Introduction: About the Documents

Geographical Coverage

The visitation questionnaires appear to have been sent to all clergy in the diocese of Exeter, including those that were peculiars of the bishop or the dean and chapter of the cathedral. The parish of Uffculme is therefore excluded from both sets of replies owing to its status as a peculiar of the diocese of Salisbury.52 A few parishes are included that were later transferred to a neighbouring diocese, for example Thorncombe is now part of the county of Dorset and the diocese of Salisbury but was part of the diocese of Exeter until 1836. On the other hand, Stockland was transferred in the opposite direction and so does not have surviving returns for the eighteenth century. The decision to transcribe both the 1744 and 1779 returns was made in order to cover as many parishes in the county of Devon as possible. With the exception of Uffculme, the only Devon parish for which no visitation returns survive for the eighteenth century is Salcombe Regis, a peculiar of the dean and chapter of Exeter. For the most part, the transcripts consist of parishes within the archdeaconries of Totnes, Barnstaple and Exeter which equate to the county of Devon. North Petherwin and Werrington in the archdeaconry of Cornwall lay in the county of Devon until 1966. Therefore, the surviving returns made by the incumbents of North Petherwin in 1744 and 1779 are included in the transcripts. There are no surviving visitation returns for Werrington during the eighteenth century. The parish of Maker, part of which was in Devon until 1844, has not been included.

Returns for 1744 have not survived for 21 parishes in Devon, including a number of significant towns such as Ashburton, Chudleigh, Colyton and Tiverton. Culmstock, Topsham, Paignton and Branscombe are also missing.53 Seventeen of the parishes with no returns were peculiars of either the bishop or dean and chapter of Exeter. Peculiar parishes were subject to annual visitations carried out by the official of the dean and chapter or the chancellor of the diocese respectively and were exempt from episcopal visitation.54 In 1744 the queries were sent to the peculiars, and in most cases the text of the prefatory letter was altered to ask for replies to be sent to the bishop by post. In these cases, the forms were sent out after the visitation had been completed, as the date has often been altered. For example, the queries sent to John Eveleigh of Bishopsteignton are dated 9 July 1746 and those to William Prince of Landkey were sent on 4 July 1745. It is presumably owing to this different procedure that a number of returns have not survived.

The 1779 replies were directed to be returned by post, rather than presented at the visitation as had been the case in 1744 and there is no evidence that peculiars were treated differently from the rest of the diocese in this respect. In total returns for 1779 have not survived for 23 parishes and one extra-parochial unit (Highleigh). These include two Exeter parishes (All Hallows on the Walls and St Leonard), East and West Teignmouth and Widecombe in the Moor.55 Thus the overall coverage of the county of Devon from the two sets of returns is relatively complete, with approximately 90% of parishes being represented twice and all but two parishes having at least one set of replies.

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  1. The reasons for this are explained by Robin Stanes, 'Introduction' to Peter Wyatt (ed.), The Uffculme Wills and Inventories: 16th to 18th Centuries, Devon and Cornwall Record Society, New Series, 40 (Exeter, 1997), xiv-xv. [back]
  2. Other parishes for which 1744 returns are not extant are: Bickington, Bishop's Tawton, Buckland in the Moor, Colebrooke, Kennerleigh, Marldon, Salcombe Regis, Staverton, Stoke Gabriel, Tormoham and West Woolfardisworthy. [back]
  3. On the status of peculiars see Cook, The Diocese of Exeter in 1821, i, Cornwall, vii-viii. [back]
  4. Other parishes for which there are no returns for 1779 are Bittadon, Bow, Broad Nymet, Clyst Honiton, St. Petrox (Dartmouth), Dodbrooke, Haccombe, Kilmington, Lew Trenchard, Lydford, Poltimore, Rousdon, St. Giles in the Heath, St. Nicholas, Salcombe, Salcombe Regis, Weare Gifford and Woodbury. [back]