1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Devonshire

DEVONSHIRE (Devon), a south-western county of England, bounded N.W. and N. by the Bristol Channel, N.E. by Somerset and Dorset, S.E. and S. by the English Channel, and W. by Cornwall. The area, 2604.9 sq. m., is exceeded only by those of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire among the English counties. Nearly the whole of the surface is uneven and hilly. The county contains the highest land in England south of Derbyshire (excepting points on the south Welsh border); and the scenery, much varied, is in most parts striking and picturesque. The heather-clad uplands of Exmoor, though chiefly within the borders of Somerset, extend into North Devon, and are still the haunt of red deer, and of the small hardy ponies called after the district. Here, as on Dartmoor, the streams are rich in trout. Dartmoor, the principal physical feature of the county, is a broad and lofty expanse of moorland which rises in the southern part. Its highest point, 2039 ft., is found in the north-western portion. Its rough wastes contrast finely with the wild but wooded region which immediately surrounds the granite of which it is composed, and with the rich cultivated country lying beyond. Especially noteworthy in this fertile tract are the South Hams, a fruitful district of apple orchards, lying between the Erme and the Dart; the rich meadow-land around Crediton, in the vale of Exeter; and the red rocks near Sidmouth. Two features which lend a characteristic charm to the Devonshire landscape are the number of picturesque old cottages roofed with thatch; and the deep lanes, sunk below the common level of the ground, bordered by tall hedges, and overshadowed by an arch of boughs. The north and south coasts of the county differ much in character, but both have grand cliff and rock scenery, not surpassed by any in England or Wales, resembling the Mediterranean seaboard in its range of colour. As a rule the long combes or glens down which the rivers flow seaward are densely wooded, and the country immediately inland is of great beauty. Apart from the Tamar, which constitutes the boundary between Devon and Cornwall, and flows into the English Channel, after forming in its estuary the harbours of Devonport and Plymouth, the principal rivers rise on Dartmoor. These include the Teign, Dart, Plym and Tavy, falling into the English Channel, and the Taw flowing north towards Bideford Bay. The river Torridge, also discharging northward, receives part of its waters from Dartmoor through the Okement, but itself rises in the angle of high land near Hartland point on the north coast, and makes a wide sweep southward. The lesser Dartmoor streams are the Avon, the Erme and the Vealm, all running south. The Exe rises on Exmoor in Somersetshire; but the main part of its course is through Devonshire (where it gives name to Exeter), and it is joined on its way to the English Channel by the lesser streams of the Culm, the Creedy and the Clyst. The Otter, rising on the Blackdown Hills, also runs south, and the Axe, for part of its course, divides the counties of Devon and Dorset. These eastern streams are comparatively slow; while the rivers of Dartmoor have a shorter and more rapid course.

Geology.—The greatest area occupied by any one group of rocks in Devonshire is that covered by the Culm, a series of slates, grits and greywackes, with some impure limestones and occasional radiolarian cherts as at Codden Hill; beds of “culm,” an impure variety of coal, are found at Bideford and elsewhere. This series of rocks occurs at Bampton, Exeter and Chudleigh and extends thence to the western boundary. North and south of the Culm an older series of slates, grits and limestones appears; it was considered so characteristic of the county that it was called the Devonian system (q.v.), the marine equivalent of the Old Red Sandstone of Hereford and Scotland. It lies in the form of a trough with its axis running east and west. In the central hollow the Culm reposes, while the northern and southern rims rise to the surface respectively north of the latitude of Barnstaple and South Molton and south of the latitude of Tavistock. These Devonian rocks have been subdivided into upper, middle and lower divisions, but the stratigraphy is difficult to follow as the beds have suffered much crumpling; fine examples of contorted strata may be seen almost anywhere on the north coast, and in the south, at Bolt Head and Start Point they have undergone severe metamorphism. Limestones are only poorly developed in the north, but in the south important masses occur, in the middle and at the base of the upper subdivisions, about Plymouth, Torquay, Brixham and between Newton Abbot and Totnes. Fossil corals abound in these limestones, which are largely quarried and when polished are known as Devonshire marbles.

On the eastern side of the county is found an entirely different set of rocks which cover the older series and dip away from them gently towards the east. The lower and most westerly situated members of the younger rocks is a series of breccias, conglomerates, sandstones and marls which are probably of lower Bunter age, but by some geologists have been classed as Permian. These red rocks are beautifully exposed on the coast by Dawlish and Teignmouth, and they extend inland, producing a red soil, past Exeter and Tiverton. A long narrow strip of the same formation reaches out westward on the top of the Culm as far as Jacobstow. Farther east, the Bunter pebble beds are represented by the well-known pebble deposit of Budleigh Salterton, whence they are traceable inland towards Rockbeare. These are succeeded by the Keuper marls and sandstones, well exposed at Sidmouth, where the upper Greensand plateau is clearly seen to overlie them. The Greensand covers all the high ground northward from Sidmouth as far as the Blackdown Hills. At Beer Head and Axmouth the Chalk is seen, and at the latter place is a famous landslip on the coast, caused by the springs which issue from the Greensand below the Chalk. The Lower Chalk at Beer has been mined for building stone and was formerly in considerable demand. At the extreme east of the county, Rhaetic and Lias beds make their appearance, the former with a “bone” bed bearing the remains of saurians and fish.

Dartmoor is a mass of granite that was intruded into the Culm and Devonian strata in post-Carboniferous times and subsequently exposed by denudation. Evidences of Devonian volcanic activity are abundant in the masses of diabase, dolerite, &c., at Bradford and Trusham, south of Exeter, around Plymouth and at Ashprington. Perhaps the most interesting is the Carboniferous volcano of Brent Tor near Tavistock. An Eocene deposit, the product of the denudation of the Dartmoor Hills, lies in a small basin at Bovey Tracey (see Bovey Beds); it yields beds of lignite and valuable clays.

Raised beaches occur at Hope’s Nose and the Thatcher Stone near Torquay and at other points, and a submerged forest lies in the bay south of the same place. The caves and fissures in the Devonian limestone at Kent’s Hole near Torquay, Brixham and Oreston are famous for the remains of extinct mammals; bones of the elephant, rhinoceros, bear and hyaena have been found as well as flint implements of early man.

Minerals.—Silver-lead was formerly worked at Combe Martin near the north coast, and elsewhere. Tin has been worked on Dartmoor (in stream works) from an unknown period. Copper was not much worked before the end of the 18th century. Tin occurs in the granite of Dartmoor, and along its borders, but rather where the Devonian than where the Carboniferous rocks border the granite. It is found most plentifully in the district which surrounds Tavistock, which, for tin and other ores, is in effect the great mining district of the county. Here, about 4 m. from Tavistock, are the Devon Great Consols mines, which from 1843 to 1871 were among the richest copper mines in the world, and by far the largest and most profitable in the kingdom. The divided profits during this period amounted to £1,192,960. But the mining interests of Devonshire are affected by the same causes, and in the same way, as those of Cornwall. The quantity of ore has greatly diminished, and the cost of raising it from the deep mines prevents competition with foreign markets. In many mines tin underlies the general depth of the copper, and is worked when the latter has been exhausted. The mineral products of the Tavistock district are various, and besides tin and copper, ores of zinc and iron are largely distributed. Great quantities of refined arsenic have been produced at the Devon Great Consols mine, by elimination from the iron pyrites contained in the various lodes. Manganese occurs in the neighbourhood of Exeter, in the valley of the Teign and in N. Devon; but the most profitable mines, which are shallow, are, like those of tin and copper, in the Tavistock district.

The other mineral productions of the county consist of marbles, building stones, slates and potters’ clay. Among building stones, the granite of Dartmoor holds the foremost place. It is much quarried near Princetown, near Moreton Hampstead on the N.E. of Dartmoor and elsewhere. The annual export is considerable. Hard traps, which occur in many places, are also much used, as are the limestones of Buckfastleigh and of Plymouth. The Roborough stone, used from an early period in Devonshire churches, is found near Tavistock, and is a hard, porphyritic elvan, taking a fine polish. Excellent roofing slates occur in the Devonian series round the southern part of Dartmoor. The chief quarries are near Ashburton and Plymouth (Cann quarry). Potters’ clay is worked at King’s Teignton, whence it is largely exported; at Bovey Tracey; and at Watcombe near Torquay. The Watcombe clay is of the finest quality. China clay or kaolin is found on the southern side of Dartmoor, at Lee Moor, and near Trowlesworthy. There is a large deposit of umber close to Ashburton.

Climate and Agriculture.—The climate varies greatly in different parts of the county, but everywhere it is more humid than that of the eastern or south-eastern parts of England. The mean annual temperature somewhat exceeds that of the midlands, but the average summer heat is rather less than that of the southern counties to the east. The air of the Dartmoor highlands is sharp and bracing. Mists are frequent, and snow often lies long. On the south coast frost is little known, and many half hardy plants, such as hydrangeas, myrtles, geraniums and heliotropes, live through the winter without protection. The climate of Sidmouth, Teignmouth, Torquay and other watering places on this coast is very equable, the mean temperature in January being 43.6° at Plymouth. The north coast, exposed to the storms and swell of the Atlantic, is more bracing; although there also, in the more sheltered nooks (as at Combe Martin), myrtles of great size and age flower freely, and produce their annual crop of berries.

Rather less than three-quarters of the total area of the county is under cultivation; the cultivated area falling a little below the average of the English counties. There are, however, about 160,000 acres of hill pasture in addition to the area in permanent pasture, which is more than one-half that of the cultivated area. The Devon breed of cattle is well adapted both for fattening and for dairy purposes; while sheep are kept in great numbers on the hill pastures. Devonshire is one of the chief cattle-farming and sheep-farming counties. It is specially famous for two products of the dairy—the clotted cream to which it gives its name, and junket. Of the area under grain crops, oats occupy about three times the acreage under wheat or barley. The bulk of the acreage under green crops is occupied by turnips, swedes and mangold. Orchards occupy a large acreage, and consist chiefly of apple-trees, nearly every farm maintaining one for the manufacture of cider.

Fisheries.—Though the fisheries of Devon are less valuable than those of Cornwall, large quantities of the pilchard and herrings caught in Cornish waters are landed at Plymouth. Much of the fishing is carried on within the three-mile limit; and it may be asserted that trawling is the main feature of the Devonshire industry, whereas seining and driving characterize that of Cornwall. Pilchard, cod, sprats, brill, plaice, soles, turbot, shrimps, lobsters, oysters and mussels are met with, besides herring and mackerel, which are fairly plentiful. After Plymouth, the principal fishing station is at Brixham, but there are lesser stations in every bay and estuary.

Other Industries.—The principal industrial works in the county are the various Government establishments at Plymouth and Devonport. Among other industries may be noted the lace-works at Tiverton; the manufacture of pillow-lace for which Honiton and its neighbourhood has long been famous; and the potteries and terra-cotta works of Bovey Tracey and Watcombe. Woollen goods and serges are made at Buckfastleigh and Ashburton, and boots and shoes at Crediton. Convict labour is employed in the direction of agriculture, quarrying, &c., in the great prison of Dartmoor.

Communications.—The main line of the Great Western railway, entering the county in the east from Taunton, runs to Exeter, skirts the coast as far as Teignmouth, and continues a short distance inland by Newton Abbot to Plymouth, after which it crosses the estuary of the Tamar by a great bridge to Saltash in Cornwall. Branches serve Torquay and other seaside resorts of the south coast; and among other branches are those from Taunton to Barnstaple and from Plymouth northward to Tavistock and Launceston. The main line of the London & South-Western railway between Exeter and Plymouth skirts the north and west of Dartmoor by Okehampton and Tavistock. A branch from Yeoford serves Barnstaple, Ilfracombe, Bideford and Torrington, while the Lynton & Barnstaple and the Bideford, Westward Ho & Appledore lines serve the districts indicated by their names. The branch line to Princetown from the Plymouth-Tavistock line of the Great Western company in part follows the line of a very early railway—that constructed to connect Plymouth with the Dartmoor prison in 1819–1825, which was worked with horse cars. The only waterways of any importance are the Tamar, which is navigable up to Gunnislake (3 m. S.W. of Tavistock), and the Exeter ship canal, noteworthy as one of the oldest in England, for it was originally cut in the reign of Elizabeth.

Population and Administration.—The area of the ancient county is 1,667,154 acres, with a population in 1891 of 631,808, and 1901 of 661,314. The area of the administrative county is 1,671,168 acres. The county contains 33 hundreds. The municipal boroughs are Barnstaple (pop. 14,137), Bideford (8754), Dartmouth (6579), Devonport, a county borough (70,437), Exeter, a city and county borough (47,185), Torrington, officially Great Torrington (3241), Honiton (3271), Okehampton (2569), Plymouth, a county borough (107,636), South Molton (2848), Tiverton (10,382), Torquay (33,625), Totnes (4035). The other urban districts are Ashburton (2628), Bampton (1657), Brixham (8092), Buckfastleigh (2520), Budleigh Salterton (1883), Crediton (3974), Dawlish (4003), East Stonehouse (15,111), Exmouth (10,485), Heavitree (7529), Holsworthy (1371), Ilfracombe (8557), Ivybridge (1575), Kingsbridge (3025), Lynton (1641), Newton Abbot (12,517), Northam (5355), Ottery St Mary (3495), Paignton (8385), Salcombe (1710), Seaton (1325), Sidmouth (4201), Tavistock (4728), Teignmouth (8636). The county is in the western circuit, and assizes are held at Exeter. It has one court of quarter sessions, and is divided into twenty-four petty sessional divisions. The boroughs of Barnstaple, Bideford, Devonport, Exeter, Plymouth, South Molton, and Tiverton have separate commissions of the peace and courts of quarter sessions, and those of Dartmouth, Great Torrington, Torquay and Totnes have commissions of the peace only. There are 461 civil parishes. Devonshire is in the diocese of Exeter, with the exception of small parts in those of Salisbury and Truro; and there are 516 ecclesiastical parishes or districts wholly or in part within the county. The parliamentary divisions are the Eastern or Honiton, North-eastern or Tiverton, Northern or South Molton, North-western or Barnstaple, Western or Tavistock, Southern or Totnes, Torquay, and Mid or Ashburton, each returning one member; and the county also contains the parliamentary boroughs of Devonport and Plymouth, each returning two members, and that of Exeter, returning one member.

History.—The Saxon conquest of Devonshire must have begun some time before the 8th century, for in 700 there existed at Exeter a famous Saxon school. By this time, however, the Saxons had become Christians, and established their supremacy, not by destructive inroads, but by a gradual process of colonization, settling among the native Welsh and allowing them to hold lands under equal laws. The final incorporation of the district which is now Devonshire with the kingdom of Wessex must have taken place about 766, but the county, and even Exeter, remained partly Welsh until the time of Æthelstan. At the beginning of the 9th century Wessex was divided into definite pagi, probably corresponding to the later shires, and the Saxon Chronicle mentions Devonshire by name in 823, when a battle was fought between the Welsh in Cornwall and the people of Devonshire at Camelford. During the Danish invasions of the 9th century aldermen of Devon are frequently mentioned. In 851 the invaders were defeated by the fyrd and aldermen of Devon, and in 878, when the Danes under Hubba were harrying the coast with a squadron of twenty-three ships, they were again defeated with great slaughter by the fyrd. The modern hundreds of Devonshire correspond in position very nearly with those given in the Domesday Survey, though the names have in many cases been changed, owing generally to alterations in their places of meeting. The hundred of Bampton formerly included estates west of the Exe, now transferred to the hundred of Witheridge. Ten of the modern hundreds have been formed by the union of two or more Domesday hundreds, while the Domesday hundred of Liston has had the new hundred of Tavistock severed from it since 1114. Many of the hundreds were separated by tracts of waste and forest land, of which Devonshire contained a vast extent, until in 1204 the inhabitants paid 5000 marks to have the county disafforested, with the exception only of Dartmoor and Exmoor.

Devonshire in the 7th century formed part of the vast bishopric of Dorchester-on-Thames. In 705 it was attached to the newly created diocese of Sherborne, and in 910 Archbishop Plegmund constituted Devonshire a separate diocese, and placed the see at Crediton. About 1030 the dioceses of Devonshire and Cornwall were united, and in 1049 the see was fixed at Exeter. The archdeaconries of Exeter, Barnstaple and Totnes are all mentioned in the 12th century and formerly comprised twenty-four deaneries. The deaneries of Three Towns, Collumpton and Ottery have been created since the 16th century, while those of Tamerton, Dunkeswell, Dunsford and Plymptre have been abolished, bringing the present number to twenty-three.

At the time of the Norman invasion Devonshire showed an active hostility to Harold, and the easy submission which it rendered to the Conqueror accounts for the exceptionally large number of Englishmen who are found retaining lands after the Conquest. The many vast fiefs held by Norman barons were known as honours, chief among them being Plympton, Okehampton, Barnstaple, Harberton and Totnes. The honour of Plympton was bestowed in the 12th century on the Redvers family, together with the earldom of Devon; in the 13th century it passed to the Courtenay family, who had already become possessed of the honour of Okehampton, and who in 1335 obtained the earldom. The dukedom of Exeter was bestowed in the 14th century on the Holland family, which became extinct in the reign of Edward IV. The ancestors of Sir Walter Raleigh, who was born at Budleigh, had long held considerable estates in the county.

Devonshire had an independent sheriff, the appointment being at first hereditary, but afterwards held for one year only. In 1320 complaint was made that all the hundreds of Devonshire were in the hands of the great lords, who did not appoint a sufficiency of bailiffs for their proper government. The miners of Devon had independent courts, known as stannary courts, for the regulation of mining affairs, the four stannary towns being Tavistock, Ashburton, Chagford, and Plympton. The ancient miners’ parliament was held in the open air at Crockern’s Tor.

The castles of Exeter and Plympton were held against Stephen by Baldwin de Redvers, and in the 14th and 15th centuries the French made frequent attacks on the Devonshire coast, being repulsed in 1404 by the people of Dartmouth. In the Wars of the Roses the county was much divided, and frequent skirmishes took place between the earl of Devon and Lord Bonville, the respective champions of the Lancastrian and Yorkist parties. Great disturbances in the county followed the Reformation of the 16th century and in 1549 a priest was compelled to say mass at Sampford Courtney. On the outbreak of the Civil War the county as a whole favoured the parliament, but the prevailing desire was for peace, and in 1643 a treaty for the cessation of hostilities in Devonshire and Cornwall was agreed upon. Skirmishes, however, continued until the capture of Dartmouth and Exeter in 1646 put an end to the struggle. In 1688 the prince of Orange landed at Torbay and was entertained for several days at Ford and at Exeter.

The tin mines of Devon have been worked from time immemorial, and in the 14th century mines of tin, copper, lead, gold and silver are mentioned. Agriculturally the county was always poor, and before the disafforestation rendered especially so through the ravages committed by the herds of wild deer. At the time of the Domesday Survey the salt industry was important, and there were ninety-nine mills in the county and thirteen fisheries. From an early period the chief manufacture was that of woollen cloth, and a statute 4 Ed. IV. permitted the manufacture of cloths of a distinct make in certain parts of Devonshire. About 1505 Anthony Bonvis, an Italian, introduced an improved method of spinning into the county, and cider-making is mentioned in the 16th century. In 1680 the lace industry was already flourishing at Colyton and Ottery St Mary, and flax, hemp and malt were largely produced in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Devonshire returned two members to parliament in 1290, and in 1295 Barnstaple, Exeter, Plympton, Tavistock, Torrington and Totnes were also represented. In 1831 the county with its boroughs returned a total of twenty-six members, but under the Reform Act of 1832 it returned four members in two divisions, and with ten boroughs was represented by a total of eighteen members. Under the act of 1868 the county returned six members in three divisions, and four of the boroughs were disfranchised, making a total of seventeen members.

Antiquities.—In primeval antiquities Devonshire is not so rich as Cornwall; but Dartmoor abounds in remains of the highest interest, the most peculiar of which are the long parallel alignments of upright stones, which, on a small scale, resemble those of Carnac in Brittany. On Dartmoor the lines are invariably straight, and are found in direct connexion with cairns, and with circles which are probably sepulchral. These stone avenues are very numerous. Of the so-called sacred circles the best examples are the “Longstones” on Scorhill Down, and the “Grey Wethers” under Sittaford Tor. By far the finest cromlech is the “Spinster’s Rock” at Drewsteignton, a three-pillared cromlech which may well be compared with those of Cornwall. There are numerous menhirs or single upright stones; a large dolmen or holed stone lies in the bed of the Teign, near the Scorhill circle; and rock basins occur on the summit of nearly every tor on Dartmoor (the largest are on Kestor, and on Heltor, above the Teign). It is, however, tolerably evident that these have been produced by the gradual disintegration of the granite, and that the dolmen in the Teign is due to the action of the river. Clusters of hut foundations, circular, and formed of rude granite blocks, are frequent; the best example of such a primitive village is at Batworthy, near Chagford; the type resembles that of East Cornwall. Walled enclosures, or pounds, occur in many places; Grimspound is the most remarkable. Boundary lines, also called trackways, run across Dartmoor in many directions; and the rude bridges, formed of great slabs of granite, deserve notice. All these remains are on Dartmoor. Scattered over the county are numerous large hill castles and camps,—all earthworks, and all apparently of the British period. Roman relics have been found from time to time at Exeter (Isca Damnoniorum), the only large Roman station in the county.

The churches are for the most part of the Perpendicular period, dating from the middle of the 14th to the end of the 15th century. Exeter cathedral is of course an exception, the whole (except the Norman towers) being very beautiful Decorated work. The special features of Devonshire churches, however, are the richly carved pulpits and chancel screens of wood, in which this county exceeded every other in England, with the exception of Norfolk and Suffolk. The designs are rich and varied, and the skill displayed often very great. Granite crosses are frequent, the finest and earliest being that of Coplestone, near Crediton. Monastic remains are scanty; the principal are those at Tor, Buckfast, Tavistock and Buckland Abbeys. Among domestic buildings the houses of Wear Gilford, Bradley and Dartington of the 15th century; Bradfield and Holcombe Rogus (Elizabethan), and Forde (Jacobean), deserve notice. The ruined castles of Okehampton (Edward I.), Exeter, with its vast British earthworks, Berry Pomeroy (Henry III., with ruins of a large Tudor mansion), Totnes (Henry III.) and Compton (early 15th century), are all interesting and picturesque.

Authorities.—T. Westcote, Survey of Devon, written about 1630, and first printed in 1845; J. Prince, Worthies of Devon (Exeter, 1701); Sir W. Pole, Collections towards a History of the County of Devon (London, 1791); R. Polwhele, History of Devonshire (3 vols. Exeter, 1797, 1798–1800); T. Moore, History of Devon from the Earliest Period to the Present Time (vols, i., ii., London, 1829–1831); G. Oliver, Historic Collections relating to the Monasteries in Devon (Exeter, 1820); D. and S. Lysons, Magna Britannia (vol. vi., London, 1822); Ecclesiastical Antiquities in Devon (Exeter, 1844); Mrs Bray, Traditions of Devonshire, in a series of letters to Robert Southey (London, 1838); G. C. Boase, Devonshire Bibliography (London, 1883); Sir W. R. Drake, Devonshire Notes and Notelets (London, 1888); S. Hewett, Peasant Speech of Devon (London, 1892); R. N. Worth, History of Devonshire (London, 1886, new edition, 1895); C. Worthy, Devonshire Parishes (Exeter, 1887); Devonshire Wills (London, 1896); Victoria County History, Devonshire.