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1. Position of the Parish

Witheridge is 20 miles by road from Exeter, 10½ from Crediton, South Molton, and Tiverton. It lies on the ridge of the North Devon plateau between the valleys of the rivers Dalch and Little Dart with its tributary the Sturcombe.

The parish is bounded on the north by Rose Ash, Creacombe, and Rackenford, on the east by Templeton, on the south by Cruwys Morchard and Thelbridge on the west by East Worlington, while the main outlier of Witheridge lying south of the ancient parish of Thelbridge and now incorporated in the civil parish of Thelbridge joins Puddington, Washford Pyne, and Woolfardisworthy.

2. Divisions of the County

The parish lies in the Hundred of Witheridge, Petty Sessional Division, former Union, County Court District, Parliamentary Division and Deanery of South Molton and Archdeaconry of Barnstaple.

3. Area and Bounds

All through this history the parish will be taken to be the ancient parish as it was from the middle or end of the fifteenth century when Templeton became an independent parish until 1885 when by local Government order 16345 the main southern outlier was transferred to the civil parish of Thelbridge, and (16347) the small western outliers, Yeatheridge and Little Witheridge to the civil parish of East Worlington.

The main outlier, usually called the South Quarter, had a population of 141. It consisted of two cottages at Nomansland, Menchine, Eastway and Westway, Upcott with Batson and Shillaton, Berrycleve, Little Newhouse, Woodington, Henceford, and Myll (formerly Stretchdown), Stourton Barton, Westcott, Marchweeke, Hele Barton, the hamlet of Hele Lane and one cottage at Canns Mill. The inhabitants of this area retain their full rights in the parish church of Witheridge, and have the benefits of the ancient charities, but vote and exercise other civil functions in the civil parish of Thelbridge within the Petty Sessional Division of Crediton.

GEOLOGY of the District around Witheridge: The Reverend W J Prew.


Witheridge lies upon a peneplaned area especially marked towards its north and north-east, which area includes the 750 foot platform common in Devon. Underlying this denuded plateau is a massive system of carboniferous grits and shales, known as the Middle Culm Measures of Morchard type. The five sections examined at Witheridge show close resemblance to the Morchard Bishop beds, and still closer, to those found south of South Molton. This great Culm mass in the centre of Devon is a shallow water deposit, with some plant remains only, to be found in the rocks. No estimate of the thickness of these beds is possible. Any calculation based on an average angle of dip and width of outcrop would be far too high. Ripple marking at Combe Quarry (a common feature in this series) points to depositation affected by strong currents.


The sandstones in Combe and Notts Quarries are closely compacted and fine grained, the binding material being obviously iron ores and secondary quartz. Jointing is regular, and bedding varies from massive to thin. Many types of sandstone are therefore suitable for building material, and are to be found, chiefly of the red variety in the parish church. A small number of grey trachytic lavas of the Raddon type found in the building are not local stones. Blue shale in thick and thin bands is thin and generally splintery. No calcareous pockets or lenticles were seen, and micaceous veining is sparingly distributed. Most exposures present a red facies. The soil towards Hole is a loam deeply stained with Ferric Hydroxides, representing a former covering of Triassic rocks now completely denuded from the Stoodleigh outlier. Culm 'moor' conditions are common, owing to poor drainage, but otherwise the soil is thin loam on subsoil of blue or yellowish clay. Substratum crushed Culm grits.


The rocks form the upper part of the Northern under limb of the main Devon synclinal, and so dip south, at gentle inclination (apart from sharp folds) between 25º and 40º. No overfolding was observed. Counterdips at Hole appear to be local so that the area forms part of an anticlinal structure running East - West, with its axis somewhere along a line Witheridge - Burrington. The pitch of the folds can be observed as slightly west. The strike of these central beds appears to be practically east and west, while that of the Devian to the north is W.11º or 12º N. A fine example of an acute anticlinal fold is seen at Drayford in thick reddish sandstone with thin shale partings. Since these beds in question lie near the top of the main Palaeozoic structure of North Devon, they may have behaved under pressure (from the south) rather differently from the lower Devonian beds, which were subjected to enormous superincumbent leading. The Culm appears, in the case of sandstone and shale beds, as frequent and graceful folds.


The English Place Name Society has these spellings:

Wiriga, 1086;
Wyrig, 1242;
Wetheridge, 1249;
Wetherudge, 1535;
Wytherigge, 1256.

To which must be added from Professor Bertil Blome's list:

Wirigge, 1248;
Wytherigge, 1206;
Wyerrigg, 1227;
Wyrugg, 1277;
Wytherygh, 1291;
Wytherugg, 1303;
Wtherygg, 1346;
Withryge, 1358;
Witherige, 1361;
Wycherigge, 1391;
Widerigge, 1685;
Wythrygge, 1494.

To which again should be added:

Wirige, Exch.D.B, Wiriggehdr, 1174,
Pipe Rolls X Oudereggehundredo. (1) 1195;
Wudethornhundredo, ZQX 1196:
Wiric, (2) 1243:
Walderugge, (3) 1377:
Witerigge, (3) 1422:
Whiterigge, (3) 1422:
Wyderig, (3) 1422
Widewich, (4) 1199:
Whitherigge, ZEX 1499:
Wetherygge, (3) 1499:
Wetherygge, (3) 1499:
Wyttieregge (3) 1342.

The English Place Name Society suggest as a meaning for 'Witheridge' as 'The Ridge of Wethers'. Blome on the other hand says that as no suitable connexion seems to offer itself for the prefix of this name within the Germanic material, it may go back to the Celtic 'Vict' as assumed by Professor Zaachrisson.

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FARM NAMES FROM THE E.P.N.S. LIST *(English Place Names List)

Adworthy, (Oddesworthy) = Odda's Farm
Batson = Baetti's Hill
Betham, la Bidene, Bydene = Long narrow valley (byden, tub or bucket).
Bradford = Wide ford
Dart Raffe = river, and personal name RALPH of the early thirteenth century.
Drayford = O.E. draeg and ford, an obscure word draeg=drag-net.
Fremancot = Cote of the Freeman (This is an old name for West Yeo).
Elworthy = farm of Ylla or Illa.
Grendon = green down.
Heiffers, Hiwefers, 1238: Heufors, 1338: Hyabers, 1440: The second element clearly equals 'Furze'. Professor Ekwall suggests O.E. 'Hiewe', and whole name equals place where furze was cut.
Horestone = Boundary stone.
Henceford = stallions ford.
Marchweek = on the boundary.
Pillevin, Pilifen, 1238: Pillifenne, 1242: = PILA's marshy ground. Piley moor, Piley ground etc. are fields on Queen Dart farm to the north east. Pila as a proper name: Blome suggests Pila a stake.
Rowden = rough hill (Rowowedon, 1359, Rowedon, 1245).
Shillaton = shelving hill.
Stockham = Stodcumbe, 1281 = stud valley.
Stourton = Stordeton, the farm of the marshy place.
Westway, Eastway = farms on the main road.
West Yeo = west of the water.
Wheadown = possibly whey O.E. hweag. Blome, O.E. wig, weah, an idol
Yeatheridge = Odda's farm.


Wiriga 1086 DB, Wyrig' 1252 Fees 787, Wetherigge 1249 Ass, - rudge 1535 VE, Wytherigge 1256, 1262 FFet passim with variant spelling - rugge

It is probably unnecessary to go beyond OE weora-hryog, 'ridge of the wethers' for this name, with the same fluctations between forms with e and i as in Wethersfield (PN sf 30) and Weathersfield (Ess). Cf. Wedreriga (exch. Wederige), an unidentified DB manor in Plympton Hundred

ADWORTHY is Odeordi 1086 DB, 'Oddeworth' 1242 Fees 761, Oddeworthy 1539 Deed, Adworthie 1616 FF. Odda's Farm v worig. For o a cf. Introd; xxxiv

BETHAM is la Bidene 1238 Ass, Bydene 1281 Ass, Atte Bydena 1333 SR (allp), Betham 1650 FF, Bythen 1902 Kelly. (Identical with Bidna in Northam supra 102) The place is situated in a long narrow combe opening into the Dart Valley (Blome 44) suggests that we have the OE Byden 'Bushel' 'tub', used in some topographical sense.

BRADFORD BARTON is Bradeford (a) 1086 DB, 1242 Fees 792, Bradeford Tracy juxta Wytherigge 1314 Ass. 'Wideford', v. Brad; Wm. De Tracy held the manor in 1242.

DART RAFFE is derta 1086 DB, Derth '1242 Fees 774, 787, Dertr Rauf 1329 Ass, Dertre 1359 ad vi and takes its name from the stream here, supra 5, Ralph de Derth' held the manor 1242.

DRAYFORD is Drahefords 1086 DB, Draiford 1238 Ass (p), FF, Dray - 124W 758, 1258 FA, 1440 Exon. This is clearly a compound of OE draeg and ford. The sense of draeg is as always obscure. In this particular case it might be OE braeg, 'drag-net' from the use of such near a ford, or possibly we may have that word already used in the sense of 'dray', a use hitherto not recorded before 1369, Hence, perhaps, 'ford over which a dray can pass'.

FREEMANCOTT (lost) is Freemanecoth 1242 Fees 758, Freeman (e) cote 1303, 1346, 1428 FA 'Cote of the Freeman'.

HEIFFERS is HEWFERSE 1258 Ass. (p) HEAUFORS 1333 SR (p). The second element is clearly fyrs, 'furse'. Professor Ekwall suggests that the first may be OE hiewe, and the whole name means 'place where furze was cut'.

EAST and WEST PILLIVEN (6) is Pilefenne 1238 Ass. (p), 1269 FF (p), Pillefenne 1242 fees 758(p), 1498 Ipm4, Pyle-1270 Ass (p). This is probably from OE Pilan-fen, 'Pila's marshy ground', v.fenn, with the same pers, name as in Pilmoor (PN NRY23), see however, Pilemoor infra 420.

QUEEN DART is Dertera 1086 DB (Exon), Dertre (Exch) Queen Dert t.Jas.i.ECO, Queene Darte 1612 FF; it is not known what Queen is referred to here.

WHEADOWN is Wheydoune juxta Estwolryngton 1294 Ass, Weydon 1295 Ass, 1333 (SR(p). The first element may as suggested by Professor Forster be the OE hwaeg, 'whey' but the meaning of such a compound is obscure.

DOWN was probably the homes of Henry de Dune 1242 Fees 774.

FORD DOWN William atte Forde (1333 SR).

FOXDON William de Voxdon (1330 SR)

HOLE Roger atte Hole (ib).

NEWLAND John de Nywalond (1333 SR)

NORTH COMBE William de Northacomb (1333 SR)

PILEY LANE John atte Pile (1330 SR) = v.dun.Holh, and Pilemoor infra 420

CANNINGTON (6'') is Canyngton 1333 SR (p). 'Canna's farm' v. ington.Cf.Canworthy supra 390, only a few miles distant and perhaps named after the same man.

ELWORTHY is Illeworthi 1330, Ylla-1330 SR (p), 'Farm of Ylla or Illa' v.worthig.

GRENDON is Grenedon 1285 FA, Grene -, Grenaduna 1359 AD vi. 'Green Down'.

HORESTONE was probably the home of Gervase atte Horeston 1330 SR. 'Boundary stone' v.har, stan. The place lies by the parish boundary.

NEWHOUSE is so spelt 1789 recov.

PULLEN'S ROW (6'') is to be associated with the family of Henry Poulyn (1333 SR).

ROSE MOOR is Rosemoore 1652 FF.Cf. Rosedowne supra 75 (the first element being the Co. ros W rhos) 'moor, wasteland'.

ROWDON (6'') is Rowedon 1285 FA, Rouwe-1359 AD vi 1374.Ipm 4 'Rough Hill' v.ruh, dun.

STOCKHAM (6'') is Stodcumbe 1281 Ass, 'Stud Valley'

UPCOTT SQUIRE (6'') is uppecote 1316 Ass.Lyteluppecote 1387 BM.

WEST YEO is Westeye Juxta Wytherigge 1283 Ass.Westaya 1284 FA 1287 Ass, West Yow 1529'32 ECP 6, 16. 'West of the Water' v.Yeo supra 17-18; It lies west of Witheridge village across the River Dart.

On page 395, et seq. under heading THELBRIDGE:

CHARNAFORD FARM is probably identical with Churne 1397 Pat., Churne in the parish of Witherigge 1489 IPm, the place being just by the par, Boundary. This is probably common stream name Churn. (v.Exwall RN78)

HENCEFORD is He (n) gsteford 1281 Ass. (p) 1285 FA, Northengesteford 1311 Ass. Southheyngsteford juxta Wytherigge 1322 Ass, 'Stallion ford' v.hengest

STOURTON BARTON is Stordethon 1242 fees 774 et freq to 1428 FA. Strodeton 1393 FA, Sturdeston, Strotheton 1374 IpmR, Stouton als Stourditon 1687 Recov. This may be OE Strodatun, 'farm of the marshy places' with common metathesis of r. so also Wallenberg in StudNP 2, 96.

STRETCH DOWN is Stretthe 1285, Stath 1346, Strecche 1428, FA, Streccheton 1330, SR(p) Strecheston 1359 AD vi. There is a long stretch of land here above the Dart River and is identical with Strecchederta 1359 AD vi. See further Strashleigh supra 273.

WOODINGTON is Hodeton 1285 Ipm Odeton cum Hegsteford 1285, Oddeton 1393 FA, Odeton juxta Wytherygge 1359 Ass. Probably 'Odda's farm' v. tun: the later w being inorganic, for ing of, Waddington supra 386.

BATSON is Batesdone 1359 AD vi: Baetti s Hill, v.dun of Battishill supra 177.

HELE BARTON is Heale Green, Heale Down 1606 Recov.v.health.

MARCHWEEKE is Marchwyke t.Eliz.ChancP.v.wic. The first element may be OE mearc, boundary, border, the place lying by the parish boundary.

SHILLITON is Shilvedon 1359 AD vi 'Shelving Hill' v.scylf, dun.

UPPCOTT is Uppecote 1285 FA, 1330 SR (p).

WAY, EAST AND WEST, is weie 1359 AD vi. And was probably the home of Walter atte Weye 1333 SR. The farms are on the main road.

WESTCOTT is West (e) cote 1285, 1346 FA.

(Page 402) YEATHERIDGE is Yerderighe 1374 IpmR, Yertherigge 1429.FF. The first element may be OE erp, ierp, 'Ploughed land, arable land'.

This last entry is under the heading of EAST WORLINGTON.

January 27th 1938
Letter from Dr. Förster

Univ. Prof. Dr. Max Förster
Franz Josefstrasse 15

Dear Sir,

I quite agree with you that Ekwall's explanation (in his Oxford English Dictionary of Engl. Place-Names 1936, p.502) is not very probable. As you say 'willows' don't grow on hills, and besides there are philological objections. The old English word for 'willows' is witlig with a long i in the first syllable. So one would expect a Middle English withi with two long i. It is true that these long vowels could be shortened to i in Middle English; but anyhow one would expect an i or y in the middle syllable, that is to say we would expect a Middle English form Withi-rigge whilst all M.E. forms mentioned by Bloem or the Place-Name Society or yourself contain an -e- (With-rigge). All modern place names with O.E. witlig show an -y-; Withybrook, Wa. Withycombe, D., Withyham, Sx., Withybrook, Do., Withypool, So. There is no objection against the explanation as 'ridge of the wethers' nay, there are several arguments in favour of it. The middle exchange between -rigge, -regge, and -rugge shows that the vowel must have been an old English y (i.e. a French u, or German ü) Only OE y can be represented by either i or e or u in Middle English, so the OE. Basis of it must have been the very usual O.E. word hryeg 'hill'. The double gg in Middle English after a front vowel nearly always means the double sound dg (i.e. d+z as in judge). The normal development of O.E. hrycg is M.E. rigge regge and rugge. (cp Wetherudge in 1535).

There is no difficulty in deriving the first element from O.E. we er 'wether'. The O.E. e can be changed to i before a dental consonant in Middle English: M.E. redel (s) redel has become riddle in modern English, or cp. O.E. streng N.E. string, O.E. Englisc M.E. English or Inglish (Now-a-days the spelling has been taken from the form, the pronunciation from the second), O.E. hreddan N,E.rid, etc.etc. So O.E. we er maybe either wether or wither in Middle English. An older double rr in an unaccented syllable is early reduced to a single r: so Wither-rigge would become M.E. Witherigge, N.E. Witheridge.

Why look for a Celtic etymology if every thing is quite clear from English material. It is true there is a Celtic diminutive suffix - ic which is sometime made into N.E. - idge, e.g. O.E. Torric now Torridge. But this would not explain the by-forms - (r) egge and - (r) ugge. So it is impossible to assume the Celtic ending - ic. Zachrisson thinks that the first element Withe- might reflect the Celtic vict (as in the Isle of Wight) so according to his pupil Blome. But apart from the fact that Wight is Vectxs in Pliny (and others) and consequently goes back to a Celtic wekt with e vocalisation, we do not now what wekt really means. Ekwall connects with Lat. Veho 'Move' and lat. Vectis 'lever', and thinks that Wight may mean 'what has been raised' i.e. 'what rises from the sea', 'island'. This interpretation seems to me to intellectual - d modern for the primitive Briton. But even if we accept this interpretation and connect with our Witheridge, how are we to account for the r in Witheridge. Celt. Wekt + ic would give only old British With-ic. So I think this etymology is out of the question, and I doubt if Zachrisson would have dared to publish it himself. You know most likely that he died on July 28th of this year.

I forgot to explain the by-form Wirigge 1248, Wiriga, D.B. etc. The French have some difficulty in pronouncing the English th. So there either substituted t or d for it, in Wideridge 1485, and Witric 1243, Witerigge 1422, Wyttieregge 1342, or they dropped it altogether as in modern Chelsea from O.E. Cealc-hy 'landing place for chalk' Wing Withunga 1086, and hundreds of M.E. forms (m.e. Wientone for N.E Withington, M.E. Wierna, Wyern for N.E. Withern, M.E. Waymue, Portsmue, Tinemue, Axemue for Weynouth, Portsmouth, Teignmouth Axmouth etc.etc.). So we must not be surprised to find also Wiriga 1086, Wyrig 1242, Wirigge 1248, Wyerrig 1227, Wyrugge 1277, Wirigge 1174, p.r. In all these cases the th has been dropped in accordance with French pronunciation. We must not forget that for some time after the Norman Conquest all officials entrusted with clerk's work were of Norman - French descent.

Forms like Wuderegge are to be explained from the fact that there was a tendency in English to change an i after r into ug e.g. N.E. wood from O.E. Wudu older widu.

Wycherigge 1393 is either mis-spelt or misread for Wyth -. Mediaeval t and c look very much alike, and very often cannot be distinguished at all.

For Walderugge I have no other explanation, but the possibility that the scribe having Wudurugge before him by inadvertence substituted the synonymous Wald, O.E. Weald'wood' (Modern German Wald'wood') for the first element.

Another erroneous substitution we have in Widewich where the scribe introduced the frequent terminal - Wich O.E. wic'village' for ridge. For the d in Wide-, Wudu- see above my remarks in the Norman substitution of d for the English th.

By the way, Ekwall's Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names (Clarendon Press, 1936, Price 16s.) is such an important work that it ought to be in Exeter Library. It is true it has many mistakes, but who is able to keep himself from falling.

Thelbridge is a puzzling name, I don't think that it is possible to derive the word from 'David's Bridge'. I know of no other suggestion but connect it with O.E. el'plank'. Many place names have been originally only field names, and so Thel-bridge may refer to a small wooden bridge over a ditch which is no more in existence.

With kind regards, I remain,
Yours sincerely,

Max Förster.

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