SOME DESCRIPTIVE NOTES
PARISH OF CORNWOOD
AND ITS INHABITANTS
COLLECTED AND ARRANGED
JOHN DUKE PODE & CYRIL AUGUSTIN PODE
The Parish of Cornwood, with a population of 1056, widely spread over it's area, is delightfully situated and lies chiefly in the upper reaches of the river Yealm.
It includes the two villages of Cornwood and Lutton, but in early days the latter place appears to have been a holding separate from Cornwood and in Testa de Nevill (1212) it is called Ludeton, and with Curnwood, is described as being then held by Wydo de Bredeuill, whose overlord was Richard, Earl of Mortain. These two places were together assessed in 1 1/4 Knight's fee.
In the Tax Roll of Devon (1302 3), it is recorded that on Lutton, Wydo le Brit was assessed in 1/3 Knight's fee, and that Martin de Halghwill had made a gift from this holding to the Blessed Mary of Plympton of 1/12 Knight's fee.
The earliest signs in Cornwood of the work of man are to be found on the Moor and land adjacent, and the parish presents a field full of interest to the antiquarian.
Like the greater part of Dartmoor, it abounds in prehistoric remains, probably of the Early Bronze period, for instance there is a row of 65 large stones, some of them huge, beginning a little way to the north of Watercombe Waste and running in a northerly direction over the southern slope of Staldon Moor, where at one point a circle of small stones, 15 feet in diameter, touches it, then crossing the summit, terminates a short way beyond.
Within the parish, which is in the Hundred of Ermington (Hermentona) there are three Manors, namely Cornwood, Fardel and Blachford, and in Domesday, where they are called Cornehuda, Ferdendel and Blacheorda, an account can be found, not only of the different grades of dependants, but also of the cattle, sheep, swine and goats within these Manors. With regard to Cornwood, mention is made of three unbroken mares, which an eminent judge, Sir Frederick Pollock, fancifully suggests were the first Dartmoor ponies mentioned in history.
Passing over the earlier Lords of the Manor of Cornwood, in course of time it came into possession of the Codes, who were also owners of Slade.
They were connected by marriage with the Heles or Heales, who trace their origin to very early times. Of all the families in the west, none has been so widely distributed, or owned land in so many parishes as that of the Heles, but in the time of Henry II it was at Hele, in the parish of Bradnidge (Bradninch), North Devon, that it first seems to have had a fixed abode.
Nothing is known of Slade in early days, but it is recorded that Walter de la Slade dwelt there in the reign of Edward I. Eventually it came into the possession of one who rejoiced in a surname, namely Reginald Cole, who lived there in the time~ of Henry IV and from whom it was inherited by his son John and he, in turn, was succeeded by his son Simon, or Sir Simon as he was frequently called. He died in 1497 and for five generation Slade continued to be the property of the Coles, who from time to time became connected by marriage with many of the leading families in the west.
Undoubtedly they came of a very old race, for one of them is mentioned in Domesday as being signatory to a deed which is now at Winchester. Many of them were held in high esteem by the ruling powers, as evidenced by the number who were raised to the dignity of Knighthood. As instances of their eminence it is recorded that in 1377, Adam Cole was commissioned by Edward III to protect the shores of Devon from incursions of the French, and another is that of Sir John Cole, who was in the train of the Duke of Gloucester in the battle of Agincourt.
The church, dedicated to St. Michael, stands on a slight eminence, 400 ft. above sea level, a short distance to the south west of the village of Cornwood and about three quarters of a mile from the village of Lutton.
It consists of a chancel 28 1/2 ft. long, by 15 ft. wide, a nave 53 3/4 ft. long and two aisles, each of which is divided from the nave by four pillars of monolithic granite and responds, and there are also two transepts, which make the total width of the church to be just over 58 ft.
The general style of the church is perpendicular, probably the result of restoration in the time of Bishop Grandison and it is recorded in the Bishops' register that on 19th June, 1336, he dedicated the church, high altar and two others. The site of one of these altars is shown by a credence in the east end of the north aisle, while probably the third was in a corresponding position in the south aisle, though no trace of it exists.
Facing the church on the north and with it's windows looking into the churchyard, stands a cottage, which formerly was used as the village school over which a Dame presided, and where subsequently meetings of the church council were held, but in place of this large school buildings were erected in the village. Inscribed on a marble tablet at the entrance is a Latin inscription, which translated may be read as follows: 'This school has been erected to the Glory of God and the advancement of His church, 1859.'
It is with the same view that the Rev. Duke Yonge, a former vicar, founded the Yonge Charity. He left certain lands at Lutton and a sum of Money to trustees for the benefit of the poor of the parish, and directed that one part of this endowment should be devoted, among other things, to the education of a certain number of poor children of the parish, to be selected by the vicar, and to the teaching of the Catechism and principles of the Church of England, and another part to the purchase of bibles, testaments and religious tracts published by the S.P.C.K. to be distributed in the parish.
Cornwood owes a great debt of gratitude to Sir Isambard Brunel, the famous engineer, who brought the South Devon Railway through the parish, spanning it's valleys with lofty viaducts, instead of using the less hilly route to the south, This modest railway, with it's single line of narrow gauge, was afterwards absorbed by the Great Western Railway, and amore substantial viaduct took the place of the old one, wide enough to allow a double line of broad gauge.
All this was a great advantage, for with a station within easy reach of the village, the inhabitants were brought into closer touch with their neighbours and the outer world, and enabled them to obtain commodities, not to say the necessaries of life, in a quicker and more convenient manner.
These Notes have now come to an end, and though they will probably be of little or no account to a stranger it is hoped that they may be interesting, to those who are in any way connected with Cornwood, and it is also hoped that someone who reads them, and has the time and opportunity for research, may found on them a real history of this parish, which is a field full of all kinds of interest.
Thanks are both due to Mr. R. Hansford Worth, the well known antiquarian and also to the Rev. H. Hugh Breton, Vicar of Sheepstor, for their able criticisms and assistance, which have tended to the accuracy and completeness of these Notes.
The original 'Cornwood Notes' are no longer in print and have been reproduced here in their entirety for the benefit of the reader. Reasonable efforts have been made to trace any copyright but none have been found. If any infringement can be proved the notes will be removed.