Okehampton - Encyclopedia

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OKEHAMPTON, a market town and municipal borough in the Tavistock parliamentary division of Devonshire, England, on the east and west Okement rivers, 22 m. W. by N. of Exeter by the London & South-Western railway. Pop. (1901) 2569. The church of All Saints has a fine Perpendicular tower, left uninjured when the nave and chancel were burned down in 1842. Glass is made from granulite found in the Meldon Valley, 3 m. distant. Both branches of the river abound in small trout. Okehampton Castle, one of the most picturesque ruins in Devon, probably dates from the 15th century, though its keep may be late Norman. It was dismantled under Henry VIII., but considerable portions remain of the chapel, banqueting hall and herald's tower. Immediately opposite are the traces of a supposed British camp, and of the Roman road from Exeter to Cornwall. The custom of tolling the curfew still prevails in Okehampton. The town is, governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area, 503 acres.

Okehampton (Oakmanton) was bestowed by William the Conqueror on Baldwin de Brioniis, and became the caput of the barony of Okehampton. At the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086 it already ranked as a borough, with a castle, a market paying 4 shillings, and four burgesses. In the 18th century the manor passed by marriage to the Courtenays, afterwards earls of Devon, and Robert de Courtenay in 1220 gave the king a palfrey to hold an annual fair at his manor of Okehampton, on the vigil and feast day of St Thomas the Apostle. In the reign of Henry III. the inhabitants received a charter (undated) from the earl of Devon, confirming their rights "in woods and in uplands, in ways and in paths, in common of pastures, in waters and in mills. They were to be free from all toll and to elect yearly a portreeve and a beadle." A further grant of privileges was bestowed in 1292 by the earl of Devon, but no charter of incorporation was granted until that from James I. in 1623, and the confirmation of this by Charles II. in 1684 continued to be the governing charter, the corporation consisting of a mayor, seven principal burgesses and eight assistant burgesses, until the Municipal Corporations Act of 1882. On a petition from the inhabitants the town was reincorporated by a new charter in 1885. Okehampton returned two members to parliament in 1300, and again in 1312 and 1313, after which there was an intermission till 1640, from which date two members were returned regularly until by the Reform Act of 1832 the borough was disfranchised.

See Victoria County History, Devonshire; W. B. Bridges, History of Okehampton (1889).

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