Washfield, Devon - Genealogy and Family History

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St. Mary's

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Historical Overview

Washfield is a relatively small parish lying at one of the sources of the River Exe, two miles north-west of the ancient market town of Tiverton.  It was mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086 as Wasfelte, so the existence of Washfield dates back to at least Norman times and probably much earlier.  With the settlement springing up near the banks of the River Exe, the name of the parish is believe to have derived from "a place for washing".

The Manor House at Washfield was anciently held by the WORTH family who had held a seat in the parish at Worth House, since the first half of the 12th century.  Thus Washfield had a long succession of WORTH Lords of the Manor.   White (1850) tells us that Lord of the Manor at that time was John F. WORTH, Esq. and he owned a great deal of the land in the parish.  Kelly (1893) goes on to tell us Worth House was sold in 1877 and again in 1888.  By his 1893 Directory of Devon, George THOMAS esq. was lord of the manor.  Mee (1965) further tells us that Worth House was later turned into a Georgian Mansion.

St. Mary's Church

St. Mary's Parish Church dates from around the 15th century, with a Norman font believed to be about 900 years old.  

Kelly (1893) gives us the following description of the church:

"The church of St. Mary is an ancient edifice of stone in the Perpendicular style, consisting of a chancel, nave, north aisle, south porch and an embattled western tower containing 5 bells, dating from 1787 to 1861: there is a very ancient Norman font and a richly carved Jacobean screen, dated 1624: on the wall or the north aisle is a brass with kneeling effigies of Henry Worth esq. ob. 3 Aug. 1606, his wife and daughter, with a shield of arms, and at the foot a Latin inscription..." (p. 662)

Mee (1965) tells us that the Jacobean screen in the church is carved with dragons swallowing vines and cherubs blowing trumpets.  He also mentions the monument of Henry WORTH, his daughter and his wife, telling us that the church still uses the chalice given by their descendants in 1686.

Parish Life

According to White's (1850) Directory for Devon, Washfield's National School was built in 1836 and at that time was attended by about 50 children.  By the publication of Kelly's (1893) Post Office Directory for Devon, this figure had dropped to an average attendance of 38 children, evidently in line with a drop in the population of the Washfield, if we compare historical population statistics from the censuses.  See Historic Populations below.  The school-mistress at the village school in 1893 was Mrs. Isabel CLEE.

Washfield is perhaps unusual compared with other Devon parishes in that there was no mention of the parish having a public house in either White (1850) or Kelly (1893).  This is somewhat strange as many villages that were smaller in population size than Washfield, generally had at least one Inn.

From the occupation listings in Kelly (1893), evidently farming was the main occupation of the parish, with mainly farmers listed and a couple of dairymen.  The chief crops grown in the parish at the time were wheat, oats and grass.


Books - click for sources.

Historic Populations

Year 1801 1851 1901 1931 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001
Population 422 452 332 315 323 319 298 337 362

Source: 1801-1991 Census ©Crown Copyright
Source: 2001 Registrar General Population Estimates

Data originally from Devon Facts and Figures part of the Devon County Council website. [no longer available]

Map of the Area


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