Brief History of Black Torrington  - 1332 Lay Subsidy Roll  - Parish Records 1547-1837 - Protestation Return-1641  -  St. Mary's Church - Online Resources - Acknowledgements
                                           Black Torrington, Devon

                                                                                                      Online Parish Clerk
                                                                                     Judy Adams 
                                                             Invites free look-ups by email for those with genealogical interests in the Parish
                                                                          as part of the Genuki Online Parish Clerk [OPC] Scheme
                               [Requires  volunteer participation, not to be confused with the Official Parish Clerk who is employed by the Devon Council]

                                                                       Other Parish look-ups offered:     Bradford, Devon (1558-1837)
                                                                                                                                 Thornbury, Devon (1652-1837)

                                                                               An early ordinance map for Black Torrington Parish displaying
                                                                               the small village and outlying hamlets prior to 1850.
                                                                               Click on image - diverts to the map on Genuki Website [9]. 


                                                                                                 Brief History of Black Torrington 

                                              Black Torrington's most historically colourful personality was the Rev. John Russell [aka Jack] [1795-1883], 
                                                         the famed 'Hunting Parson' and Dog Breeder, synonymous with the Jack Russell Terrier.  
                                                                               Rector of Black Torrington from 1879 until his death in1883.

                Anciently 'Torritone', Black Torrington village is within and lends its name to one of the once largest 'Hundreds' in Devon. It takes its name from the river Touridge " belike so named 
                of the water’s blackish colour" [6]. The suffix 'ton' was attached to many ancient townships throughout in Britain derived from the 'Old English' word 'tun', from the Pro Germanic [Gmc] 
                term tunaz, tunan, meaning "enclosure, garden, field, yard; farm, manor; homestead, dwelling house or mansion" and later "a group of houses,"[4]. 
                The township itself lays 8 miles E of  Holsworthy, its 19th/20th Century Registration District [1837-1974].   It was first Taxed during the reign of Edward the Confessor [1042-1066] and 
                was almost certainly established well prior the beginning of the 2nd Millennium.

                At the time of the Domesday Book [1086] the population Black Torrington recorded 57 households comprising villagers, sub-tenant farmers and slaves. The total population 
                could be conservatively estimated at around 400 when including women & children, a comparatively medium sized population in Devonshire where nearby Bradford [Bradeford] 
                recorded only 13 households and Holsworthy, seventy-five. 
                                                                                                                     Black Torrington Domesday bookClick to enlarge
                           Courtesy of The National Archives [TNA] [3a]. Terminology: Online Etymology Dictionary [4].

                           'Black Torrington paid geld [tax] TRE [at the time of Edward the Confessor [reign 1042-1066]] for 2 hides [approx. 240 acres], less 1 virgate [approx 30 acres] of land. 
                           There is land for 31 ploughs [In the Domesday the word implies a plough team with its eight oxen and the plough itself. The measure of a carucate was originally the amount of 
                            land which such a team could plough in one day]. In demesne [land retained by the Lord of the Manor for his own use and management] are 6 ploughs, and 15 slaves [slaves 
                            were unable to move home or work or change allegiance, to buy or to sell, without permission];  and 20 villans [Villagers 'villanus'  Members of the peasant class with most land] 
                            22 bordars [held a small amount of land by working on the land of the lordship], with 25 ploughs. There are 10  swineherds, and 20 acres of meadow,  pasture 1 league 
                            long and 1 league broad, (and) woodland 1 league long and half a league broad [League = Measurement of distance, twelve furlongs, or about 1½ miles].' [3]; [4] 

                At this time the Black Torrington Hundred was granted to Baldwin FitzGilbert 'Baldwin the Sheriff', a Norman nobleman who accompanied William Duke of  Normandy during
                the Conquest of England in 1066. He was granted 164 manors in Devon and appointed hereditary High Sheriff of Devonshire until his death in 1090 when the Title & Lands fell
                to his eldest son Richard who died without issue. The Lands changed hands several times until Roger La Zouch was granted Blacktorynton during the reign of King John [1199-1216].  

                Several Families recorded at Black Torrington up until the 19th Century were descended from this latter family. Tristram Risdon writes in the early 17th Century; 

                            "Roger la Zouch unto whom King John gave Blatorinton being the land of  Joell de Mayn, which revolted from King John unto the French King. The King also have 
                              unto him North molton and  other lands in this shire.  Many branches are sprouted out of this dry tree, for soe I take it the name doth  signigy. The heire male of th’ 
                              eldest house contynewed unto Edward II tyme, and  after by St. Maur was carried into the Lord Zouch that nowe ys, whoe is heir male as yeat enduring.  Bamfild and
                             Stowell are also discended from the sayd Roger by St. Maur and also Fortescue of Pruteston. From anther younger house Mr. Davailes of Merland, by Fitzwarren is 
                             discended.  And from another younger house Carew and  Corbet are discended by Talbot of Castell Ricard.".
                             The-Note Book of Tristram Risdon [written 1608-1628] E.Books Online[6].
                  The next surviving taxation record was recorded over two centuries later in the 1332 Devon Lay Subsidy Roll, listing the amount of tax paid comprising a 1/15 of assets,
                  in rural areas excluding those with assets under 10 shillings.

                  1332 LSR Blaketoriton Parishe  [33 names]
Thomas de Waunford          2s
Walter de Couham             10d
William Penne                    12d
Martin Broun                       2s
Thomas De Cromhale        10d
Hugh atte Forde                  12d
John atte Coue                    12d
John Gellan                         10d
William atte Trewe         8d
John atter Leye                8d
Adam de Bokeputte         8d
William le Zouche          12d
Robert de Middelcote     12d
Robert atte Crosse          10d
William Beaufitz             8d
Richard Chill                   10d
Michael Bokkeberd        10d
Almeric fitz Waryn         12d
John de Gatesden             8d
Henry de Graddon           10d
Elias Glovyle                     2s
Adam atte Forde               10d
Henry atte Heghen          12d
John Sutore                      10d
John Frenche                  10d
John Joel                           8d
Henry Beaumond            12d
Richard atte Coue            8d
Henry de Midelcote         16d
John de Kynalonde           8d
John Whita                        8d
John le Zouche                  8d
William Goyle                   8d 
                 Very few of these Family Names were found in Black Torrington Records and indeed throughout Devon by the 16th Century.  It is possible that many may have fallen victim 
                 to the Historic Bubonic Plague, which ravaged England sixteen years later, 1348-1350.  Exeter Memories [online] reports that by March 1349 fifty-seven clergy had died of 
                 the Plague, with a further fifty-one the following month. Colyton lost four vicars in seven months and Bishop Grandisson of Exeter fled with his family to Chudleigh, alas 
                 to no avail. Certainly these figures would mirror the magnitude of the effect in their individual parishes.
                 Devon also fell victim to two other significant plagues, 1546-7 and 1590 [10]. However Parish Books in Black Torrington opening at the end of this period showed no significant
                 effect compared to subsequent years. The latter date again shows little effect in Black Torrington village where the number of burials actually dropped around this date: 
                 1587-12; 1588-14; 1589-3; 1590-8; 1591-2 and 1592-9.

                 During the interim there are several online repositories, which reveal early Deeds, Documents, Feet of Fines etc. for individual citizens of Black Torrington during the 13th to 
                 16th Century.  There are several surviving Population Records for Black Torrington in the 16th Century including two further Lay Subsidy Rolls [LSR] and the 1569 Muster,
                 all similar in content to the 1332 LSR above. Access to these resources is listed below in Genealogical Resources.  

                 The value of the Lay Subsidy Rolls in regard to Genealogical Research must ideally be compared with Parish Records as they did not record the names of the poor and some
                 Parishes are missing or incomplete. 
                 Examples: The 1524 LSR for Black Torrington reveals 53 individuals comprising 45 Family Names with no Parish Records to compare.  
                                    The 1543 LSR recorded 57 individuals representing 41 Family Names, although the Parish Records beginning only three years later, reveal a further eight Family 
                                    Names recording issue from 1547-1555 not recorded on the 1543 LSR.  
                                    Similarly in the 1569 Militia Muster 41 individuals were recorded comprising 35 Family Names. However it recorded only 'able-bodied' men and the elderly were 
                                    obviously not listed. 

                 Less than a century later the next population record was the 1641 Protestation Return, an oath of Loyalty to the King at the beginning of the Civil War to be read out
                 after Divine Service during Feb - March that year by the incumbent of each Parish throughout England, ultimately listing the sworn oaths of allegiance by all men over the 
                 age of 18.  Those who refused or were unable to take the oath for any reason were also bound to be recorded.

                 The Oath:
                                          I, _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ do, in the presence of Almighty God, promise,  vow, and protest to maintain, and defend as farr as lawfully I maye, with my  Life, Power and Estate, 
                                          the true Reformed Protestant religion, expressed in the  Doctrine of the Church of England, against all Popery and Popish Innovations,  within this Realme, contrary to the
                                          same Doctrine, and according to the duty of  my Allegiance, His Majesties Royal Person, Honour and Estate, as alsoe the  Power and Privileges of Parliament, the lawful 
                                          Rights and Liberties of the  Subjects, and any person that maketh this Protestation, in whatsoever he shall  do in the lawful Pursuance of the same: and to my power, and as 
                                          farr as  lawfully I may, I will appose and by all good Ways and Means endeavour to bring  to condign Punishment all such as shall, either by Force, Practice, Councels,  
                                          Plots, Conspiracies, or otherwise, doe any thing to the contrary of any thing  in this present Protestation contained: and further, that I shall, in all just  and honourable ways,
                                          endeavour to preserve the Union and Peace betwixt the  Three Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland: and neither for Hope, Feare,  nor other Respect, shall relinquish 
                                          this Promise, Vow and Protestation.  

                 Black Torrington village recorded 163 names [listed alphabetically].
Faithfull Averye.
Nicholas Axworthye.
AXWORTHIE: see far Right Panel 
William Badge.
Clement Ball.
Tristram Basset.
Lewis Battyn.
BATTIN: see far Right Panel 
John Beale.
John Bicke, sen..
John Bickle (of East Chille).
John Bickle, jun..
John Bickle, Esq..
Robert Bickle, jun..
Roger Bickle.
Thomas Bickle.
William Bickle.  
Richard Blighte.
Hugh Brande.  
John Brande.
John Brand, sen.
Thomas Brande.
John Brooke, sen..
John Brooke, jun..  
George Browne.
Robert Browne.  
Shadrach Browne.  
William Browne, sen..
William Browne, jun..
Humphrey Burdon.
John Burdon, sen..
John Burdon, jun..
Leonard Burdon.
Lewis Burdon.
William Burdon.
William Button.
Humphrey Calwell.
William Chugge.
John Cloake.
COCKRAM: see far Right Panel 
COHAM: see far Right Panel 
Arthur Collins.
Jeremy Colwell.
Robert Colwell.
COURTIER:  see far Right Panel 
Samuel Davye.
Robert Dawe.
William Densam.
Abel Downe.
Nathaniel Downe.
Ambrose Drewe.
Robert Dunne.
Christopher Elburye.
John Elburye.
Robert Elburye.
Abraham Frye.
Gregory Frye.
John Frye.
Leonard Frye.
Lewis Frye.
Lewis Fylberte. [Gylberte?]
Abraham Gilberte.
John Gilberte.
Lewis Gilberte.
Lewis Gilberte.
John Glasse.
Thomas Glawen.
John Gorforde.
John Gusham.
Thomas Gusham.
Henry Hatherly.
Lewis Hatherlye.
Thomas Hayne.
John Heane.
Lewis Hele.
Thomas Hele.
William Hele.
John Hesed, sen.. 
John Hesed, jun..
HEYSED: see far Right Panel 
Philip Hooper.
Rice Hopkins, jun..
Richard Hopkins, sen.. 
John Hopper.
Oliver Hopper.
John Hutchins.
Richard Jeffrye.
James Jenkin.
Evans Johns.
Christopher Kinge.
Humphrey Kinge, Esq.. 
Humphrey Kinge, jun.. 
John Kinge.
William Kingwell.
Emmanuel Lavackedaye.
Humphrey Loveis, gent..
William Luxmore.
Laurence Madge.
John Maye.
William Maye.
Michael Mitchell.
Roger Morris.
Richard Mounsell.
William Norlye.
Richard Nortye.
George Oliver.
John Oliver (of East Chill).
John Oliver, jun..
Robert Oliver (of East Chill).
Robert Oliver, sen.. 
Robert Oliver, jun.. 
Thomas Oliver.
Edmund Paige.
John Paige.
Richard Paige, sen..
Richard Paige, jun..
Thomas Paige.
John Palmer.
William Parishe.
John Parsons, jun..
Thomas Parsons.
William Parsons.
PARSONS:  see far Right Panel
George Pine.
Edmund Poslet.
John Poslette.
Samuel Quicke.
Alexander Rewe.
Stephen Rewe.
John Risdon.
Lewis Risdon.
Robert Risdon.
Nicholas Rolston.
Robert Rowcliffe, sen.. 
Robert Rowcliffe, jun..
William Segar.
Fulke Smale.
George Smale.
John Smale.
John Smale, jun.. 
Robert Smale, sen.. 
Robert Smale, jun..
Robert Smale (of Leigh).
Thomas Smale.
William Smale.
SMALE: see further below 
George Soper.
Peter Soper.
Richard Soper.
Robert Squire.
William Stenlake.
John Stronge.
John Tanton.
Joseph Tanton, sen..
Joseph Tanton, jun..
Richard Thomson.
George Tillye.
Simon Tillye.
Edward Waterman.
Richard Waterman.
Samuel Webber.
WESTCOMBE:  [see below]
Rowland Williams.

John Westcombe, Glazier, of Colridge being here
at work has taken the protestation with us.

John Parsons the elder being sick of body 
and afflicted in mind abhors popery in practice
and profession and therefore does desire further
time to consider the protestation until God shall
better enable him being thereunto required.

Oliver Axworthie sen. and Oliver Axworthie jun. 
have not taken the protestation. We hear that they
are fled for debt.

The above names etc., in the same hand, the following
seven are signatures

John Courtier, Minister
Humphrey Smale, Churchwarden
William Cockram + Overseer*
Robert Hesed + Overseer*
George Smale, Overseer
Stephen Coham, Constable
William Battin, Constable
* The overseer George Smale appears to 
   have co-signed these two signatures.
The Protestation was kindly provided by David Hopper from the transcription by A. J. Howard published in 1973, which is available at the Devon Record Office. 

                      Seven years later in 1648 a Petition was signed in several parishes throughout Devon.  the following eighteen signatories were recorded in the village of Black Torrington.
                                             For names in other nearby areas see 'A 17th Century Petition from North-West Devon' Transcribed by Brian Brassett: Genuki

                                             Humpfry Smale; George Smale; John Braund; Stephen Coham; John Payye*; Richard Maunsell; Robert Smale; [Christopher Ellway*]; Peter Parpor*
                                             Will Stenlake; John King; George Oliver; Lewis Burden; John Birkett*; William Battin; Thomas Oliver; Robert Ollvare*; Hugh Braund.
                                             * Possible alternative surname variations: John Payge; Christopher Elbury; Peter Soper; John Bickell [Bickle]  & Robert Oliver.  
                      The subsequent Hearth Tax in 1674 is very fragmented and records only 69 legible names for the village of Black Torrington, 27 of whom were listed as paupers [exempt],
                      although in total 35 names are noted to be entirely illegible and many others listed are only partial fragments.

                                             Several other online resources are available through Genuki, also containing Personal Names.
                                             Devon Quarter Sessions [c.1754-c.1782] (Genuki) - Some citizens of Black Torrington listed.
                                             The 18th Century Freeholders & several Protestation Returns for other area in Devon is available at: Freeholders: Friends of Devon Website
                                             The Genuki Devon Wills Project: A full compliment of resources listed at Genuki for Devonshire is available below. 

                      A century later in 1779 Rev. John Burgess, Rector of Black Torrington reports approximately 110 Families in the Parish: Episcopal Visitations (1779): Friends of Devon Website

                  By 1801[Census], Vision of Britain [online] shows 142 houses and 95% of the male population were employed in rural occupations.  

                                                                                    Summary of early population records in Black Torrington detailed in various sections above.  
                                                                                    These would have included families in the hamlets & farms surrounding the village;
Source           Male Population  Recorded
1332 [LSR]                     57
1524 [LSR]                     53
1543 [LSR]                     57
1569 [Muster]                41
1641 [Protestation]    163
1674 [Hearth Tax]     119?  [69 legible, plus at least 50 illegible]
1779 [J. Burgess]        110    [family units] 
1801 [Census]              142   [dwellings]

      Today the little rural village has a quaint charm, with St. Mary's Church its central feature and a small post office/shop.  It also boasts an excellent school, sporting fields and popular pub.
                                                                                                                                        Black Torrington Post Office 2011Click to enlarge
                                                                                                                Black Torrington Post Office/Store, kindly photographed by D. Hopper [June 2011] 

The Church at Black Torrington is dedicated St Mary and has stood on the present site from before the 12th century although little
remains of the original structure. The present Vicar is the Reverend Kathy Roberts and the Parish Website provides an excellent historic account for the Church of St. Mary.

Some Monumental Inscriptions carved in stone have survived within its walls: Benoni Bampfylde [1721] [with Coat of Arms]; Jane, the wife of John Wollacott [1724]; Anthony Cornish of Totleigh [1729];
Coham family, of Upcott, [1722, 1725, 1768, 1757 & 1785]; Rev. John Burgess, Rector [1780]; Rev. John Pamleaze (Penleaze) [Rector] 1879. Genuki [9]

The Parish Records 1547-1879 [10 Volumes] are available on microfiche at the Devon Record Office. Baptisms & Marriages to 1837 are available online at the Morman Church of Latter Day Saints Website [LDS Genealogy]. The current OPC Judy Adams [email above] offers free lookups for Burials with some Bishops Transcripts & banns [1547-1837] including any annotations not already available online. Also see below Parish Record look-ups.

[left/Right] Images of St. Mary's Black Torrington kindly photographed and provided by D. Hopper [June 2011]. Click images to enlarge.

                                                            Parish Records - look-ups invited by the above Online Parish Clerk.  

                                         Parish Records at Black Torrington begin in 1547.  Some Folios are torn or decayed and it is impossible to read them. Folios 1 & 57 to 60 are mere fragments.
                                         The Morman Church Latter Day Saints [LDS] have most Baptisms & Marriages for Black Torrington online. 1547-1837.
                                         The film can be ordered through Local LDS Offices and some approved Local Family History Societies.  
                                         The transcription is displayed in Christian Name order to 1761 and chronologically from 1762 to 1837.
                                         The Devon Record Office can supply the Parish Records in Chronological Order for a fee, available on microfiche from 1547-1889.

OPC Look-ups               The above Online Parish Clerk can provide look-ups using the LDS Film No. 916816 
Disclaimer:                    In the instance of all look-ups by the Online Parish Clerk, all care is taken however some entries are difficult to read.  In some cases the LDS Film Transcription and the DRO Microfiche may 
                                         differ.  Whilst all care is taken in responding to enquiries, no responsibility is accepted by the OPC for any omissions or errors.  It is always advised that the 'Original' Record be consulted.   


                                                                                               Wills & Probate

                                                                  Directions to Indexes to some Family Names are sometimes provided by the OPC with relevant burials at Black Torrington if known.  
                                                      These have been sourced from Calendar of Wills and Administrations relating to the Counties of Devon and Cornwall:  E.A. Fry (ed) Internet Archives [Online] 
                                                                                                                              and randomly from the Genuki Devon Wills Project Index [online].



                                                                                                                                                                With Special Thanks

                                                                                                                                 David Hopper for his valuable contributions to this page. 
             Coffs Harbour District Family History Society Inc. and their members for the use of their equipment during the course of transcribing Parish Records for Black Torrington, Bradford and Thornbury.


                          Devonshire Repositories & Genealogical Resources

1. Early Population Records;
                         The Devon Record Office
                         The North Devon Record Office
                         Check Major Library Catalogues [in Countries other than England]
                         The Devon 1524;1543 LSR - 1569 Muster & 1674 Hearth Tax by T.L. Stoate, available on CD-ROM:  Bernard D. Welchman - The Cottage, Manor Terrace, Paignton, Devon (2011)
2. Feet of Fines: Medieval English Genealogy
3. Documents:The National Archives Online [TNA]
                         Documents Online [TNA]
                         Access to Archives [TNA]
                         The Devon Record Office
                         The North Devon Record Office
                         The Devon Family History Society
4. Online Etymology Dictionary - URL:
5. The Clergy of the Church of England Database 1540-1835 (CCEd) Website
6. 'The Notebook of Tristram Risdon' [1580-1640] online: Open Library Internet Archives 
7. 18th Century Freeholders & several other area Protestation Returns: Friends of Devon
8. Devon Quarter Sessions [c.1754-c.1782] (Genuki) - Some citizens of Black Torrington listed.
9. GENUKI:  Browse the vast resources of material available at Genuki for Devon;
                        Black Torrington Page gives additional information and further list of resources specifically relating to the Parish.
                        Listed Resources relating to the County of Devon. 
10. 'The Impact of plague in Tudor and Stuart England' by Paul Slack: Google Books [online].  
OPC Families of interest: Hopper, Braund, Rowe & Fishleigh.