Portrait of Bampton, Devon, in the Eighteenth Century

By Tom McManamon

The Town Lock-up and the Military

A town lock-up has stood beside the river for some centuries which, in later years, was used principally for the overnight storage of drunkards until they had cooled off by the morning [hence "the cooler"]. The present building is eighteenth century and has a stone vaulted roof, the original stone bench, and wooden door. An older door is held by the Museum of Rural Life in Tiverton. It was preserved when a public convenience [now closed] was erected around it in the mid 1930's, and it now acts as a council storeroom. Close to the lock-up is the Public Hall, built for the local militia in 1903, but the volunteer Army has a longer history in Bampton...

A volunteer regiment, the 11th of Foot, existed in Bampton in the seventeenth century. It was raised in the counties of Devon, Somerset, and Dorset to resist Monmouth's rebellion. The documents of the Duke of Somerset mention a Muster of Troops, Mr. Henry Ashford's Company, at Bampton at 8.00 a.m. on 24th April 1613. Being Protestants, they fought with the Prince of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1688. The 11th of Foot became the North Devon Regiment in 1782. By the end of the eighteenth century this had become the 1st Devon Militia. In the 1720's there were 428 men in the Hundred of Bampton liable for service in the militia. The North Devon Yeomanry was formed in 1794 for tenant farmers and yeomen who had no intention of being in the militia with their labourers. The Yeomanry wore clothes made of cloth, whilst the militia men wore rough serge. An Order in the 1760's required 500 private men to be raised in the Northern Regiment, 39 of whom were to come from the Bampton Hundred. In 1758 the parish bought a "chiest for ye Malitia mens' cloaths" for £1.5.0., and "a locke for the chiest" for 1/2d. It was sold 9 years later for 6/3d. Another chest was bought in 1758 for the militia mens' Arms. By the middle of the 19th century, Bampton was part of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, Devonshire Regiment.

In 1778 a very battle-scarred Colonel John Dyke Acland, who received his wounds (from which he very nearly died) in a battle with the Americans, during the early years of the War of American Independence, eventually returned to his home at Pixton, near Dulverton. He had been taken prisoner at Saratoga (now in New York State) in the very famous battle of 1777. He owed his life to his wife who, having heard of his plight from her camp some distance from the fighting, set sail to find him. She pleaded for his life with the Americans, begging that she be allowed to stay and nurse him back to health. The permission was granted. Shortly after his return home, he upset a fellow officer from his own regiment, the Grenadiers, by extolling the virtues of the Americans. The gauntlet was thrown, and a duel was fought on Bampton Down on 11 November 1778. He survived, but caught a chill in the process and died four days later, aged 32. Coincidentally, the date of the duel took on a wider significance in years to come.

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