Spreyton Farms


Spreyton Farms

Barton in 2010

  • History of the farm and its house
  • Historic England description
  • Documents relating to Barton in the Devon Archives
  • List of fields belonging to Barton in 1842

[link to anchor tags in text]


The name

The farm is also known as Spreyton Barton or The Barton. The name Barton is almost certainly the Old English beretun, from bere ‘barley, corn’ and tun ‘settlement’. It was the name often given to the ‘demesne’ or home farm of the manor, and it seems likely that Barton was indeed the farm inhabited by the lord of the manor in medieval times (although there are also indications that some of the Talbots, the medieval holders of Spreyton manor, lived at Weeke).The two-storey farmhouse is the only building in Spreyton to have a Grade II* listing from Historic England, and the latter comments that the ceilings on ground and first floors are unusually high, indicating a house of high status. It is next to the church, a natural place for the dwelling of the Lord of the Manor, and used to have its own entrance to the churchyard, as well as a carriageway entrance from the road.

Architecture and history

Pevsner (in Buildings of Devon) suggests that parts of it date back to the 15th century, but English Heritage says that the oldest part, the main south-facing farmhouse, was originally built in the 16th century, probably as an open hall-house. It probably replaced an earlier, more modest, building. A number of improvements and additions were made to the house in the 17th century, including two wings, and it was further modernised in the 19th century. It is basically cob-and-thatch with some slate roofs, and has extensive 17th century panelling inside. Its facilities included inter alia a dairy, bakehouse and pump-house. In 1913, when Barton was put up for sale, it was described as having six bedrooms on the first floor, and on the ground floor two sitting rooms; a kitchen; back kitchen; dairy; larder; and “other conveniences”.

The farm buildings listed in the 1913 sale documents were correspondingly extensive. They consisted of a stable for eight horses, built of stone, cob and a slate roof, with a loft; three linhays: one for ten cows (stone and slate), one for eight cows with a separate calves’ house (both thatched), and one for seven bullocks (cob with an iron roof); a bull’s house and yard, including a root house, loose box and cider house (including a cider press and horse wheel); and finally four small fowl houses (stone and slate), a potato house, a piggery (stone and slate) and a large cob and thatch barn. With the estate went four cottages in the village to house the farmworkers.

Barton may have been the house of the Lord of the manor, but it was also almost certainly always a working farm, the lord’s “home farm”. In 1842, the farm was described in the tithe apportionment return as consisting of 186 acres, large for the period.On its western side, the farmland is bounded by the river Yeo. There is a substantial area of wooded “bottom”, but there is also much good arable land. The road from Spreyton to South Tawton forms the farm’s northern boundary.

Occupants of Barton

Barton, along with the rest of the manor of Spreyton, passed into the hands of the Kelly family of Kelly in west Devon at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, after a Kelly had married a Talbot heiress (there are still Kellys at Kelly, in an unbroken line from their ancestor who received his estates from William the Conqueror).A junior branch of the Kellys seem to have come to live in Spreyton and to have made Barton their “capital messuage” or main farm (a late 16th or early 17th century document about glebe lands refers to ‘Mr Kellir’s Barton’). It was probably a Kelly who built the present house. By the 17th century, however, the ownership of Barton, along with that of most of the rest of the manor of Spreyton, had become divided between three different families, no doubt because of marriages and inheritances. The families were the Kellys (who had one quarter), the Gilberts of Compton (one half) and the Wise family of Sydenham (the final quarter). During a large part of the 1600s, the property appears to have been let, the income from it no doubt being divided between the three owners. In 1644, according to a manorial rent book in the Devon Record Office, the tenants of Barton were John Bellamy, William Canne and Augustine Haydon.

In 1639, John Battishill, from an old South Tawton family, purchased the Compton family’s half share in the manor of Spreyton, including a half share of Barton. J.L. Vivian’s The  Visitations of Devon claims that Barton was in the Battishill family since the time of Queen Elizabeth, first as leaseholders from the Kelly family and then as freeholders. This may not be accurate, as the Battishills are mentioned in the 1644 rent book as tenants of Hollycombe, But the name of Battishill turns up in the parish records as early as 1590 and, as Barton is so close to their home village of South Tawton, it is possible that they did rent it or part of it before then.

John Battishill’s share in the freehold of Barton passed to Thomas Battishill of Drewsteignton (possibly his son) who in 1677 bequeathed it to his own son William. The latter took up residence at Barton, and it is probably he who “improved” and enlarged the house in the late 17th century by adding two wings, the panelling and other features. He was the first of several William Battishills to live at Barton, and presumably had to pay rent for the half of the property he did not own. A subsequent William Battishill managed to purchase another quarter of the freehold of Barton in 1757, from the Rev. Richard Hole (this was the quarter belonging to the Wise family, who had sold it in 1657 to Nathaniel Risdon of Spreyton, from whom the Holes inherited it). Richard Hole maintained a right to an annual “reserved rent” for Barton of 11s.6d, payable in perpetuity (the right to this rent was later sold to the Lambert Gorwyn family of Falkedon and Coffins, who were still collecting it in the 19th century). It is not clear when the Battishills acquired the freehold of the fourth quarter, but it was probably around the same time.

The Battishills acquired other land nearby and became the largest landowners in Spreyton. In particular, they also owned Weeke and seem to have used that as an alternative residence to Barton. There is, for instance, a tablet in Spreyton church that commemorates William Battishill “of Barton and Week” who died in 1806. His eldest son William (and his wife Dorothy, also commemorated on the tablet) took over Barton, while Week went to a younger son, John.William and Dorothy’s son William Harrington Battishill (c.1803-1881) was the last of the Battishills to live at Barton. He inherited Week and also owned Woodhouse; Bowbeer; Stockhay; Cramphay; Lower Falkedon; and Creyford in Hittisleigh – a total of some 900 acres. William Harrington Battishill farmed some 400 acres of the estate himself; in 1851, he was employing 16 labourers. He was a childless widower, and in that year four young labourers were living with him at Barton, together with three house servants. Sometime in the 1860s, he moved out of Barton and it was let, together with the other farms that William had in hand, to William Shillson or Shilson. In 1871 Shillson was living at Barton with his wife Elizabeth, five children, an unmarried sister-in-law and two servants. He remained until the 1880s.

In 1881, shortly before his death, William Harrington Battishill made over Barton to his nephew William John Battishill, a solicitor in Exeter. William John continued to rent out Barton – in 1891 the tenant was William Mudge, farmer; and in 1901, it was William Isaac, the nephew of the landlord of the White Hart Inn (as the Tom Cobley Tavern was then known), who was still there in 1911. William John seems to have had money problems, as in 1907 he raised a mortgage of £2,700 on Barton and other properties. Finally, in 1913, after William John’s death, the entire Battishill estate, including Barton, was sold. Shortly after, Barton was acquired by William Hamlyn from Moretonhampstead, whose descendants continued to live and farm at Barton until the second decade of the 21st century.

Battishill graves

here are a number of tombstones dedicated to members of the Battishill family in Spreyton churchyard, mainly clustered round the old gate from the churchyard into Barton. There is also an 18th century chest tomb belonging to the Battishill family, a grander structure than a simple gravestone. The Battishill chest tomb (which is unusual as its walls are of red brick) and one of the 18th century gravestones have been given a Grade II listing by English Heritage. More on the Battishill graves [link to the section of the gravestones page that describes them]

Sophia Lambert 2010 (minor updating 2017).


[I suggest the next bit goes in a box]

Historic England description when the building was listed in 1967
Farmhouse. 16th century with major 17th century improvements, modernised in the early-mid 19th century. Plastered cob on stone rubble footings; stone rubble and cob stacks topped with 19th and 20th century brick; thatch roof, replaced by slate over the service rooms.

Plan and development: U-shaped building built on level ground. The main block faces south and it is the historic core of the farmhouse. It has a 3-room-and- through-passage plan. Its plan now is essentially that of the late 17th century. The left end room is a parlour on the lower side of the passage and has a projecting gable-end stack. Since there is no sign of another main stair the present one blocking the rear of the passage was probably built in the 17th century. The hall has a large projecting rear lateral stack. In the late 17th century it was the dining room. The large inner room has a large gable-end stack (backing onto the crosswing) and in the late 17th century was the kitchen. A cross-wing on the right (east) side was new built in the late 17th century.

The narrow front room behind the inner room/kitchen stack which also projects forward a short distance was a dairy and the room behind (which is wider and overlaps the inner room) was a bakehouse with a large cob stack to rear. A service stair alongside the kitchen fireplace leads up to the chambers above. The bakehouse forms the east side of a narrow rear courtyard. The north side is bade up of 17th and 18th century service rooms and includes a pump house and former carriageway entrance from the road.

The earlier development of the main block is difficult to work out. Much of the 16th century and early 17th century fabric clearly survives but not enough is exposed for its certain interpretation. Nevertheless it seems likely that the house was originally some form of open hall house but the roof-space is inaccessible and therefore it is not known whether it was originally heated by an open hearth fire or whether the hall stack is an original feature. The hall was floored in the early or mid-17th century. The ground floor oak screens also suggest that the room off the lower side of the passage was formerly a service room and that the inner room was then a parlour. House and service wing are all 2 storeys.

Exterior: main block has a regular but not symmetrical 3-window front. The first floor windows are 20th century casements without glazing bars but those on the ground floor are late 17th century large oak-framed 2-light windows with flat-faced mullions and contain rectangular panes of leaded glass. The passage front doorway is left of centre and now contains a part-glazed 20th century door. The roof is gable-ended to left and hipped to right. The eaves are carried down at the right end over the projecting dairy. The right (east) side of the late 17th century cross-wing contains more oak-framed, flat-faced mullion casement windows containing rectangular panes of leaded glass and most also have vertical iron glazing bars. Here they are original. The back of the main block is blind but it does contain some windows blocked in the late 17th century and one at least (ground floor hall) still retains its early 17th century oak frame with ovolo-moulded mullions. The north (service room) wing faces onto the narrow rear courtyard and the central part is open-fronted and open to the roof; this was the former carriageway entrance.

Good interior: only the main block has features earlier than the late 17th century, but even here a lot of the detail is of that date. The lower end parlour moreover was refurbished in the early 19th century; its fireplace is blocked and no carpentry detail is exposed. The passage is lined both sides with oak plank-and-muntin screens; chamfered muntins on the hall side. Any stops are hidden by the stairs and, before the stairs were built both seem to have had more than one doorway. The hall is lined with small field panelling. This maybe early 17th century, but seems to relate to the late 17th century refurbishment of the room. If so the only features here not late 17th century are the two early 17th century moulded oak crossbeams, the stops of which are hidden by the box cornice. The early 17th century rear window is blocked by a cupboard with shaped shelves and fielded panel doors. The front window (like that in the inner room/kitchen) has fielded panel reveals. Hall fireplace has a timber bolection-moulded chimneypieces and the panel above is flanked by panelled pilasters. The oak plank-and-muntin screen at the upper end of the- hall is exposed in the inner room/kitchen; it is late 16th-early 17th century, its muntins chamfered with diagonal step stops over an oak bench. The 2 crossbeams here are contemporary (soffit-chamfered with step stops) but the fireplace is blocked. Good late 17th century cupboard with panelled doors in rear wall. The floor here is flagged. Several late 17th century panelled doors around the house.

Roof is not accessible but the bases of some presumably 16th century side-pegged jointed crucks show on the first floor. The main partitions here may contain more plank-and-muntin screens. First floor also contains late 17th century joinery detail, notably a little damaged built-in hanging cupboard (wardrobe) in the kitchen chamber and a small cupboard with its panelled door hung on butterfly hinges in the hall chamber.

The bakehouse contains a massive stone rubble fireplace with soffit-chamfered oak lintel and an oven. Plain-chamfered axial beam of large scantling and roof of A- frame trusses with lap-jointed collars set onto vertical wall posts. Rear block has plain carpentry detail and roof of A-frame trusses with pegged lap-jointed collars.

This is an interesting and well-preserved house alongside the churchyard of the Church of St. Michael. It has been little modernised since the 19th century. Indeed much has not been altered since the late 17th century. The ceilings on ground and first floors are unusually high which must indicate a 16th century house of high status.



Agreement of 8.12.1707 between William Battishill, yeoman, and Andrew Battishill, yeoman, both of Spreyton. It is noted that William and Andrew levied a fine in Easter term 13 Will III (1702) of a half of 3 messuages, 3 gardens, 3 orchards, 40 acres of land, 8 acres of meadow, 40 acres of pasture,160 acres of furze and heath, and 170 acres of moor [total 418 acres], in Barton, Higher Fawton and Lower Fawton, in favour of Thomas Hore junior and William Ponsford.. It is agreed that the intention of the fine is for:

the half of Spreyton Barton to go to William for life; then his wife Jane (formerly Hore) for life; then first to the male heirs and then to the female heirs of William and Jane and in default to William’s general heirs and assignees;

the half of Higher Fawton, wherein the uses have been declared to be for William for life, after his death first to his male and then to his female heirs, and in default

the half of Lower Fawton is to go to William for life and then to the male heirs of him and Jane, and in default to the female heirs and then the general heirs, subject to an indenture of 18.5.(8 Will III) between William Battishill and William Pounsford of Drewsteignton, Mark Cann and Thomas Hore the younger of South Tawton and Jane, the daughter of Thomas Hore the elder of South Tawton, yeoman;

the half of Lower Fawton to Andrew Battishill for life; then to his wife Barbara for life; then their heirs male and in defaulttheir female heirs and then Andrew’s general heirs;

a quarter of Higher Fawton to go to Andrew for life, then to his male heirs by Barbara and in default his female heirs, then general heirs [the wording suggests that whereas the properties subject the the fine were freehold, this may be a leasehold], subject to an

Counterpart signed by William Battishill. Witnesses: Ben Robins, Daniel Dingle.

Conveyance of 20.12.1757 whereby Richard Hole of North Tawton, Clerk, executor of the last will and testament of the late Mary Risdon of Spreyton, widow, his late aunt, and also devisee of the lands concerned, Mary Risdon having inherited them from her son Nathaniel Risdon, late of Crediton, gent. conveys to William Battishill of Spreyton, gent., for £300 his one fourth share in Spreyton Barton, now in the tenure of WB; one fourth of Great Falkedon, now in the tenure of WB and his under-tenants Robert Kellaway and Richard Tremlet; one fourth of Middle Falkedon or South Falkedon or Cann’s Falkedon; one fourth of Stockon, aka Stockey, now in the possession of Sam. Bull as under-tenant to WB;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 WB; and RH’s one fourth share in Begbeere, late in the possession of Christopher Parsons and now in that of RH. All the premises are part of the Manor of Spreyton, WB ‘to be holden of the high and chief Lord or Lords of the Fee by the rents, suits and services heretofore due and of right accustomed’. WB to pay a reserved rent to RH of 11s 6d for Spreyton Barton; 10s. for Great Falkedon; 10s. for Cann’s or Middle Falkedon and Church Woodland; 2s.6d. for Spreyton Mills; 2s. 6d. for Stockey; and 3s. for Begbeer. Witnesses are Humphry Aram and Richard Dadd. Previous deeds mentioned are:

  • Lease of 29.11.1714 of one fourth of Spreyton Barton by Richard Risdon, gent. of Spreyton, to William Battishill, uncle of WB, now determinable on the death of WB;
  • Lease of 27.7.1738 of one fourth part of Great Falkedon (wrongly called Higher Falkedon) by Nathaniel Risdon to WB, for 99 years determinable on the deaths of WB and his daughters Jane and Susanna;
  • Lease of 16.12.1714 of one fourth of Cann’s or Middle Falkedon (wrongly named Higher Falkedon) and one fourth part of Church Woodland byRichard Risdon to WB the uncle for 99 years determinable on the deaths of WB the nephew and his brothers Thomas and Andrew, all sons of the late Andrew Battishill of Spreyton, yeoman;
  • Lease of 7.5.1753 of one fourth part of Stockey granted by Mary Risdon to WB the nephew for 99 years determinable on the lives of WB’s son and daughters William, Elizabeth and Mary;
  • Lease of 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.

Inventory of the effects of Mr William Battishill, who died 20.2.1834.
Cash in the house………………………………..£27.0.0
Rents due at his death and since collected………£29.10.0
Household goods and furniture………………….£110.12.0
Plate, linen and china……………………………£37.13.0
Books, prints and pictures……………………….£3.0.0
Wearing apparel………………………………….£5.0.0
Wine and other liquors…………………………..£54.1.6
Farming stock and instruments of husbandry……£1467.8.6
Leasehold estates…………………………………£62.10.0
Debts since collected……………………………..£75.10.0

Devon Archives ref: 1926B/PP/F 1/3

Abstract of title of the executors of William John Battishill, 1913.Concerns Barton, Cramphay, Higher Falkedon, Cann’s Falkedon and Joints Tenement (all in Spreyton), inherited from his uncle William Harrington Battishill.

Declaration of 5.10.1757. Parties are (1) Richard Hore of North Tawton and wife Julianna; (2) Thomas Hole of North Tawton; and (3) John Battishill of Drewsteignton. Affirms John Battishill’s right to ¼ Horracombe conveyed by lease and release of7 and 8 January last past, and lists other properties of which Richard Hore is seized in fee simple, including in Manors of Lampford/Lamford; Fursham; and Spreyton, Bargain, Spreyholt Wood and Brendons; Risdons; New Mills, Middle orEast Nethercott; Downhays; and Devertons/Diverdowns; Also Hole and Budbrooke in Drewsteignton; Baker’s Down in Cheriton Bishop and the following properties in Spreyton:

¾ Higher Falkedon/Great Falkedon
¼ Middle Falkedon
Spreyton Barton
Cann’s Falkedon
Lower Falkedon
Riders Beer
Parsons Begbeer
North Beer
Spreyton Mills
Devon Archives ref: 2914 A/PF 20

Fields belonging to Barton in 1842

OS No.Tithe No.NAMEAcreage (acres, roods, perches)


505Copse (by 1913 combined with Great Meadow)3.3.7
571506Great Meadow4.2.15
570507Coombe Orchard0.1.2
157508Garden (by 1913 combined with Barry’s Meadow and both called Garden)0.0.24
157509Barry’s Meadow4.1.35
510Churchyard Orchard0.1.3
573512Houses and courts0.3.38
126515Higher Down7.2.7
125516South Down7.2.20
113517Lower Down9.3.35
124518Northcotts Plot1.2.3
123519Newcombe Plot0.3.39
115520Wildclose Dragdon8.0.1
117521Furze (in 1913 called Furzy Dragdon)6.1.31
101523Higher Dragdon7.1.19


524Lower Dragdon5.2.26
Little Dragdon4.0.23
122532Great Dragdon5.3.16
133534Copse (by 1931 combined with South Dragdon)0.3.32
133 535South Dragdon 9.1.21
118536Horse Hill Bottom 1.0.24
139537 Lower Horse Middle Hill (in 1913 called Copsy Middle Hill)9.0.14
118538Bottom (by 1913 combined with Horse Hill Bottom) 1.0.20
129 540 Bottom 1.0.20
140 541Lower Middle Hill 7.3.27
132 542 Lower Little Horse Middlehill 3.2.24
128543 Higher Middle Hill 9.0.23
127 544 Acre 1.1.4
156  545Orchard1.3.9
130546 Orchard 0.2.36
155 547 Alder Bed 1.0.16
510 548  Little Orchard 1.2.13
509549  Furzepark9.0.31
154 550Brake 1.3.1
154 551 Polsons Garden (by 1913 combined with Brake) 0.3.10
507552 Little Furzepark (by 1913 combined with the orchard below) 4.3.18
508553Copse 1.1.7
507  554 Orchard1.1.2
506555 Little Sladepark 4.2.12
504 556 Sladepark Garden 1.1.17
514 557 Great Sladepark 5.1.36

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