Morchard Bishop in the Eighteenth Century

By Bob Pope


Arable farming was more common in the parish, during this period, than it is today. Corn providing a 'cash' crop which could be exported to the towns and cities within the county. Stock farming was mainly of sheep to provide wool to feed the numerous looms within the parish, and for export to Crediton and Tiverton. Cattle were kept as draught animals, to provide milk and clotted cream (instead of butter) for home and local consumption, and finally meat and hides. The smaller holdings tended to be intensively farmed growing corn and vegetable crops for home consumption or to be sold locally. Pigs were widely kept to provide meat for the table.


For the first few years of the century the manufacture of serge in Devon was the most important element of the woollen industry in England. Morchard Bishop played no small part in this trade there being at least one water powered mill (Bugford) as well as the majority of cottages having a loom. A number of Yeoman farmers and gentlemen are recorded as textor or weaver. They would be the entrepreneurs of their time, buying in the yarn, farming it out to the cottagers for weaving, collecting the cloth and selling it on for finishing. During the century the industry gradually declined because of the European wars and the resulting closure of the European markets. Towards the end of the century, the decline was hastened by the rise of the cotton industry in Lancashire and the development of the large power operated mills in Yorkshire. The effect of this on the weavers of Morchard Bishop was to change weaving from being a full time occupation for both male and female members of the cottage family to being a part time occupation for the females.

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