In 2012 AbbPast launched its first Village Trail, 'The Diamond Jubilee' Trail, which was a gentle stroll round the main part of the village.

To coincide with the publication of the 'Abbotskerswell Village History Series' they will be launching a longer Parish Trail to be called 'The Heritage Lottery Trail' in 2016. It will be published in one of the booklets as well their website - look out for its appearance. In the meantime there is a printable version of this; trail map page 1 ...... trail map page 2


An Introduction; To commemorate Queen Elizabeth IIs Diamond Jubilee we have created this village trail since previous methods of commemoration, planting trees in The Square is no longer possible as the trail will explain.

We will soon be publishing a Village Trail which, in its paper form, is a brief guided historical walk around the main features of the central village area. This is available from .... (this will be revealed as soon as it is known). However, we are launching the Trail on Sunday 3rd June as part of the Village's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, when we will walk the Trail at 3 pm, beginning at the Park.

Since the Trail is, by necessity, a brief history the website gives us a chance to develop the Trail in much more detail. For those interested in Abbotskerswell's past here is that detailed version.

The Village Site; The fertile valley in which Abbotskerswell is sited has been used as a settlement since The Bronze Age when the trees were cleared and agriculture began. The Saxons continued the village’s growth when the land was owned by  King Edwy. He divided his local estates into two, keeping half for himself (hence Kings-Carsewell) and giving the half to his granddaughter, Ethelhilda, who in turn gave it to the Abbey of Horton in Dorset as an endowment.

King William I’s Domesday Book of 1086 noted that the village had 200 acres of farmland, needing 6 ox-teams to plough the land, The population of around a 100, included 10 villeins (tenant farmers), 9 bordars (smallholders) and 2 serfs (slaves) who would have worked the Abbot's demense farm.

In c.1300 a village of 250 people with many farms and a stone church had developed. As was typical of the period the population held at around 250 only slowly rising to 300 by 1800. By c.1600 many of today’s thatched cottages had been built, the orchards planted and farming was thriving. In 1839 there were 10 farms in the village.

In Abbotskerswell you will find all that is best in the typical Devon village.

The Village Name; The name 'Abbotskerswell' is the last stop in an evolutionary path which began in the late Saxon period when Carsewell, meaning where water cress is grown, was used. The Abbot part was added in the late Saxon period when Ethelhilda gave the village to the Abbey of Horton. Interestingly though this was not used in the Norman period when the Domesday Book uses a latinised version of Carsuella. In 1524 when the abbot of Sherborne gave the land for Church House the documents record: "our parish church of Kerswell Abbot". Yet by 1540, in a dissolution survey, we see this has changed when: "the woods of Abbottes Cressewell" is used. By the time of the 1839 Tithe Map the village is described as: "the said Parish of Abbotskerswell". However, even in the nineteenth century the official census documents vary in their use of Abbotskerswell and Abbots Kerswell.

Trail Map PicThe Trail; As you walk around Abbotskerswell you will be part of a 3,000 year old story of human habitation and development, beginning with the valley that provides everything early settlers needed: water, wood, shelter and farming land. The buildings highlighted reflect some 600 years of that story and are many and varied.

1. The Ladywell; The starting point of the Trail, at the Park, leads to the Ladywell, or Ladewell to use the medieval spelling. As with many settlements the springs were vital to life and were often considered since they gave rise to the village’s site. Ladewell has historically been thought to have healing properties for eye infections.

2. Barnfield Terrace; Walking back past the nineteenth century Bridge Cottages you will arrive at Barnfield Terrace which shows how the modern village has evolved with its first 'council houses', built in 1928. Following World War I there was a great determination to improve life for the working classes, and housing was a particular area that was focused on. The Government declared that it wanted to have "homes fit for heroes" and the building of new 'council houses' to replace old houses was seen to be the answer. In Abbotskerswell that meant replacing the old thatched cottages such as those at Prospect Terrace. Others were built close to Manor Road.

3. The Village Hall; Another modern feature of the village is The Village Hall built in 1973 to replace the Medieval Church House as the centre of village activities. It became a real community project and was constructed mainly with volunteer labour.

4. Town Farm & Town Cottages; As you walk towards the centre of the village its real character begins to unfold and this is reflected with the medieval houses that you pass. Mote House, Mote Cottage, Willow Dene and Willow Grove all belong to this period. However, it is the imposing Town Farm & Town Cottages that catch our attention. They were built in the 16th century from cob (a mixture of mud, clay & straw) on a limestone base with a thatched roof. They were originally constructed as open hearthed houses, meaning they had one main room with a fire in the centre and a whole in the roof to allow the smoke to escape. In later times a first floor and chimneys were added.

5. Church House; Opposite Town Farm is a very interesting building in Church House  which was built in 1524 on land given by the Abbot of Sherborne.  In 1130 The Abbey of Horton had become part of the Abbey of Sherborne which would continue to own 'Kerswell Abbot' until the monastery's dissolution by Henry VIII in 1539. The land was given to feofees (trustees) to build a house that would provide the village with brewing and baking facilities and provide a function venue. It would serve as the village hall for over four centuries.

6. The Parish Rooms; Behind Church House stand The Parish Rooms, which provide us with our first link to a very important and influential family to the village in the nineteenth century; the Hares. Their story is told in point 10 of the Trail. The buildings were probably stables for Church House originally, but were derelict by the c.19th. They were renovated as the parish baths and given to the village by the Hare family.

7. The Church of St Mary; Clearly visible now is the imposing Church of St Mary, which was probably built on a Saxon site and would evolve from a simple wooden building into the substantial stone building we see today in various phases. The wooden church was rebuilt in stone in c.13th by the Abbey of Sherborne given a nave and a chancel. It was reconstructed again in c.15th when the nave and chancel were altered and a tower added. Between 1881-1884 it was totally renovated, re-built really, by the famous nineteenth century architect William Butterfield in 1884. It was the Hare family who were instrumental in this drastic action when it seems the church was in serious neglect. Mrs Matilda Hare provided the £1609 in memory of her husband Captain Marcus Hare. He had died in 1878 when the ship of which he was captain, the training vessel HMS Eurydice, overturned and sank in a squall off the Isle of Wight. There are various memorials to him in the church. There are also memorials to the two other major Abbotskerswell families of the nineteenth century, the Creeds and the Henleys. Both will feature later in this trail.

Unusually the village War Memorial is inside the church and is a very grand piece of work by Newton Abbot stone mason W H Crossman. It features a soldier of the Devon Regiment and a sailor from HMS Devonshire. Apparently the construction and siting of the memorial caused quite a stir in the village and the grand nature of it seems slightly out of keeping with such a small village!

8. The Court Farm Inn; In 1086 the Abbot of Horton owned a third of the arable land and his demesne farm (sometimes called Home or Glebe or Church Farm). As in many Devon villages the church farm was close to the church and in our case was called Court Farm. Following the closure of the monasteries after 1540 the land was sold on. By the 1700s it was in the hands of a Quaker farmer called James Tuckett. In 1721 he rebuilt the house and dated the porch to show when the work was completed. In 1839 it was still the the largest of the 10 farms in the village with 124 acres of land.

Today it is The Court Farm Inn created in the 1960s when the farm was sold by a Mr Purkis. Much of its farmland was sold to provide sites for the extensive modern houses that would be built on this side of the village. Many of the farm's barns have now been renovated and turned into houses.

9. The 1960s Development; With Court Farm sold its land was sold for a major housing development that would transform that side of Abbotskerswell creating a dormitory village typical of the time. The building would eventually see most of Wilton Way, Court Road, Corn Park Road and St Marys Close built in the 1960s and 1970s. Architecturally this little to say really apart for the early houses to the left of the footpath which do show some interesting design features with angles that were new to the village's vernacular architecture.

10. Court Grange; A short, but steep, footpath takes you to an important house in the history of Abbotskerswell, Court Grange, mainly because it introduces us to the Hare Family. Captain Marcus Hare and his wife Lucy moved into Court Farm in 1842. After Marcus' death Lucy threw herself into village life, beginning three generations of Hare patronage and acting as village benefactors. She had a  new house constructed above the village, Court Grange, which was completed in 1866 shortly before she died. Her son, Marcus, and his wife Matilda took over at Court Grange. However, the tragedy that took his life on 24th March 1878 left Matilda, who was pregnant at the time with Hilda, and their eldest daughter Ethel to manage the house. Over the next 40 years Matilda had a major role in village affairs, employing 18 staff and providing many village facilities, these included; renovating the church in 1884, rehanging the church bells in 1906, paying for a new church clock, and buying Church House from the feoffees and restoring it. She was actively involved in village life providing children's parties and providing paraffin street lights and paying for them to be lit each night.

When she died in 1918 she was mourned by the whole village. Her youngest daughter Hilda, who remained unmarried, continued the Hare traditions by providing three more bells for the church in memory of her mother and donating Church House to the Diocesan Trust.

However, Court Grange was sold in 1920 and in 1928 became a home for the blind and then in 1962 a training centre for young people with severe deafness. By the turn of the 21st century it had been sold for residential development.

11. The Quaker Burial Ground; Returning to Wilton Way you will find the interesting Society of Friends burial ground, which was used by the local Quakers in c.19th. Since the days of James Tuckett at Court Grange in the 1700s there had been a Quaker presence in Abbotskerswell and this continued well into the nineteenth century when the Tuckett family provided the grave yard. The plaque on the wall shows their importance to The Society of Friends.

12. Carse Mill; A walk through the late c.20th houses takes you onto Odle Hill, down past Rock Cottage, which was  built in Tudor times, and onto Carse Mill  which may have been the village mill. This is an interesting building, it looks like a mill, there is a water supply across the road, but there does not seem to be an documented evidence that it was. Late c.19th maps call the house  'Carsuella' (the Norman name for Abbotskerswell), but by the early c.20th there has changed to 'Carsvella' and the 'Carse Villa'. These are probably errors in transcribing the map, by the 1930s it was called 'Rose Cottage' and it seems it was the present owners father who changed it to Carse Mill but did he have any evidence for this?

It is likely there was a mill in the fields beyond the playground where the sewage farm used to be at the end of Vicarage Road and Rydon Lane. The fields there are called Mill Door and Mill Door Meadow on the 1839 Tithe Map, although the building shown there is only called a "house". There is also evidence of a stone lined head race that requires greater exploration. So the mystery of the Abbotskerswell Mills continues.

13. Odle Hill House; Turning up the hill you will see a number of fine buildings constructed for the wealthy of Abbotskerswell in the late c.19th: Odle Hill House, and Westbury further up the hill, were both built by the Palk family who were local farmers & butchers.

14. Mallands; The construction of Mallands in the mid nineteenth century, a large house with its coach house below it,  allows us to look into the history of a very important family and business to Abbotskerswell covering three centuries. They were the Henleys and their Cyder Works.

The Henleys had been in the village since the eighteenth century, but it was in 1791 that William established 'The Henley's Cyder Company' on Manor Road to make use of the extensive local orchards, of which by 1839 there were over 50. During the nineteenth century the firm expanded replacing hand machinery with horse whims and adding maturing vats and cellars. The remains of the works are the stone parts of the  buildings that make up the industrial estate behind Mallands. They employed 20 men at the works by this time. Henley's Cyder continued until it was merged with Whiteways in 1933.

The factory finally closed in 1965 and was taken over by marine engineers Watermota, and eventually the whole site became industrial units. It is pleasing to see that the Henleys name is remembered on the site's name board. Mallands is still a grand house today having been extended for its new use as a care home. There are numerous memorials to the Henley family in the church.

15. Prospect Cottage; Returning down the hill you will pass an area that is steeped in the past. Prospect Cottage  is the only remaining thatched cottage of  a group of c.16th workers cottages in this area of the village. Prospect Place and other houses had stood there for hundreds of years, but the new 'council houses' made them obsolete and they were demolished.

16. Monks Thatch; Of the same era is Monks Thatch which is splendid example of the ‘Devon Longhouse’ the home of a yeoman farmer. In the nineteenth century it was Ruby Farm, which in 1839 had 110 acres. Eventually the Ruby Farm name would be taken Mr Purkis of Court Farm when he moved out towards Two Mile Oak.

17. Yeoman's Cottage; Walking on down Slade Lane to the right is Yeoman’s Cottage, once a pair of c.17th worker’s cottages and known as Emmetts Cottages. Its closeness to the road and the style of building give us an impression of what the main road through the village must have been like.

'Emmetts Cottage" 1905  "Yeomans Cottage" 2012 
 Emmets  Yeomans Cottage


18. Abbotsford; Across the road, on the corner of Ford Road  stands the impressive Abbotsford built in c.1600 and like other substantial village house it was a farmhouse. It shows how prosperous farmers were becoming when it was given a Georgian facade in late eighteenth century.

19. The Village School; The Village School stands high above the road in the centre of the village and is a good example of the type of village school built following Forster's Education Act of 1870 when the existing, mainly religious schools, were taken over by the state. Following the act all areas had to form an Education Board and build a school if a suitable one did not already exist. These schools become known as 'Board Schools' and were to provide education from the ages of 5 to 10. There had been schools in the village by 1821, but they would have been simple affairs that taught little more than the basic 3Rs of 'reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic. By 1850 a 'National School' had been set up in Church House. These were schools set up by the Church of England to try to counter a similar organization called the 'British and Foreign Society' which were run by the non-conformist religious groups.

The School Board was formed in 1875 with another of the important Abbotskerswell family leading the way: the Creeds, (They will appear in more detail in the Parish Trail) with John Creed of Whiddon House acting as Chairman. The school was constructed, at a cost of £600, and opened in 1876, with former National School teacher, Miss Emma Cornish, in charge. The school had two classrooms for around 70 pupils.

Education became compulsory in 1880 with Mundella's Act and in 1902 when, Balfour's Education Act handed the running of schools to local councils, the school leaving age had been raised to 12. Much of the original building remains to give a good idea what Board Schools looked like.

20. The Model Cottages; Across the road you will come to a group of houses called ‘The Model Cottages’. These are splendid examples of early c.19th century ‘model’, or good example houses. Numbers 1 & 2 are built in an 'estate-type' style whilst numbers 3 & 4 seem to have been constructed in a 'Georgian' style. Houses like these were usually built by an enlightened landlord using modern building materials, to improve living conditions for workers. The intention was to take them away from the often squalid thatched cottages of previous centuries. Sadly no record remains as to who had  these houses built.

21. The Square; In the centre of Abbotskerswell is The Square, once known as The Cross Tree, sadly now it is just a roundabout! It seems for many years an oak tree had stood here but it blew down but was replaced with a horse chestnut in 1902 to commemorate the coronation of Edward VI. George V's coronation was commemorated in 1911 by the erecting of paraffin street lights and one was at The Cross Tree. The chestnut was replaced in the 1930s by a pink hawthorn, this was demolished by a lorry in 1952 and that was when it became a road feature.

Around The Square are a number of old, stone built, cottages. Corner Cottage, Elm Cottages and Cross Tree Cottage seem to date from c.1600.

22. Wesleyan Chapel; Heading up Stoneman’s Hill, past the Old Post Office where Mrs Olive Fey was the postmistress for over 50 years and who was awarded the OBE for her service to the community in 1982,  and then turning into Vicarage Road you will find the now redundant Wesleyan Chapel. It was built in 1852 on land given by the Creed family and continued to serve village Methodists until its closure in 1937.



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