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St Michaels Church, Doddiscombsleigh
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Despite its proximity to the city, the village is notorious locally for being difficult to find, as it is surrounded by twisting-narrow-lanes and deep valleys, with the foothills of Dartmoor National Park stretching away to the horizon. The village is accessed via minor roads which are predominately single track with passing places. The A38 passes within 3 miles at Haldon Hill. The war memorial has the O S grid reference SX 855 865 and for sat nav users the postcode is EX6 7PS.
Of particular note, is the C of E parish church of St Michael. Remarkably, apart from that in the Great East Window of Exeter Cathedral, St Michael’s contains the greatest collection of medieval stained glass to be found in situ anywhere in Devon, as the panels in St Michael’s, which were installed c1480, and some of the glass at Exeter Cathedral, were all produced in the 15th century by the same glazing workshop.
These panels left Exeter over five hundred years ago - around the time of the Wars of the Roses - transported out of the city during the late Middle Ages on a cart and hauled up and down the precipitous Haldon Hill, before being installed in the church for which they were made. And they remain there today, rare survivals of perhaps the most fragile of medieval art forms.
Town Barton - which lies between the church of St Michael and The NoBody Inn is the historic Manor house; also known as the Capital Messuage or Mansion House of Doddiscombsleigh and has a fascinating history.
The first record of Town Barton is in the Domesday Book of 1086 when Doddiscombsleigh was known as Terra Godeboldi under the reign of one Godbold the Bowman. Town Barton was the Capital Barton (Manor House) for Godbold`s Domesday Estates.
This makes it one of the very rare instances of a property truly being specifically traceable to where a Doomsday owner dwelt. The manor of Doddiscombsleigh was also known as Legh-Peverel, but the name was dropped when the manor changed hands, with a Sir Ralph Doddescomb being recorded as living in the old mansion house in the reign of Henry III (1216-1272). Town Barton was renowned for its twenty acres of apple orchards which produced "remarkably fine cider", no doubt supplying the local hostelleries.
The NoBody Inn
The cottage that is now The NoBody Inn was listed as a "dwelling houses” or “messuage" in 1837, however, from the early 1600s at least, it was the village's unofficial Church House. Originally called Pophill Howse, details are sparse until 1752 when it was owned by Stephen Diggines "the church carpenter". The Inn has had a curious role in the parish. It did not ‘formally’ become The New Inn until 1838, although it is believed to have been ‘informally’ established in the late 18th century to provide ‘liquid refreshments’ for the many men who worked in the mines of the hills at Ashton, Doddiscombsleigh and Christow in their efforts to satisfy the huge demand for manganese for use in the potteries and for bleaching.
In 1952 the inn’s landlord died, and due possibly to both the undertaker and the pallbearers sampling too much of the landlord’s cider, they failed to notice that there was no body in the coffin when it was buried in the village churchyard. That day the undertaker noticed that they still had the body. They telephoned the inn during the wake and the mourners were told of the mishap. The empty coffin was duly dug-up, the body was popped in, and all was well.
Subsequently, the inn was sold to an RAF Wing Commander; he thought the fiasco was such a hoot, that he changed the name to ‘The NoBody Inn’, although the new landlord’s slant on life, (or death) was considered by many of the locals to be ‘irreverent behaviour’, leading to the inn being apparently boycotted for some time.
An alternative explanation is that a landlord of the inn was in the habit of leaving his potman in charge of the inn when he went out on business. The potman was either shy or lazy, and when travellers came knocking at the inn door seeking refreshment would shout "There's nobody in!"
This multi-award-winning inn is renowned both nationally and internationally and is especially recognised for its extensive whisky selection and fine food.
Media related to Doddiscombsleigh at Wikimedia Commons
- Pole, Sir William (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon, Sir John-William de la Pole (ed.), London, 1791, p.256