Milton Damerel - a quiet corner of rural North Devon located between Bideford and Holsworthy
Milton Damerel is a Parish rather than a Village, made up of a number of hamlets. The Parish covers some seven square miles, with a population of approximately 450 in the Torridge District of rural north-west Devon. It is approximately five miles from the market town of Holsworthy and 13 miles from Bideford. The A388 is the main road through the middle of the Parish from the south-western boundary at the Holsworthy Beacon cross roads to the River Torridge at the north-eastern boundary at Woodford Bridge.
According to the Torridge District Local Plan, development in rural settlements with relatively few local services is strictly limited to that which is essential for meeting local social or economic needs. Milton Damerel is one such settlement. There are no schools in the Parish but the schools attended by local students include Bradworthy Primary Academy, Bradford Primary and Holsworthy C of E Primary Schools, Holsworthy Community College and North Devon College. There is a garage and shop with an ATM, a farm shop and tea room and country club leisure facility with a pub and restaurant. In addition there are numerous small businesses providing services to the residential and business community. The nearest full time Post Offices are at Bradworthy and Holsworthy with a limited service from a mobile facility that calls at Shebbear.
The focus for social activities and getting together in Milton Damerel is the Parish Hall. This community building is the venue for parish meetings and events. There is a Skittle Alley attached to the Hall which is used for regular skittles league matches during the winter months. Both the Parish Hall and the Skittle Alley are available for private hire.
The Milton Damerel Methodist Church holds weekly services and other events in the old school room. The grade II* listed Holy Trinity Parish Church dates back in parts, to the late 13th century and holds regular services on 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month.
Public transport is provided along the main A388 road between Holsworthy and Bideford and on to Barnstaple. A bus travels 4 times a day in each direction. Holsworthy Rural Community Transport runs a Ring & Ride service together with a Volunteer Car scheme to help with transport difficulties for those eligible. Fare Car is operated by local taxi operators by formal agreement with Devon County Council and is available to all passengers.
The mobile library visits the parish every four weeks. There is also a library in Holsworthy which is open four sessions per week.
Milton Damerel Newsletter, which is published quarterly, is delivered to all households in the Parish to welcome newcomers, advertise local events and services and generally keep everyone informed.
The publication “ Milton Damerel – 50 years on” was written in 1951 by Seymour Marks. On behalf of the Parish Council, it 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.