The area around Bratton Clovelly has been inhabited since
the Neolithic period. At the edge of the parish to the north, on Broadbury,
there are several barrows and Castle Cross had a Roman signal station, hence
its name. The stones of this building were still visible up to the
middle of the 19th Century. This cross-roads is the highest non-moorland road in
the county, being 928 feet (281 metres) above sea-level.
The land within the parish is Culm Measures (unique to the
north Devon and north Cornwall
area, this is heavy clay and not good quality, but has a wide variety of
interesting flora and fauna) and much outside the village itself was moorland.
If you stand in the churchyard and look across to the large field on the hill
opposite it is obvious that this was originally several smaller ones.
Originally fields in Devon were of only a few acres but
modern machinery has necessitated removal of some of the hedges. In certain
lights you can still see the lines of the old hedges and ditches.
There are no valuable mineral resources as on Dartmoor
or in Cornwall. During the early
centuries Bratton Clovelly was the cross-road for pack-horse routes from north and south
Devon and from Cornwall
in the west to Exeter and beyond.
In the 17th Cent. it was a thriving place owing to the wool trade, but since
then the area has never been particularly prosperous and the (often absentee)
landlords made no improvements. Perhaps we have been lucky in some respects as
we still have so much of the past available to us that has not been
'modernised', particularly the Church that still shows its Saxon and Norman
Some of the place-names are Celtic and the hamlet of Boasley
was mentioned in a Saxon document in 1050. In 1086 the manor of Bratton
was held by Baldwin 'The Sheriff' and paid taxes on 1 virgate (about 30 acres,
sufficient for 15 ploughs). Bratton was in two parts separated by a strip of
land at Thrushelton (now Broadwoodwidger), this continued until at least 1840.
A family named D'eaudon held the manor in the 13th Cent., a
daughter of whose married Sir Roger Clavill which gave the name ‘Clovelly’ (the
name Clavill being corrupted over time). They died without issue and the manor
passed to her sister who was married to Sir Baldwyn Malet. Their
great-grandson was Walter Meriet, Chancellor of Exeter
1322. In due time it passed to the Somertons, whose daughters married into
the Francis and Kirkham families. The name of the village
was then changed to Bratton Francis until the male line ran out in 1547. The
joint heirs were called Langford, Pengelly and Coryndon and the name reverted
to Bratton Clovelly.
The Langfords were Cornish in origin with several seats in
Cornwall as well as at least four in Devon, one of the latter being Swaddledown
- which can trace seven generations of this family. Swaddledown is
to the north-west of the village and the present house was built in the early
17th century on the site of an earlier medieval building.
The Burnbys of Burnby also were living in the village for seven generations and
recorded their marriages in stained glass windows, the remains of which can be
seen in the vestry of the Church. They were obviously very generous to the
church and contributed to the building of the aisle. Many of the earlier family
names in the village continue through the centuries to this day.
Bratton Clovelly had no 'gentry' houses but several
substantial farmhouses (now Grade II* listed buildings), Wrixhill, Chimsworthy
and West Burrow from the early 15th Century, Great Burrow, Swaddledown, Morson and
Court Barton from 16th and 17th Century.
Many of the joint lords of the manor over the years have
been Cornish gentry who did not necessarily live in the village and did not go
in for extravagant or showy buildings. There was some building in the 19th
Cent., Eversfield Manor was placed on the site of an older farmhouse (known as
Culmpit) and the (Old) Rectory in 1902 replaced the original
thatched one at Domons which burnt down. Domons itself was also
rebuilt at about the same time. The rest of the buildings are 20th Cent.
Many of the village cottages are built of cob,
formed of clay, straw and small stones mixed and, by repute, trampled by
cattle. Originally the roofs would have been thatched. One of the indications
of a former thatched roof is seen by looking at the chimney
stack. Look for fillets of slate embedded in the stonework, these
were overlaps to keep rain water away from the joint between the thatching and
Bread ovens were mostly inserted into the cottages after the
buildings were erected. Externally there is a 'hump' at the outside base of the
chimney which was put there to house the bread oven (the most noticeable one in
the village is at Town Farm Cottage). Within the cottages it will be noticed
that the stone and plaster work is discontinuous with the fireplace. The oven
itself was a cavity that housed a cloam (earthenware) shell and its lid with a
metal outer door. The oven was warmed by putting in a lighted faggot
and closing the door. When the cloam casing turned white with heat
the remains of the faggot were scraped out and bread and other baking products
were put in. Inattention to the combing out of the faggot
constituted a hazard to the cottage from the sparks flying everywhere.
Most of the cottages would have been divided into two or
three dwellings but despite this they would have housed not only the cottagers
but also artisans and trades people. It is only in recent times that they have
been enlarged to their present sizes.
The church is of 'dressed' stone and granite and the roof is
The church and its history is covered in more detail on
this web site ~ follow the link below
St Mary the Virgin
A Printable Version of this page can be found below
A Brief HistoryParish History Website Link