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Modbury Parish, Devon

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Modbury Parish, Devon

Modbury is in the hundred of Ermington and in the deanery of Plympton, is a market-town, fourteen and a half miles from Plymouth, and twenty-five from Exeter. The principal villages in this parish are Brownston, Leigh, Caton, Penquit, and part of Ludbrook.

Manor of Modbury

The manor of Modbury belonged to the Valletorts, barons of Harberton. Roger Valletort conveyed it to Sir Alexander de Okeston, who had married Joan, widow of Ralph de Valletort, supposed to have been a concubine of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, and King of the Romans. They had issue, Sir John de Okeston, who died without issue, having, by the command of King Edward II., conveyed Modbury, and other lands, formerly given to his father by Roger de Valletort, to Sir Richard Champernowne. This Sir Richard was son of Richard Champernowne, by Joan, daughter of the above-mentioned Joan, whom Edmund Earl of Cornwall, in a deed, bearing date 12 Edward I., calls sister. Richard Champernowne, the father, was a younger son of Sir Henry Champernowne, of Clist Champernowne. The manor of Modbury continued in the Champernownes for many generations. Sir Arthur Champernowne, who died at Modbury in the reign of James I., was an eminent commander in Ireland, under the Earl of Essex, by whom he was knighted in 1599. In the year 1700, Arthur Champernowne, Esq., the last of this branch, sold the manor and borough to Nicholas Trist, Esq., of Bowden. In 1803, this estate was purchased of one of the co-heiresses of Trist, by Henry Legassicke, Esq.. Richard Champernowne had a licence for castellating his mansion at Modbury in 1334. The remains of the castle were purchased of Arthur Champernowne, Esq., of Mr. Henry Legassicke, who, at the earnest request of Mrs. Sarah Champernowne, in 1698, conveyed its site to her; but it appears that, in 1705, she sold what remained of the old castle for the materials.

Modbury Priory

In the reign of King Stephen, a priory was founded at Modbury, by an ancestor of the Champernownes, as a cell to the abbey of St. Peter sur Dive, in Normandy. This priory, with its lands, having been seised by the crown, as belonging to an alien monastery, was first granted, by King Henry VI., to Tavistock abbey; but afterwards was made part of the endowment of Eton College, to which the manor, of Priory still belongs, together with the manor of Penquit and Upton. Modbury priory was held some time under Eton College, by the Champernownes; and it was, in 1630, the seat of a younger brother of that family. The lease then vested in the family of Rhodes.

Manor of Orchardton

The manor of Orchardton, or Orcherton, at the time of the Domesday survey, was held under Earl Moreton by Regináld de Valletort: it belonged, in the reign of King John, to Jordan de la Warr; in the succeeding reign it was the property and seat of a younger branch of the Prideaux family. After continuing at Orcherton for thirteen descents, the last of this branch sold it to Sir John Hele, sergeant-at-law. Having since passed with the Fleet estate, it is now the property of John Bulteel, Esq. The old mansion became a farm-house.

Manor of Shilveston

The manor of Shilveston, or Shilston, was held in demesne at the time of the Domesday survey by Osbern de Salceid. In the reign of Henry III. it was in a family who took their name from this, the place of their residence. From them it passed, by marriage, to Ashleigh. In the fourteenth century it belonged to the family of Goneton, from whom it passed, either by purchase or alliance, to Robert Hill, made one of the justices of the Common Pleas in 1408. Judge Hill's posterity continued here for eight generations, after which the manor of Shilston was purchased by Christopher Savery, Esq., ancestor of Christopher Savery, Esq., of South Efford, who possesses also the manor of Spriddlescombe in this parish. Shilston House was rebuilt about the year 1813; Spriddlescombe is now a farm-house.

Manor of Wimpston

The manor of Wimpston, or Wymston, was granted by King John to John Fortescue in 1209, and appears to have been the first residence of that ancient and noble family in the county. It was alienated, not long before the year 1600, and in 1620 was in the family of Trobridge. It was afterwards successively in the families of Champernowne and Ourry. Paul Treby Treby, Esq., (some time Ourry,) sold it to W. L. Prettyjohn, Esq., who has built a new house on the estate.

Manor of Leigh Durant

The manor of Leigh Durant, in this parish, belonged, in the reign of Henry III., to the family of De Leigh. After five descents, the heiress of this family married Revell. The co-heiresses of Revell married Hurst, Hill, and Fountayne. Two parts of this estate became vested in Hurst, and passed to Martyn; the other third passed from Hill to Rouse. The manor of Leigh Durant then passed to Mrs. Ann Fortye.

Manor of South Ludbrock

The manor of South Ludbrook, belonging to the Rev. N. A. Bartlett, is partly in this parish, and partly in Ermington: the manor of North Ludbrook is partly in this parish and partly in that of Ugborough.

Manor of Brownston

The manor of Brownston, or Bromston, belonged formerly to the Valletorts, and was given by Reginald de Valletort to Ralph de Morville, whose son Adam conveyed it to the abbot and convent of Buckfastleigh. After the dissolution of that monastery, it was granted to Sir Thomas Dennis of Holcombe, whose grandson dismembered it, and sold the royalties to the several tenants.

Manor of Boyshele

The manor of Boyshele belonged to the ancient family of De Bosco or Boys, whose heiress brought it to Speccot. Sir John Speccot was possessed of it in the reign of Charles I. No estate in Modbury is now known by this name. It is believed to now be part of the manor of Modbury, passed by successive female heirs from Speccot to Hals and Trelawney, and, under the same title as Stapeldon, was then vested in the daughters of the late Honourable Rose Herring May, of the island of Jamaica.

Manor of Edmerston

The manor of Edmerston belonged, at an early period, to a family to whom it gave name: after five descents the heiress of Edmerston married Rous, whose descendants continued to possess Edmerston, and to reside there, for many generations. William Rous, Esq., was the possessor when Sir William Pole made his collections, about 1630. It seems not long afterwards to have passed to the family of Noseworthy: in 1684 Edward Noseworthy, Esq., mortgaged it to Sir John Maynard, sergeant-at-law, by whom it was probably foreclosed. In 1703, Henry Earl of Suffolk, who married the sergeant's widow, joined with that lady in selling it to Mr. John Ford, of Kingsbridge; of whom it was purchased by Mr. Robert Froude, great-grandfather of the Rev. Robert Hurrel Froude, archdeacon of Totnes. Mr. Froude possesses also the adjoining manor of Gutsford, which has passed by the same title.

Manor of Little Modbury

Little Modbury was, in the reign of Henry III., the seat of Sir Ralph Rous. After five descents, the heiress of this branch brought Little Modbury to Dymock. By virtue of an entail, it passed to Bonville, and became vested in the crown by the attainder of the Duke of Suffolk. It was purchased of the crown by Challons, and passed, by sale, to Hele. There is no estate of any consequence now at Little Modbury, which is divided into small farms.

Barton (old feudal demense) of Old Port

The barton of Old Port is said to have taken its name from an old fort which stood on the river Erme. In the reign of Henry III. it belonged to the family of De la Port, one of the co-heiresses of which, after a few descents, brought it to Heanton, and the heiress of Heanton to Somaster. The last-mentioned family continued to possess it for several descents. Sir Samuel Somaster sold it, in or about the reign of James I., to Sir Warwick Hele. Old Port then became a farm belonging to Lord Ashburton.

Barton of Yarncombe

The barton of Yarnacombe belonged to the Harts for many generations. Samuel Hart, Esq., the last of that family, sold it to William Mackworth Praed, Esq., the owner in the 19th Century, who possesses also the barton of West Leigh. Risdon says that East and West Leigh formerly belonged to the family of Challons, and that their estate was called Leigh Challons. He tells us that Hardwinus, son of the Earl of Challons, married the heiress of De la Leigh; that there were divers knights of the Challons family, and that Henry Challons, one of their descendants, made a voyage for the discovery of Virginia, and New England, in which he was taken by the Spaniards and inhumanly treated. The heiress of Challons married into the St. Aubyn family. The greater part of East and West Leigh is now divided into small farms.

Manor of Trewin

Trewin, now called Trayne, or Traine, gave name to a family who possessed it for several descents. John Terry possessed it in the reign of Henry IV. After this the family of Scoos, who owned Colemore also in this parish, possessed and resided at Trayne for several generations. About the middle of the sixteenth century the heiress of Scoos brought it to the Swetes. Adrian Swete, Esq., the last of this family, died in 1755, having bequeathed all his estates to his mother, Mrs. Esther Swete, who died in 1771, having devised them to her relation the Rev. John Tripe of Ashburton, (now of Oxton,) who took the name of Swete.


  • Daniel Lysons and Samuel Lysons, 'Parishes: Maker - Musbury', in Magna Britannia: Volume 6, Devonshire (London, 1822), pp. 326-360. British History Online - Modbury.

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