West Alvington Parish Area


  History of "West Alvington"


The History of West Alvington goes back many years. It was originally called Aelf's Tun (Holding) presumably after the first owner. it was Alvintona in Domesday, then Aufinton (1237), Auffyngton (1242) Alfinton (1270) Affinton (1285) Alvyngtone (1328) and later Alvington. West was added before 1700 to distinguish us from east and South Allington.

Early occupation of this area was not much after 700

As early as 747 the area was raided by Danes, when Brichtig was King of the West Saxons. Viking raiders came up the estuary in 850. In 846 King Alfred's father drew up the OM HOMME charter by which he took into his private possession most of the South Hams in order that he might bestow land to his favourites.

Edgar's Charter was drawn up in 962 , and later the domesday Book mentioning West Alvington, Bagton, Woolston, Leigh, All Saints, Combe Royal and Sorley.

It was a royal estate in 1066 but was allienated from the Crown by Henry 1. The Parish orinally included all the land as far as the sea, Malborough, Salcombe, South Huish, South Milton, Kingsbridge, Bocombe and up to Sorley.

The Manor, which had been an ancient demesne of the Crown, was given by King John to Alice de Rivers (Countess of Devon). After the death of Alice the manor escheated to the Crown  which King Henry 111 granted to Matthew de Besills. Matthew had an eye for making money so asked for and was granted permission to hold a weekly market and a Michaelmous three day fair from which he made a good annual return !!!

The Principal manor in the Parish was at Gerston. It has been reported that as a result of the mild climate the Bastard family were able to grow oranges and Lemons outside and supposedly once gave them to George 1.

The Lords of the Manor had the power to inflict capital punishment. At one point the Parish had some ten Manors those being:-



Combe Royal





West Alvington


Woolston and Oldaway

Bowringsleigh. Once called Leigh, was originally built in 1303. The Bowrings were here by 1332 but unfortunatley died out in the male line in the late 15th century. After some chnages in ownership the Ilberts bought Bowringsleigh in 1696 where they remained until the death of Miss Margery Ilbert in 1984. They lived and thrived by trading in England's chief commodity of the period Wool. At the time the Ilberts were joint Lord of the Manor with the nearby Bastard family. In the 17th century the estae of Bowringsleigh was some 1,200 acres.

The present house is substantially Elizabethan and Jacobean in date. Battlements and dormer windows were added to the front by Roope Ilbert in 1850. He also built the great tower in a 15th century style. The ground floor of the tower contains the chapel which may date from the early Bowing days. The chapel has a richly coloured rood screen from South Huish church which was rescued when the church fell into ruin.

The house gives the appearance of being very large, but in fact its generous width is a deception. The frontage is considerable and built in such a way all the rooms open into each other along the whole front. at th rear is a courtyard surrounded entirely by kitchens, servants hall, and dairy.

Church. The present Church is a rather grand 15th century building built of green local slate with a pinnacled tower. The slate was quarried locally at Charleton and then shipped up the esturay from which it had to be taken by cart up the hiill. The interior Pillars of the church were built of hard sandstone from Beer. This also had to be shipped in and transported up the hill. There is evidence that an earlier church stood on the same site as early as 909 although the present church is the third to have been built.  Until its restoration in 1866-87 the church possessed a medieval rood screen across the nave and iasles, complete with a rood loft and the pulpit being above.

Church House - The house believed to be Church House is now Crossways, at the corner of Lower Street. This house was built before the church so that the masons had somewhere to live while building the church. The original walls can be seen in the roof. 

After the masons had finnished it became the Poor House. Later it became the a Public House called "Church House Inn". The front room of the house became the public meeting room and then upstairs used for dances etc. In later years it was a bakery and village shop. The old bakery was now the kitchen and the room above was used as the flour store. Today we see the property as two houses.

School. In 1665 a Licence was granted to Henry Cornish to open a school, and it is thought that the barn-like building besides Cornish's Tenement, now called Elmfield , was once used for this purpose. The present school was built in 1864. 

Public Houses. The present Public house called the "Ring of Bells" was originally a large farmhouse with its barns (now Midships) alongside. Its original name was The Butts. Another Ring of Bells was previously at 6 Phoenix Place. The house Crossways was The Church House Inn with the brewery being in the cellar of what is now called School Cottage.

Other points of interest:-

  • Woodhouse Farm once housed the hingston family as early as the late 1600's
  • Bowringsleigh was used in the film horemans Riding By (in the late 1970's)
  • At the bottom of West Hill by the round-about once stood one of the lodges to Bowringsleigh
  • Twyford House now Kingsbridge Town Council was built by Roope Ilbert, the trading post for West Alvington
  • Pay Cottage is so called as it was where the Parish Paid Glebe rents to the church
  • The cricket pitch at Butts is where once yeoman trained to be archers before going off to fight for Charles 1
  • West Alvington was one of the first Devon Parish to have gas lamps. The Ilberts owned the land the gasomerter's were sited.
  • One of the Bowringsleigh Porch houses were sited where we now have the round-about at the bottom of West Alvington Hill. 

Points of History taken from the Parish Council Minutes.

  • 6th October 1902 Parish Council met to discuss the benefits of having extending the present water mains supply to a "tap" in Lower Street
  • 2nd February 1903 The Parish Council wrote to the Post Master General asking for a sencond postal delivery for the Parish
  • 28th March 1903 the Rural District Council were paid £8 towrads the cost of the Tap in For Street
  • 18th July 1910 the Parish Council agreed to allow the village Post office to close one half day per week
  • 30th May 1917 upon the advice of the Board of Agriculture the Parish Council unanimously agreed to buy a potato sprayer
  • 16th November 1925 a Parish Meeting was held to discuss the installation of a telephone service in the village. Due to the poor attendence no decision was made.
  • 26th March 1926 the Parish Council recieved a ltter of complaint regarding poor language from a Allotment tennant. The Clerk was instructed "to smooth matters"
  • 3rd November 1930 The Parish Council agreed tp provide three gas lights in the Village. One opposite Me Newman's house near the steps. One by the big gate just past the school and the third near the black gate in Lower Street. estimated annual cost £10.10 shillings
  • 1st June 1931 the Parish Copuncil agreed to supply two Fire extinguishers for the village at a cost of £2 each. The Clerk was instructed to the principal insurance comapnies connected with the village properties asking they contribute half of the cost.
  • 1st June 1931 the clerk was asked to see the sergent of Police in Kingsbridge reference "the speed with which motor and motor bikes rac ethrough the village and to ask if steps could be taken to check same"
  • 5th November 1931 saw the Parish Coucil consider the offer from Kingsbridge and Salcome Water Baord for 2 fire hydrants at £10.12 shillings each and an annual rent of £1. It was agreed that one Hydrant would be sufficient and that it should be at the top of Lower Street   
  • 10thOctober1940 Parish Council conducted a house to house collection in aid of the South Devon Spitfire fund. All funds going for the purchase of a Spitfire
  • 10th March 1947 A Planning considered, no3 Lower Street wanted to install an outside flushing toilet !!! 
  • 10th March 1947 The Parish Council  complained about the condition of the roads. Devon County Council said everything was being done but regard to the shortage of labour.

More will follow !!!