One of the main things that differentiates a One-Place Study from a family history study is that there is as much focus on ‘Place’ as on ‘People’. For this study, that means that we’re trying to understand as much about the properties of Bratton Clovelly as the families who lived in, conducted business in or owned these properties. Our goal is to eventually reconstruct the lineage of each property as far back in time as records permit. But our first step is to try to understand where the properties are located.
A great resource for this search is the Tithe Survey of 1845. Detailed maps and property descriptions were drawn up in response to the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 which substituted a monetary payment for the wide variety of ‘tithes in kind’ that had previously been paid. The result of this is that we have maps that can pinpoint where each farm was in Bratton Clovelly in this timeframe, owners, tenants, the use that each parcel of land was being put to and a relative value for each parcel. Although the residences within Bratton Village itself are not generally named, the owners and tenants at each property unit in the village are identified similarly to the farm properties.
The maps and corresponding tithe apportionments are held at Devon Heritage Centre. We have used these maps (which are quite large) to provide a less detailed version for viewing on the website. Click here to get a better look at these maps and click here to see the tithe apportionments and detailed information describing each property. When viewing the tithe apportionments, notice the links in the ‘Property Detail’ column which will show you the breakdown of the small parcels of land (fields, houses etc) that make up each property.
In 1989, the Roadford Reservoir was created just to the west of Bratton Clovelly. It’s a huge expanse of water, fed by the River Wolf, that provides much of the fresh water supply for the Southwest of England. Did you know that archaeological excavations were done at this site before the water covered the ancient settlements along the River Wolf? Did you help to build the reservoir or participate in the excavations? Did you know that a documentary series was made of these excavations and it’s available online to UK viewers, courtesy of 4 on Demand? The field reports are kept at Exeter Museum and listed at GenUKI.
Narrated by Mick Aston of the University of Bristol, the same Mick that went on to feature in the popular and long-running Time Team series, this set of documentaries called Time Signs works backward through the history of the area from present day to neolithic times. The first episode starts with the recently abandoned farmstead of Shop Farm to explore what we can learn from buildings still standing. Episode 2 begins with a short look at what might be found near the surface of a Bratton Clovelly garden and goes on to unearth the 19th century settlement at Hennard Mill. It also provides a short but remarkable tour of the Church of St Mary the Virgin at Bratton Clovelly. Episode 3 jumps back to the underlying settlement at Hennard in the Middle Ages, already the site of a fulling mill in the 13th century. This episode ends with a closer look at Broadwoodwidger’s St Nicholas, with benches built the year of the Reformation Parliament in 1529. Episode 4 then travels back to the prehistoric occupants, thought to have first permanently settled in the Wolf Valley about 4 to 5,000 years ago. Overall, it’s incredible to see the story unfold.
For those unable to view the Channel 4 programmes, click here for more information.
In 1887, Rev Sabine Baring-Gould published a novel called Red Spider, set in nineteenth century Bratton Clovelly. He even checked the parish registers to ensure that he used real historical surnames and he knew the territory well, born in Exeter and parson of neighbouring Lewtrenchard. You can see him in the parish registers officiating at some of the services in Bratton Clovelly.
Sabine was a prolific writer, one of the most popular novelists of the time with over 1200 publications to his name. He had numerous other pursuits as well and you might recognise his name from his hymn, ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’. His memory is being preserved to this day through the efforts of the Sabine Baring-Gould Appreciation Society. Red Spider is available in bookstores but, even better, it’s free online through the Internet Archive, http://archive.org.
So here’s some questions for those familiar with Bratton Clovelly and with Sabine’s book. Do you think that Red Spider is a fair depiction of life in Bratton Clovelly in the 1800s? Was the story of the red spider real folklore in West Devon? And do the characters sound like those you’ve heard of from the past? If you grew up in the parish, did you read the book as a child? For those of us trying to get acquainted with this part of the world, it would be good to know how well Sabine did with capturing the time and place.
We’ll use this part of the site to highlight things we’ve found out about Bratton Clovelly’s past that we hope are of interest to others. Please join in the conversation!