Page updated: March 23, 2010
If you have any historical details - or any suggestions about this subject - that you'd like to see published here, then we'll be glad to consider them for publication. If the work is your own a full credit will always be given. Mail us here Pictues of The Hatherleigh of the past here
The History of Hatherleigh
Little is known of Hatherleigh's earliest history but in Anglo-Saxon times a small town known as Haegthorn Leah (possibly 'a hawthorn glade' ) had been established on the right bank of the River Lew . A saxon church was built of which nothing now remains.
In 981 A.D. the manor of Haegthorn Leah was given to the newly established Tavistock Abbey by Ordulph, the Earl of Devon, and this endowment was confirmed by a charter issued by King Ethelred and witnessed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. In the Domesday Book the town was known as Hadreleia and mention is made of various farmsteads, a mill and a church.
During the Norman period another church was built on the Saxon site and in 1220 a charter was granted by Henry the third for a weekly market and a two day fair on the feast of John the Baptist the patron saint of the Parish Church. Around 1265 disputes arose between the Abbot of Tavistock and the Bishop of Exeter and the Abbot was suspended. The Abbot accused the Bishop of plundering the Abbey and the effects of the dispute spread to the whole community of Hatherleg as it was then called. In 1269 the Abbot was formally deposed and in 1283 Hatherleg was returned to the Abbey of Tavistock under whose jurisdiction it remained until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. In 1552 the manor and many of the associated lands were granted to Lord Clynton and Henry Hersdon and shortly after it was further sub-divided. Fishleigh was purchased by Leonard Yeo and the bulk of the manorial lands passed to John Arscott of Tetcott. The manor stayed in the hands of the Arscott family until 1788 when it was sold to Joseph Oldham in whose family the title still remains. As the Abbots of Tavistock and the Arscotts were absentee landlords no ancient Manor House exists.
During the fourteenth century the householders of the borough were given the right to graze stock and gather gorse for fuel on the five hundred acres of Hatherleigh Moor. These rights are retained to this day and the householders are known as 'pot-boilers'.
During the Civil War a skirmish took place on Hatherleigh and Hurlbridge Moor in 1644. It is said that Cromwell's men were put to flight but they went on to take Torrington.
In the seventeenth century Hatherleigh was involved in the wool trade and enjoyed great prosperity. In 1693 a charter was granted by William and Mary for the Tuesday market which is still held today. There were seven Inns in the town of which 'The George' (a medieval coaching Inn) sadly burnt down on 24th December 2008.
An outbreak of smallpox caused 80 deaths in 1741 and this period marked the start of a downward trend in the fortunes of the town. A decline in the wool industry followed the upsurge of cotton textile manufacturing and the industrial revolution then led to widespread migration to larger towns and cities with the resultant decline of the rural population. The corn laws of 1815 and 1828 resulted in the soaring cost of bread in non wheat growing areas such as Hatherleigh. Wages fell and poverty grew and many had to rely on charity to survive. The town was fortunate in that a number of bequests were made to help provide food and clothing for the poor.
In the nineteenth century Baptist and Methodist chapels were established in the town and the Parish Church was fortunate in the appointment of the Rev. Craddock Glascott as vicar from 1781 - 1831. Glascott was a friend of Wesley and during his ministry a Sunday School was founded and in 1824 a branch of the Bible Society was established which is in fact the oldest surviving Bible Society in the world.
A number of serious fires caused damage to houses in the town in 1840 and 1841 and although properties were rebuilt, streets remained narrow and unsuited to the needs of twentieth century traffic and much congestion resulted.
The two world wars left their mark on Hatherleigh (as may be seen by the roll of honour) and the moor was cultivated for the first time as part of the war effort being returned to the town after to be run by a moor management committee.
It was not until October 1993 that the by-pass was formally opened enabling Hatherleigh to regain some of its former tranquillity. The storm of January 25th 1991 caused the medieval spire to crash through the roof of the Parish Church. The restoration work to the church and the rebuilding of the spire will probably be remembered as the most memorable event of the latter part of the twentieth century.
More detailed historical information is available in 'The story of Hatherleigh' which is on sale in the newsagents and the Post Office and there is an illustrated guide to the Parish Church.
Hatherleigh History Society meets on the second Monday of each month in Old Schools and has useful archive material and old photographs of the town.
This section of the web site will be dedicated
to the history of Hatherleigh and we are looking for local 'experts' to
help us compile it. You do not need web experience, but you must be able
to write down the basic information and provide pictures or graphics where
possible (though we will help if necessary). If you are willing to upload
your own material (after some simple training from us of course) that
would be even better.You would do it using your own browser at home so
everything is in your own hands and time scales.
If you have any historical details - or any suggestions
about this subject - that you'd like to see published here, then we'll
be glad to consider them for publication. If the work is your own a full
credit will always be given. Mail
a nice link that might interest you. Pictues of The Hatherleigh of the past here