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The Parish of Witheridge is smaller today in area than it has been at any time in its history before 1890. At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 Witheridge included Templeton, a large area now part of Thelbridge, as well as the two small areas (comprising Yeatheridge and Little Witheridge) now incorporated into Worlington. The part of Thelbridge included two cottages at Nomansland, Menchine, Eastway, Westway, Woodington, Henceford, Stourton, Marchweek, Hele Lane, and a cottage at Canns Mill. Templeton achieved independence in the fifteenth century and the other parts were reassigned in 1885.

The Domesday Book used the name "Wiriga" when listing Witheridge, but there were a total of 28 variations in all before the present spelling was agreed in the nineteenth century. Most authorities agree that the name derives from "ridge of the wethers", stemming from the fact that the village lies at the end of a ridge (and there are still plenty of sheep in the parish). The Revd J A S Castlehow identified 12 manors in the old parish, in addition to the manor of Witheridge itself; he never identified the site of a Witheridge manor house. In 1248 King Edward 1 granted to Robert Fitzpaine, lord of the manor, the right to hold a weekly market on Wednesday and a yearly fair "on the vigil, feast, and morrow of the Nativity of St John the Baptist." In 1274 this was confirmed, together with the right of Freewarren (see below), right of gallows and assize of bread and ale. The title lord of the manor passed through various families, including the Chichester's, the Fellowes (Earls of Portsmouth) and the Luxmoors. In the 1980's the title was sold at auction.

Related Notes

The public had the right to hunt any beast over common land unless such right was withdrawn by some special royal grant. It was generally a "right of free warren" over a specific area, giving the holder exclusive rights over the nominated animals within the area rather than an enclosure like a park. The animals of the warren were principally the hare, coneys (rabbits), pheasants, partridge, woodcock etc, plus beasts of vermin and the chase (in the sense of pursuit rather than hunting rights) such as fox, badger, martin and otter. Although the public could not legally take such beasts within the area of the warren, they could pursue and kill deer and boar there quite legally providing that they started the hunt from common land and not from forest or chase. They could not legally pursue beasts of the warren into the area except by risking the considerable penalty of £10. Lords of the warrens had powers to impound dogs, snares or nets if found in warren land.

The right of gallows was traced from the time of the Saxons, as express mention is made of it in the laws of Edward the Confessor.

The assize of bread and beer was a right which the Lord of the Manor had of overlooking the weight and measure, and ascertaining the purity of those two articles. If any delinquencies were discovered the offenders were severely punished

There is no information available regarding how, or when, Witheridge became a Borough. Revd Castlehow believed that it came through the connection of Witheridge with the Duchy of Lancaster. There was no borough here in 1316; the first reference occurs in 1499, and later references have been found from 1540, 1554, 1561, 1585, 1602, and 1631. Revd Castlehow referring to the year 1755 wrote "at that time the Borough enjoyed the common privileges of the Duchy of Lancaster, viz. exemptions from Tolls and Customs at Fairs and Markets etc." He also noted that in 1755 William Chapple had written "The present lord of the first manor and borough of Witheridge is Coulson Fellowes Esq, in whose Court Leet the Portreece and other officers of the Borough are appointed and sworn." White's Directory of 1850 spoke of Witheridge as "anciently a borough governed by a Portreeve, with a weekly market disused before 1774." Revd. Castlehow believed that the bounds of the borough, not the parish, were formerly beaten. (He included a map with his notes.)  Since boroughs thrived on trade, it is possible that with the successful boroughs of South Molton and Tiverton only ten miles west and east respectively, there was not enough trade to sustain a Witheridge borough.

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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