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Hemyock Castle
Ancient Heart of the Blackdowns

People Power – The March to Democracy

These webpages are about Britain's long, slow, continuing progress towards democracy; particularly the contribution of people associated with Hemyock Castle.

Other webpages in this series.

Everys and Leighs (1650s to 1790s)

The Castle and much of the manor of Hemyock was sold to the John Every of Symondsbury Dorset. Hemyock later passed to his son John Every (1643–79) of Wootton Glanville Dorset, freeman of Lyme Regis 1666, Sheriff of Dorset (1676–77), and MP for Bridport March 1679 in the First Exclusion Parliament. He died on 8th July 1679 after the end of the parliamentary session.

In March 1655 the Everys improved Hemyock's water supply by bringing a leat down from Shuttleton Lake, directed by John Kelland, mercer; improving the health of Hemyock residents and also freeing-up the time they'd previously had to spend fetching water.

(See The Register of Baptisms, Marriages & Burials of the Parish of Hemyock, Devon 1635–1837, transcribed by AJP Skinner, Devon & Cornwall Records Society 1923.)

During this time, St. Margaret's Brook which had fed the moat was diverted to its present course between the Guard Houses and St. Mary's Church. The eastern part of the moat was filled in and became the farmyard. The site became known as "Castle Farm." The linhay barns and other farm buildings were built. It is likely that the old manor house was improved for use as a farmhouse.

After John Every's death in July 1679, Hemyock passed to his sister's son, John Leigh (1651–1689) of Northcourt, Shorwell, Isle of Wight. In October 1679, John Leigh became MP for Newport I.O.W. in the Second Exclusion Parliament. He died in early 1689. John Leigh's widow eventually had to settle his estate herself and using her own inheritance, after his principal executor Sir Robert Henley (c1624–92) failed to do this. The Leigh family retained Hemyock for the next hundred years. Castle Farm was let to tenant farmers, apparently split into separate parcels of land.

These were the turbulent times of Britain's "Glorious Revolution" of 1688-89 when Protestant William of Orange and his wife Mary (his first cousin and daughter of James II), invaded via Brixham, Devon and deposed the Catholic King James II. Subsequently, the Bill of Rights 1689 limited the Monarch's powers, defined Parliament's rights, and some rights of individuals. The Toleration Act 1689 guaranteed religious toleration to most Protestant nonconformists (but not to Catholics or some others). Together with the Habeas Corpus Act 1679, these marked significant steps towards Britain's modern democracy. The USA's Founding Fathers later adopted many of these ideas.

In 1693, there was a serious fire in Hemyock which destroyed 24 dwelling houses, plus the Church House, as well as many barns & stables etc. In the Devon Sessions Rolls for Midsummer 1693, the damage was assessed as 1024 Pounds 10 Shillings for the buildings, and 690 Pounds 10 Shillings for lost goods. Perhaps rebuilding after this fire provided the opportunity and the spur to modernise Hemyock village?

(See Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries, Vol 9, Pages 156 / 157.)

Other webpages in this series:

These webpages were created as part of a special exhibition at Hemyock Castle's 2019 Heritage Open Day

Heritage Open Days are part of European Heritage Days, a Council of Europe initiative. They are co-ordinated by The National Trust with funding by players of People's Postcode Lottery

Hemyock Castle receives no funding, and makes no charge for entry on Heritage Open Days. We welcome donations to The Blackdown Support Group & Musgrove Leukaemic Group Somerset

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Hemyock Castle, Hemyock, CULLOMPTON, Devon, EX15 3RJ, UK.
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