Some notes on the history of Ideford

We note that the eastern boundary of the village follows a Roman or Romano-British road from Exeter to the Teign, but there is little evidence of events in our national history making any impact on the life of the village.  Kings and Queens ascended the throne and died, wars were won or lost and village life continued, though no doubt the impact on village families was sometimes considerable.

There are no recorded archaeological excavations in the parish and no visible trace of any building before Norman times.  A carved door lintel which was found buried under the site of the chancel when it was added has been dated c.1100.  (It is now incorporated into the stonework on the south wall of the chancel).  Clearly there was a Norman church of some sort and William the Conqueror's Domesday Book of 1087 records that the manor, probably dating from Saxon times, was held by one Nicolas the Head Crossbowman (did he lead his company at Hastings?) and later, under Edward the Confessor, by Osric, though where the Manor House stood can only be guessed.  Nicolas had eight free, seven semi-free and four serf tenants in a total population of 120.  The area of the manor was about 1000 acres and it is now about 1300 acres.

Lordships of the manor in some settlements changed hands fairly frequently, either by collateral inheritance or by a need to sell.  In 1242 we know that Ideford was held by a minor heiress who married a Fitzpaine and that Robert of that name sold it 60 years later (for about £130) to Sir Gilbert Knovil.  After various marriages the estate devolved upon Sir John Arundell of Lanherne in Cornwall and his family held it until 1550, when Sir Humphrey Arundell was executed on Tower Hill for having led the revolt against the 1549 Prayer Book in English.  The crown, having taken over the manor, presented it to Sir Peter Carew who sold it forthwith to George Southcote of Bovey Tracey, from whom it passed in turn about the year 1750 to the sixth Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, in whose family it has remained.

Other records concern Olchard: Well Farm was in the middle ages a dependency of Torre Abbey, but the present building is of the seventeenth century; after the dissolution of the monastic establishments, it was part of the dowry of Elizabeth Martyn of Lyndridge (her mother gave the flagon and alms-dish to the Church) when in 1653 she married Thomas Clifford, MP for Ashburton, who became the first Baron Clifford of Chudleigh in 1672.  Underhayes is of a similar age and Coombe Holdridge was also held by the Abbot of Torre.

We have seen that there was a Norman Church; the first documentary evidence is a Taxation Roll of 1291, when Walter was already Rector (date of his institution is unknown).  The flourishing wool trade in the fifteenth century saw additions or rebuilding in many churches and Ideford then acquired (1460) its tower and north aisle.  In 1780 a gallery was added only to be removed in 1845-50 during a general refurbishment which included extending the aisle to the present chancel steps and remodeling of the nave windows.  The last additions came in 1883 when the vestry, organ chamber and chancel were added.  The mediaeval wagon roof has remained unaltered and it is remarkable for the celure, or gloria, the decorated band of carved and painted woodwork, which originally marked the division between nave and chancel.

All the stone came from the red quarry near Ideford Arch, which was built of the same stone in 1810.  (It is one of the earliest road under-passes in the country?).

In the Domesday Book the population of Ideford was 120 and we have a long wait before further statistics become available.  In 1620 it had risen to 200, though no doubt there had been peaks and troughs corresponding with, for example, the flourishing of the wool trade and various plagues and pestilences.  We know that in the Black Death the Rector Robert de Mouthcombe died in 1349 and was replaced by Nicholas Legat, who was instituted on the 29th May of the same year.  Before the end of the year he too was dead.  A new Rector, Thomas Andrew de Camelforde was instituted on the 21st February 1350 and later moved to St Mary Steps in Exeter.  It is recorded that the Deanery of Kenn 'was the worst hit deanery in the whole of England.  It lost 86 incumbents from its seventeen churches in those years (1349-51)'.  The highest population figure was 381 in 1831, dropping to 225 in 1951; the provisional figure for 1991 is 328.

The oldest dwellings in the village include Stapley Cottage, so called from the name of Simon Tapley who built it, probably in 1628; Glebe Cottage was granted by a deed of enfeoffment under the name of Church House, dated 14th of August 1625 to Thomas Harte; it was a poorhouse from 1628 to 1635 and was later a school.  Feoffee Cottage is of the same period.  Cherry Trees ('deeds said to date from 1625') and Wayland Cottage are early seventeenth century, the Royal Oak was built later in the same century, Longbarn in the eighteenth.  Other dwellings in the parish beyond the village are older; Hestow appears in a tax roll of 1238, Well and Holdridge have already been mentioned, Underhayes was a mediaeval farm in the ownership of Torre Abbey, though the present building is largely of the seventeenth century.  

Finally, the name of the village, often misspelt and mispronounced today, appears in a score of different forms in the course of the centuries, from Yudaforda in the Domesday Book, Iddyford in 1291, Yeddeforde in an archdeacon's visitation of 1342, Eddeforde on the paten of 1576 and so to its present form.  Early spellings of all place names of all place names are close to the local pronunciation at the time of writing or printing.

A great part of the information in this brief account is taken from the short history of Ideford prepared by the Revd H F Fulford Williams, Rector from 1946-57, with additional information from papers in the West Country Studies Library and from the revised Notes (1976) on Listed Buildings.

There is still work to be done and it is evident from the response to questions in the appraisal that there are a number of people who are interested in extending the work.