c1200-1350

In 1207 Moreton was granted the right to hold a market. This made it a seigneurial borough, in which the lord of the manor benefitted from the tolls and tallages of goods traded. However, twelve years later Chagford too had a market, set up by its lord in direct competition to Moreton's. A heavy dispute ensued, in which the lord of Moreton, Earl William de Mandeville, accused Hugh of Chagford of setting up a market without licence to the detriment of his market in Moreton. Hugh replied that 'he had not set up a market, because his market was set up a hundred years ago, and the earl's market was set up five years ago, and both were on a Sunday until they were changed to Saturday out of regard for religion'. To this the earl's lawyer responded that Hugh had never had a market at Chagford, only an irregular meeting on a Sunday at which meat and bread were sold, and that King John had prohibited the Sunday assembly at Chagford at the time he granted the market at Moreton. The matter was left in the hands of a jury of ten men: they probably found in Hugh's favour, for both towns continued to have a market throughout the middle ages. Moreton's borough rights were confirmed by a grant of Henry III in 1238; and the market firmly enshrined in a charter obtained by Hugh de Courtenay in 1335 and frequently renewed by manorial lords thereafter.

It was not just the town that was growing; the outskirts too were being assarted (cleared of trees and waste for farming), and the farm land being cultivated for both crops and animals. Judging from Doccombe manorial rolls and personal name evidence for Moreton, the higher altitude farms were being farmed by the early fourteenth century; and probably almost the whole modern extent of the farmed parish had been cleared by 1300. Addiscote, Budleigh, Clifford, Combe, Hayne, Holcombe, Howton, Lewdown, Linscott, Pafford, Pepperdon, Sainthill, Sloncombe, Stacombe, Uppacott and Yallworthy were all being farmed by 1330, and it is quite likely even more farms than this were in use. Thus on the eve of the Black Death Moreton had grown steadily since its Domesday assessment. The 1291 assessment of the annual income of the rector of Moreton for Pope Nicholas IV was £14: more than the value of the whole manor to the King in 1086.

In 1332 the names of twenty-nine lay tax payers are recorded for the parish including the manor of Doccombe and the submanor of Howton. Eleven more were assessed within the tithing of Wray. The amounts recorded in this taxation roll, known as a lay subsidy, represent one fifteenth of the value of the moveable wealth (chattels) owned. What is interesting about this list (which may viewed here) is that nearly all the names correspond to places outside the town. Furthermore, there are multiple taxpayers at a number of outlying areas, for instance Butterdon (3), Howton (2), Linscott (2), Yalworthy (2) and Uppacott (2). Only six surnames are given - Tozer of Howton, Ilbert of Clifford, Kena, Veysi, Aluard and Corvyset - and thus most of these place-name 'epithets' probably represent places of residence, not surnames per se. This is made more likely by the fact that all the epithets relate to places in the parish: none from elsewhere, being used as a patronymic. Thus we can rightly ask: what of the inhabitants of Moreton itself? According to this list they were outnumbered by the outlying farms: clearly an implausible suggestion. Thus we may tentatively suggest that this list only relates to those living outside the borough of Moreton. In other words: there were possibly as many as forty established households outside the town boundaries in 1332, indicating a parish population of perhaps 200-250 parishioners outside the town centre.

As the Devon Historian WG Hoskins remarked, 'The Devon of 1348 on the eve of the Black Death was very different from that of two centuries earlier. Thousands of new farms had come into being; the woodlands were greatly diminished. In the 12th century the cleared areas had been islands, some large and some minute, in a sea of trees or of moorland. Now it would be truer to say that the cleared areas were more conspicuous than the uncleared: that, part from the upland waste of Dartmoor, still hardly scratched by the peasant's plow, it was the 'waste' that now formed large islands in an encroaching sea of cultivation, which lapped all round their edges, reaching higher and higher.' (WG Hoskins, Devon, pp60-61)

Next section: 4. End of the middle ages

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