Hollycombe always used to be called Horracombe. It only became Hollycombe after the Ordnance Survey wrongly used that name for the farm when it made the first detailed map of the area in 1888.

Hollycombe is the only place in Spreyton to date back in the records to Saxon times.

In a charter dated 739, recording the grant of a large estate near Crediton by the Saxon King Aethelheard to Bishop Forthere, the description of landmarks on the boundary of the estate includes “Hurran cumb” (i.e, Hurra’s combe or valley), Hurra being no doubt the Saxon owner or occupier of the land in that valley (see Pre-Conquest Charter-Bounds of Devon and Cornwall, by Della Hooke, published by the Boydell Press in 1994). The farm has been spelt in a number of different ways down the ages, including Horrecombe (1286), Hurracombe (1615 and 1755), Hurracom (1613), Horacombe, and Huracom (1670s).

The first post-Saxon mention of the farm was in 1286. When surnames started to be used in the 12th and 13th centuries, landowners took their name from their land. In 1286, Henry de Horrecombe was one of a panel of local worthies who conducted an inquisition post-mortem into the affairs of William Talbot, the recently deceased lord of the manor of Spreyton (an inquisition post-mortem was an enquiry regularly done following the death of a significant landowner to establish whether his estate owed anything to the monarch). To be a member of the panel Henry de Horrecombe must have been a person of some standing, and Horracombe was probably a large estate at the time.

There are references to Horracombe in a boundary survey of Spreyton done in 1613 and in a rent-roll of 1644, when William Battishill was paying rent for Horracombe. The Battishills (to whom there are memorials in Spreyton church) were a large family owning numerous farms in South Tawton, Spreyton, Drewsteignton and Hittisleigh. For a long time they were merely renting Horracombe, the freehold of which lay with the owners of Spreyton Manor. The Battishills had purchased a half share of the manor (including a half-share of Horracombe) in 1639.But it was not until 1755 that they managed to purchase another quarter share of Horracombe from Arthur Kelly of Kelly (a part-owner of Spreyton Manor). They acquired the final quarter share from another part-owner in 1757 as part of an exchange whereby they gave up a property called Goosaford Down in South Tawton.

The Battishills rented out Horracombe for income (various tenants are mentioned in the deeds).But they were not to enjoy their freehold interest for long. By the 1770s, the branch of the family that owned Horracombe was running into money problems and mortgaged Horracombe, finally selling it to John Cann (1722-1807) of Fuidge, a neighbouring farm. John Cann had made a lot of money out of lime quarries in Drewsteignton (lime was then the main form of artificial fertiliser), and Horracombe was one of several farms that the Canns acquired in Spreyton around then. They continued to let the farm.Tenants of Horracombe mentioned in the land tax records include John Haydon and John Coombe.

In their turn, the Canns came to financial grief. Another John Cann (1773-1819), in a fit of grandeur, started a bank in Exeter. It failed, and the family were bankrupted. Horracombe was first mortgaged and then sold by John Cann’s widow Rebecca in the mid-1820s to the Dunning family of the neighbouring farm of Livaton in South Tawton. They let Horracombe in 1830 to a farmer called John Cole. The Coles remained there until the 1850s, and from then until the beginning of the 20th century it appears from the census records to have had a new owner or tenant almost every 10 or 20 years.

The present farmhouse consists of two parts. There is the cob and thatched remains of a small Devon longhouse, with room for the animals on one side of a cross passage, and a room for the farmer and his family on the other, with two bedrooms above. This probably dates back to the 15th or 16th century. An extension was built on probably in the late 18th or early 19th century in a Georgian style with high ceilings and big windows, as well as a carved marble fireplace that is exceptionally elegant for a farmhouse – although the extension itself, now somewhat altered, gives signs of being cheaply built. It was probably built by the Canns or one of their tenants.

The original farmhouse together with part of the later extension. The middle window would once have been a door to the cross passage.

The 1842 tithe apportionment refers to “houses”, so it is possible that there was a farm labourer’s cottage close to the house.

In 1768, the farm was described as consisting of describes one dwelling, two gardens, two orchards, 50 acres of (arable) land, 10 acres of meadow, 30 acres of pasture, and 40 acres of furze and heath, a total of more than 140 acres. By 1842, more land had been added and it totalled 187 acres. The farm is bordered on its southern side by the Troney river, and there were two water-mills on the river for milling corn, which would have been a good source of income. The mills – known as Horracombe or Spreyton Mills – sometimes seem to have gone with the farm and were sometimes sold or rented separately. There appear originally to have been three cottages by the mills. None of the old maps available show the location of the mills, but they were presumably at Hollycombe Ford. A corn dealer was still living at one of the mill cottages in 1840, so it seems likely that they were still operating at that date or had only recently ceased to do so.

Hollycombe on the 1888 Ordnance Survey map.


(The numbers are those given to the fields in the tithe apportionment that was carried out in that year and do not correspond to the quite different field numbers later allocated by the Ordnance Survey as in the map above)

Field numberField nameAcres, roods, perches
806James Grove4.1.7
888Oats Moor9.0.3
891Lower Newpark10.2.12
892Higher Newpark7.1.13
894Little Brake2.2.1
896Little Broadpark3.2.2
898Great Broadpark6.1.9
900Little Park8.0.38
904Houses and Court1.0.17
905Little Furzepark2.2.30
908Little Furzepark [sic]9.2.14
912Home Cleave10.2.4
913Four Acres5.0.0
915Inner Moor5.1.27
916Outer Close5.3.7
917Easter Field5.2.1
918Great Close11.3.21


1841 census

Hollycombe Farm

John Cole, farmer, aged 47

Mary Cole, aged 45

William Cole, aged 18

John Cole, aged 16

Richard Cole, aged 9

Robert Cole, aged 7

Mary Cann, servant, aged 31

William Powlesland, agricultural labourer, aged 27

James Northcott, agricultural labourer, aged 22

George Wonnacott, agricultural labourer, aged 22

George Northcott, apprentice, aged 12

Spreyton Mill

(1) William Voisey, age 61, corn dealer, with his family

(2) Elizabeth May, age 60, independent

Mary May, age 50

John Coombe, age 29, ag lab

Jane Coombe, age 25

William Coombe, age 2

(3) John Townsend, age 36, gardener, and family

1851 census

Hollycombe Farm

William Cole, aged 28, farmer of 180 acres employing one labourer

Elizabeth Cole, aged 23

Eliza Counter, aged 13, general servant

George Knapman, aged 16, farm servant

William Wonnacott, aged 17, farm servant

William Lee, aged 11, farm boy.


(1) Henry Delve, age 66, mason and family

(3) Robert Cheriton, age 25, mason, and wife

(3) ames Langdon, farmer of 6 acres and labourer

Charlotte (wife), dressmaker, with their son and daughter

Census 1861

Hollycombe Farm

William Arscott, aged 57, farmer of 187 acres employing 2 labourers, 4 men and boys

Ann Arscott, aged 52

Anna M. Arscott, aged 19

William Arscott, aged 11

Charlotte Mitton, aged 18, servant

Thomas Newcombe, aged 54, servant

Aaron Pole, aged 22, servant

Joshua Laing, aged 17, servant

George Yeoland, aged 10, servant


(1) William Guest, agricultural labourer, and his family

(2) Aaron Cole, agricultural labourer, and his family

(3) John Harvey, agricultural labourer, and his family

Census 1871

Hollycombe Farm

William Arscott, aged 67, farmer of 187 acres employing 3 labourers

Ann Arscott, aged 65

Alice L. Arscott, aged 24

William Arscott aged 21

William Isaac (grandson), aged 5

George Cann, aged 16, farm servant

John Howard, aged 16, farm servant

Robert Rowden, aged 12, farm servant

Ellen Rowden, aged 10, milkmaid

The farm servants are all annotated as “indoors”, meaning that they were lodging with the family.


Aaron Cole, aged 70, agricultural labourer, and his family

Mill Cottage

John Harvey, aged 70, agricultural labourer, and his family

Mill farm

John Cole, aged 45, farmer of 10 acres, with his wife.

1881 census

Horracombe farm

Henry Chown, aged 41 (born Rockbeare), farmer of 189 acres employing 2 labourers

Mary Chown, aged 41

Elizabeth A. Chown, aged 18

William H. Chown, aged 12

Florence A Chown, aged 11

Arthur A. Chown, aged 5

Adela B. Chown, aged 4

Walter E. Chown, aged 3

Rowland R. Chown, aged 10 months

John Chown (brother), aged 45, farm servant (indoors).

Mill cottages

(1) Emmanuel Wilson, 46-year-old agricultural labourer born in Crediton, with his wife Rosella, daughter and son.

(2) John Harvey, 80-year old agricultural labourer born in Drewsteignton, with his wife Maria and grand-daughter Emma Moore.

(3) Ann Yeo, 35-year-old widow, charwoman, with her four children.

1891 census

Hollycombe Farm

John Lovering, aged 65, farmer

Emily K. Lovering, aged 64

John G. Lovering, aged 27

Mary A. Thomas, aged 19, general servant

George Cann, aged 16, farm servant

William Cann, aged 13, farm servant


(1) John Lee, aged 46, agricultural labourer and family

(2) unoccupied

1901 census

Horracombe Farm

John G. Lovering, age 37, farmer

Mary Lovering (wife), age 29

John R Lovering, 7 months

Henry Westcott, age 15, farm worker

Lewis Evely, age 14, farm worker

Ethel Wonnacott, age 13, general servant

Mary G. Evely, age 13, nurse.

1911 census

Hollycombe Farm

John Govett Lovering, age47, farmer

Mary Jane Lovering, age 39

John Rowe Lovering, age 10

Mary Cole, age 19, servant.


Horracombe Farm

Marriage settlement of 14.8.1722 (9 George). John Battishill of Drewsteignton, yeoman, as part of a settlement on his marriage with Elizabeth Shilstone, daughter of Robert Shilstone of South Tawton, conveyed half of the messuage and tenement of Horracombe to trustees (William Robins of Moreton, woolcomber, and Robert Shilstone) for his own use for life, and then for the use of Elizabeth, and then to such of their children as he appoints by will. It is noted that Horracombe was then in the tenure of John Battishill, Andrew Headon and his son John Headon or their undertenants.

DRO ref: Z3/Box 14

Lease of 9.5.1739 whereby Arthur Kelly of Kelly, gentleman,leased a quarter of the messuagesof Horracombe, already in the occupation of John Battishill, to John Battishill for 99 years on the lives of John Battishill and his son William. The term was to begin after death of Susanna, sister of John Battishill. John paid £65 upfront. The annual rent was 10s, together with a heriot of 40s.

DRO ref: Z3/Box 14

Lease of 6.8.1750 whereby Nathaniel Risdon of Spreyton, gentleman, leased a quarter of Horracombe to John Battishill, yeoman, for 99 years on the lives of John Battishill, son of Thomas Battishill of Martin in Drewsteignton, yeoman, and William Pidsley, son of John Pidsley of Yew in Crediton. John paid £80 and one Broadpiece of gold in value £1.3.0 for the leasehold. The annual rent was 10s, plus two caponsor 1s. 6d. payable to the landlord at Christmas. There was also a heriot of 20s or one quarter of the tenant’s best beast. The tenant was bound also execute the office of office of tythingman. He must attend the manorial courts of Nathaniel Risdon or pay 1d each day for default of attending.

DRO ref: Z3/Box 14

Conveyance of 16 and 17.10.1755 whereby Arthur Kelly of Kelly Esq (the Kellys were once owners of Spreyton Manor and still at that time owned one quarter of it) conveyed one fourth of all those messuages known as Hurracombe to John Battishill, yeoman of South Tawton, for £127. The deed refers to various previous deeds including an indenture of lease dated 17.101704 (Anne 3) between Arthur Kelly Esq., then of Kelly, father of the present Arthur Kelly; William Hancock of Hendon in Cornwall; and William Harris of Haine.

DRO ref: Z3/Box 14 (2 documents – lease and release)

Conveyance of 7 and 8.1.1757 wherebyRichard Hole, Clerk of North Tawton, devisee of Mary Risdon, his wife Juliana and Thomas Hole of North Tawton conveyed¼ Horracombe (described as one messuage) to John Battishill, yeoman of Drewsteignton, in exchange for Goosaford Down in South Tawton and a nominal payment of 5s. (The Holes had inherited a quarter share of Spreyton Manor and of many properties in Spreyton from the Risdon family.) The deeds mention:

  • a 99-year lease dated 24.4. 1717 that was granted by Richard Risdon of Spreyton to John Battishill on the lives of John Cann and Thomas Hore (both by then deceased) and John Cann’s son John, at a conventionary rent of 10s annually;
  • a 99-year lease dated 6.8.1750 granted by Nathaniel Risdon to John Battishill on the lives of John Battishill, son of Thomas Battishill of Martin and William Pisdley of Crediton, to take effect after the deaths of John and Thomas Battishill, at an annual rent of 10s.

DRO: ref: Z3/Box 14 (2 documents – lease and release)

Indenture of 5.10.1757 between (1) Richard Hole of North Tawton and his wife Julianna; (2) Thomas Hole of North Tawton; and (3) John Battishill of Drewsteignton. It affirms John Battishill’s right to a quarter of Horracombe.

DRO ref: 2914 A/PF 20.

Mortgage of 22.3.1768 between William Battishill and his wife Grace of South Tawton and WilliamPidler of a half of Horracombe. Horracombe is described as consisting of 1 messuage, 2 gardens, 2 orchards, 50 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow, 30 acres of pasture, and 40 acres of furze and heath.

DRO Z3/Box 14

Agreement of 21.11.1772. William Battishill of Sampford Courtney and John Cann of Fuidge, gentleman, agree to convey a half of the messuage of Horracombe to John Cann for £630. It was then in the occupation of John Haydon tenant to William Battishill. If he cannot arrange title [the property being mortgaged], he will let John Cann have Haydon’s £20 annual rent.

DRO: Z3/Box 14

Conveyance of 12 and 13.2.1773. The parties were (1) William Pedlar younger of Drewsteignton; (2)William Battishill of Sampford Courtenay and wife Grace; (3) John Cann of Fuidge; and (4) Willam Moore of South Tawton. The deeds describe how William Battishill and his wife Grace had borrowed £50 from William Pidler the younger of Drewsteignton against the security of a 500-year lease of his half share of Horracombe. Battishill had subsequently borrowed further money from Pidler and now owed him a total of £173.9s.10d. John Cann of Fuidge agreed to pay of these debts, in exchange for which he gets the freehold of Battishill’s half share of Horracombe and the remainder of the 500-year lease is assigned to William Moore as his trustee. John Cann thus effectively acquired half of the property.

DRO ref: Z3/Box 14 (2 documents – lease and release)

Conveyance of 27 and 28.9.1779 between (1) Joseph Morrish of Crediton, schoolmaster, John Lee of Exminster, but late of Crediton Clerk, (2) JohnPidsley of Crediton, gentleman, and his wife Mary (lately Mary Dyer); and (3) John Cann of Spreyton, gentleman. The deed refers to a lease and release of 4 and 5.9.1772 between (1) John Pidsley; (2) Mary Dyer, widow; and (3) Joseph Morrish and John Lee. As part of the marriage settlement ofJohn Pidsley and Mary Dyer, half of the messuage of Horracombe was conveyed to Morrish. John Cann had contracted with Pidsleyto buy the freehold for £735 and Pidsley agreed that his wife and trustees should go ahead. [This seems to be yet another tidying up of the complicated mortgage arrangements between Willam Battishill and Pidsley, giving John Cann full title.]

DRO ref: Z3/Box 14 (2 documents – lease and release).

Conveyance of 31.3.1808 whereby George Lambert Gorwyn of Falkedon, nephew and heir of George Cann, for £45.15.6d conveyed to John Cann of Fuidge the right to certain quit, high and other rents, including an annual rent of one penny for Horracombe (payable in perpetuity by the owner); and 2s.6d. for a fourth part of Spreyton and Horracombe Mills, both the property of John Cann and part of the Manor of Spreyton.

DRO: Lambert estate papers

The one penny rent was probably an old manorial rent payable to the Lord of the Manor since medieval times.

Deed of 20.10.1818 between (1) Elizabeth and Grace Moore of Exeter and Elizabeth, widow of William Moore, clerk (clergyman) late of South Tawton; (2) John Cann of Fuidge; and (3) Abraham Moore of the Inner Temple. It refers to the 1768 indenture by which William Battishill, in exchange for a loan of £50 from Pedlar, agreed to assign to Pedlar a half share of Horracombe for 500 yrs (as security). It also refers to the 1773 indenture and noted that William Battishill had conveyed a half share of Horracombe toJohn Cann.The latter bequeathed everything to his nephew John Cann (the present party). William Moore was now dead and John Cann wanted to assign the 500 year lease to Abraham Moore. [John Cann’s wife was born Rebecca Moore and this was probably a family arrangement.]

DRO ref: Z3/Box 1

Schedule of deeds 1823-1876. This lists what appear to be a series of leases, mortgages and conveyances, but gives only the dates and the parties. But it appears to show that Rebecca Moore, the widow of John Cann, put Horracombe up to auction in 1823. It was purchased by Jane Dunning, but it took a couple of years for Horracombe to be disentangled from the creditors of John Cann’s estate.The Dunnings let the farm and subsequently mortgaged the freehold. In 1855, the property appears to have been conveyed to John and James Tuckett, who continued to let the property. It then seems to have passed to the Arscott family, who sold it for £1700 to Percy Maccausland Crause in 1876.

DRO ref: 5872M/E/3

Horracombe or Spreyton Mills

Conveyance of 7 and 8.1.1757 whereby the Rev. Richard Hole of North Tawton,devisee of Mary Risdon, conveys to William Battishill one fourth of the messuage and two Grist Mills known as Spreyton or Horracombe Mills now in the possession of Jeremiah Bickle as under-tenant to William Battishill. The deed specifies that the owner must pay a “reserved rent” of2s. 6d to Richard Hole and his successors in perpetuity.

Conveyance of 20.12.1757 whereby Richard Hole of North Tawton, Clerk,. conveyed to William Battishill of Spreyton, gentleman one fourth of the messuage and two Grist Mills known as Spreyton or Horracombe Mills now in the possession of Jeremiah Bickle as under-tenant to William Battishill.The deed mentions an earlier lease dated 10.5.1710 of one fourth of Spreyton Mills granted by Richard Risdon to William Battishill the uncle for 99 years determinable on the deaths of Thomas, William and Barbara Battishill, children of Andrew Battishill of Spreyton.

Conveyance of 31.3.1808 whereby George Lambert Gorwyn of Falkedon, nephew and heir of George Cann, for £45.15.6d conveyed to John Cann of Fuidge the right to certain quit, high and other rents, including the annual rent of 2s.6d. [see the 1757 deed] for a fourth part of Spreyton and Horracombe Mills, the property of John Cann and part of the Manor of Spreyton.

DRO: Lambert estate papers

October 2013.