South Molton in 1836
South Molton is a market-town and municipal borough in the hundred of South Molten twenty-seven or twenty-eight miles north-west of Exeter, on the right or west bank of the river Mole. The limits of the borough are the same as those of the parish, and comprehend an area of 6,160 acres, with a population, in 1831, of 3,826 : of the adult males about three-eighths were engaged in agriculture.
The town is well situated for business at the convergence of several principal roads, viz. : one from Exeter by Crediton, one from Tiverton, one from Barnstaple, one from Torrington, and one from Chulmleigh : it consists of a spacious market-place and several streets, well paved, with flagged foot-ways, and lighted; the public walks are kept remarkably clean.
The guildhall is a convenient building, and the borough gaol, built a few years since, contains six cells (two of them strong cells,) two large day-rooms and a good yard. The church, which is adjacent to the market-place, is a handsome building in the perpendicular style of architecture : it has a rich stone pulpit adorned with statues and a profusion of varied carved foliage.
There are meeting-houses for Independents and Wesleyans. At Honiton, two miles south-west of the town, is an episcopal chapel, built on the site of a more ancient one, and handsomely decorated, and endowed by the Rev. Lewis Southcomb, in 1730 ; over the altar-piece is a picture of our Saviour baptized by John the Baptist.
The woollen manufacture is carried on at South Molten to some extent ; nearly 70 adult males are engaged in it : serges, shalloons, and felts were formerly made, and (in 1822) coarse woollens for Spain and the East Indies ; the lace manufacture has recently been introduced. The markets are on Tuesday and Thursday for butchers meat, and on Saturday for corn and provisions generally : the Saturday market is considerable, and there are great markets on the Saturday after February 13 and March 25, and before April 23, August 1, October 10, and December 12. There are two fairs in the year for horses and cattle.
By the Municipal Reform Act the town has a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors. The sessions of the peace are held quarterly, the petty sessions every three weeks, or oftener if required, and the court of record every three weeks.
The living of South Molton is a perpetual curacy in the gift of the dean and chapter of Windsor, who are impropriators of the great tithes which they lease to the corporation ; the annual value of the curacy is £157. The number of schools in the parish in 1833 was as follows : eleven infant (or dame) schools, with about 200 children : seven day, or day and boarding-schools, with above 350 children ; and three Sunday-schools, with 640 children. Of the day-schools one is an endowed grammar-school ; one (the Bluecoat school, in which most of the children are clothed), is supported by an endowment and contributions ; and a third is supported by contributions.