Crediton in 1836
Crediton, anciently written Chridiatone, Cridiaton, Crideton, and Kirton, which last is still the colloquial designation, is in the hundred of Crediton, near the junction of the brook Yeo with the river Creedy, a feeder of the Ex, seven or eight miles north-west of Exeter: the Creedy flows a short distance from the town to the east, the Yeo a short distance to the south.
The area of the parish is 11,440 acres : it is divided into ten tythings, containing in all, in 1831, a population of 5,922. The town is divided into East town and West town : it is irregularly built; the principal street runs nearly east and west, between two hills, of which that on the south rises with a quick ascent and overtops the houses.
The church is a handsome cruciform structure in the later perpendicular style of architecture; it stands in the middle of the town and was probably erected about the close of the fifteenth century. The interior is very neat : the tower rises from the intersection of the nave and aisles, and is supported by four pillars of uncommon magnitude.
This church contains a parochial library once consisting of 1,000 volumes, but many have been lost, and the rest are becoming a prey to worms and spiders. There is an ancient decayed chapel at the west end of the town, formerly belonging to the hospital of St. Lawrence ; and the walls of a chapel at Yew or Yeo, in the parish.
The serge manufacture was established in Crediton from the first introduction of it into the county, and was formerly carried on with considerable activity. Vast quantities of wool and yarn were sold weekly in the market-place ; but this branch of industry has declined in Crediton, as it has elsewhere in Devonshire, and the returns of 1831 gave only 5 adult males out of 1,336 as engaged in manufactures of any kind : 468 adult males were at the same time engaged in agriculture as occupiers of land or labourers, and 566 in trade or handicrafts.
The market, which is on Saturday for corn and provisions, is considerable, but not equal to what it was formerly : the market which precedes the last Wednesday in April is one of the largest marts for bullocks in the west of England. There are three cattle fairs in the year.
There are congregations of Presbyterians (who have, like many of the English Presbyterians, embraced Unitarian sentiments), Independents, Baptists, and Methodists. There are two sets of almshouses, each for four poor persons.
There is said to have been a collegiate church at Crediton early in the time of the Saxons, which church, upon the division of the diocese of Sherbourne in the reign of Edward the Elder, was made the cathedral of the bishops of Devonshire, about A.D 905 or 910 : about A.D. 1040, the diocese of Crediton was enlarged by the addition of that of St. Germans, which included Cornwall ; but in A.D. 1050 the see was removed to Exeter.
The palace at Crediton continued to be the occasional residence of the bishops, and the manor and hundred of Crediton continued to belong to them till the reign of Henry VIII, when the bishop (Veysey) reluctantly surrendered them to the crown. The site of the old church or cathedral, dedicated to St. Gregory, is now occupied by a range of houses by the side of the present churchyard. Although the see was removed to Exeter, the church retained the chapter, which consisted of eighteen canons or prebendaries, of whom three bore the titles of precentor, treasurer, and dean, and eighteen vicars. The chapter was dissolved in the reign of Edward VI. Its yearly revenue at the dissolution amounted to £332, 17 shillings and 5 pence. The small tithes, and subsequently the great tithes, of Crediton, Sandford, and Exminster, were vested in a corporation of twelve governors, nine from Crediton and three from Sandford. The governors appoint the vicar of Crediton, who has a yearly stipend of £400 with a parsonage house : there is an assistant minister who has £200 a year.
Crediton sent representatives to the parliament held at Carlisle in the time of Edward 1. The town is governed by a portreeve : petty sessions are held here.
There were, in 1833, in Crediton parish, one infant school, partly supported by subscription, and containing 90 children ; an endowed grammar school, containing 20 boys ; a Lancasterian school, with 200 children, partly endowed and partly supported by subscriptions and collections ; an endowed school for 15 boys ; and nine other schools, containing 285 children ; one day and boarding school, with 60 scholars ; and six Sunday-schools, with 352 children.
Crediton was occupied by the revolters who rose in the west of England A.D. 1549, on account of the Reformation, but they were driven out by Sir Peter and Sir Gawen Carew. The town was repeatedly occupied by the contending parties in the civil war of Charles I. In A.D. 1743 a dreadful fire broke out in the western town, which occasioned the destruction of 460 houses ; the damage was estimated at £40,000, and sixteen lives were lost. In 1769 a second fire consumed many of the houses rebuilt after the former fire, together with the market-house and shambles.