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Cottages, Iddesleigh - - 1135400.jpg
Cob and thatch cottages in the village
Iddesleigh is located in Devon
Location within Devon
OS grid referenceSS5608
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townWinkleigh
Postcode districtEX19
PoliceDevon and Cornwall
FireDevon and Somerset
AmbulanceSouth Western
EU ParliamentSouth West England
List of places
50°51′N 4°02′W / 50.85°N 04.04°W / 50.85; -04.04Coordinates: 50°51′N 4°02′W / 50.85°N 04.04°W / 50.85; -04.04

Iddesleigh is a village and civil parish in the county of Devon, England. The settlement has ancient origins and is listed in the Domesday Book. The village lies on the B3217 road, roughly central in its parish of around 2,900 acres, about eight miles north of the town of Okehampton.

Iddesleigh has been described as an attractive small village, with good views of Dartmoor to the south. Its church is a grade I listed building and there are a number of other listed buildings in the parish.

Sir Stafford Northcote owned most of the parish at one time and took the title of Earl of Iddesleigh, though he never lived here. Author Michael Morpurgo has lived here since the 1970s.

Toponymy and early history[edit]

The name Iddesleigh derives from the Old English personal name, Ēadwīġ (or perhaps Ēadwulf), and lēah, a wood or clearing.[1] The first documentary evidence of the settlement appears in the Domesday Book (1086), where it is referred to twice, as Edeslege and as Iweslei. By the 13th century its name was recorded as Edulvesly and in 1428 as Yeddeslegh.[1]

Domesday Book shows that in 1086 the majority of the manor of Iddesleigh (under the name of Edeslege) was owned directly by the king, but a small part of it (one virgate recorded as Iweslei) was held from the king by William of Claville. The pre-conquest owner of this land is unclear: two women's names – Alware Pet and Aelfeva Thief – are recorded. The overlord is recorded as Brictric son of Algar.[2] By the 13th century the lands had passed to the de Reigny family as part of the honour of Gloucester.[2]


The village is three miles north-east of Hatherleigh and eight miles north of Okehampton. It is roughly in the centre of its parish, on the B3217 road[3] that runs from Okehampton to Atherington, near the A377.[4]

The parish, which covers about 2,900 acres on the Culm Measures, has its southern border along the River Okement and its western along the River Torridge.[5] Clockwise from the north, it is bordered by the parishes of Dowland, Winkleigh, Broadwoodkelly, Monkokehampton, Hatherleigh and Meeth.[4][6]

In 2001, the population of the parish was 198,[3] down from 335 in 1901, and 441 in 1801.[7]

The village[edit]

The landscape historian W. G. Hoskins, writing in 1953, described the village as "an excellent example of a cob and thatch village, most attractive to explore",[8] and in 1973 S. H. Burton wrote that it gave the appearance of being "thatchier" than anywhere else in Devon.[9] Situated on a south-facing slope, the village has good views of northern Dartmoor, including its highest point, High Willhays.[8]

The Church of St James, the parish church, is at the western edge of the village,[5] and is a grade I listed building.[10] With 13th-century origins, but mostly dating from the 15th century, it has wagon roofs in its nave and north aisle. A recumbent effigy of a knight with a plain shield, lying under an arch has been dated to c. 1250 and is believed to be of a squire of Iddesleigh, a member of the locally-notable Sully family.[8][11] The church was partly rebuilt in 1720 with further work in the early 19th century, followed by restoration by Charles S. Adye in 1878–9.[12]

The listed village pub, the "Duke of York", is made of cob and thatch,[13] and is slightly hidden from the main road being along a side street behind some terraced cottages.[9] Its facade was used in the BBC television series Down to Earth, broadcast in 2000.[14] It was in this pub that Michael Morpurgo says he talked to an old soldier with first-hand knowledge of the use of horses in the First World War which became the basis for his 1982 novel War Horse.[15], the village was also used as inspiration for the Michael Morpurgo novel, Private Peaceful.


Ash House, a grade II listed building in the south of the parish, was the seat of the Mallet family from 1530 to 1881.[16] It was later bought by the founders of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.[5]

There has been a settlement at Barwick, in the south-east corner of the parish, since at least the early 15th century: a document dated 1440 refers to it as Berewyke.[17] There are two listed buildings here. Little Barwick is a late 15th-century building with 17th-century and later alterations—its most notable feature is its medieval full cruck trusses, unusual in Devon.[18] South Barwick Farmhouse dates from the first part of the 17th century.[19] Barwick had a stud farm breeding shire horses before World War I. The "Barwick Madam" was noted in the local shire horse stud book.[20]

The Tarka Trail, a series of footpaths and cycle routes radiating from Barnstaple, passes from north to south through the parish, taking in the village.[4]

Notable people[edit]

The Reverend Jack Russell, originator of the eponymous dog breed, was curate at Iddesleigh between 1830 and 1836.[5] In 1885, when Sir Stafford Northcote was raised to the peerage, he took the title of Earl of Iddesleigh, which was, according to W. G. Hoskins, a curious choice since his main estates were not here.[8] He did, however, own some 2,000 acres of the parish.[5]

The Scottish-born poet, Seán Rafferty lived in the parish from 1948 until his death in December 1993; he was landlord of the Duke of York pub until 1975.[21][22] Rafferty was a friend of author Michael Morpurgo, who has lived in Iddesleigh since the 1970s.[15] In his book Private Peaceful, the village is the home of the protagonist, Tommo, and it is one of the main settings for the book. In 1976 Morpurgo and his wife, Clare, set up the Farms for City Children charity which is based at Nethercott House in the parish.[23] Poet Ted Hughes who lived nearby was a close friend and regular visitor to the Morpurgos and became the first president of the charity.[15]


  1. ^ a b Watts, Victor (2010). The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-names (1st paperback ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 329. ISBN 978-0-521-16855-7.
  2. ^ a b Caroline and Frank Thorn (editors) (1985). Domesday Book, 9, Devon, Part 2. Chichester: Phillimore. ISBN 0-85033-492-6.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) Edeslege is discussed on page 1,63 and Iweslei on page 24,22.
  3. ^ a b Harris, Helen (2004). A Handbook of Devon Parishes. Tiverton: Halsgrove. pp. 89–90. ISBN 1-84114-314-6.
  4. ^ a b c Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 113 (2009)
  5. ^ a b c d e Devon Federation of Women's Institutes (1990). The Devon Village Book. Newbury: Countryside Books. pp. 123–4. ISBN 1-85306-078-X.
  6. ^ "Iddesleigh Parish Map". GENUKI/Devon. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
  7. ^ "Iddesleigh". Devon County Council. Archived from the original on 2 March 2013. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
  8. ^ a b c d Hoskins, W. G. (1972). A New Survey of England: Devon (New ed.). London: Collins. p. 414. ISBN 0-7153-5577-5.
  9. ^ a b Burton, S. H. (1973). Devon Villages. London: Robert Hale. p. 160. ISBN 0-7091-3659-5.
  10. ^ Historic England. "Church of St James (1309051)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  11. ^ Winslow Jones (1892). "Sir John de Sully, K.G.". Report & Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 24: 173. In Iddesleigh church there is the effigy of a cross-legged knight in ring-mail, which is mentioned in Mr. W. H. H. Rogers's paper on the sepulchral effigies in the parish churches of North Devon.
  12. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus (1989) [1952]. Cherry, Bridget (ed.). The Buildings of England: Devon. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 498–9. ISBN 0-14-071050-7.
  13. ^ Historic England. "Duke of York Inn (1309026)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  14. ^ "FOOD REVIEW: Duke of York, Iddesleigh". This is North Devon. 1 November 2012. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  15. ^ a b c Morpurgo, Michael (11 July 2010). "Once upon a life". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
  16. ^ Historic England. "Ash House (1105228)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  17. ^ Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, A. & Stenton, F.M (1931). "The Place-Names of Devon". English Place-Name Society. Vol viii. Part I. Cambridge University Press: 94.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ Historic England. "Little Barwick (1166027)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  19. ^ Historic England. "South Barwick Farmhouse (1326500)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  20. ^ Shire Horse Stud Book Shire Horse Society – Volume 26 1905 – Page 200 "BARWICK MADAM".. Jonas B. Raymont, Barwick, Iddesleigh, Winkleigh, Devon, Bay, star, hind heels and off fore pastern white. Foaled 1902."
  21. ^ Turns, Anna (24 January 2011). "In Tune with the World". Devon Life. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
  22. ^ Johnson, Nicholas (7 January 1993). "Obituary: Sean Rafferty". The Independent. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
  23. ^ Eede, Joanna (17 October 2012). "Muck and Magic: Clare Morpurgo Talks About Her Inspirational Charity". Retrieved 11 March 2013.