• History of Begbeer
  • Owners and occupiers of Begbeer according to the 1782 land tax records
  • Owners and occupiers of Begbeer in 1842
  • Census records
  • Fields belonging to Begbeer in 1842
  • Documents in the local archives mentioning Begbeer


Also known as Bykebere (1286 and 1332), Bicbeere or Bigbeare (1571), Biggbeare (1644), Bickbeare (1693), Bickbear(1733), Beackbeare/Beakbeare (1823), Bigbeer (1826), and Begbeere. The first part of the name is probably a personal name, that of some Saxon lord (Place-Names of Devon suggests that he was called Bicca). “Beer” comes from the Anglo-Saxon bere, meaning “wood”, so Begbeer was “Bicca’s Wood”. It is one of several farms called Beer in Spreyton, reflecting the heavily wooded nature of the area in early days.

Begbeer is one of the places in Spreyton first mentioned in the records. In 1286 (when landholders were called after the place in which they lived), Richard de Bykebere is recorded as being one of the panel of inquisitors at the “inquisition post-mortem” of William Talbot, the lord of Spreyton manor (inquisitions post mortem were enquiries done by a panel of local worthies after the death of substantial landowners to ascertain whether their estate owed anything to the Crown). The next mention is in a 1332 list of tax-payers which includes Christine de Bykebere. Only the well-off paid this tax, and Spreyton had only four tax-payers. So Christine was obviously one of the richest people in the manor. She was almost certainly a widow with no sons, as normally married women had to surrender their property to their husbands on marriage and if there had been a son he would have inherited the property from his father. The Bykeberes disappear from the records after that, and the property may have returned to the Talbot family as lords of the manor.

In the Middle Ages, Begbeer was probably a single large estate with several dwellings on it – a hamlet rather than a single farm. It seems likely that bits of it began to be sold off in the 16th century. By 1571, it appears already to have been divided up into at least two holdings, as in 1571 Geoffrey Escott of Chenston is recorded (in Tingley’s enrolled deeds) as conveying to his brother William Escott of Chedelton two tenements (landholdings) called Bicbeere and North Bigbeere. There appear to have been other sub-divisions later on, with references in the records to South Begbeer, West Begbeer, East Begbeer, LittleBegbeer, Down’s Begbeer, Parson’s Begbeer and Tremain’s Begbeer. In 1644, a list of manorial rate-payers includes three people (William Taylor, William Ponsford and Robert Joynte) paying rent for “Biggbeare” and two (Bartholomew Martin and John Martin) for “South Bigbeare”. Some of these tenants were no doubt smallholders who lived at Begbeer; others probably owned or rented neighbouring farms who had rented parcels of land with no dwellings on them. Parcels of land were also acquired by big landowners as investments on account of their rental income. One such was the Tremayne family (major landowners in Devon and Cornwall) who are associated with part of the property in the 1600s and 1700s. Even after they had disposed of it, the name “Tremain’s Begbeer” continued to be used to describe that part of the old Bykebere estate.

As the various parcels were bought and sold, fields were probably swapped between them, and also the names of the various holdings probably changed over time, so it is impossible to work out exactly who owned what until the 1780s, when records of land-tax payers began to be kept. Even then, there is confusion, as the names of the various plots themselves tended to change, and owners of one part of the estate seem often to have referred to their part simply as “Begbeer”. The best record is that of 1842, when the entire parish was surveyed as part of the nationwide tithe apportionment survey (see tables below).

Sometime in the 17th century, the 40-acre plot called South Begbeer appears to have been acquired by the Battishill family. The Battishills were an old South Tawton family, but a branch moved into Spreyton in the 17th century and they became, with the Canns of Fuidge, the main landowners in the parish. In 1677, Thomas Battishill bequeathed South Begbeer to his son William.

Another name associated with Begbeer is Thomas Cobley of Widdecombe Fair fame, or rather his nephew or great-nephew. In 1842, when a full survey was done of the owners, Thomas Cobley the younger owned East and West Begbeer, a total of 89 acres, and part owned another 19 acres of Begbeer . Altogether, at that time, the various parts of Begbeer amounted to some 200 acres, indicating that Christine de Bykebere was indeed a wealthy woman (a good-sized farm in those days would be no more that 50 acres).

Begbeer was part of the Manor of Spreyton. Christine de Bykebeare was no doubt the equivalent of a freeholder, in control of her property. But nevertheless, the owner of Begbeer owed a feudal rent to the lord of the manor. This went on being payable into the 18th and even 19th century. As the manorial system collapsed, the right to these rents was bought and sold. In 1758, John Cann of Fuidge purchased the rights to the “high and chief rents” due to the lord of the manor. These included the rent due from 1/9 of Bigbeare then in the possession of John Tremayne Esq.

Owners of Begbeer according to the 1782 Land Tax records

Tax due
Litle BegbeerHore Browse Trist, Esq.Himself*12s.
South BegbeerMr William BattishillHimself*18s.
East BegbeerElizabeth HutchinsRoger Easterbrook18s.
West BegbeerElizabeth HutchinsRoger Easterbrook 16s.8d.
Tremain’s Begbeer-- Tremayne Esq.Richard Reeve£1. 8s.

*“Himself” under “Occupier” does not necessarily mean that the person concerned lived there; but merely that he had not let it out on a formal tenancy.

Owners and occupiers of Begbeer according to the 1842 tithe apportionment survey

  • South Begbeer: a 40-acre plot of land owned by John Battishill of Week (the Battishills, along with the Canns of Fuidge, were the biggest landowners in Spreyton from the 17th to 19th centuries). The Battishills were already in possession of South Begbeer by the 1600s, as it is mentioned in the 1677 will of Thomas Battishill of Drewsteignton.
  • Tremaynes (or Tremains) Begbeer: a 98-acre farm owned and farmed by Thomas Belworthy. At the time of the 1841 census, he and his wife were living in the farmhouse with their nine children aged from 15 down to eight months, together with an unmarried farm labourer and an apprentice. The Tremaynes were big landowners originally from Cornwall. As far as Spreyton was concerned, they were absentee landlords based at Sydenham and presumably acquired a part of Begbeer as an investment. They were still the owners in 1758, but by 1800 had sold it to the Belworthy family. This Begbeer appears also to have been known as North Begbeer.
  • Begbeer: a 19-acre holding with “houses” (possibly a farmhouse and cottage, or possibly two cottages) belonging to Thomas Cobley and let to John Cann, a 56-year-old farmer. In the 1841 census John Cann is described as living with his wife Elizabeth at “Little Begbeer”.
  • East and West Begbeer: an 89-acre farm with house, also belonging to Thomas Cobley. The 1841 census gives the resident of East Begbeer as Samuel Britton, a 25-year-old farmer. William Britton, probably his father, was renting nearby Puddicombe Park from Thomas Cobley.
  • Bigabeer: described as “houses and orchard”, belonged to Samuel Wreford and was let to John Vanstone, a farmer who was also renting (and lived at) Downhayes.

Occupants of Begbeer according to the census in 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871


East Begbeer

Samuel Britton, farmer, aged 25;

Betsy Britton, aged 35;

Samuel Britton, aged 2.

Little Begbeer

John Cann, farmer, aged 55;

Elizabeth Cann, aged 50.

Tremains Begbeer

Thomas Belworthy, farmer, aged 45;

Ann Belworthy, aged 40;

Thomas, Jane, William, Eliza, Henry, Mary, Sarah, Emma and Fanny Belworthy, aged from 15 down to 8 months;

William Tapp, agricultural labourer, aged 35;

Elizabeth Howard, apprentice, aged 19.


East Begbeer

William Vanstone, agricultural labourer, aged 31;

Ann Vanstone, aged 35;

Eliza, Jane, William and Emma Vanstone, aged from 5 down to 6 months;

Sarah Newcombe, aged 10, house servant.

Tremains Begbeer

Thomas Belworthy, aged 25, farmer of 98 acres employing 3 labourers;

Eliza Counter, aged 19, his sister and housekeeper;

Henry Belworthy, his 16-year-old brother;

Mary-Ann Belworthy, his 14-year old sister;

Mary Harvey, annuitant, visitor aged 71;

George Counter, blacksmith, visitor aged 22;

William White, farm servant, aged 15

Emma Counter, niece, aged 3 weeks.

North Begbeer

Richard Medland, aged 52, agricultural labourer;

Mary Medland, aged 56.



Mary Medland, aged 68

James Crocker, lodger, aged 69.


Thomas Belworthy, farmer of 98 acres, aged 35, employing 1 man and 1 boy.

Henry Belworthy, his brother, carter, aged 25

Mary Ann Belworthy, sister, housekeeper, aged 23

Jessie Belworthy, niece, aged 3.


James Turner, farmer of 32 acres, aged 61

Mary Turner, aged 59

Robert Turner, son, aged 18.


George Turner aged 35, agricultural labourer

Ann Turner, aged 37.



John Tolley, aged 28, agricultural labourer

Mary Tolley, aged 28 and their son William, aged 1.


William Folley, agricultural labourer, aged 55

Sarah Folley, aged 59 and sons William and Henry

John Baker, father of Sarah, former agricultural labourer aged 84.


Thomas Belworthy, farmer of 100 acres, aged 45

Charlotte Belworthy, his wife, aged 45

Jessie Belworthy, niece, aged 13

William Tapp and Stephen Cole, farm servants living in.


Samuel Trickey, agricultural labourer

Margaret, his wife and 4 children

Maria Sweet, aged 57, his mother-in-law and a former charwoman.


South Begbeer (owned and occupied in 1842 by John Battishill)
Tithe No. OS No. Name of field Acres, roods, perches



311North Down5.2.4
312Middle Down4.1.8
314South Down3.3.9
115Homer Rowears3.2.25
116Yonder Rowears3.2.6

Tremains Begbeer (owned and occupied in 1842 by Thomas Belworthy)

Tithe No.Field nameAcres, roods, perches


East Close4.3.10
176Seven Acres (probably part of a sub-divided 7-acre field)3.0.1
177Seven Acres2.3.24
183Houses and court0.1.19
191Square Close4.1.14
193House and court0.1.10
196Eight acres9.1.4
197Five Acres5.3.35
198Lower Field7.0.27
199Long Strap3.2.36
203Alder Park5.0.13


309Lower Gratton3.1.38
310Higher Gratton3.1.33

Begbeer (owned in 1842 by Thomas Cobley and occupied by John Cann)

Tithe No.Name of fieldAcres, roods, perches
34Furze Close4.2.12


58Barn Close1.1.32
109Houses and garden
111Well Close1.2.10
112Well Close2.1.35

East and West Begbeer (owned and occupied in 1842 by Thomas Cobley Esq.)

Tithe No.Field nameAcres, roods, perches
64Lower Bramble Ham3.0.27
69Higher Bramble Ham4.3.29


84Square Close5.0.20
85Lower Gutterclose2.1.38
86Lower Bramble Ham3.2.21
87Higher Bramble Ham3.1.39


93House and court0.2.1
97Alder Bed0.2.22

Documents in the local archives mentioning Begbeer

(this list is not complete)

Lease and release of 12 and 13 December 1693, between (1) Sir John Tremayne, Sergeant at Law, (2) Arthur Tremayne of Cullacombe, Esq.; Edmund Tremayne, son and heir of Arthur; and Thomas Ford, City of Exeter, gentleman; and (3) Henry Hatsell, Esq., Sergeant at Law; Arthur Edgcomb of Lamerten; and John Avent of Inner Temple, gentleman. Thedeeds settle various properties in Devon and Cornwall (no doubt as part of a family arrangement). The Devon properties include the tenement of Bickbeare in the parish of Spreyton.Cornwall Record Office ref: T/753/1-3.

1702 Indenture between (1) Thomas Hore of South Tawton, yeoman; and (2) John Hore of Zeal Monachorum, yeoman.
Premises: East Nymett, Taw and Coursebeare in South Tawton, Wood in Colebrooke, Middle Row in Brushford, Uppacott in Tedburn St. Mary, Bigbeare in Spreyton, and half of Coombishead or Coombhead in Colebrooke

Devon Archives ref: 2779 M/7/29

Indentures of4 and 5 April, 1733 between (1) John Tremayne of Heligan, Esq. and (2) Lewis Wise of New Inn in Middlesex, gentleman, to bar entails. The properties mentioned in Devon include Bickbear in the parish of Spreyton.

Cornwall Record Office ref: T/755/1-5

Indenture of 5.10.1757 between (1) Richard Hole ofNorth Tawton and his wife Julianna; (2) Thomas Hole of North Tawton; and (3) John Battishill of Drewsteignton. It affirms John Battishil’s right to Horracombe (Hollycombe) in Spreyton, and also lists a number of properties in which Richard Hole has a freehold interest, including one quarter of “Parson’s Begbeer” (no doubt land at one point used by the parson for his sheep or cattle).
Devon Archives ref: 2914 A/PF 20

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 various properties, including his one fourth share in Begbeere, late in the possession of Christopher Parsons and now in that of Richard. William Battishill must pay an annual reserved rent to Richard Hole of 3s. for Begbeer.

Lease and release of 5 and 6 March 1758 wherebyArthur Kelly of Kelly, Esq. conveys to John Cann the younger (of Fuidge), gentleman, for £30 his quarter share of Manor and Lordship of Spreyton and all the high and chief rents that go with it. They include:

  • 1s. 9d for Bigbeare, then in the possession of John Tremayne Esq
  • 6d for Puddicombe Park;

3d Bigbeare, then or late in the possession of Thomas Hore Esq

  • 3d for East Bigbeare
  • 1½ d for West Bigbeare
  • 2½ d for Down’s Bigbeare.

Devon Archives ref: Z3/Box 14

1767 marriage settlement of Henry Tremayne of Heligan and Harriet Heale of Penrhyn includes among many lands Bickbeare in Spreyton.

Devon Archives ref: ref:56/8/22/2

1823 conveyance. Parties are:Joseph Gribble of Ashburton gent; John Tarr; Rebecca Cann of Exeter widow; and Mark Kennaway. Gribble, by direction of Rebecca, conveys to Kennaway Beackbeere/Beakbeare and the fields called higher Down, Lower Down and meadow adjoining and 2 other fields; wo parks long since divided into 6 fields; Downhayes (tenement, justment or parcels of ground); and Riders Beer, all part of the Manor of Spreyton; all in Spreyton and formerly in the possession of John Cann; and also the Rectory tenths and Great Tythes and Sheaf of the said premisess; to hold on trust for Rebecca.

Devon Archives ref: Z3 /box 14

Lease and release of 11.7.1826 conveying the tithes of certain properties from Rebecca Cann of Fuidge to George Cann of Bush. It lists properties and their acreages. They include: Puddicombe Park, 40 acres; Little Bigbeer, 17 acres; and Down’s Tenement, 22 acres, all in the occupation of Thomas Cobley.


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