Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for OKEHAMPTON, or Oakhampton

OKEHAMPTON, or Oakhampton, a small town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district, in Devon. The town stands in a valley, at the confluence of the East Okement and the West Okement rivers, on the Devon and Cornwall Company's line of railway from Yeoford-Junction to Lid ford, and on the N border of Dartmoor, amid a complete environment of hills, 3¾ miles N by E of the summit of Yes Tor, and 22 W by N of Exeter. The railway from the North Devon line at Yeoford to Okehampton-Road station, 9¼ miles, was opened in 1867; and the rest was only in course of formation in 1869. It was known at Domesday as Ockmenton; and it is now popularly called Ockington. It was the head of the barony or earldom of Devon, and the seat of the hereditary county sheriffs, keepers of the castle at Exeter. The barony was one of the largest in the kingdom; was given, by William the Conqueror, to Baldwin de Brioniis; went by marriage, in the time of Henry II., to the Courtenays; continued with them till the time of Edward IV., and was then forfeited by Thomas Earl of Devon, for taking part with Henry VI.; passed thence, till the accession of Henry VII., through Various hands; was, at Henry VII. 's accession, restored to the Courtenays; was again forfeited, early in the time of Henry VIII., in consequence of alleged or real treason by Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter; went back, in the time of Mary, to the Courtenays; and passed by marriage, in the time of Charles I., to the Mohuns, who became Barons of Okehampton, and failed in 1712. The barons wielded great power throughout the barony, exercised the right of capital punishment over eight manors, and acted as stewards at the installation of the bishops of the diocese. A stately castle was built at the side of the Okement, about¾ of a mile S W of the town, by Baldwin de Brioniis; appears to have been extended, restored, and beautified by subsequent barons; served as the seat of the great baronial power till the forfeiture in the time of Henry VIII.; and was then dismantled, and the grounds connected with it laid waste, so that it was never again inhabited. The ruins of it still stand, and form, with the objects around them, a very striking picture; they occupy the summit and slopes of a rocky mount, thickly clothed with trees; they show the castle, as to both position and structure, to have been very strong; they form a large mass or group of masonry, and yet are so embosomed in wood as to be but slightly visible from the road approaching them; and they include a crowning small quadrangular keep of decorated or later English date, and lower buildings, with great hall, numerous chambers, and part of a chapel, ranging in date from early English to perpendicular. The town was visited twice by Charles I., and twice by Sir Thomas Fairfax, during the civil wars. All the circumjacent parts of Dartmoor abound in picturesque and romantic scenery, and, at the same time, afford pasture to numerous flocks of sheep.

The town is a seat of petty sessions and county courts, and a polling place; it serves as a convenient centre forexcursions in Dartmoor; and it has a head post-office, ‡designated Okehampton, North Devon, two banking offices, a good inn, two bridges, a town hall, a market house, two churches, three dissenting chapels, a national school, an infant school, a workhouse, and charities £111. The town hall stands in Fore-street, is a large building, and is used for the courts. The market house adjoins the town hall; was built in 1826; and superseded a previous old market house and shambles. The parish church stands on a bold eminence, about ½ a mile W of the town; was destroyed by fire, except the tower, in 1842; was soon rebuilt at a cost of £3, 500, after designsby Hayward of Exeter; and is a large and handsome edifice, with lofty tower. St. James' church stands in the town; was originally a chantry chapel, and is now a chapel of ease; dates from some time prior to the 13th century; was restored in 1862, at a cost of about £700; and has a beautiful stained glass window and a tower. The dissenting chapels are Independent in North-street, Wesleyan near West-gate, and Bible Christian at Kig-bear. The workhouse has accommodation for 200 persons; and, at the census of 1861, had 106 inmates. A weekly market is held on Saturday; a great market, on the Saturday before Christmas; a pleasure fair, on the Saturday after Christmas; and cattle fairs, on the second Tuesday after 11 March, the second Thursday of May, the Wednesday after 24 June, the first Tuesday of Aug., the Tuesday after 11 Sept., and the Thursday after 11 Oct. The town is a borough by prescription; sent two members to parliament in the time of Edward I. and Edward II., and from 1640 till the passing of the reformact in 1832; was disfranchised by that reform act; and is governed, under a charter of Charles II., by a mayor or portreeve and sixteen burgesses. The parish contains also the hamlets of Kigbear, Cheesacott, Brightley, Lower Farther ford, Meldon, South a cott, and Maddaford. Acres, 9, 552. Real property, £7, 630. Pop. in 1851, 2, 165; in 1861, 1, 929. Houses, 397. The property is much subdivided. Okelands, to the S of the town, is the seat of A. B. Saville, Esq. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Exeter. Value, £600.* Patron, A. B. Saville, Esq.

The sub-district contains also the parishes of Sourton, Bridestow, Belstone, and South Tawton. Acres, 32, 610. Pop. in 1851, 5, 768; in 1861, 5,026. Houses, 1,049. The district comprehends also the sub-district of Chagford, containing the parishes of Chagford, Drewsteignton, Gidleigh, and Throwleigh; the sub-district of North Tawton, containing the parishes of North Tawton, Spreyton, Sampford-Courtenay, Honeychurch, Exbourne, Broadwood-Kelly, and Bondleigh; the sub-district of Hatherleigh, containing the parishes of Hatherleigh, Highampton, Meeth, Iddesleigh, Monk-Okehampton, Jacobstowe, and Inwardleigh; and the sub-district of Bratton-Clovelly, containing the parishes of Bratton-Clovelly, Germansweek, Beaworthy, Northlew, and Ashbury. Acres, 126, 797. Poor-rates in 1863, £8, 522. Pop. in 1851, 20, 401; in 1861, 18, 580. Houses, 3, 801. Marriages in 1863, 108; births, 566, of which 41 wereillegitimate; deaths, 259, of which 73 were at ages under 5 years, and 27 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 1, 187; births, 5, 851; deaths, 3, 539. The places of worship, in 1 851, were 28 of the Church of England, with 7, 607 sittings; 5 of Independents, with 1, 110 s.; 5 of Baptists, with 736 s.; 7 of Wesleyans, with 1,045 s.; 17 of Bible Christians, with1, 497 s.: and 3 of Brethren, with 300 s. The schools were 16 public day-schools, with 867 scholars; 36 private day-schools, with 1,067 s.; and 28 Sunday schools, with1, 806 s.

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

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

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.