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Last Updated 21st August 2001
Articles (Publications List at End)
Okehampton1 1671 Charter of the Borough of Okehampton
Okehampton2 All Saints Church
Okehampton3 Notes on Parish Registers
Okehampton4 Dartmoor Wildlife in 2000 ~ by Paul Rendell
Okehampton5 A Day in the Life of Hugh de Courtenay, Baron of Okehampton
Okehampton6 Full Transcript of Churchyard War Memorial (War Memorials Web Page)
Okehampton7 Prehistoric Hill Fort at East Hill (DNPA Press Release)
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1671 Charter of the Borough of Okehampton
transcribed by
Mike Brown, Dartmoor Press

To all Christian people this present writing seeing or hearing Robert Courtneye sendeth greeting in the Lord God everlasting Know ye that I the said Robert have given granted and by this my present deed confirmed with the assent and consent of Mary my wife and our heirs to the burgesses of my free burghe of Okehampton All those tenements and liberall customes which they had in the time of Richard the sonne of Bawdyn and of Robert the sonne of Reginald and of Mawde Aberenges his wife and Havisses of Courtneye my mother in the burghe and in the foreyne lands of the same Yielding therefore yearly of every burgage to mee and to my heirs by the hands of my portreeve of the said burghe att the feats of St Michael the Archangell xiid and for all service and other demands to mee and my heirs pertaining to them and to their heirs To have and to hold of mee and mine heirs by right of inheritance freely quietly peacebly and honourably for evermore in woods and plaines in ways and paths in streets in common of pasture in waters in mills and in all places where I and mine heirs to them and to their heirs may reasonably warrant Also we have granted that the said burgesses may yearly by their own proper Councell choose and depose a portreeve and a beadle, and the same Portreeve may be quit of Tallage and the Beadle by payment of vid And if any plea or plaint appertaining to the lord be commenced within the said Burghe within the same it ought to be determined and if any man of those burgesses make any fforfeite and is amerced for the same then hee to bee thereof quitt and discharged for xiid But if hee bee often times amerced by the Judgement of the counsell of the Burgesses and my Steward then he may be chastized according to the quality of the trespass And if any man take or purchase a new Burghe then he shall have timber to bild his house by the advice of my Steward and of my other good men in my wood of Okehampton Also if the burgess or their children wold be wedded or marry that they may soe doe freely wheresoever they will And also every burgess may have a sowe and ffower piggs without any pannage in my wood of Okehampton Also that noe man shall by any green leather or skinnes within the said burghe unless hee bee of the same and for that hee shall pay noe tolls Also the portreeve shall gather the toll and alsoe shall he quitt on paymnt of xiid of all taxes and tollage by the same voice Also of ware that passeth not in excess of vid no toll shall be asked or taken and if it passeth vid then to pay toll: for a horse id for every ox or other neete ½d for v sheep id for hogs id for corn or garet nothing Also if any man buy or sell within the Longstone or I must pay toll Also if any man steale or beare away the said till and be thereof convict for every farthing he shall pay vs and for every penny xxs And also if any burgess will depart from the said burghe that he may will his burgage to whom he will except to houses of Religion and over that he shall pay his debts and alsoe give to the lord xiid and to the portreeve ivd and t the burghe ivd and then freely so depart Also if it happen any of the said burgesses have ffulfilled the said reward then his wife and heirs my peaceably receive his lands and tenements Alsoe if any man desire to have the freedom of the sayd burghe the first yeare he must pay the lord ivd and to the burghe ivd and in the second yeare to the lord only ivd and the third yeare he may take a burgage or else pay as aforesaid and depart And if any man beare away the debt of any burgess the burgesses shall sttach and withold the goods of him that shall hav borne the burgesses debts or calls away until hee bee thereof satisfied as right may warrant them Alsoe noe man unless hee bee ffree of condition shall maintain in the lawe against any of my said burgesses Also I will that my burgesses be quit of all manner of toll throughout all Devonshire when I and my heirs of the said Burghe may be paid to me and my heirs by the hands of the Portreeve there And for this my gift grant and confirmation the aforesaid burgesses have given me ten marks sterling for knowledge of the same and that it may abode stable for evermore this present deed with the print of my seale I have made strong these men bearing witness Sir Reginald Courtneye William Nymett Sheriiff of Devon Robert Courtneye [and others]


All Saints Church
by
Mike Brown, Dartmoor Press

The parish church is perched on a high hill overlooking the modern town, at the site of the original settlement of Ocmundtone, founded in Saxon times, and the present structure is believed to be the fifth church which has stood on the spot. Visitors who make the long climb up to this lofty summit, either by foot or by car, will probably suffer one of two disappointments once they have arrived at the church. The most likely of these to occur is that they will find the church doors barred and bolted to all comers. The less likely alternative is that they will be able to enter the church, and will then be very disappointed by what is to be discovered in the spacious interior of the giant edifice.

For the interior of the church conveys nothing of the great antiquity of the site to present day visitors. There are no tombs and tablets to ancient gentry families on its walls, there are no time-worn ledgers in the floor of the nave or chancel, no ancient stained glass windows. All is modern. For the medieval church, consecrated by bishop Bronescombe in 1261, and much enlarged in 1447, was almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1842. Only the tower survived that conflagration. This is not to say that the modern building does not contain some interesting features, and there is nothing which one can actually �dislike� about it � although I personally like churches to convey something of their history and that of the town or parish which they serve.

One feature of particular note is the unusually lofty arched timber roof, with a total of 354 carved oak bosses. The bosses on one of the chancel beams (fifth one from the reredos) contain the names of former rectors. The superb east window is another highlight of the interior not to be missed. But visitors should not just stand back and admire it, but investigate it closely � to see how many different species of birds can be spotted flitting amongst the foliage in the small traceried lights above the main panels. For officionados of church windows there is another by Kemp in the church, and one by Morris, the latter not really to my own tastes. There is also one artefact which does testify to the great antiquity of the site, a thirteenth century coffin lid which now stands in the porch, thought by some to have been laid over the grave of a knight who had returned from the Crusades. This, I think, can be seen by visitors at any time, for as I recollect the outer gate to the porch is not padlocked.


Okehampton Parish Registers
data provided by
Mike Brown, Dartmoor Press

These begin in 1634. The pages which I have myself had the misfortune to try and use are so badly faded that they are next to useless! Okehampton is apparently on the IGI, but given the state of the PRs I doubt that there are very many IGI entries from this Parish!

There are 1,130 Okehampton entries on the Dartmoor & West Devon Genealogy Index (DGI) a surname search service from which is available from Dartmoor Press.


Dartmoor Wildlife in 2000
by
Paul Rendell

These notes were taken from the Dartmoor News published throughout the year. These sighting and notes are from readers of the magazine.

This year there is been some unusual sightings, but the wet weather has caused many problems for nesting birds. Nests were washed out and many birds failed to bring up any young. The 100 days of rain during the autumn/winter caused birds to die because of problems finding food.

Unusual sightings include a Moorhen on the Forder Brook near Gidleigh, a large number of Woodcock in various places, a white female roe deer in the Teign Valley, Nightjars nesting in the valleys on the edge of the Moor, Goldcrest at Shipley Bridge, a nesting Golden Plover near Cadover Bridge � they do not normally nest on the south moor, and lots of Snipe.

Sightings of Hares have increased including at Great Nodden, Cox Tor, Barn Hill, Heckwood Tor, Venford/Bench Tor and Shipley Bridge. Red Grouse are decreasing with fewer sightings than other years. Otters have had a good year with more sightings than other years.

Butterflies can be seen in most months of the year on any fine day. Spring seems to come earlier every year with Snowdrops and Daffodils flowering together in February, but snow fell in April.

Roe Deer are also increasing with sightings on Bellever Tor, Stanlake Farm, Yelverton, Burrator, Teign Valley, East Ockment Valley, Fernworthy Reservoir and just the odd sighting of Red Deer.

Buzzards are still very common as are Ravens and can been seen in places on the moor. The Spring was good for flowers, with Pink Purslane being seen in many places � riverbanks, woodlands and hedges. Kate Van der Kiste reports that a �look a like� Glastonbury thorn can be found in the Avon Valley. It is at the ruins of Brentmoor House, near Shipley Bridge. Kate has known the bush to be smothered in tiny white flowers towards the end of December, although sometimes it does not bloom until January. Also our roving reporter Kate informs us that there is chamomile growing beside the road just outside the Brentmoor House gate. There has always been some growing on the edge of the Shipley Bridge car park, but she has never seen it so far up the river before.

The Author saw a flock on 12 Fieldfares on the slopes of Pu Tor in November and a few days later saw around 60 Fieldfares and Redwing on the lower slopes of Cosdon stripping the berries off the holly trees. Seconds later 2 snipe flew up in front of him as he tried to cross the boggy ground.

Last year was not a very good year for bullfinches. The Editor saw very few in the hedgerows while in 1999 he saw several dozen. We are hoping for a better year for wildlife during 2001.

[Dartmoor Press Footnote: This article was originally written for a Millennium Project. It is appended to the Okehampton page as Dartmoor Guide Paul Rendell lives on the outskirts of the town]


A Day in the Life of Hugh de Courtenay,
Baron of Okehampton
A Short Story
by
Mike Brown, Dartmoor Press

The banner bearing the Arms of Hugh de Courtenay �

blue it was with three red roundels
and a label of azure

� flutters atop his lance in the cool breeze coming off the Irish Sea. He is in good company, for amongst the large throng gathered on the isthmus can be seen the banners of a hundred and six other English knights, who have marched from Carlisle at the behest of King Edward I, to lay siege to Caerlaverock Castle. Hugh de Courtenay and his followers are in the Third Squadron, commanded by the King himself.

The massively-built castle which his army faces is a formidable obstacle standing on the Solway Firth, protected on the west and the north by the sea and on the south by a wide expanse of marshes and woodland �

Mighty was Caerlaverock Castle,
siege it feared not, scorned surrender,
wherefore came the King in person.
Many a resolute defender,
well supplied with stores and engines,
�gainst assualt the fortress manned.
Shield-shaped was it, corner-towered,
gate and drawbridge barbican�d.

This apparently impenetrable castle was what the three thousand men-at-arms faced on that July day in 1300, as they lined up in battle array to the east of the fortress, preparing their stores and assault engines, Hugh de Courtenay and some of the other knights trying out their chargers for speed.

Then the battle commences, the advance parties of foot soldiers charging at the castle ramparts, firing arrows, bolts, stones and shot as they run headlong to their deaths under a hail of fire returned from the defenders within. It is futile, pitting small hand-held weapons and human flesh against moated walls of solid rock, and the attack is repulsed with heavy loss of life.

Seeing the plight of the infantrymen, the first ranks of mounted knights charge at the castle gates, their standard banners fluttering gaily in the wind, their heavy horses straining under the weight of armour and chain mail, heaving in the frenzied fury of the assault. Bertram de Mountbouchier and Gerard de Gondronville are in the van. Fitz Marmaduke, Robert Willoughby, and Robert Hamsart, too. As they near the castle walls, shields and helmets are crushed under the weight of rocks and stones hurled at them from the battlements. Mighty chargers, colourfully attired in the trappings of their masters, are sent reeling under the onslaught from above.

Willoughby receives a crossbow bolt through his chest, Marmaduke�s and Hamsart�s forces are thrown back, their fine silken banners tattered and stained with blood, as Thomas Richmond brings his much vaunted lancers into the fray. Launching themselves in a blind rage at the drawbridge they try to break down the gates, but are driven back as missiles rain down on them. The remnants of Graham�s followers, too, do not return unscathed. Newly-knighted Ralph de Gorges is struck down again and again with heavy boulders. Robert Tony�s and Richard Rokeley�s men are sent away, and many of those under Adam de la Forde�s command are gored and bloodied, as
stones and other missiles fall like heavy rain upon the attackers. Kirkbride�s forces are crushed with rocks as they try in vain to gain entrance. Muddied and bloodied, the survivors scarcely have enough energy left within them to crawl away.

The defenders will not give way, but neither will the beseigers give up, and with renewed energies fresh forces are brought into the battle. Clifford, Bartholomew de Badlesmere, and John de Cromwell call their followers round them, and with a mighty rallying cry exhort them to pit their strength against the impenetrable walls. Cromwell is soon forced to retire, his shield and armour battered and scarred, like those who had gone before him. La Warde and John de Grey find the defenders no less resolute, and neither can the Lord of Bretagne�s men gain access to the castle gateway. Lord Hasting�s forces meet with no greater success. And John de Creting�s steed is taken from under him as he charges at the drawbridge, as another of the defenders� missiles
finds its mark. John Deincourt, the brothers Bassett, and the two Berkeleys, brothers also, bring their troops into contention, but they too are forced to withdraw, their steel lances and bright flashing blades blunted in vain.

Still it seems that the defenders are unflinching, as one is smitted there being another to take his place on the castle ramparts. But they are wavering under the incessant attacks and the ferocity of the conflict, and a soldier holding a white banner of parley suddenly appears atop the main castle turret. At that split second another crossbow bolt is fired by one of the attackers, pinning the white pennon to the defender�s face. Fearing that no lives would be spared, the castle gates are thrown open in surrender. Remarkably, of the original garrison of many hundreds, there are but sixty survivors.

�Ici finist le Siege de Karlaverok�

Footnotes: The foregoing is based upon an eyewitness account of the Siege of Caerlaverock, written in rhyme, which gives a desciption not only of the battle itself, but also of the Coats of Arms borne by all of the knights who took part. Hugh de Courtenay is referred to in the introductory verses, within which are mentioned most of the knights who were present, but is not named in those verses which deal with the actual siege itself. The original poem was penned in Norman-French, and was translated into modern English verse by C W Scott-Giles about forty years ago. I have tried to retain the essential details of the poem without directly plagiarising
Scott-Giles� excellent rendition of the original. The verses incorporated into the foregoing account are taken from his translation, to give readers an idea of the structure of the poem, and the accuracy of the details which are revealed in its four or five hundred lines.


Prehistoric Hill Fort at East Hill
from
DNPA Annual Report 2000-2001

"Extensive vegetation clearance took place [in the year 2000] along the ramparts of the hillfort at East Hill, Okehampton...During the course of the work additional earthworks, an outwork, field system and cairns were located in the vicinity; these have now been surveyed by English Heritage".

[Footnote: The area, on the outskirts of Okehampton just within the Dartmoor National Park, is open to public access: grid ref SX595938. The area provides splendid views overlooking Halstock Cleave and West Cleave to the Belstone Tors on the skyline].



 
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