Pilton is a suburb of Barnstaple. It is located about half a mile north on the outskirts of the town in the English county of Devon, and the district of North Devon. It is home to about 2000 residents and has its own primary and secondary school. It is easily accessible via Barnstaple Town.
Situated on an easily-defended hill at the head of the Taw estuary and close to where the river narrows enough to be fordable, Pilton was an important Saxon settlement. Alfred the Great (871-899) had a fortified town, or burh, built at Pilton. According to the Burghal Hidage, an early 10th Century document setting out the details of all burhs then functioning, Pilton's wall was 1485 feet long and the nominated garrison consisted of 360 men drawn from the surrounding district in the event of an invasion. The other burhs in Devon were Exeter, Halwell (near Totnes) and Lydford; Watchet in Somerset was another burh which could provide mutual support. Pilton remained the site of the original burh through much of the 10th century until this was moved a mile or so to the south-east to become Barnstaple, probably because times were more peaceful and the burh's role as a civilian market centre had become more significant. Barnstaple was better located for trade and developed as a market town and then as a borough. A Saxon ford would have typically been indicated by a stapol, or post - Bearda's stapol giving the town of Barnstaple its name.
Since 2012, the history and heritage has been collected by a group based in Pilton Church Hall The Pilton Story, which is compiling an archive of old and new memories, tales, documents, recordings and photographs of the people and settlement of the settlement.
A history of St. Margaret's Leper Hospital at Pilton was written by the genealogist Benjamin Incledon (1730-1796), of Pilton House, whose ancient family had originated at the estate of Incledon, 3 miles north-west of Braunton. It was published in Archæologia, vol. xii. pp. 211–14.
White's Devonshire Directory (published 1850) described Pilton in these terms:-
|“||PILTON is a pleasant village, on an eminence, about half a mile north of Barnstaple. Its parish contains 1805 inhabitants, and is mostly included in the Borough of Barnstaple. . . The manor of Pilton belonged to a Benedictine Priory, which was founded here as a cell to Malmsbury Abbey, and was valued at £56. 12s. 8d. per annum at the dissolution, when it and the manor were granted to the Chichester family. The manor, after passing to the Sydenham, Northmore, and other families, was dismembered. John Whyte, Esq., owns the site of the priory, and Westaway estate, and has a handsome mansion here, called Pilton House; but a great part of the parish belongs to the Trustees of the late Lord Rolle, J. R. Griffiths, Esq., Capt. May, and several other freeholders.||”|
Morris and Co.'s Commercial Directory and Gazetteer (published 1870) expanded this with:-
|“||In the census of 1861, 1863 inhabitants, and 1861 acres ; in the deanery and archdeaconry of Barnstaple, diocese of Exeter, hundred of Braunton, North Devonshire, a portion of it being included in the borough of Barnstaple, from which it is separated by the river Yeo, which is here crossed by a bridge. The vicarage in the incumbency of the Rev. William Cradock Hall, M.A., is valued at £105 per annum, with residence, and is in the patronage of William Hodge, Esq. The church is an ancient Gothic edifice, dedicated to St. Mary, formerly part of a priory of the Benedictines, established here as a cell to Malmesbury Abbey: it has an embattled tower and a peal of eight bells. The tower was partly destroyed by the Parliamentarians in 1646, but was rebuilt in 1696. In the church is a stone pulpit, handsomely carved, with an arm attached to it holding an hour glass. There are tablets and tombs in memory of some members of the Chichester family, also two brasses to the memory of Alexander and Robert Bret. There are some considerable charitable bequests for the benefit of the poor, which are under the management of charity trustees, and also several almshouses. The Honourable Mark Rolle is lord of the manor, and one of the principal landowners.||”|
Pilton has three schools: 'Pilton Infants' (Reception - Year 2), 'Pilton Bluecoat' (Year 3 - 6) and secondary school 'Pilton Community College' (Year 7 - 11).
Pilton Infants School
Pilton Infants is an infants school serving 5-7 year-old pupils in and around the Pilton area. At the age of 7, pupils usually proceed into the Pilton Bluecoat Junior School.
Pilton Bluecoat CofE Junior School
Pilton Bluecoat is a junior school serving an age range of 7-11. Pupils from this school usually proceed into Pilton Community College at age 11.
Pilton Community College
Pilton Community College is a specialist language college serving an age range 11-16.
From 1898 to 1935, Pilton was the main depot and operating centre for the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway. The site, a triangle of land to the East of Pilton Causeway, south of Yeo Vale Road and North of what is now the A361, was originally part of the tannery and reverted to its original ownership when the line closed. The Yard Offices were, for many years after, home to The Sheepskin Shop, and more recently used as an antiquarian furniture shop. The carriage sheds, locomotive shed and other remnants of the railway were destroyed in a fire in 1992 and much of the site is now used for car parking.
Pilton was granted the right to hold an annual festival by Edward III. Since it was revived in 1982, the Pilton Festival is normally held on the third weekend of July and incorporates Green Man Day. The Pilton Festival includes a parade through Barnstaple, market, craft and food stalls, live music and performances of a Green Man pageant at Pilton House. The Green Man performances involve the Green Man, the Prior of the Benedictine Priory of Pilton and the Pilton Worm, an ancient monster. Over time the Festival had seemed to be more about profits with lots of non-local business and stalls but is now reverting to being very much a local and strictly non-profitmaking event with the aim of providing family fun and entertainment, celebrating the local community and helping local charities and businesses.
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