Bow, also known as Nymet Tracey, is an old market town, mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The parish was built on a hillside by the River Yeo, lying about 7½ miles west of Crediton and 10 miles north-west of the ancient Stannary town of Okehampton.
Early Beginnings in Bow
Mention of the parish in the Domesday Book of 1086, means that settlement in the area dates from at least Norman times and possibly earlier. The name Bow means "place at the arched bridge" . The parishes alias name of Nymet Tracey appears to have derived from the old English name for the River Yeo being Nymet. The Tracey part from the de TRACEY family who lived in the parish.
The Manor at Bow was anciently held by the TRACEY family and undoubtedly this family gave the parish its alias name of Nymet Tracey. The Manor later passed through the MARTIN, AUDLEY, FITZWARREN, BOURCHIER and LETHBRIDGE families. Arthur Mee (1965) tells us that William de Tracy had a castle in Bow and played a part in the murder of Thomas ΰ Beckett. He was one of the four Knights of Henry II that killed Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury on 29th December 1170. You can find out more from the following websites:
The parish church of St. Bartholomew, lying about a mile south of the main town and is believed to have been built in the parish, as an attempt to show remorse for the part played by William de TRACY in the murder of Beckett. It was built in the C14th and although little remains of the original church, Arthur Mee (1965) tells us that the bearded face that remains on one of the walls of the Church is believed to be him. The font in the church dates from the 15th century
Markets and Fairs
Information from Devon Places (Source: Devon Local Studies Library) tells us that a market and fair were held in the parish at least from C14th. From White (1850) it appears that there was a weekly cattle market in Bow held on a Thursday, but this had stopped by 1850. However, instead it appears that a great cattle market was held each year on the third Thursday in March. There were two other cattle "fairs" held on Holy Thursday and also the 22nd November, or the nearest Thursday to this date.
White (1850) also mentions the Free School founded in 1682 by John GOULD, with its 2½ acres of land - the master at the time was able to teach ten free scholars. John BIBBINGS was school-master in the parish in 1850. There appears to have been no other school in the parish until 1880, when from Kelly (1893) we learn that a "Board School" for girls and boys was erected in the village to cater for 120 children, although only around 80 children appear to have been in regular attendance. The master was Thomas BLAIR and the mistress, Mrs Lily BLAIR.
Bow has had a number of Public Houses and commercial posting inns in its time, those listed below are those that appear in White (1850) and Kelly (1893) trade directories for Devon, with the publicans at the time. Despite the drop in population between 1851 and 1901, the table below shows that the number of public houses in Bow, actually increased. See Historic Populations
Bow had a Tannery in the parish, and I have been told that there is still evidence of its existence in the village, although now in ruins. Jas. SANDERS is listed in White's (1850) Trade Directory of Devon as tanner & c. One of my own ancestors William HEARD, was a tanner's labourer living in the parish in the 1881 census.
From Kelly's (1893), Bow also appears to have had its own police station with John POPMAN being listed as the police officer at the time.
Like many other Devon parishes, there were quite a few farmers in the parish with wheat, barley, oats and roots being the main crops listed as being grown in Kelly's (1893).
A visit to Bow, whether it be by walking or a drive through and you are immediately taken back in time. The main village must look relatively like it did in bygone years and still boasts many of its very old beautiful character cottages, although sadly many people lost their homes as a result of fires in 1833 and 1835 in the village, so many of the buildings were probably built after this period. It is one of those places where you can almost imagine what it must have been there to live a few hundred years ago.
Source: 1801-2011 Census ©Crown Copyright
Data originally from Devon Facts and Figures part of the Devon County Council website. [no longer available]
Map of the Area