1,200 feet long; admits vessels of 500 tons at high water: and forms an agreeable walk. The Bideford extension railway joins the North Devon at Fremington Pill, is 6 miles long, and was opened in 1855; and a line from it to Appledore and Westward-Ho, 4 miles long, was authorised in 1866. The town has a head post office,† a railway station with telegraph, two banking offices, two chief inns, two weekly markets, and two annual fairs; publishes a weekly newspaper; and is a seat of sessions and a polling-place. Ship-building, sail-making, rope-making, and pottery-work are carried on; and a large saw-mill was erected in 1865. The port is a bonding one, and formerly had a large foreign commerce; but is now engaged chiefly in the coasting-trade. The vessels belonging to it, at the beginning of 1868, were 56 small ones, of aggregately 1,854 tons, and 75 larger ones, of aggregately 9,104 tons. The vessels entering coastwise, in 1867, counting repeated voyages, were 710 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 29,878 tons, and 99 steam-vessels, of aggregately 7,230 tons; clearing coastwise, 106 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 6,715 tons, and 99 steam-vessels, of aggregately 7,230 tons; entering from the British colonies, 6 vessels of aggregately 1,850 tons; entering from foreign countries, 9 vessels, of aggregately 2,493 tons; clearing for the British colonies, only 1 vessel, of no more than 53 tons; and clearing for foreign countries, 2 vessels, of jointly 807 tons. The customs in 1867 amounted to £3,147. The chief exports are oak-bark, corn, earthenware, tiles, sailcloth, cordage, and linens; and the chief imports, timber, coal, and lime. A steamer sails regularly to Ilfracombe, Lynmouth, and Bristol. The town sent members to parliament in the times of Edward I. and II., but not since; was incorporated by Queen Elizabeth; and is now governed by a mayor, four aldermen, and 12 councillors. Sir P. Grenville, the naval hero, Dr. John Shebbeare, author of the "Adventures of a Guinea," and Abraham and Benjamin Donne, the mathematicians, were natives; Strange, the philanthropist, died here of the plague in 1646; and Hervey, the author of "Meditations," was for some time curate, and wrote here part of his works.

The parish is conterminate with the borough. Acres, 3,196. Real property, £18,170. Pop. in 1841, 5,211; in 1861, 5,742. Houses, 1,188. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Exeter. Value, £633.* Patron, Sir G. S. Stucley, Bart.-The subdistrict includes also the parish of Landcross. Acres, 3,527. Pop., 5,851. Houses, 1,209.—The district comprehends likewise the subdistrict of Northam, containing the parishes of Northam, Abbotsham, and Littleham; the subdistrict of Parkham, containing the parishes of Parkham, Monkleigh, Buckland-Brewer, and Alwington; the subdistrict of Bradworthy, containing the parishes of Bradworthy, West Putford, East Putford, Bulkworthy, and Newton St. Petrock; and the subdistrict of Hartland, containing the parishes of Hartland, Welcombe, Clovelly, and Woolfardisworthy, and the extra-parochial tract of Lundy Island. Acres, 73,450. Poor-rates in 1866, £9,806 Pop. in 1861, 17,790. Houses, 3,702. Marriages in 1866, 151; births, 607,-of which 46 were illegitimate; deaths, 329,-of which 87 were at ages under 5 years, and 25 at ages above 85 years. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 1,375; births, 5,620; deaths, 3,553. The places of worship in 1851 were 22 of the Church of England, with 6,993 sittings; 5 of Independents, with 1,235 s.; 5 of Baptists, with 1,150 s.; 18 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 3,364 s.; 15 of Bible Christians, with 1,658 s.; and 1 undefined, with 200 s. The schools were 18 public day schools, with 1,709 scholars; 47 private day schools, with 952 s.; and 45 Sunday schools, with 3,350 s.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, a parish, a subdistrict, and a district"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Bideford CP/AP       Bideford SubD       Bideford PLU/RegD       Devon AncC
Place: Bideford

Go to the linked place page for a location map, and for access to other historical writing about the place. Pages for linked administrative units may contain historical statistics and information on boundaries.