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For the suburb of Adelaide, South Australia, see Modbury, South Australia.
View down Church Street, Modbury, South Hams, Devon.jpg
View down Church Street, Modbury
Modbury is located in Devon
 Modbury shown within Devon
Population 1,454 (2001)[1]
OS grid reference SX63835946
   – London 181 mi (291 km)  
Civil parish Harford
District South Hams
Shire county Devon
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district PL21
Dialling code 01548
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Devon and Somerset
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament South West Devon
Website Modbury Parish Council website
List of places

Coordinates: 50°20′57″N 3°53′13″W / 50.349111°N 3.886896°W / 50.349111; -3.886896

Modbury is a town and parish in the South Hams region of the English county of Devon. It is situated on the A379 road, which links it to Plymouth and Kingsbridge. The current parish population is approximately 1,500.


The name Modbury is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon name, Moot burgh from 'Moot' meaning either 'Mud' or 'Meeting' and 'Bury' meaning 'Fortified Enclosure'.


Modbury is recorded in the Domesday Book.

The population of the town was greatly reduced as a consequence of the Black Death.

Katherine 'Kat' Ashley née Champernowne (? – 1565) governess to Elizabeth I was probably born in or near the village.

John Batterson Stetson, founder of the Stetson cowboy hat company in the US, is descended from Modbury natives Robert Stetson and Honour Tucker (who emigrated to Massachusetts c. 1634).[2]

Manor of Whympston[edit]

Whympston Farm, 1 mile SE of Modbury, Devon. The ancient origin of the Fortescue family, Earls Fortescue

As the 17th-century Fortescue mural monument in the parish church of Weare Giffard states, "Whympstone" (modern spelling "Whympston") in the parish of Modbury is the oldest known home of the Fortescue family, influential in British and West Country history. The manor of Whympston is thought to have been granted to them by King John in 1209, but according to Hoskins[3] they were already in the district in about 1140 when Ralph Fortescue donated some land to Modbury Priory at about the time of its foundation. Writing in 1797 Rev. John Swete stated it was then owned by Paul Treby Esq.[4] In 1862 the estate was owned by Nicholas Pitts of South Allington, and the country mansion called Whympston House was purchased in 1916 by the Plymouth Co-Operative Society Ltd. as a holiday home for its members. The sale catalogue of 1915 lists the following:[5]

"Whymspton Estate, Stubston Estate, Lower Little Modbury Estate, Stoliford Estate, Challonscoombe Estate, Damerelscoombe Estate, Easton Estate, Bray's Wood (otherwise Braieswood) Tenement, Houghton Estate, Chantry Estate, Idestone Estate, Great Gate Estate, Alston Estate, fields called Tongue and South Down, several fields with barn and cattle linhays near Idestone Cross, Will Street meadow and pond in Loddiswell, Modbury, Aveton Gifford, Bigbury, Loddiswell and Malborough"

In 1925 the Co-Op sold the estate, as detailed in a sale catalogue of that year:[6]

"Whympston Estate including Stoliford Farm; Lower Little Modbury Farm; Stubston Farm; Whympston House and Farm, Modbury"

The site in 2012 at the end of a private lane marked "Whympston" comprises a small settlement of a modern-looking farmhouse with older farm buildings and two modern bungalows nearby.

Civil War[edit]

Exterior of St George's Church
Interior of St George's Church
The exterior and interior of Modbury's parish church of Saint George.

It was the site of two battles in the English Civil War. The first battle was a minor royalist victory on 9 December 1642, when a small Royalist force put to flight a smaller Parliamentarian force.

The second Battle of Modbury occurred on 21 February 1643 when the Royalists forces, expecting an attack by Parliamentarian forces assembled at nearby Kingsbridge, had fortified the town. Outnumbered approximately four to one, and running short of ammunition, the royalists retreated. This victory was largely instrumental in the lifting of the Siege of Plymouth, and the driving of the encircling Royalist forces into Cornwall.

19th century[edit]

By 1801, the population of Modbury had risen to 1,813, with almost half engaged in the wool trade. The impact of the mechanisation of the wool industry was to have a dramatic effect on the economic prosperity and population of the town in the mid-1820s and later. Many workers left the town and headed to large cities in search of employment; others left the country altogether, emigrating to America.

The railway line bypassed Modbury, contributing still further to this decline. Modbury remained an important market town until as late as 1944 when the cattle market ceased.

Plastic bag ban[edit]

In April 2007 local traders declared that for environmental reasons, they would no longer give customers plastic bags.[7][8][9] This initiative led to other communities, such as Ilam in Staffordshire and Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, to pursue similar enterprises.[10]

Modbury Rovers FC[edit]

Modbury has a recreation field with a football pitch, tennis courts, and a tarmac all-weather surface used mainly for skateboarding. This is the home of Modbury Rovers, who are managed by Alex Pitcher and compete in the Plymouth and West Devon Combination League.


  1. ^ "Parish Headcounts". The Office for National Statistics. 1 April 2001. Retrieved 26 October 2010. 
  2. ^ Stetson Kindred/History
  3. ^ Hoskins, W.G., Devon, 1954
  4. ^ Gray, Todd & Rowe, Margery (Eds.), Travels in Georgian Devon: The Illustrated Journals of the Reverend John Swete, 1789–1800, vol.3, Tiverton, 1999, p.113
  5. ^ Plymouth & West Devon Record Office Archives 1096/114 1915
  6. ^ Plymouth & West Devon Record Office Archives 1096/278 1925
  7. ^ Vidal, John (28 April 2007). "Welcome to Modbury. Just don't ask for a plastic bag". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  8. ^ Elliott, Valerie (28 April 2007). "Modbury (pop 1,553) is first to ban plastic bags". The Times. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  9. ^ Barkham, Patrick (12 May 2007). "World asks town that banned the plastic bag: how can we do it too?". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  10. ^ Sunday Telegraph 22 July 2007 2, 406 pC12

External links[edit]