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1723 oath rolls
Episcopal visitation returns
Devon Freeholders, 1711-1799
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Eighteenth century Devon: People and Communities

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Introduction

The Eighteenth Century Devon research project was a major two year project to involve local researchers and history societies in discovering more about Devon's past. At its centre lay the transcription and online publication of a series of important sets of documents relating to the history of Devon during the eighteenth century. The project was co-ordinated by Dr Ian Mortimer, and funded with a £50,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund's Your Heritage programme. The main purpose of the funding was to enable the appointment of a full-time research officer. This position was held by Dr Simon Dixon for the full duration of the project.

Document Transcripts

The primary responsibility of the research officer was the preparation of editions of a series of eighteenth century documents, which are now freely and permanently available on the Friends of Devon's Archives website. Central to the project were the 1723 oath of allegiance rolls for the county of Devon and city of Exeter, which comprise the single most extensive listing of inhabitants of the county during the eighteenth century. While these documents were being transcribed, additional oath rolls were discovered covering the earlier years of the reign of George I, and these also formed part of the project.

Once the transcripts of the oath rolls had been completed, work was begun to prepare editions of the 1744 and 1779 replies to Bishop's visitation queries. These consist of the handwritten replies of parish clergy to printed questionnaires circulated by Bishops Nicholas Clagett and John Ross in advance of their primary visitations of the diocese of Exeter. The questions dealt with a variety of issues relating to the level of pastoral care in the diocese, and the replies given are a valuable source for local and ecclesiastical history during the eighteenth century.

The final set of documents included in the project was a series of eighteenth century freeholders books. The books were compiled for the purposes of identifying inhabitants of the county who were eligible to serve on juries. Jurors were required to meet certain property qualifications, and eligibility was restricted to men between the ages of 21 and 70. Therefore, the lists contain the names of the more substantial property owning inhabitants of Devon parishes during the century. Nine freeholders books have been transcribed; one for each decade throughout the eighteenth century.

The document transcripts can be accessed via the below links:

Volunteer Research

The key aim of the eighteenth century Devon project was to facilitate and encourage research into local communities in eighteenth century Devon. The documents identified for inclusion in the project were selected on the basis that they cover as much of the county as possible with substantial scope for further research. They provided the starting point for further research into Devon's past for a number of volunteer researchers and local history groups around the county.

Click here to find out more and read the volunteer contributions