Portrait of Bampton, Devon, in the Eighteenth Century

By Tom McManamon

Lime Production

Many houses replacing older buildings were built by wealthy merchants in the eighteenth century, using stone from the town quarries. Probably the finest example is Leburn House in Luke Street, which was rebuilt in 1766 by a cloth merchant, Richard Bowden, who incorporated traces of the older house in the new. Lower Leburn was built with it as servants' quarters. The two are now separate, but are still connected by an internal (locked) door on a landing. They are Grade II* Listed Buildings. A fine town house of that period stands at 1, Silver Street, also Grade II Listed. Castle Grove, also Grade II and mentioned above, was built between 1749 and 1760, replacing an earlier house, Tristrams, and a row of cottages called The Croft. Tristrams was already in existence in 1666 when it was owned by the Fursdon family, but its name then, if it had one, is not known.

In this period, many older houses had their frontages re-fashioned to suit the style of the time. No. 6 Castle Street consists of four seventeenth and early eighteenth century cottages of various heights knocked into one building with a mid-eighteenth century frontage added, whilst Nos. 7-11 Briton Street was built as a cross passage house in 1580. It was converted into three in 1620, and the front modernised in the early eighteenth century. Other cottages in Briton Street, Brook Street, and Castle Street were similarly altered.

The quarries south of the town have been in use for centuries for extracting building stone, but from the sixteenth century until the twentieth limestone was crushed and burnt in kilns for use on the land. The early nineteenth century firing chamber of a kiln can be seen in Ford Road. The remains of another stand in Packhorse Way below Ashleigh Park. A disused quarry with a double kiln stands at the foot of Druidshayne, at the rear of the primary school.

In 1796 the price of lime was 3/6d. per hogshead (52½ imperial gallons), and the ashes were 2/-. per hogshead and were sold to the stonemasons for making mortar. It was also used for floors, particularly in Devon houses, where an occupier who could not afford a stone, or later, cement, floor, laid a layer of lime ash, levelled it and soaked it, then let it set. It became hard enough to brush quite well. By 1801 the lime had risen to 3/10d., which was 1/1d. more than at the Westleigh Quarry (near Holcombe Rogus), owing to the stone at Bampton being harder to get at and the labour therefore dearer, and that coal had to be carried 20 miles from Watchet. Lime was last produced in Bampton in 1966.

The first three-wheeled carts to be produced in Devon were made at Bampton during the eighteenth century and were called the Bampton Barrows. They were three-wheeled (one in front), horse-drawn and used in the quarries and fields until the late nineteenth century, carrying stone and waste away. They were commented upon by William Marshall, a traveller in 1796, who had not seen anything similar anywhere else in the country. One of these barrows is in Museum of Rural Life in Tiverton. They were last made just after the 1914/1918 War. Earlier carts known as butts were known which were two-wheeled and horse-drawn, the horse acting as the third wheel, possibly a throwback from a Roman design.

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