Bampton's History

Miscellaneous Historical Facts

There is no historical order on this page - it's just a motley collection...

The two public telephone boxes in Bampton (Newton Square and Briton Street) both have preservation orders on them. They are the 'Jubilee' model of 1936 - it is very rare for two boxes to be preserved in the same area.

There are traces of old orchards around Bampton, relics of the cider industry. Bampton cider was renowned in the area, and sold exclusively at the White Horse Tap. An original Bampton barrel is now incorporated into the new water bowser trailer.

The town 'lock-up' for wrong-doers is still visible, although some was converted to public toilets next to the river bridge - now closed. One end however is an 18th century vaulted cell.

Some old OS maps (1888, 1904) show a 'spa' in Brook Street which refers to the well in front of 'Well House'. This is fed from a mineral spring. It was the Dr Thomas Guinness, the local medical officer of health from 1886, who had the idea of selling the water bottled - he was great-great-grandson of the founder of the Guinness brewery in Dublin. We're told the water resembled liquid rust! - so the locals wouldn't touch it, and the idea of a spa was dropped.

The Public Library was opened in 1872 as the result of a bequest by Rev. Edward Langton who had been born in Bampton, but moved to Cape Colony (now South Africa). He willed his collection of 630 mainly theological books.

In 1850, the town had eleven inns, and two beer-houses (it was thirsty work in the quarries!). There was a miller, four bakers, two blacksmiths, eight boot and shoe makers, four butchers, two cabinet-makers, two coopers, five grocers and drapers, three saddlers, five tailors, three wheelwrights, two tanners, and four painters and glaziers.

Until 1871, drinking water was only available from wells. In that year, a pipe was laid from a spring near the South Molton Road to a tap for townsfolk to use - it is in the corner of Newton Square. Other taps were later provided elsewhere. Later still water was pumped from the spring up to the reservoir at the top of High Street.

Toll HouseAs roads were improved, they had to be paid for, and this was done by toll-roads or 'turnpikes'. The toll house (built in 1819) opposite the Quarryman's Rest is at the entrance to the pack-horse track. On the western side, a second toll house faced out of Newton Square but this was only used for market and fair tolls.

Opposite the Exeter Inn, at Black Cat, and at Halfpenny Bridge, the roads were gated, and tolls had to be paid there.

The Druidshayne Lodge of the Ancient Order of Druids were formed in Bampton in 1887, but they were a Friendly Society. They may have taken the name of the Druidshayne farm or had one of their grandees living there - but no connection with Celtic religious practices!

Until the end of the 19th century, gelignite for blasting was kept in a house in Newton Square. It was transferred to the quarries strapped to the cross-bar of a bicycle! In winter it was too cold to use, so the men would put it round their stove to warm it: they did this once too often...

The first 3-wheeled carts produced in Devon were made in Bampton during the 18th century and called the Bampton Barrows. They were horse-drawn and used in both quarries and fields.

Wells Cathedral. A modern wood carving of the Risen Christ under the astronomical clock has a Bampton connection. It was carved from a Yew tree which grew in St. Peter's churchyard in Tiverton. The rough cruciform shape was fashioned by Alan Collard of Bampton, and the final carving was done by a Blundell's schoolmaster, Escourt J. Clack. The figure is in memory of one Prebendary T. L. Sissmore, and was placed there in 1955. (Alan lived in School Close until his death in 2009).

Mrs. Elizabeth Penton, daughter of a successful sergemaker, John Webber of Shillingford who lived at Doddiscombe, invested £2,200.0.0. in Navy Stock at 5% in March 1821 to provide free education for 100 children in Bampton aged between 6 and 12, in order to make some compensation for the loss of the wool trade to Bampton. Mrs. Penton also gave a house and had it converted for use as a school, The Free School, which later became the National School, in Brook Street. In August 1830, Suzannah Webber, sister of Elizabeth Penton, invested £1,000 in the Minehead Turnpike Trust. The combined investments gave interest of £100.16.0., £95.16.0. of which went to the school (the other £5.0.0. was put aside for a bread charity). This charity still functions, and the school still benefits from it.

Bonfires to celebrate the coronation of King George V, June 22nd 1911: This was nationwide and was organised by an unofficial gathering in the House of Commons. The idea was to co-ordinate the lighting of bonfires at 10.00pm across the whole country. In the Bampton area, bonfires were constructed at: Quarry Nap, Sparkhayne, The Mount Combehead, Wonham Nap, Morebath Surridge Nap, Oakford, Brushford Hulverton Hill.

The chart below shows how the population of Bampton has changed since 1801. If you read carefully the pages of this History section, you should see reasons why the population was so much larger in the middle of the nineteenth century. You might wonder where they all lived, given the number of houses which have been built since the last half of the twentieth century!

Bampton pololation

Can anyone shed any light on this curiosity? It is a gravestone, dedicated to a fox, photographed a few years ago on Morebath Hill. We think it says:


Davey wagonDavey Wagon

On the left above is a Bampton wagon built by George Davey c1900 being exhibited at Bampton Charter fair in 2014. It is owned, and has been restored, by a local resident.

Below is an old photo of carts outside George Davey's house and business in Silver Street, on Fair day c1910.

Davy in Silver Street, Bampton

Bampton mediaeval coinMediaeval Coin

In 2014 a metal detectorist found the old coin shown here on the right - both faces are shown, and the square grid has 1cm spacing. The coin is is quite remarkably good condition, and at the moment is in the process of being identified. It is thought to be possibly of Edward II era.


Bampton coin It was found in a field at Weston's farm called Fair Park - not where the old Fair was held, but possibly where animals could be placed on the days before the fair auctions took place.

We'll update this information when more is known.


Token's armsBampton Tokens

Here the arms shown on Bampton tokens - Mercers, Cordwainers, Clothworkers, and Grocers. Below are shown the two sides of a Bampton token 1652 John Ball (16mm diamater).

Bampton token - frontDuring the 17th century there was an acute shortage of small value coinage over the country, and larger traders in towns were permitted to mint their own ‘coinage’. This took the form of tokens, which were accepted as valid currency within those towns. Five of these tokens were issued in Bampton by four traders. John Ball, a grocer, issued a ¼d. token in 1652. Henry Ball, a clothworker, issued two in 1666, both having a value of ¼d., and in the same year Daniel Glas, a mercer, issued a ½d. token. Bampton token - backIn 1669, William Yeandell, a cordwainer, issued a ½d. token. When the coinage situation stabilised, the Government refused to acknowledge the tokens or to exchange them for coin of the Realm, causing a fury of anger.

Mercers were dealers in fine fabrics, and cordwainers were shoe and fine leather goods makers - Cordwain was the finest tanned & dressed goatskin from Cordova in Spain, and used for bags, gloves and the like.


Bampton Heritage & Visitor Centre