Morchard Bishop is a large village and parish lying about 6 miles north-west of the ancient market town of Crediton in mid-Devon. The parish is made up of many houses and scattered dwellings and includes the small hamlets of Oldborough, Knightstone, Lowertown, Middlecott, Woodgate, Frost, Redhill, Leigh and Woodlane.
The name of the parish appears to have derived from Celtic times, with the Morchard part "Mor+ced" meaning "great forest or wood". The parish was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 simply as Morchet, so it appears that the "Bishop" part of the place name was not added until much later.
White (1850) tells us that the Manor at Morchard Bishop originally belonged to the Bishops of Exeter, so this would perhaps explain how the "Bishop" part of the place name came into being. Ancient manorial rolls show that in 1311 the parish was called Bisschoppesmorchard - thus over time its name appears to have been turned around and later became Morchard Bishop. The Manor was later owned by the CAREW, SOUTHCOTE, and BOUCHER families, along with others.
Church and Religion in the Parish
Morchard Bishop's parish church is called St. Mary and parts of it date back to the 14th century. Mee (1965) tells us that the church is set on the top of a hill, with a tower standing nearly 100 feet high providing spectacular views of Exmoor to the north of the parish and Dartmoor to the south.
Kelly (1893) gives the following description of Morchard Bishop's parish church:
Both White (1850) and Kelly (1893) mention that there was a Congregational Chapel used by the Independents and Wesleyans and also a Bible Christian Chapel in the parish. Morchard Bishop still has a Methodist Chapel today.
Evidently farming, both in the past and the present has been a major occupation in the parish. Kelly (1893) tells us that wheat and barley were the main crops grown in the parish at that time. Both White (1850) and Kelly (1893) mention that Morchard Bishop held a large sheep and cattle fair in the parish annually, on the first Monday following the 9th September.
Morchard Bishop lay on the main stage coach route between Barnstaple and Crediton and no doubt would have been used as a "rest place" for many travellers passing through the parish. White's (1850) shows Morchard Bishop as having three Public Houses, but by Kelly's (1893) the number of pubs in the parish had diminished to only two. This might have been due to the opening of a new road linking Barnstaple and Crediton, thus redirecting travellers away from the parish. Below are the names of the Public Houses and their publicans (victuallers) listed in White (1850) and Kelly (1893):
There is evidence that there was early schooling in Morchard Bishop as far back as 1733. White (1850) tells us that Mrs Thomasine TUCKER left in her Will, Wolland Down in the neighbouring parish of Sandford to be rented out for £10 a year. She stipulated that out of the £10 raised, £6 should be used for the schooling of 16 poor children and the £4 that remained, was to be used to buy them blue clothing. In 1850, Samuel MARE is listed as the Parish Clerk for Morchard Bishop and also as the school-master.
Kelly (1893) tells us that in 1872 a Church School was built for the education of 250 boys and gilrs, presumably all ages because infants are mentioned too. Average attendance in 1893 was around 180 children with the school-master being Thomas ZEAL and the school-mistress, Mrs Catherine Zeal.
You can find out more about the history of the school from the Morchard Bishop Church of England Primary School website.
Source: 1991 Census ©Crown Copyright
Data originally from Devon Facts and Figures part of the Devon County Council website. [no longer available]
Map of the Area