The History of Moretonhampstead
Moretonhampstead has a wealth of history. This part of Devon was occupied by the Saxons soon after 682 AD. It was then divided into vast estates, one of which included all the land within the boundaries of the rivers Teign and Bovey, and 'Mor Tun' was its major settlement at the time. The present Parish, over 6000 acres, is the residue of that Ancient Crown Lordship. Domesday Book (1086 AD) shows that the Manor of Moreton, with some neighboring manors, supported upwards of 5000 sheep. Wool and, in later years, the manufacture of woollen cloth formed the basis of the town's economy for over 700 years. The setting up of a water-powered fulling-mill before the end of the 13th century confirms that by then this economy was already firmly established.
In 1207 AD King John granted a weekly market and an annual five-day fair. These very early grants establish that Morton had by then developed into an important local community. It grew steadily through the Middle Ages and was very prosperous until the end of the 17th century, when the wool industry began to decline. The town, however, continued to be a local trading centre and a vital watering place for travellers on the difficult routes across Dartmoor and from Exeter and Newton Abbot.
A series of disastrous fires in the last century destroyed many of Moretonhampstead's ancient buildings, but a sufficient number still remain to demonstrate our Saxon and Medieval heritage, and later industrial prosperity. Much of the town is designated a Conservation Area, with many 'Listed Buildings' of architectural and historic interest and more soon to be listed. The whole parish is within the Dartmoor National Park.
For more information please go to the History Society website.