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MARKET TOWNS OF DEVON (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Okehampton in 1836

Oakhampton, or Okehampton, is in Lifton hundred on the northern border of Dartmoor, at the junction of the East and West Okement rivers, twenty-two miles west of Exeter, on the road to Launceston. The parish comprehends an area of 12,570 acres, and includes, beside the town of Oakhampton, the villages of Chissacot and Meldon, and the hamlet of Kigbear, which extends into Black Torrington hundred. The number of inhabited houses in 1833 was 393, of inhabitants 2,055 : of the adult males about half were engaged in agriculture ; none in manufactures.

The town lies in a valley, and is surrounded by rich meadows and wooded
acclivities. The town is irregularly laid out. There is an old chapel in the market-place, dedicated to St. James, originally founded as a chantry, which belongs to the corporation ; divine service is occasionally performed in it.

The church is on an eminence some distance west of the town. There a
re in the parish places of worship for Independents an: Wesleyan Methodists.

Okehampton Castle, formerly in the possession of the Courtenays, was on a hill within a
mile south-west of the town. It was dismantled by order of Henry VIII, and is now a mere ruin ; the extent of the area occupied by it, and the solidity of the walls, show it to have been a fortress of importance.

Okehampton is a place of little trade : the market is on Saturday : that next before Christmas is a great cattle market. There are seven fairs in the year ; one of them, a holiday fair, called ‘Giglet Fair,’ is held on the Saturday next after Christmas Day.

Okehampton is a municipal, and was, up to the passing of the Reform Act, a parliamentary borough. The bounds of the borough included the whole parish. It sent members to parliament in the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, but the privilege was lost or disused until the
time of Charles I ; the right of election was in the freeholders or the freemen by servitude and their eldest sons : it was disfranchised by the Reform Act. The municipal corporation consisted of a mayor, eight principal and eight assistant burgesses, with other officers.

When the commissioners for inquiring into the state of the municipal corporations visited Okehampton, the borough court of record had gone quite into disuse, the borough sessions nearly so, and
the gaol was in a most wretched state : the chaplaincy of St James’s chapel had been long vacant, and the grammar-school given up.

The living of Okehampton is a vicarage, of the yearly value of £480 with a glebe house. There were in the parish, in 1833, thirteen day-schools with 348 children, and three Sunday-schools with 315 children. Four of the day-schools, containing 128 children, are supported by subscription : one of the Sunday-schools has a lending library attached.