In old records East Anstey is described as:
a small scattered village, among the high hills, near the borders of Somersetshire, 3½ miles W.S.W. of Dulverton, and 10 miles E. of South Molton
It has a length, north to south, of about 5 miles and a width, west to east, averaging about 1 mile.
East Anstey was part of the South Molton Hundred (a ‘Hundred’ being a 10th century administrative division of a Shire, administered by a reeve, who served writs on behalf of the sheriff of the shire, and later by a constable, who was responsible for the apprehension of criminals. In 1894 the Local Government Act established district councils which were effectively the successors to the Hundred Courts.)
These history pages cover various aspects of the area’s local history; from the Domesday Book onwards. They have been compiled from information researched by Parish Councillor Neville Vereker, the Methodist Chapel information by Parish councillor Robert Blake, and the Early Minutes from the Minute Books held by Parish Councillor John White.
In 1086 when the Domesday Book was compiled, East Anstey was know as Anestinga (or Anestiga). The Domesday Book was commissioned by William the Conqueror to assess who owned what in England, not least so that they could be taxed. The smallest unit assessed was the manor (an agricultural estate) which could be a subdivision of a parish (an area served by the parson from the parish church) or spread over parts of more than one parish.
In the Domesday Book, it is recorded:
that Earl Hugh has a manor called Anestinga, which Alnod held on the day on which King Edward was alive and dead, and it is rendered geld for half a hide. This can be ploughed by six ploughs. Of it the earl has a virgate in demesne, and the villeins have one virgate and a half and three ploughs. There the earl has seven villeins, and one bordar, and four serfs, and forty eight acres of wood, and twelve acres of meadow, and of pasture one leuga in length and half a leuga in breadth; and it is worth by the year twenty shillings, and it was worth as much when the earl received it.
Ref: DOM – The Devonshire Domesday and Geld Inquest, vols.I & II, 1884-1892 published by the Devonshire Society.
Earl Hugh is also recorded as having another manor called “Anestiga”. It is uncertain whether Anestinga refers to what we now know as East Anstey and Anestiga refers to West Anstey or vice versa.
The Domesday Book also records that “The bishop has a manor called Anestiga” and that “Drogo holds this of the bishop”.
Geld – a kind of tax like Danegeld.
Hide – measurement of land for tax purposes, approx. 120 acres.
Virgate – a quarter of a hide (defined by how much land a team of oxen could plough in a year).
Villein – most common type of serf in the Middle Ages. Generally rented small homes, with or without land. Expected to spend some of their time farming their lord’s fields. They were tied to the land and could not move away without their lord’s consent.
Bordar – person ranking below villains and above serfs in the social hierarchy of a manor, holding just enough land to feed a family (about 5 acres) and required to to provide labour farming their lord’s fields on specified days of the week.
Leuga (league) – a measurement of distance equivalent to twelve furlongs or about 1½ miles.
The Manor – Later
The manor, Anestinga, mentioned in the Domesday Book later belonged to the Corbets according to Lyson’s Magna Brittanica (Vol.6, Devonshire 1822).
It subsequently passed to the family of Crewes or Cruwys, from whom it obtained the name of Anstey Cruwys. Robert de Crues was patron of the benefice in 1263 when William Poylen (or Paulen) was appointed rector.
It continued, for five descents, to be the residence of the younger branch of the Cruwys family, the co-heiress of which brought the estate to the Nortons and Pollards. The last of the Cruwys family to hold the benefice was John Cruwys at the time that Sir Robert Prust was appointed rector.
From the Nortons, it descended to the Prous’s of Chagford, and through Chalvedon to the Beres of Huntsham.
The manor appears afterwards to have been divided. In the reign of James I (1603–1625), the family of Molford held one-fourth of East Anstey, alias Anstey Cruwys, of the heirs of Lord Dinham. The Dinhams were an old Devonshire family residing at Hartland and Hemyock Castle. The title became extinct on the death of John, Lord Dinham in 1502, his heirs being his three sisters.
After that earlier researchers found nothing more about the manor.
In medieval times manors would have a “sele” or hall or residence or would be described as a “wic” – a nobleman’s house or manor. Attached to these seles or wics would be a “barton” – an enclosed courtyard in which were housed ricks (for the hay) and general stores associated with farming. (Barton has survived in the name of homesteads all over Devon including East Anstey).
The barton was for some time in the ownership of the Acland family. The Earl of Carnarvon, who acquired it in marriage with the daughter and heir of Sir John Acland Bart, conveyed it to the Rev. John Norris; (in 1822 it was owned by John Norris). The Norris family seems to have had a strong connection with the village in those times as the Rev. George Poole Norris was rector from 1816–1869.
The barton of Lillescombe or Liscombe belonged in the early 19th century to the Byam family and from then to at least two generations of the Stawell family, the Rev Thomas Stawell and the Rev W.M.Stawell. The Stawell family were in 1822 principal landowners in West Anstey.
1842 to 1939
1842 The tithes were commuted in for £168. The poor had an interest of £35, left by various donors.
1850 The parish contained 240 souls and 3245 acres of land, but only 2500 acres were tithable, and the greater part of the remainder was open moorland and plantations. The principal landowner at that time appears to have been the Rev. John Froude, vicar of Knowstone and Molland, and who resided at The Barton, described as being built in 1848 on the site of “the old mansion”.
The rectory was described as “a commodious thatched mansion” and the glebe lands extended to 100 acres 1 rood and 9 perches. The church was described as “a small ancient building, with a tower and four bells”.
1866 The principal landowner was John Froude Bellew of Rhyll House, while a Mrs Froude residing at Barton House was another large landowner. William Tapp had, by then, taken over the Hare & Hounds.
1873 It is recorded that the village has a station on the Devon & Somerset Railway. It is also recorded that the “soil is clay on the south-west of the parish, and skillet on the north-east; subsoil clay and skillet. The chief crops are oats, barley and cereals.”
1875 A School Board of 5 members was formed.
1878 John Froude Bellew is listed as Lord of the Manor, while other principal landowners were A. Smith, Thomas Hoskins of Oak and Mrs Froude of Barton House. Also in this year the “Froude’s Arms” is first mentioned.
1880 A Board School was built for 60 children, average attendance 44 and that Miss Anne Buckingham was mistress. John Froude Bellew was still the principal landowner. William Tapp of the “Hare & Hounds” is now called a farmer, possibly the competition from the “Froude Arms” (the apostrophe has been dropped!) required an additional source of income. The landlord of the “Froude Arms” is now John Smith. Thomas Bowden previously of High Town Farm is now at Barton Farm. Major George F. Morant is recorded as residing at Blackerton.
1883 The annual revel is described as a “woodcock revel”.
1890 We are told that the poor have an interest of £100 left by the Rev. G.P.Norris, the late rector. George Harper was the police constable.
Later the principal landowner and lord of the manor is shown as William Legassick Bellew of Henspark, while Edward C.Dawkins occupies Rhyll Manor and John Charles Hawker resides at Barton House.
1902 The trustees of W.L.Bellew are stated to be the lords of the manor and principal landowners; Selwyn Jasper is at Rhyll Manor and Highertown, Lt.Col. Beadon at Blackerton and John Charles Hawker at Barton House. Thomas Hoskins, who has been shown in earlier years as farming at Oak, is now shown as living at Oak Cottage. William Hancock is now at Oak. Thomas Singerton is now at the “Froude Arms” and apparently earns extra income as a tailor!
1914 We are told that “a woodcock revel is held the first week of October”. By now the principal landowners are E.L.Hancock of Rhyll Manor and William Halse Drake at East Liscombe. There is now a Post & Telegraph Office at Oldways End. Two new houses are recorded namely Knapp House occupied by James Stapledon and Broomball occupied by Robert Thomas. Mrs Singerton now runs the “Froude Arms”, possibly her husband has died while Benjamin Tarr, farmer, is at the “Hare & Hounds”. Farming continues to be the main occupation and the chief crops continue to be oats, barley and cereals.
1919 The school, now a mixed Public Elementary School, has been enlarged for 75 children.
1923 The principal landowners were E.L.Hancock of Rhyll Manor, Samuel Webber Morey, and William Halse, the latter two apparently not residing in the parish.
1930 The principal landowners are E.L.Hancock of Rhyll Manor, Mrs Moore and Mrs Drake, again the latter two not apparently residing in the parish.
It is also recorded that part of the kennels of the Dulverton Foxhounds are at Rhyll and that Lord Poltimore was master and E.L.Hancock assistant master. The pack comprised 50 couples of hounds and hunted Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
There is also now a reference to a monthly cattle market being held on the 4th Monday of each month. Farms of 150 acres and over were Netherwoodburn, East Liscombe, Barton Farm and Highertown.George Pursey was at the “Froude Arms” and Benjamin Tarr continued at the “Hare & Hounds”.
1939 E.L.Hancock and Mrs Drake are the principal landowners while the principal crops are now oats and roots. In this year there is no reference to a woodcock revel.
One often thinks that during the later part of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century there was reasonable stability and that families in rural areas such as East Anstey were not inclined to move that much. It is, therefore, interesting to note how often the occupiers of the various farms in the parish changed. During this time most of the farmers were tenant farmers, mainly being tenants of the Rhyll Estate.
Some 50 family names are recorded over the period occupying about 14 farms and only a few seem to have stayed for any length of time.
The Carter family were at Yaney for about 40 years, then at Dunsley, then at Higher Radnidge with more Carters at Lower Radnidge for about 20 years.
The Vicary family were at Parsonage Farm, presumably tenants of the rector, for about 20 years, then moved to Dunsley for a short time.
The Nott family were at Cruwys Ball for about 40 years at the start of the 20th century.
The Webber family were at Higher Radnidge for about 50 years over the turn of the century.
The Taylor family were at Bungsland and then at Dunsley.
Only two families farming in the period up to 1939 are still around. Frederick Jones became the tenant of Highertown around 1939 with his son, Derek, taking over the tenancy on his father’s death in 1967, and later buying the farm when the Rhyll estate was sold, and continuing to farm there today.
During the first World War there was an Edward Bawden at Barton Farm. Harold Bawden, who was born in Hawkridge and later farmed in Wiltshire bought West Liscombe in 1939 and the family farmed there for many years. His son, Alan Bawden, still remains in the village.
In 1801 the parish had a population of 165, comprising 33 families inhabiting 30 houses. Almost all were chiefly employed in agriculture.
By 1811 the population had grown to 171, now comprising 28 families. 30 years later the population had grown to 240 occupying 38 houses.
For the next 30 years the population remained fairly steady fluctuating between 225-240, although it is recorded that, in 1871, 5 houses in the parish were uninhabited.
By 1881 there were 45 houses in the parish and all were inhabited.
By 1901 the population had reduced to 216 and 2 houses were unoccupied.
By 1921 the population, now comprising 46 families, had dropped further
By 1931 this had increased to 207, some 55 families.
Today, in 2009, there are 225 people on the Electoral Roll in the Parish in some 95 households.
The Act of Parliament that authorised the Devon & Somerset Railway received assent on 29th July 1864. The first section of the line to be opened was between Norton Fitzwarren and Wiveliscombe. This opened in June 1871. The section between Wiveliscombe and Barnstaple opened on 1st November 1873.
Throughout its length the line was single track with passing loops at Wiveliscombe, Dulverton and South Molton. Its total length was 43 miles.
Originally the line was broad gauge, 7ft 0 ¾ in. It was converted to standard gauge, 4ft 8 ½ ins in May 1881. It was linked to the London and South Western Railway in Barnstaple in 1887 and thus linked to Ilfracombe. It was absorbed by the Great Western Railway in 1901. During the 1930s, with the increase in people taking holidays, the line carried heavy weekend traffic, including through expresses to Ilfracombe. Cattle traffic stopped in 1963, also the year of the infamous Beeching Report.
The line was closed on 3rd October 1966.
St Michael’s Church
James Davidson’s ‘Manuscript Notes on Devon Churches’, researched and written, during the 1840’s notes that:
This little village is on the very border of the county of Devon. The church consists of a Nave about 35 feet long by 15 wide, a Chancel about 21 by 14 and a square embattled Tower at the western end containing four bells. The windows at the east and west ends are formed by three lights with cinquefoiled heads and quatrefoils in the arch. The others are of later date. The pews are of oak and modern. The Font is ancient, of octagonal form, of moor stone, enclosed in a wooden case. A gallery bears the date 1836.
Later writings state:
The church, since the 12th century, has undergone so many modifications that no traces of any Norman origin remain. They did exist, if in a very imperceptible manner, for a piece of Norman work, probably an old door jamb, was laid as a step in the south porch.
The building was restored in 1871, and seems to have been considerably re-built at that time at a cost of £800 raised by subscription.
From the South Molton Deanery Magazine of June 1932 we discover that
the yew tree in the well kept yard before the Church was brought from the Parsonage pear orchard in 1832, the year after the parsonage was burnt down
In 1553, the Church Goods Commissioners reported that there were four bells. Of these four, Ellacombe reported three still in the tower in 1865. The four bells reported were inscribed:-
1 Voca mea viva Depello cunta vocina laus dis plaudit.
2 The same period and legends.
3 Thomas Blackmore Churchwarden 1619,T.P..
4 Me melior vere non sub ere R.S.
The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers reported on the bells in 1981:
By the end of the Middle Ages most English parish churches had three bells or four. East Anstey was listed in the 1553 Inventory as having four, and the ring remained four until 1905. In that year the old Tenor, a bell of about 11 cwt, was scrapped and recast into two smaller bells to make a lighter ring of five. This bell seems from the record we have of it to have been by Roger Semson of Ash Priors, who lived in the time of Mary I and may have cast it just before 1553 or recast it just after. It was described as a ‘bad casting’ and if its note was A as H.T.Ellacombe says (and he is often wrong) the four would not have been tuned in a major scale
The oldest bell in the ring is almost certainly the 4th, which is an excellent casting by one of the Exeter founders, probably about 1450. Its inscription is one of the “stock” Exeter ones:
Voce mea viva depello cunta nociva which translates as:
With my lively voice I drive away all hurtful things
This is a reference to the universal belief in ancient times that church bells could drive away natural disasters such as lightning, flood and plague.
The Tenor was recast in 1619 by Thomas Pennington. He is the first representative of a family who dominated Westcountry bellfounding from about 1560 to 1824. In 1619 the Penningtons were based in Barnstaple.
Various places in East Anstey have names with an ancient or Old English (OE) derivation.
Dunsley Known in 1345 as Donnyslegh; OE Dunnes-leah, Dunn’s lea, or dunes-leah, meaning “lea at the down” or “Dunn’s clearing”.
Liscombe Known in 1285 as Lillescombe; probable OE Lilles-cumb- Lill’s combe.
Radnidge Known in 1292 as Rothenesse; OE Hropan-œse (Hropa’s ash tree)
Waddicombe Known in 1333 as Wadecomb; OE Wad(d)an-cumb – Wad(d)a’s combe or woad or wood valley.
Cherricombe Known in 1244 as Churecombe.
Blackerton Known in 1333 as Blakedon – “dark hill”.
Cruwys Ball Probably takes its name from the Crues or Cruwys family who owned the manor for many years.
Oak Known in 1742 as Oake Rhyll and in 1756 as Ryll al Hill (at the hill).
Smallacombe Known in 1278 as Smalecumb – a narrow combe.
Woodburn Known in 1292 as Westwodeburn; OE wuda-burna – “a stream in (from) the wood”.
A Tale of Missing Clergy
The Norris family had a strong connection with the village from 1822 through to 1869. The Rev. George Poole Norris was rector here from 1816-1869. There is further reference to the poor having an interest of £100 left by the Rev. Norris. This is not, however, the full picture.
After the Rev. Norris’s death on the 24th March 1869 “at the ripe old age of 78“, the local press reported that:
“He was instituted to East Anstey on the 19th November 1816, but neither the beauties of the scenery in that neighbourhood, nor the duties of a parochial minister, appear to have had any charms for him, for he dwelt among his flock for eighteen months only, and then left to pursue in the genial climes of Cornwall, the more profitable business of mining, which is said to have yielded him a princely fortune. It so happened that about the period of his departure, the adjoining parish of West Anstey fell vacant, and the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, who were its patrons, were called upon toed a vicar there. What passed within the portals of the Chapter House in 1819 it is impossible to say. It may be that the Reverend George Maximilian Slatter was complaining of the slender income of his office of priest vicar, and was supplicating his more fortunate brethren, the wealthy canons, for an augmentation of his stipend, for his melodious daily services in the Cathedral. That the request was reasonable we cannot doubt; but the marvellous part of this story is, that those grave and venerable men, generally so astute in this world’s affairs, should, among their vast resources, have thought of no other fund for augmentation than the income of the vacant living. That the spiritual wants of the parishioners did not form part of their deliberations is certain, for the venerable, we cannot say discreet body, actually met Mr Slatter’s request, by appointing him to the vicarage, well knowing that, as it was thirty miles off, it was utterly impossible for him to discharge, or to assist even in the discharge, of his vicarial duties. Mr Slatter was instituted to West Anstey on the 15th February, 1819, and matters were soon arranged between him and Mr Norris , for these two worthies appointed one curate to do their duties in the two parishes, at their joint expense, and the arrangement continued down to 1858, when Dr. Slatter…died. A great deal has been said about the abuses of the Church in Ireland…it is impossible to conceive two cases of greater injustice than those presented to our readers.”
The paper later states that after paying for a curate the Rev. Norris “would be about £40,000 in the family coffers, for which no service has been rendered to God or man”
A Petition was presented to “the Commons House of Parliament by Mr Acland, and which will shortly be presented by Earl Fortescue to the House of Lords.”
The petition sets forth:
“That the parishes of East and West Anstey adjoin each other and form together an area of 6,353 acres, with a population of 536 souls, in the Northern division of the County of Devon.
That the parish of East Anstey is a rectory , in private patronage, with an income of £168 from Tithe Rent Charge, a rectory house and 109 acres of glebe, with a population of 237 – that the Reverend George Poole Norris, the present rector, was instituted in 1816; and, although he has no other clerical office, he has taken no part in the spiritual ministration of the parish for more than 50 years, but resides in his mansion of Rosecraddock, near Liskeard, in the county of Cornwall.
That the parish of West Anstey is a vicarage, in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, with an income of £112 from Tithe Rent Charge, a vicarage house and 37 acres of glebe, and a population of 299 – that the Rev. George Maximilian Slatter was instituted to the vicarage in 1819, on the presentation of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, he being at that time one of the Priest Vicars of their Cathedral Church; that he held such vicarage and his Cathedral office until his death, in 1868; and as his Cathedral appointment required his daily service, it was impossible for him to take any part in the parochial ministrations of the parish to which he had been appointed, such parish being thirty miles distant from his Cathedral, and it is a notorious fact, much commented on, that he was never seen in West Anstey but twice, except when he came for the sole purpose of receiving his tithes.
That on Mr Slatter’s death, in May last, the inhabitants of West Anstey memorialised the patrons as follows:
“To the Venerable the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral Church of Exeter, -The memorial of the undersigned inhabitants of the parish of West Anstey,‘sheweth ,- that the said parish, which is a vicarage in a remote part of the northern division of the county of devon, contains an area of 3008 acres and a population of 299 souls –that your venerable body are not only patrons of the vicarage, but owners of the rectorial tithes of the said parish – that in the month of february 1819, the reverend george maximilian slatter, now recently deceased, was appointed vicar of the said vicarage, but having held also an appointment in your cathedral he was unable to reside on his benefice, and for a period of 50 years the parish has been without a resident minister – that previous to the appointment of the said reverend george maximilian slatter there was a resident minister with a double sunday service; but for the last 50 years the parishioners have had to be content with an alternate morning and afternoon service by the curate of the adjoining parish of east anstey, in which parish the present rector, who was appointed in 1816, has also been non resident for 50 years- that your memorialists believe that so flagrant a neglect of the spiritual wants of the parishioners, for so long a period of 50 years, is not only injurious to the community but a scandal to the church. your memorialists therefore humbly pray that in the appointment of a new vicar the spiritual welfare of the parishioners may be regarded, and that the services of a pious, sober, and discreet clergyman, who will permanently reside on his benefice, may be secured. – west anstey, 4th may, 1868’
That a copy of such memorial, signed by 114 of the inhabitants, of whom 32 were marksmen, was sent to the Bishop of the Diocese, and the Dean and Chapter of Exeter subsequently appointed to the vacant living, who is now residing in the Vicarage House.
That for half a century the two incumbents of East and West Anstey have from time to time appointed one curate to do their duties in the two parishes at their joint expense; but on the appointment of a new vicar to West Anstey, the curate, having lost one part of his stipend, left, and for months past the parish of East Anstey has been without any curate at all.
That the parishioners of East Anstey, after deploring their spiritual neglect, held a vestry meeting on the 17th December last, pursuant to notice, when it was unanimously resolved:
1.’that the spiritual destitution to which this place has been reduced through the rector’s absence from this parish for half a century, whereby the education of the young, the pastoral care of the poor, the visitation of the sick, and other clerical duties, have to a lamentable extent been neglected, demands from the parishioners the most serious attention and action.’
2.’that with a recollection that those evils have been permitted during the whole period of the bishop’s rule and government , it is useless to look for relief in that quarter, and that in the opinion of this meeting the best mode of redress will be recording the ecclesiastical history of east and west anstey in the form of a petition to parliament, and that a petition for redress be prepared accordingly, to be signed by the inhabitants of both parishes.’
that a copy of the resolution of such vestry meeting has been sent to the bishop, but the rector continues to reside at rosecraddock, in the county of cornwall, and to take no part in the spiritual ministrations in his parish, and there is no curate there to represent him.
your petitioners therefore humbly pray your honourable house to take these facts into consideration, and to pass a law to prevent any incumbent from being so long absent from his benefice as half a century, and to shield and protect her majesty’s subjects, from the grievous neglect and injustice to which the parishioners of east and west anstey have been subjected for the last fifty years.
here follow the signatures of: 1 county magistrate, 7 landowners, 231 farmers, shopkeepers, and others- total 239 out of a population of 636 inhabitants.”
Allways End Methodist Chapel
Allways End Methodist Chapel is situated in the hamlet of Oldways End in the extreme west of the Parish of Brushford in the County of Somerset. The fact that the hamlet lies in three different parishes and two different counties must surely, in part, account for its name. The road through Oldways End forms the county border and it is a well known story that the preacher stands in Somerset while the congregation sit in Devon!
The Methodist Chapel was opened in 1845 and the original deed shows that the ground on which it was built was to be leased for 5,000 years at the sum of five shillings a year. The deed was signed by Thomas Blackmore, a local wheelwright and great great grandfather of Maurice Blackmore of South Molton, Ruby Willcocks of Tiverton and her brothers Clifford and Leslie Jones. It was also signed by John Commins, about whom little is known and Gregory Dascombe, great great grandfather of Aubrey Hollis of London and Pricilla Dascombe who lives in South Africa.
Yet another interesting link with the past is the fact that the ground on which the chapel was built belonged to Allshire formerly farmed by the Routley family, who were former members of All-Ways End Chapel. In the days when the chapel was built, the land was owned by a family called Vine and later it was brought by Thomas Summers of Old-Ways End.
In 1932 it was thought necessary to build a Hall for Sunday School and youth work. The ‘Application to build’ form was signed by John Dascombe, John Summers and George Frayne, again names which have association with the South Molton Circuit. This hall was demolished and re-built in 1985 mainly for Sunday school and youth work activities and is still use today for special services and by village organisations, but sadly there is no longer a Sunday school.
The old Minute Books are held by the Parish Council. The first book contains the Minutes of Parish Meetings from 1894 to 1971. The second book (yet to be archived) contains Minutes of Parish Meetings from 1972 to 1983, and Minutes of the Parish Council from 1983 to 1991.
Minutes from 1894 – 1914
Minutes from 1915 – 1939
Minutes from 1940 – 1971