Doccombe Manor in Devon has an unusually rich collection of remains and records that can tell its story of over 4000 years.
Moretonhampstead History Society has been awarded a grant to uncover their details as part of the HLF funded Moor than meets the Eye project for the north-east area of Dartmoor National Park.
Over the next two years we will use the manor’s unusually extensive written records to discover its story. We have already uncovered such diverse characters as bronze age settlers, a murderous medieval knight, a repentant king, monks who were strict but protective landlords, American servicemen and a piece of legal detective work by Devon’s senior judge. Throughout this project we will follow the lives of the Doccombe inhabitants and the wily ways they survived their often harsh lives on the edge of the moor.
We also hope to engage the present-day community of the hamlet with oral histories, a photographic record and a survey of village buildings.
Can we unlock the secrets of archaeological remains ancient and modern on Mardon Down? How did the manor’s share of the beautiful Teign Valley Woods play a vital role in the lives of its tenants? Nearby Castle Drogo was the last castle to be built in England; its construction and recent renovation used Blackingstone’s granite cut and worked by Doccombe’s stone masons. But what can its atmospheric flooded quarry reveal? We will keep you posted!
On December 29th 1170 Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered by four knights in Canterbury Cathedral. This was the culmination of a dispute over the control of the church and its courts between Becket and King Henry II that had led the king at Christmas to utter in despair: ‘Will no-one rid me of this turbulent priest?!’. The knights had to do penance when they subsequently found out that the king had not meant his drunken words to be taken literally.
For his part William de Tracy set off for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but caught a disease en- route and made his last will and testament as he lay dying in a monastery in Italy. In a charter that can be dated at some time between February 1173 and July 1174 de Tracy granted ‘one hundred shillings of land in Moreton, namely Doccombe’ to support a monk of Christchurch Priory Canterbury to pray ‘for the salvation of the living and the repose of the departed.’ This is the first recorded reference to Doccombe Manor found so far, and for the next 367 years its 1500 acres on the north-east corner of Dartmoor remained under the control of the Benedictine monks who used the building of Canterbury Cathedral for their Priory.
So began the fascinating history of Doccombe and the remarkably extensive records of this small area of North East Dartmoor that we are now revealing in the Parishscapes project. To be kept informed you can add your name to receive our Newsletter from our contacts page.
These are the key dates forming a time-line of the history of Doccombe Manor for the parishscapes project.
William de Tracy and three other knights murder the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket
William de Tracy grants the manor of Doccombe to Christchurch Priory Canterbury
King Henry II confirms the grant
Transfers to the Dean & Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral after the Dissolution of the Monasteries
Sold to the Gregory family
1921: Manor farms, woods and houses sold
US servicemen use Mardon Common as a training area for the D-Day campaign
Mardon Common sold to six farms around it - commoners’ rights remain
The Dartmoor hamlet of Doccombe lies twelve miles west of Exeter on the B3212 road to Moretonhampstead.