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History

The publication “ Milton Damerel – 50 years on” was written in 1951 by Seymour Marks on behalf of the Parish Council, has been reproduced from the December 2006 Newsletter


A thousand years ago the Saxons had settled in small communities all over Devon, and three of them had been established in the
area now known as Milton Damerel. One was at Gidescotta, the farm or cott of a man named Gidde, one was at Mideltona, or
Middle Town, and the third was at Wonforda, the ford suitable for heavy wagons. The three places are now known respectively
as Gidcott, Milton Town and West Wonford. In 1066 William the Norman conquered England, and to recompense the knights
who had fought for him at the Battle of Hastings, he allotted a number of the Saxon communities to each of them. He granted to
Robert de Alba Marla the two manors, as they were henceforth to be called, of Milton and Gidcott, as well as thirteen other
manors in Devonshire.


To Ruald Adobed he granted West Wonford, together with twenty-eight other manors in the same county. Ruald soon after entered
the Church and resigned his land back to the King, with the exception of the Church manor of Poughill, which he gave
with himself to St. Nicholas Priory. Robert retained his manors, and gave his name, altered in course of time to Albemarle and
thence to Damerel, to the parish.


In return for the grant of manors, contributions of money and men had to be made by the lord to the King. The lord, therefore,
had to organize each manor granted to him in such a way that his obligations could be fulfilled. There are both freemen and serfs
cultivating and managing the land, and to settle the business of the estate, questions of land cultivation and ownership, petty
offences, and all sorts of minor problems, meetings of the freemen were at the manor house with the lord or his bailiff presiding.
More important matters and more serious offences were dealt with at meetings called “Hundreds”, held in various parts of the
county, Black Torrington being the meeting-place for matters arising in Milton Damerel. The parish is still described as being in
the Hundred of Black Torrington, though now it has no practical significance.


The manors remained in the family of the Damerels until the time of Edward II. In 1923 the second Hugh Courteney was
declared heir on the death of the Countess of Albemarle, and he, in 1335, was authorized to assume the name of earl of Devon,
and became possessed of the estates of the Damerels and the Lord of the Manor of, among others, Milton Damerel. The Lord as
well as the Church collected produce, mainly barley, from the cultivators of the land, and this was stored in farm buildings now
known as “bartons”, derived from a word meaning barley. It is because the Church tithes continued long after the Lord ceased to
receive such goods that the barton is now supposed to be exclusively associated with the Church.


Pass the south door of the church the path leads to an iron gate, on the other side of which is open ground. This was once the
village green which had a pound for straying animals, and a public well. It was only in 1896 that Richard Baker, the tenant of
own Farm, persuaded the agent of Lord Stanhope to allow him to enclose the green and include the land in his own estate. On
the other side of the green is Brayley’s Cottage, the home for many years of Amos Brayley, the well-loved schoolmaster. Nearby
were two other cottages, which have now disappeared.


Why have so many cottages throughout the parish that existed in 1849 disappeared? Why has the population decreased? In 1841
there were 813 inhabitants in the parish, in 1851 734, slowly dropping until at the last census to date they had dropped to 427.
To the right of the present entrance to the churchyard is a barn, the site of almshouses that finally disappeared some fifty years
ago. The big house opposite might easily be mistaken for the rectory, but it was built in the 1870s by Richard Baker.
A workman’s cottage adjoins.