Although Northam, as a Village, is one of the oldest settlements in the District, with the layout of a very ancient village which probably dates back to early Anglo-Saxon times. It has been suggested that there may have been a “Castle” at the top end of the Village, near to the entrance to Goats Hill, just above Clevelands. The name of “Castle Street” somewhat supporting this theory and being reinforced by the layout of the other main streets/roads of Fore Street, Burrough Road, Lenards Road, Cross Street and North Street. This, along with the fishing settlement of Appledore, now Irsha Street) would have been the original “District”.
There are ancient records of Northam around the 10th/11th Century and also the story of the battle with “Hubba the Dane” at Bloody Corner in the late 9th Century. The tradition says he landed at, what is now Boathyde (Hyde being the word describing a Cove, the cove being behind the embankment), with a fleet of 33 ships and marched to attack the “Hill Fort” at Kenwith. Legend states that they were defeated by Odun, Earl of Devon, he and 1000 of his men were killed, the men being buried at Bonehill (Bunhill being the old name for a burying ground), and he being buried in a Cairn, in the area now known as Hubbastone. There is a stone Tablet at Bloody Corner, in Northam, erected by Charles Chappell, which says:-
“Stop Stranger Stop,
Near this spot lies buried
King Hubba the Dane,
who was slayed in a bloody retreat,
by King Alfred the Great”
So what really happened, and who really was involved will probably be never known. There is also an area in “The Copse”, Northam Woods, which is called King Alfred’s Cave, and is reputed to be where King Alfred hid when being chased by Vikings/Danes.
The entry in the Doomsday Book states that Northam lies in the Shebbear Hundred, and is indentifiable in the Tax Return for Merton (Shebbear) Hundred. Northam was granted to St Stephen’s Church of Caen by Queen Matilda, wife of the Duke of Normandy,during her last illness along with its member Aisserugia (probably Ashridge near Littleham, which is still part of the Ancient Manor). It is listed as being held by King Brictric prior to 1066 the exact wording from the Doomsday Book says:-
It paid Tax for 2 Hides and 1 ½ Virgates of land. Land for 20 Ploughs. In Lordship 3 Ploughs;8 Slaves;1 Virgate
23 Villagers and 5 Smallholders with 14 Ploughs and 1 ½ Hides and ½ Virgate. 1 Pigman.
2 Salthouses which pay 10s; a fishery which pays 30d; Meadow 15 acres; Woodland, 24 acres; Underwood, 30 acres; Pasture, 15 acres. 23 Cattle; 345(?) Sheep.
Value formerly and now £12.
Apledore paid geld for 1 virgate. Land for 1 1/2 ploughs 1 Slave 2 Villagers and 1 Smallholder and 2 Acres of Meadow. William the Conqueror apparently double the TAx on Apledore from 5s to 10s. There is no record in the Doomsday Book of "Tawmouth" which in 1068 was listed that the sons of Harold made a foray from Ireland to "Tawmutha". As with Hubba some 200 years previous few got away and it is thought by some that this is the Battle that took place at Bloody Corner.
This gift was then renewed by Henry I and Edward III. Later the Manor was passed to the Priory of Frampton in Dorset and afterwards to the College of Ottery St. Mary. Queen Elizabeth I then gave the Manor to the Dean and Canons of Windsor, in which gift the living still remains. The Lordship of the Manor was the passed to the Melhuish Family and when William Melhuish died in 1770, without issue he had already willed that the estate should revert to the heirs of Thomas Melhuish, Vicar of Witheridge, the Lordship then passed to various people until in 1895 it was aquired by the Royal North Devon Golf Club, who passed those rights to the Northam Urban District Council in the early 1960’s. This Lordship mainly referred to the management of the Burrows (the Burrows and its history will be in a separate section of this site).
TOP OF PAGE HOME