Moretonhampstead shown within Devon
|OS grid reference|
|– London||215 miles (346 km)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Post town||NEWTON ABBOT|
|Police||Devon and Cornwall|
|Fire||Devon and Somerset|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
Moretonhampstead is a town and parish including Doccombe in Devon on the edge of Dartmoor, within the north east of the National Park. The parish church is dedicated to St. Andrew. Moretonhampstead is twinned with Betton in France. Its population at the 2011 census was 2,806.
The Domesday Book, compiled in the 1080s, records Moretonhampstead as simply "Moretone". This name comes from the Old English for "moor town", referring to the town's situation near Dartmoor. By the 15th century "Hampstead" had been added to the name, to distinguish it from various other English settlements called Moreton. This addition simply means "homestead", and may originally have been the name of a nearby hamlet or a local gentry family.
The central region of Devon was occupied by the Saxons soon after 682 AD. It was divided into vast estates, and one of these divisions included all land within the boundaries of the rivers Teign and Bovey, with Moreton as its major settlement. The present parish of over 6,000 acres (24 km2) is the residue of that ancient crown lordship. The Domesday Book shows that the manor of Moreton, with some neighbouring manors, supported upwards of 5,000 sheep. Wool and (in later years) the manufacture of woollen cloth formed the basis of the town's economy for over 700 years. The economy was evidently healthy when the town established a water-powered fulling mill before the end of the 13th century.
In 1207, King John granted a weekly market and an annual five-day fair, indicating that Moretonhampstead had developed into an important local community. The town grew steadily through the Middle Ages and remained prosperous until the end of the 17th century, when the wool industry began to decline. The town continued to be a local trading centre and a rest stop for travellers on the difficult routes across Dartmoor and from Exeter and Newton Abbot.
A series of fires in the 20th century destroyed many of Moretonhampstead's ancient buildings, but sufficient still remains to demonstrate the Saxon and Medieval heritage, and the later industrial prosperity. Much of the town is designated a conservation area, with many listed buildings of architectural and historic interest. The whole parish is within Dartmoor National Park.
When King John granted the town its charter during the 13th century, the rent was set as one sparrowhawk per year. The bird has become something of a symbol for the town and will be incorporated into works of public art under development by an artist in residence Roger Dean.
Places of interest
The Cross Tree
The Cross Tree, immortalised by R. D. Blackmore in his 1882 novel Christowell, is now only represented by a cross minus its shaft, which is enclosed near the almshouses. This famous dancing tree, a fine old elm, cut and clipped in the form of a punch bowl (by which name it was also known), has long since disappeared, and in its place a beech tree has been planted. It was around the original tree that the village lads and lasses would dance and it recorded that French officers on parole from Dartmoor Prison at Princetown during the Napoleonic Wars, "did assemble around the Cross Tree with their Band".
Standing behind the Cross Tree are the famous almshouses, built in solid granite. The date of 1637 on the outside is actually the date they were refurbished. Recent research has shown that the main core of these buildings are at least two hundred years older. Early in the 19th century the building was converted from two tenements into four and the facade was damaged. By 1938 they had fallen into disrepair. In 1940 they were purchased for the town and converted back into two tenements. In 1952 they were purchased by the National Trust.
St Andrew's Church
The granite Church dedicated to St Andrew dates from the mid-15th century. It is a grade I listed building.
Moretonhampstead relies heavily on tourism, and has done so for a long time. Its central position on Dartmoor makes it a base to explore both Dartmoor and Devon. The central part of the town stands at an altitude of 700 feet (210 m) but a short stroll within the parish will elevate the walker to beyond 1,100 feet (340 m) and afford views of the surrounding area. Moretonhampstead has four pubs and two cafes. There is a wide selection of hotels, bed and breakfast, self-catering and camping accommodation.
Moretonhampstead has a good range of sporting facilities and the great expanse of Dartmoor makes it popular with ramblers and cyclists, in particular for mountain biking.
Moretonhampstead's Flag Festival began in 2011 when two local artists, with funding support from Dartmoor National Park's Sustainable Development Fund, established a group of interested participants. In the first year, between them they made over forty flags in open-access community workshops. Each winter they repeat the exercise, flags are repaired and new ones made to add to the collection. The growing community of flag makers take pride in seeing their work transform the town into an open-air gallery for visitors and residents to enjoy. Sewn from fabric salvaged from thrown away festival-goer's tents, and off-cuts from the Cameron Balloon Factory in Bristol, each flag tells a unique story relating to the landscape, local business, personal interest, or connection to the town and surrounding moorland. The flagpoles are harvested and made locally from a sustainable woodland. The Flag Festival runs for the duration of March.
Moretonhampstead also has an annual carnival, held on the fourth Thursday in August which raises funds for local groups and associations.
Other events include a fireworks night, annual pantomime, food and drink festival and music events spread throughout the year
Moretonhampstead railway station was opened by the Moretonhampstead and South Devon Railway on the south side of the town on 26 June 1866. It closed to passengers on 28 February 1959, although goods trains continued until 6 April 1964. After this the goods shed and engine shed continued to be used for many years by a commercial road haulage business.
Bus services are from the car park just west of the town centre and include services to Exeter (359/173) and Plymouth (82).
Sport and recreation
- Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Devon: Being Observations on Many Churches in Denonshire. George Oliver and John Pike Jones (editors), 1828, Exeter: E. Woolmer.
- "Ward population 2011". Retrieved 18 February 2015.
- Hanks, Patrick; Hodges, Flavia; Mills, A. D.; Room, Adrian (2002). The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: the University Press. p. 1132. ISBN 0198605617.
- W. W. Rouse Ball (1960) Calculating Prodigies, in Mathematical Recreations and Essays, Macmillan, New York, chapter 13.
- Church of St Andrew, Moretonhampstead, British Listed Buildings
- The Beauties of England and Wales, or Delineations, Topographical, Historical and Descriptive of Each County, Vol IV. John Britton and Edward Wedlake Brayley. 1803. London.
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