A Brief History of Alphington

This is the first version of the history of, and stories from Alphington, which were displayed at my Autumn Exeter Festival Exhibition in 2006. My first Alphington History book has now been published and is being sold to raise funds for The Alphington Village Hall Redevelopment Fund.


The Name Alphington

The modern name of Alphington derives from ‘Alfa’, ‘ing’ and ‘ton’. ‘Alfa’ was a Saxon farmer who owned most of the land that Alphington was built on, ‘ing’ means ‘place of’ and ‘ton’ means ‘a settlement’.

Early History of the Village

In 658 the village passed on to the Saxon Kings and they held it until the Norman Conquest of 1066. King William I then held the manor and let it to various families. Baldwin The Sheriff was a leaseholder around 1100 and the village became part of the Barony of Okehampton. The village fell into the hands of William Avenol between 1142 and 1155 and somewhere between 1242 and 1284 the Neville family took over. The manor was passed on to John Burgeys in 1357 and in 1382 Sir Hugh Segrave purchased it. In around 1385 he exchanged it for Newham Courcy with Sir Philip Courtenay, who also held Powderham. From that time on the manor remained in the hands of the Courtenay’s.

The Courtenay’s were a family who came from France during the reign of Henry II (1154–1189, born 1133). Hugh de Courtenay and his wife Margaret de Bohun had eight sons and nine daughters. All the Earls of Devon descend from this marriage.

Alphington is not just a village but also a parish. According to White’s Devonshire 1850 Alphington Parish had 1286 inhabitants and about 2700 acres of fertile land. Matford belonged to Sir L. V. Palk and Risdon states that a man by the name of Stone died in the village at the age of 120 years during the reign of Elizabeth I.

The Poor’s Land comprised of about 12A and also a farm house at Holcombe Burnell purchased in 1716 from money left by John Bliss and other donors. It was let for £15 per year. The poor parishioners had 30/- a year from the Matford Estate left by Francis and Daniel Vinnicombe in 1675 and the dividends of £230 three per cent consols purchased in 1784 with £110 left by Edward Leach and another donor. Also the interest of £5 left by James Pitman. The Poor Houses were four small cottages purchased in 1675 with £45 given by various donors and rented free to poor families.

From White’s Devonshire 1878–1879 during 1871 there were 1166 inhabitants, 561 males and 605 females that lived in 251 houses on 2471 acres of land. Matford belonged to Sir L. V. Palk and the Gibbs family. The Poor’s land was sold in 1876 for £800, the money was invested and the dividends were distributed in bread. The four small cottages, that were the poor houses, were still occupied by the poor families for a weekly rental of 3d.

Historic Lanes, Roads and Buildings in Alphington

Clapperbrook Lane

Once known as Watery Lane the name quite possibly changed to Clapperbrook Lane when the clapperbridge was built.

Clapperbridges are some of the earliest bridges composed of slabs of stone called clappers. There were single clapper bridges, which simply consisted of one clapper going from one bank to the other of a small stream. Alternatively, for the wider streams several clappers were placed across supported by stone piers built mid-stream.

The lane is part of a very old route and originally ran from the village through what is now Marsh Barton Trading Estate, over the bridge crossing the Great Western Railway, along Salmon Pool Lane and along what is now Barrack Road. Travellers from London who wished to bypass Exeter and the City walls on their way to Plymouth used it. They would have crossed the River Exe at a ford called Madford. There is a raised path along part of one side of the lane as it has always had problems with flooding. There were originally fourteen cottages/houses at the top of the lane but the 1960's floods destroyed most of them. The building of the flood relief scheme meant that more properties had to be pulled down and this has left only six residences; there is also one at the bottom of the lane.

Clapperbrook Lane and the raised walkway
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

Mill Lane

Mill Lane
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

This lane is thought to be at least 400 years old and ran from what is now Church Road to Ide Lane. It is here, where Mill Lane meets Ide Lane and Wheatsheaf Way and Smithfield Road roughly cross that Sobey’s Farmhouse once stood. Past residents of this farm included: Henry Trimble Way and his son John Way (from White's Devonshire 1878–1879); and Percy Dadd who use to supply horses and drive the carriages for visiting judges at Exeter assizes.
Percy Dadd sold the farm for housing development in the early to mid sixties.


Positioned about half way down the lane is The Old Corn Mill. From here about three-quarters of a mile up stream along the Alphin Brook there is still a small weir where a leat ran off to bring water to the mill. The water was held in a pond in the garden of the mill before being sent crashing down to drive the waterwheel. The Old Corn Mill ceased milling in the 1930s and sadly the pond has now been filled in, though you can still see where the water use to enter the mill to drive the water wheel. The miller’s cottage was situated on the opposite side of the lane but is no longer standing. Some of the millers included Richard Brown (from White's Devonshire 1850) and William Millford Mallett (from White's Devonshire 1878–1879). Some villagers remember the pond and the swans that swam on it and even today there is evidence of the track that the water took from the mill to rejoin The Alphin Brook. In one particular front garden of the houses that are built alongside the lane the ground is sinking to such an extent that there is a clear hole appearing; this is where a large pipe was installed to allow any water to run away. On the side of The Alphin Brook, set into the concrete wall is a grill where this water will enter the brook. The bridge that crosses the brook at this point is a new one and the old bridge was wooden.

Waterpower has been used for more than 2000 years. The Greeks were milling cereal in the first century BC and the Romans introduced grain watermills in this country. The Saxons had numerous watermills and during the 12th century onwards the number grew. The heyday was from the mid 18th century until the end of the 19th century. Eventually, roller mills driven by water turbines or electric power replaced them. There were four different types of waterwheel: (1) "pitchback" where the water enters the bucket of the wheel from the back; (2) "breastshot" where the water enters the bucket at, approximately, the middle of the wheel; (3) "undershot" where the water flows underneath the wheel; (4) "overshot" where the water enters the bucket at the top of the wheel. The overshot and pitchback were the most efficient as the wheel was driven by both the weight and force of the water. As with most contemporary mills I expect The Old Corn Mill’s cogs would have been wooden with metal teeth, the wood could have been well-seasoned apple or hornbeam though beech could also have been used. Wooden cogs were the best as replacing the broken ones was a simple and an inexpensive job that the miller could have done himself. The wood was smooth wearing so that the wear on the iron gears was minimized and they were quiet. They also prevented sparking and this greatly reduced the risk of fire, which was the miller’s nightmare. The grain for milling would be put into a hopper and sent down to the millstones. The bottom stone was called the bed stone and the top stone was the running stone. The speed at which the running stone operated and the amount of grain being milled at one time determined the quality of the final product, there were also different types of millstone depending on, for example, whether the miller was milling to produce flour or animal feed. The surfaces of the millstones had groves cut into them as the running stone turned against the bed stone the furrows crossed in a scissor fashion. The shearing action ground the grain and the meal was propelled to the edges of the bed stone. The meal then fell, most probably, through a spout into a meal bin, it was then bagged ready for delivery or collection.

Ide Lane

At the top of Ide Lane is the remains of a bridge, this was where The Teign Valley Railway line crossed the lane. The Teign Valley Railway (Exeter–Newton Abbot branch line) was widely thought to be the most beautiful of all the branch lines in Devon. It was a single track railway running through the villages of Alphington, Ide, Longdown, Dunsford, Christow, Ashton, Trusham, Chudleigh, Chudleigh Knighton, Heathfield and then on into Newton Abbot. In 1882 the first section opened just running from Heathfield to a temporary terminus at Christow. In 1903 the line was extended through to Exeter. The line was at its busiest when the roadstone quarries were open to supply the material to metal England's roads. The high level of freight traffic lasted from the early 1900s until the quarries became exhausted in 1930s. With the arrival of the motorbus the railway's passengers became less and the service was withdrawn in 1958. Eventually the line was completely closed in 1968 because of the Beeching cuts.

Remains of the railway bridge in Ide Lane
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

I was told a story where the train drivers would drop off farmers folk not at the station but close to their farms so that they would have a shorter walk home across the fields. The driver’s reward was some vegetables or a bag of potatoes!

Midway Terrace, which is set back from Ide Lane was originally a row of workman's cottages. They housed the workers who were cutting the Exeter–Newton Abbot branch line of the Teign Valley Railway. During the Second World War an incendiary bomb fell through the roof of a cottage where Mr Rossiter was living, he threw the bomb out and was the only person injured.

Incendiary bombs were used as markers for the bombers during the air raids. The bombs did not explode but they burst into flames, therefore, acting as beacons showing the aircrews where to drop their bombs

Laurel Cottage is well hidden from view and previous residents have included: Hy. Dorvill, gent (from White's Devonshire 1850); Misses Martha and Caroline Stockland (from White's Devonshire 1878–1879).

Gidleys, which is thought to be the oldest house in Alphington, is built of cob and thatch and it was named after Bartholomew Gidley who came to the village in about 1611. The Gidley family name does not appear in the village after 1695.

Cob is an old Devon word meaning mud wall. This was Devon’s traditional building material from the 14th century and was used for over 500 years. There are probably more cob buildings in Devon than anywhere else in England because of Devon’s quality clay sub-soils. They have a consistency and low shrinkage factor, ideal for cob construction. Straw was added and sometimes dung to reduce cracking when the cob was drying. Walls were built in stages with each layer of clay being given plenty of time to dry before the next one was added. Good quality cob would last quite well without rendering but the finished walls were normally rendered with quicklime putty and coarse sand and finally a lime wash. This traditional coating is porous so if any moisture should enter into the cob it can evaporate through the render.

It is thought that the panelling in the dining room came from some old box pews that were removed from the Church in 1876. The pump that was in use until the 1960s can still be seen in the front garden today and the well has never been known to run dry. In the back garden is a ruin of a stone building, which was used for storing thatching materials. Gidleys use to have its own farm but in the mid 1860s when Mr John Coles became the tenant it merged into Sobey’s Farm. Another resident included: James Coles, a builder and undertaker (from White's Devonshire 1878–1879).

Myrtle Cottages is a row of three cottages that were built in 1833 or even earlier. They are constructed of cob and brick and were once known as 1, 2 and 3 Myrtle cottages but in the 1950s they were recorded as having Ide Lane numbers. In 1889 they belonged to John Routley who was the tenant at the Admiral Vernon Inn. At the end of this row is another cottage, number 29 and known as Myrtle Cottage. In the past it was owned by the Earl of Devon and after that William Holmes in 1833. Other past residents included: Thomas Hill, gent, (from White's Devonshire 1850); William Godfrey Palmer who was a coal merchant (from White's Devonshire 1878–1879). Before Myrtle Close was built in 1965 it was a market garden owned by the Grimes family.

Alphington Village Hall
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

The Village Hall was originally a National School that was established in 1812 to teach the boys of the poor families from Alphington and surrounding parishes. There was only one Master with the most intelligent of the senior boys passing on their knowledge to the younger ones. At one time Mr Thomas Brewer was a Master at the school. At first the school only taught reading but later on writing and arithmetic were added to the timetable. In 1878 the school became a reading room when the Board School opened in Church Road.

Tucked away behind a lovely cottage-style garden is a house that was built in 1932.

The Griffin Alms Houses these were given to the village in 1936.

Alms houses have existed for over 1000 years, the earliest ones being founded by churches or monasteries and they were dependent on donations of land and money. Later these houses were supported by the wealthy that provided for them in their wills. Almshouses were generally intended to house the needy, the poor and the elderly within the parish.

Burgoyne Cottage use to be a barn and Ide Lane originally ran along the back of the property. William Burgoyne who also built the Admiral Vernon built the actual cottage in 1627.

Ventlake is another one of the old houses of the village. Inset into the wall of The Trap House is a Goose Plaque perhaps commemorating the famous Goose Fairs.

A trap house was similar to a cart shed but it was used to house traps, gigs and carriages.

Parrs Cottages used to stand on the corner of the lane where the new flats are now built.

One story I was told about a family who lived in one of these cottages and their six children slept in one bed head to toe.

The Goose plaque
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

The Exminster Road now known as the Dawlish Road

The Dawlish Road winding its way out of the Village
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

On a map dated 1890 two Marl Pits are shown on the side of The Dawlish Road, these pits were used to extract a mixture of nutrient rich clay and carbonate of line.

Such pits can date back to the post-medieval period and at times their existence is evident from field and place names.

Past residents of Matford Barton/Matford Farm included: William Neck, farmer, Matford Farm; Frederick Pitts, farmer and miller, Matford Farm (from White's Devonshire 1878–1879). A "Barton" means "a collection of farms".

An anti-aircraft gun was in place alongside this road during World War Two.

These guns were usually Bofus guns that fired small shells or 3.7-inch guns. The 3.7-inch gun could fire a 25 lb shell to a height of 30,000 feet. The problem was with the timing of the fuses so that the shells exploded at the right height. Eventually "predictors" were developed to calculate what timing should be set on the fuse. Aircraft were rarely hit and anti-aircraft fire was more of a moral boast than an effective deterrent against bombing.

There were a couple of RAF squadrons stationed just outside the village at Exeter during The Battle of Britain. 87 Squadron arrived during July 1940 to perform a day and night defensive patrol, though, their major task was night fighting. On the 7th September 1940 601 Squadron arrived to perform defensive duties. Both squadrons flew the Hurricane Mk1 aircraft.

The Old Rectory is situated behind The Rectory and past residents included: Rev. Rd. Ellicombe M.A. (from White's Devonshire 1850); Rev. Wm Butterfield M.A. (from White's Devonshire 1878–1879). Another past rector of Alphington from 1780 until 1831 was William Ellicombe. During the Second World War the field in front of The Rectory and also Raglands field had Nissan huts erected on them. After the war the huts were used to house homeless families until the early 1950s.

The Lodge was built at the turn of the 18th century and it was the ARP headquarters during World War Two. A past resident included: Mr Thomas Norrish (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1879).

Air Raid Patrols (ARPs) were formed from many men and women who came from all walks of life though; very often they were police officers that volunteered to help in their spare time. Their job was to sound the siren when an air raid was suspected and to ensure that the black out was carried out effectively. Every possible light had to be extinguished so that the enemy planes could not pick out the residential areas to bomb. There would soon be a knock on your door from an ARP person if there were the slightest chink of light showing through your blackout curtains.

The Exeter Road now known as Church Road

A past resident of Osborne House was Mrs Eliza Hews (White’s Devonshire 1878–1879).

Fairfax House was also known as Belvil or Belville and later as 1, Church Road. It is another one of theancient houses in the village and it is thought that General Fairfax was stationed there during the Civil War. The shaft of the War Memorial cross, which is now leaning against the Church Tower, was found in the garden of this house. Today much of the garden has been developed for housing. Past residents included: Jocelyn Foulkes; Dr. R. K. Fortescue Foulkes who lived there before the last war.

Crosse Cottage was thus named because of its proximity to the original site of the Alphington Cross.

Harry Webb owned Webb’s Garage, which was built in the 1930s, and he lived in one of the houses on the opposite side of the road. Harry specialized in recharging accumulators for valve wireless sets.

Back in those days wireless sets were cumbersome items powered by a large and very heavy High Tension dry battery, which gave about 90 to 120 volts. A lead acid battery called an accumulator was also required and that was even heavier. Charging could take all day and the cost was somewhere between 2d and 6d. The owners name was written on the side of the battery in white paint for easy identification.

Mandrake House use to back on to Mandrake Farm. The House was known as Wandrake when John Wandrake was a tenant in the early part of the 18th century. Over the years the ‘W’ became an ‘M’. Watsons, which was the company that supplied the steel for the rebuilding of Exeter after World War Two, moved there but they later relocated to new premises on Marsh Barton. Another past resident included: Jas Bray, Surveyor (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1879).

Mile End Cottage was originally a pair of semi-detached cottages, the one on the left-hand side was let in 1839 to Charles Dickens for four years for his elderly parents, John and Elizabeth and their youngest son Augustus. The landlady lived in the other cottage. Rent was £20 per annum and the furniture cost £70. The two cottages were knocked into one during the 1930s. Dickens wrote about the cottages thus:

. . . the house is on the high road to Plymouth and though in the very heart of Devonshire there is as much long stage and posting life as you would find in Piccadilly. The situation is charming, meadows in front, an orchard running parallel to the garden hedge, richly wooded hills closing in the prospect behind, and away to the left, before a splendid view of the hill on which Exeter is situated, the Cathedral towers rising up to the sky in the most picturesque manner possible.’ ‘I almost forget the number of rooms; but there is an excellent parlour with two other rooms on the ground floor. There is a really beautiful little room over the parlour, which I am furnishing as a drawing room and there is a splendid garden. The paint and wallpaper throughout is new and fresh and cheerful- looking. The place is clean beyond all description and the neighbourhood, I suppose, the most beautiful in the most beautiful of English counties.’

Charles Dickens wrote the opening chapters of Nicholas Nickleby while he was staying at Mile End Cottage. It is thought that Mr Micawber from David Copperfield was based upon Charles’ father. Another past resident included Rev. John Edwd Collyns (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1879).

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth on 7th February 1812. He was sent to school at 9 but he could not stay long as his father was imprisoned for bad debt. While the rest of the family was sent to Marshalsea Charles worked in Warren’s blacking factory, the conditions were appalling and he suffered from loneliness and despair. After three years he was able to return to school. He never forgot his experiences and they became fictionalised in his novels David Copperfield and Great Expectations. He started his career as a journalist beginning by working for The Mirror of Parliament and The True Sun. In 1833 he was Parliamentary journalist for The Morning Chronical. In April 1836 he married Catherine Hogarth and within the same month Pickwick Papers was published. As well as novels he wrote travel books, plays, edited weekly periodicals, administered charitable organizations and lectured abroad. There was a final unfinished novel, Mystery of Edwin Drood. In 1858 he was estranged from his wife after the birth of 10 children and he maintained relations with his mistress, the actress Ellen Teman. He died of a stroke in 1870 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Devonia Terrace stetches from Blenheim Road to the building that is occupied by the Post Office and was built after World War One. A petrol station use to stand where Queen Street Carpets is today and in the back of the building there was a laundry.

Cross View was the location of a ‘rope-walk’ in 1790.

A ‘rope-walk’ was a long piece of ground where rope was produced. Each yearn was twisted separately and then several yarns were twisted together to make the rope using a twisting machine and sledge.

Devonia Terrace now called Church Road
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

The rope produced in the village was supplied to the shipping trade at Exeter quay. The local farmers were paid well for the flax and hemp that was used to make the rope. In 1905 the houses were built but no one is sure why it was called Cross View, as the Alphington Cross could never be seen from this small road. One of the houses was a police house; it had a police sign over the door and was occupied by Sergeant Henry Boutfield.

Brooklands House was a farmhouse that was built around 1774 and later became a hotel. It was badly damaged by fire in both the 1930s and the late 1950s when the thatched roof caught fire. It was demolished in 1974. A past resident was John Richards Hussey auctioneer (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1879).

Rose Cottage use to stand close to Brooklands; a past resident included Miss Christine Smale (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1979).

A past resident of Willow Cottage was Richard Short, joiner and builder (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1879).

The Playing Field stands on the site formerly known as the ‘Chronicles’. During the Second World War barrage balloons were floated above this field as an anti-aircraft device.

Barrage balloons were 62 feet long and floated up to 5,000 feet above the ground secured by strong cables. They were designed to stop enemy aircraft flying too low and therefore bombing accurately.

A Nissan hut use to stand in the playing fields. It was moved here from the County Ground where it had housed American troops during World War Two.

Brook Bridge. The original bridge over The Alphin Brook was wooden and constructed in 1699. A stone bridge replaced this in 1729 but the twin- arches increased the risk of flooding by hampering the flow of water, therefore, in 1842 it was rebuilt with a single span.

The Newberry family use to own Marsh Barton Farm until it was bought by a compulsory purchase order by Exeter City Council. Other past residents that worked on Marsh Barton were: Richard Newberry, market gardener, Marsh Barton; John Sage, cowkeeper, Marsh Barton; John Pethybridge, Marsh Barton (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1879). Marsh Barton became a trading estate in 1946 with the first major development taking place in 1951. The number of businesses increased throughout the 50s and 60s and by 1977 there were 116 companies. Today there are around 500 businesses on the estate. The original building where South West Metal Finishing stands today was built in 1953–1954 (the roof was date stamped) and it was an egg packing station. There was also a car breakers called Toghill, a car-breaking yard was situated where the Willsdown Road development stands today.

Dr. Spencer used Bridge House as a surgery after it had been renovated following a fire in 1936. It was demolished after the floods of the 1960’s. Other past residents were: Mrs Wippell, tanner (from White’s Devonshire 1850); Thomas Wippell, Bridge House, Wippell & Rew (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1879).

Sid Raddon use to run his coal business from Bridge Cottage and other past residents were: Mrs My Ann Mantel (from White’s Devonshire 1850); John Cromar Rew, tanner (Wippell & Rew, tanners) (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1879).

Church Road from The Green
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

Buscove Cottages were built around 1700. The cottage on the corner of Chapel Lane was ‘Ye Olde Alphington Bakery & Café’ run by the Hatswell family and later by the Pollards. The cottage next door was a newsagent and before that it was the second position for the Alphington Post Office having moved from its original building on the corner of Ide Lane. John Hele was the postmaster (from White’s Devonshire 1850 and 1878–1879).

St. Martins Lodge use to be known as The Laurels and a past resident included: John Davie Bassett M.D. (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1879).

The next row of Cottages was the site of the thatched cottages that were left untouched by the fire of 1871. However, they were demolished in the very early part of the 20th century to make way for the brick houses that are seen today.

Rosemont is a Grade II listed building that was saved from demolision. It was built around 1840 and was the house of the Heale family. Another past resident included: Arthur Chamberlyne Chichester Esq. J. P. (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1879).

The Old School and The School Masters House. The School Board was formed on 31st March 1875 and consisted of The Chairman, Thomas Woodman Esq.; The Vice-chairman, Mr. Frederick Loram; Rev. Dr. Dennert; Messrs. Robert White and John Way; Mr. John Wills from the contributory parish of Exminster and Clerk; Mr. John Hutchings, Shillingford St. George was also a contributory parish. This Board School was built in 1876 along with teacher’s residence at a total cost of £2300. The architect was Mr J. W. Rowell of Newton Abbot and Torquay; the builder was Mr H. Phillips of Exeter. Mr John Bell was Board School Master and Mrs Mary Adeems Board School Mistress (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1879). It opened in 1876 and stood on the site of The Church House. Originally, a brick wall split the playground area and boys would play on one side and the girls the other. The school closed in 1987.

The old school
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

The Church House was built in the reign of Elizabeth I on land given by William Courtenay Esq. The house was leased for 99 years in May 1784. The lease stipulated that the ‘fine’ of £100 should go to the repair of the Church and the annual rent of £5 plus £5 interest should be used to distribute bread to the poor. The Church House was destroyed by fire on 15th September 1871.

Past residents of Tozers Cottage included: Henry Tozer, basket maker; Samuel Tozer, Vict. King William (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1879).

A past resident of Pixie Cottage was Miss Mary Way (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1879).

Chudleigh Road

This is shown as a Roman road on a map dated 1890.

Miss Mitchell erected the Lych Gate in the 1950s in memory of her family.

The Apple Loft
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

The small building to the side of the churchyard has been called The Apple Loft and at one time there were some large apple orchards in the village. It was also in this building that clerical teaching took place and it is possible that this is where Charles Babbage was educated.

Charles Babbage came from a Totnes family but he was born in London in 1791. He was sent to Devon because at the ages of 5 and 10 he had suffered from violent fevers. The clergyman in Alphington had been told that the priority was to care for Charles' health rather than concentrate on his education. Charles Babbage was the inventor of the Difference Engine, which was a mechanical calculating machine, a forerunner of our modern computers. He died in 1871.

Also educated by the clergy of Alphington was Rev. E. A. Bray (18th December 1778 [Tavistock]–17th July 1857). During his life he wrote many beautiful hymns and patriotic poems.

Cartwheels was formerly two cottages known as number 1 and number 2 Flint Cottage. Dating back to about 1480 it was built into the Church wall so that the villagers could not look inside. It was constructed of cob and wood with frosted glass in the windows at the back so that the residents could not look directly into the Rectory. A well in the front garden, just inside the front gate, provided the people of Alphington with water. Some past residents included: George Hutchings, butcher, cattle dealer; John and Samuel Hutchings, Cattle dealers; Henry Saunders, milk dealer (from White's Devonshire 1878–1879). I was told that bones were once found under the floor of this cottage during the 1970s, they were estimated to be 200 years old and human.

Scanes Cottages is a row of nine cottages that were built after 1909 to replace those that burnt down on 13th February 1909. The fire started in Scanes Bakery and went through the other cottages leaving 40 people homeless. It took time for the fire engines to arrive as the fire fighters were playing football in Raglands Field at the time. A past resident of Swiss Cottage was Mr Alfred H. Hartnell (from White's Devonshire 1878–1879).

A past resident of Bartletts was Mr Samuel Dyer Knott (from White's Devonshire 1878–1879), he was a friend of John Dickens, Charles Dickens' father.

Aldens Farm was named after the Rev. Alden, Thomas Alden became rector in 1637. He died in 1651 and his successor was John Alden, John was rector from 1662 until 1667 and he did a lot of work on the restoration of the Church. Another resident was Frederick Loram (from White's Devonshire 1878-1879).

Belvoir is a large Grade 2 listed white cottage and possibly built in the 17th century. Other past residents included: Mr Benj. Heratio Shaw (Exors of); Mrs Blanche Shaw, ladies boarding and day school (from White's Devonshire 1878–1879).

Chudleigh Road
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

Veitch Nursery. John Veitch was born in 1752 in Jedburgh, as a young man he travelled to work in a London nursery. In 1870 he laid out the grounds of Killerton for Sir Thomas Acland and founded the world famous nursery here. The descendants of John kept the nursery running and also the Exotic nursery in Chelsea. This family-run enterprise sent out plant collectors to far lands for new plants. Both these nurseries have now sadly gone.

Shillingford Hill/Chudleigh Road. In 1921 ten semi-detached houses were built and were ready for occupation in 1922 by ex-service men. Each property had two acres of land but they did not have sewage and electricity connected until the 1930s.

Silverlands was built for Frederick Loram who retired there after farming at Aldens Farm. He was born in 1823 and died in 1888. Also Arthur Frederick Loram moved to Silverlands in 1919 after farming at Aldens.

The ‘pink cottage’, like many older buildings in the country, shows the telltale signs of Window Tax avoidance.

Because of the conflicts in both Ireland and on the Continent in 1696 during the reign of William III there was a financial crises in England, therefore, a Window Tax was introduced. This was payable where a house had more than six windows. One way of avoiding this was to brick up some windows. During 1792 the houses that had seven to nine windows were liable to pay 2/- and those with 10–19 windows paid a tax of 4/-. In 1825 the number of windows you could have in your house before you paid the tax rose from six to eight windows. In 1851 the windows tax was replaced with a new tax called House Duty.

Hangmans Lane (now Markhams Lane)
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

The Gables, built in 1730 and extended in 1820 was formerly called Exe View and was one of the village’s manor houses. At one time it housed prisoners who were then taken through a tunnel out into Hangman’s Lane (Markhams Lane) and from there to Four Way Cross and hung from an old Oak Tree. Their bodies were brought back down Hangman’s Lane and buried in the field across the road from The Gables. A past resident was Mr Edward M. Brown (from White’s Devonshire 1878–1879).

Hanging was the principal form of execution from Anglo Saxon times but was abolished in 1964. A tree was the earliest form of gallows and was still being used during the mid 1700s. Prisoners were hauled up manually by the hangman or turned off a ladder or the tail of a cart. Until 1868 hangings were performed in public so that it would act as a deterrent to the large crowds but more often it was treated as a day out providing morbid excitement. The modern expression ‘Gala Day’ is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words ‘gallows day’. Prior to 1820 the place at which a hanging could be carried out anywhere and a Court could order this to be as near to the site of the crime as possible so that justice was seen to be done. Mostly they were held in recognised places often on Market days in the county towns. After 1868 hangings took place within county prisons.

One of the fields opposite Exe View
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

A past resident of Waybrook was Thos. & Son (Edw B.) Hussey auctioneers (from White’s Devonshire 1850).

The Alphin Brook and The Exeter Canal

The Alphin Brook rises at Holcombe Burnell and along its route towards Alphington it meets up with the Nadder Brook at Pocombe Bridge and the Fordland Brook at Ide. Before 1566 The Alphin Brook joined The River Exe opposite the Countess Weir Mill just up stream from Lampreyford Weir. In 1566 John Trew built The Exeter Canal and as The Alphin Brook caused an obstruction it was diverted into the Matford Brook. When the canal was deepened and extended towards Topsham between 1671 and 1676 it was the Matford Brook that caused the obstruction this time so it was dropped into iron cylinders three feet below the bed of the canal.

The Alphin Brook, ford and little bridge
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

The Floods

A calm Alphin Brook
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

On the 2nd July 1760 there was a sudden flooding of The Alphin Brook and more than 20 houses were washed away. On this occasion over £1000 worth of damage was caused. During another flood on the 20th October 1875 several other houses were also washed away. During April 1877 100 sheep owned by Mr William Hawkin and 35 belonging to Mr Robert White were drowned. A serve flood took place on the 22nd October 1960 and many people had to be rescued from their flooded homes by boat. Neighbours either took them in or they went to stay with relatives until the floods subsided. The church paid for coal to enable them to dry out their homes. After this The Alphin Brook was taken away from its natural course and it was canalised to stop any further flooding.

Cattle Markets and Horse Fairs

The first fair that was recorded in Alphington was held in 1304. In 1632 a charter was granted and the famous Cattle and Horse Fairs were established, these ran until the last part of the 19th Century. The Horse Fair was the largest in Devon and people including gypsies from miles around attended. They were held on the first Wednesday after 20th June and on the Wednesday after Michaelmas day and lasted for two days. The inns in the village would hang a Blackthorn bush outside their doors when the beer and cider was ready; this is why they were known as "bush houses". A rent was paid to the Lord of the Manor for holding these fairs. The Michaelmas Fair was the largest and also known as Goose Fair, up to sixty Geese were cooked at The Admiral Vernon. The last Cattle and Horse Fair was held in 1870.

"A Day at the Races"

Races were held at Haldon Hill as far back as during the reign of Charles II (1630–1685). During early August in the early part of the 19th century The Haldon Races were held on a Wednesday and a Thursday. The main route from Exeter to Haldon went through Alphington and the village began renting out carts, wagons and Donkeys. Carts and wagons cost 1/- and Donkeys 6d. It seems it was not the safest way to travel as there were many accidents along the way especially on the descent of Haldon Hill; in 1822 a new road was built from the bottom of Telegraph Hill to Chudleigh.


Boundaries have always given occasions for great celebrations to ensure that the participants did not forget the boundary points. In the village in 1753 a parish feast was prepared and it included ale, rum, port, beef, cheese, butter, cabbage, mutton, bread, cider, beer and tobacco all provided by the parish. Another celebration was "beating the bounds" and this could be found in almost every English parish. Besides this more usual name it was also known as "riding the marches", "riding the fringes" or "common riding". The custom involved walking around the parish boundary and beating it with a stick or stripped willow branch known as a wand. Certain trees, stones or markers points were beaten by bumping a boy, often a choirboy, against the marker. He was either suspended upside down and his head gently tapped against the marker or sung against it while being held by his hands and feet. No one knows how and why the tradition started, one explanation is that it was to help the young remember their parish limits.

One of the Parish's boundary stones
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick


The original shaft of the War Memorial Cross
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

Alphington Cross is one of three 13th-century crosses in the parish. This cross has moved several times, first, between the two World Wars and then once more when there was major road reconstruction carried out on the junction of Alphington Road and Cowick Lane. It gave the name to Crosse Cottage and Crosse House. The second cross is the War Memorial Cross but only the head is original. It was found on the corner of Mill Lane and then given a modern shaft. The original shaft was found in the garden of Belvil or Belleville (Fairfax House) and now leans against the northwest buttress of the Church tower. Because the Devonshire Regiment was still fighting on the Russian Front until 1919 the War Memorial actually reads 1914–1919 for the First World War. Little John's cross is the third cross.


The Alphington Cross
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

The War Memorial Cross
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

The Innes

The Eight Bells Inn, which was so named to commemorate the new peel of bells housed in the church tower in 1749, stood on the green triangle known as Gallows Green outside the church. The building was originally known as Shaddyford House before it became The Eight Bells Inn in 1770. It was demolished in the early 1870s when the Church's graveyard was extended.

The King William is mentioned in 1850 edition of White's Devonshire and Thomas Carpenter ran it. In the 1878–1879 edition of White's Devonshire the Vict. was Samuel Tozer and it was still being run by Thomas Carpenter. The 1881 records shows that there were two lodgers at the inn were Samuel and Thomas Stevens.

The Double Locks Hotel dates back from 1701 and was originally a lock-keepers cottage. It was erected in metric size and Dutch bricks were imported to use as ballast. During the next expansion of the canal in the 1820’s James Green rebuilt the Double Locks re-using some of the earlier bricks along with more modern, factory made bricks. The building also provided stabling for horses. A towpath was also added to each side of the canal to allow larger ships to be towed by horses. The lock itself is the longest in the country, 95 m long by 8 m and it can take two ships at once hence it was called The Double Locks. When HMS Exeter was refitted in 1938 the old masts were used for the arms on the lock gates.

One of the double-lock gates
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

Some past keepers of The Double Locks Hotel included:

Taken from the Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post dated 12 May 1791. ‘Saturday died, in an advanced age Mr John Hayward, Keeper of the Double Lock’.

During the 1930’s when the lock keeper was patrolling his area at the Double Locks he found a human leg in a brown parcel. A search revealed a second leg also in a brown parcel. The police sent divers into the canal looking for a body but none was ever found and it was decided that a medical student had disposed of the legs!

A body of a man was found drowned in the canal and a rumour appeared in the local newspapers that the lock keeper had refused to allow the body to be placed in his house. Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post dated 1 June 1825 printed a statement acquitting the landlord of the slur and gave the true story. The landlord, Mr Perryman was not at home at the time of the incident and the body was conveyed to the House of Reception at the Exeter Lime Kilns. The article says ". . . and exculpates Mrs. Perryman (who was much hurried) from the slightest imputation of inhumanity or neglect."

The New Inn. In 1872 when the Post Office moved from the corner of Ide Lane The New Inn opened in the vacant building. It was a Cider House both right upto the turn of the 19th century. In 1967 this original building was demolished and the inn moved into the 1930s-style house next door. The bar areas are now housed in an extension built on to the house. Charles Cole was at one time a landlord of this inn.

The Bell Inn/Old Bell Inn was originally a private residence in 1704 owned by William Burgoyne and called Burgoynes. At some stage a cottage next door, The Bell Inn and Lamp cottage were interconnected; Lamp cottage use to stand where the entrance to Lucerne House is situated today. It is thought that The Bell Inn expanded into these neighbouring properties during the height of the coaching days in the 18th century. Lamp cottage's turret was used as a look out for the coaches so that fresh horses would be ready upon their arrival; this was in preparation for the long pull up Haldon Hill. In 1857 the tenant was Thomas Langford (White's Devonshire 1850) and from 1866 until 1870 H. Mitchel was a resident.

The Red Lion was situated in The Church House, which stood on the site of the old school. In 1814 it was called The Admirals Head and it appears to have been known by several other names in the past: The Vernon's Head and also The Church House Inn. A 17th-century court was held at this inn where criminal cases were heard and parish officers discussed under the auspices of the Court Baron. The Parliamentary troops stayed here during the Civil War, this is when the inn was possibly known as The Church House Inn. General Fairfax saw the strategic importance of Alphington after defeating the Royalists at Powderham in 1645. He finalised his plans for a Parliamentary Victory in 1646 at Great Torrington in February. His Troops also used the church during 1644 to stable their horses. It is also thought that Oliver Cromwell marched through the village.

Sir Thomas, Lord Fairfax was born on 17th January 1612 and died on 12th November 1671. It was after the deciding battle of the First Civil War, the Battle of Naseby on 14th June 1645, that Lord-General Thomas Fairfax marched into the Royalist held West Country. He took Langport in July 1645, Bristol in September of the same year and Dartmouth on 20th January 1646. He then marched on to besiege Exeter. He had to leave Sir Hardness Waller to cover the seige when he took 10,000 men to stop Lord Hopton (appointed by Charles, Prince of Wales in November 1645 to command the Western Royalist Army) from joining the Royalist garrison at Barnstaple. Hopton ended up fortifying himself at Torrington. During the heavy rain in the evening of 16th February Fairfax's patrols clashed with Hopton's out posts, therefore, Fairfax ordered an immediate general assault. There was a brief and fierce battle in the narrow streets, which broke some of Hopton's cavalry. The Royalists entire stock of gunpowder exploded in Torrington Church, where it was stored, resulting in the roof being blown off! Hopton escaped with the remnants of his army to Cornwell where he waited until he had secured the escape of The Prince of Wales to The Scilly Isles. He then surrendered to Fairfax in Truro on 14th March 1646.

According to White’s Devonshire 1850 William Grover ran The Admiral Vernon. In 1860 the property had a brew house, cellars, stables and a courtyard. It was destroyed by fire on 15th September 1871. Fortunately the occupier (surname Foefees), his wife and children escaped. The fire started at 4 a.m. and also destroyed two adjoining houses owned by Messrs. Nosworthy and Buckbet and a butchers shop owned by Mr Fry. Four fire engines from three brigades arrived at 5  a.m. but unfortunately a lack of water meant that only two engines could be used. The other two acted as "feeders" bringing water from The Alphin Brook.

In 1883 The Admiral Vernon moved to the premises occupied by The Bell Inn, the tenant was Joseph Richards who leased The Bell Inn from William Loram who was a butcher. John Routley was a tenant at about 1889 and Adams was a resident from 1875 until 1905. Tokens were used at both these inns, they were possibly given as change or prizes from the games played in the inns. Beer could be bought with these tokens. On the 5th May 1898 William Loram sold the fields, orchards and The Admiral Vernon to St. Annes Well Brewery. He moved to Brooklands and this was when this house became a hotel. The Admiral Vernon was still thatched during World War Two. A story goes that the Home Guard were drinking when one of their guns went off. The bullet went through first the ceiling, then a bed and finally through a chamber pot before becoming lodged in the thatched roof.

St Anne' Well Brewery can trace its roots back to before 1824 when Messrs Harding and Richards were brewing and malting in Cowick Street. In 1828 they moved to the Barnstaple Inn in Lower North Street and continued brewing from there. W. J. Richards also owned the Malthouse on the City Wall in Bartholomew Street. They expanded in 1852 when they bought a Wine and Spirit business from Mr Crockett in Paul Street. In 1875 a new partner joined the company and they became Harding, Richards and Thomas. They built a new modern brewery plant in the old Stable yard of the Barnstaple Inn. In 1889 they became a public company, St Anne's Well Brewery Limited, so called because they took the water from St Anne's Well in the St. Sidwell parish. The water was piped from the well alongside the London and South Western Railway Line by gravity. In 1943 they merged with Norman & Pring and in 1966 The St. Anne's Well Brewery closed.

St. Michael and All Angels Church

The Church

St. Michael and All Angels Church, Alphington
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

A Church has existed in the village since about 1100 but the present Church was built around 1480 and is dedicated to St. Michael. The parishioners and the Earl of Devon who contributed £700 paid for the building work, this is why the porch displays the Courtnay Arms. The west end of the Church was probably built in the late 14th century. The porch also has an upper story with a basin for holding holy water (Stoup). There is also an ancient stone basin (Piscine) in the south wall of the chancel for draining water. The screen across the tower arch was made from the remains of the former Jacobean gallery demolished in 1875. The rood-screen is 15th century but the north aisle screen may have come from another church as it is different in design and execution. There are tablets to the memory of several past residents of the parish: John W. Ellicombe, esq. he was an ensign in 40th regiment of foot and was killed in a battle in Holland in 1799; Rev. W. Ellicombe was rector of the parish for 51 years and died in 1831 aged 86, Hannah was his wife and she died 1821 aged 70. In the north aisle there is a mural monument of white marble dedicated to the memory of Henry Northleigh, esq. of Peamore, M. P. 1693 and opposite is a tablet to the memory of Master Robert Northleigh, of Matford Dinham in the parish, 1639.

In 1826 the tower was struck by lightning resulting in four bell ringers being injured and a young boy was killed. The Church tower was repaired in 1852 but an inspection in 1887 concluded that the church was in an extreme state of disrepair and burials both outside and in the internal vaults should be discontinued. Excessive use of the burial grounds had not only undermined the Church's foundations but also produced a nasty smell in the Church. It was also stated in the report that the vaults inside the church should be cemented over. Even the furniture came under attack. The Church was restored at a cost of about £3000 and re-opened on the 25th July 1878. During the restoration work in 1884 the wall stencilling was produce by John Hayward and Son and the tiled floor by Harry Hems from Longbrook Street. Charles Cole was a well-known bell ringer and he was also the Sexton for 50 years, members of his family held this post for over 200 years. Charles Cole died in January 1917. An arsonist attacked the Church on Monday 6th October 1986. The roof, centre and south aisles, vestry and organ were severely damaged. When the restoration was complete the first service took place on the eve of the feast of St. Michael on Monday 28th September 1987.

The original boundary of the Church Yard
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

The Bells

Prior to 1550 there were five bells hung but in 1749 eight bells were recast from these by Bilbie of Cullumpton. This was the largest peel in the country at that time. In 1939 they were restored at a cost of £525 4s 11d.

The Clock

The first clock was put in place in 1710 at a cost of £16 1s 5d and a clockmaker was paid 15/- per year to make sure it kept good time. After a newer clock was fitted in c. 1798, costing £12 12s 1d, the maintenance was taken over by the Sexton and cost 10/6. The clock was dismantled and cleaned in 1939 after dust had settle between the cogs after the bells were removed for recasting.

The Font

The Beer Stone Font
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

This is said to be one of finest Beer Stone Fonts in Devon. It is Saxon or early Norman and decorated with interfaced arches, scroll ornaments and figures over the arches. There is also a copy of the Beer stone font in the Temple Church in London.

The Vestry

This was added in 1878 when the church was restored.

The Lady Chapel

This was restored in 1930 using panelling found in the rectory. In 1936 the Bonus’ family added six carved oak pews.

Church Registers

These date from 1603 and are now in the Exeter City Library.

The Church Yard

The first extension was made in 1870 when the Eight Bells Inn and cottages were demolished. In 1887 when major renovations were made to the Church the Churchyard was extended once more. The original wall and gateway can still be seen half way up into the Churchyard. An extended cemetery was opened in 1906.

A few Odds and Ends

Speedway at Alphington

During the Second World War speedway was held at Alphington as the County Ground was still in the hands of the military.

ATS Girls

When the Second World War came to an end the very battered City of Exeter wanted its buildings back this included the buildings where the ATS girls had been billeted. The girls were moved to the old Ack Ack site in Alphington, which had become almost derelict. Because of the leaking roofs the girls had ground sheets on their beds and when they lay there they could easily see the outside through the cracks in the walls. On frosty nights their shoes even stuck to the cement floors. An American Naval Construction Battalion nearby took pity on the girls and lined the floors in the Sergeants’ Mess with felt.



Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick