Portrait of Bampton, Devon, in the Eighteenth Century

By Tom McManamon

Oath of Allegiance, 1723

In 1723 it was ordained that every adult in the country should swear an oath of allegiance to King George I. Seemingly only some 10% of the population of the town (155) and less of the parish, complied, possibly owing to the distances to be travelled. The event took place in front of the Justices of the Peace, but quite why the inhabitants of Bampton had to travel to Cullompton, Burlescombe, or Exeter for the event is not known. It was no easy journey, particularly for the poor who had no access to a horse, further compounded by the rough mud-and-stone roads. Nor is it clear why Burlescombe should be a venue, being a village far smaller than Bampton and the plus side of 10 miles distant. Cullompton was over twelve miles away, and Exeter nearly 24. Wheeled transport could get nowhere near Bampton. Those from Bampton who made the effort to swear (probably in more senses than one!) are listed elsewhere. It was wondered if the few who did make the journey were the better-off of the town, but from delving into various parish records it was seen that many were paupers with, presumably, only their own feet as a means of travel which, in the case of Exeter and probably Cullompton, meant a two day trip on foot - time and overnight accommodation costs being very ill-affordable by the poor. Some were tradesmen, others worked on the land, but the odd thing is that no landed gentry are shown as having made the effort. Of the 155 whose names appear on the Court Rolls, 65 were seemingly illiterate, having signed against their names with only a single letter.

In 1715 one Edmund Putt was paid £6.0.0. for drafting two sentences, 19 score words at 6d. per word, possibly a legal document. Whatever it was, 19 score (380) words at 6d doesn't add up to £6.0.0.

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