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 number||Field name||Acres, roods, perches|
|904||Houses and Court||1.0.17|
|908||Little Furzepark [sic]||9.2.14|
|912 ||Home Cleave||10.2.4|
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
(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
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
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
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
John Harvey, aged 70, agricultural labourer, and his family
John Cole, aged 45, farmer of 10 acres, with his wife.
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).
(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.
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
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.
John Govett Lovering, age47, farmer
Mary Jane Lovering, age 39
John Rowe Lovering, age 10
Mary Cole, age 19, servant.
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:
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