MDE20865 - Parracombe (Place)


Parracombe was Pedracomba in Domesday. It is the largest Devon village on Exmoor and includes the physically detached hamlets of Bodley, Churchtown and Prisonford.

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Full Description

Parracombe was Pedracomba in Domesday. It was held by William de Falaise. Before the Conquest it was held by Bristoald. Early descents of the manors are given. [1] Parracombe is the largest Devon village on Exmoor, situated in the upper Heddon valley. It includes the physically detached hamlets of Bodley, Churchtown and Prisonford. The village centre is the focal point of several narrow lanes converging on the steep valley setting. The layout consists of a very tightly knit pattern of informally grouped cottages along two main streets, meeting at a T-junction where there is a small concentration of listed buildings. The outlying hamlets have little clearly defined focus and are partly agricultural, but Bodley has some good traditional buildings grouped sequentially, and Churchtown two of the most striking buildings, whilst Prisonford, although devoid of listed buildings has a pleasing landscape setting. The siting of the 12th Century church and the primary school away from the village centre is probably a reflection of the fact that they each were built to serve a large parish. Their situation was thus considered more convenient than close to the valley bottom. The village has the character of an upland community, with a compact pattern of settlement of plain vernacular buildings, including some good farm groups. Most are stone built, some painted or rendered, mainly with slate roofs and with several examples of slate-hung walls. The traditional cottages are plain and of intimate scale, and with little obvious ornament, whereas the farmhouses are more generously proportioned, and where there are external lateral stacks, there is always the possibility of an early date (14th to 16th Century) although the listing details indicate no record (by datestone) earlier than 1638. A few of the cottages are probably of similar date. The few sizeable brick and tile villas of the early 20th century are probably the result of the railway, when for a few decades the Parracombe Siding (shown on the 1905 Ordnance Survey Map) would have enabled the unloading of previously unobtainable building materials. The later 20th Century additions of local authority housing and speculative retirement bungalows have tended to detract from the quality of the historic built environment, even though they are part of the social development of the community. There is no clear definition of the source of the name of the village. It may derive from the Old English "pearr" or "enclosure". The Oxford Dictionary of Place Names refers to "peddera cumb", also Old English, meaning “the pedlars valley”. Other sources suggest that it is a corruption of “Petrock’s Combe” based on the dedication of the original parish church (Churchtown is thought to be the original settlement). St. Petroc is a Cornish saint better known in the Bodmin and Padstow area. There is a tradition that St. Petroc built a small church of cob and wattle with a straw roof almost 1500 years ago. The locality is certainly rich in evidence of early settlement, with the Iron Age enclosures of Voley Castle and Beacon Castle; whilst further east on Parracombe Common are several well preserved Barrows, a ring cairn, and a linear group known as Chapman Barrows. [2] A history of the settlement is provided in a publication by the Parracombe Archaeology and History Society. [3]

Sources/Archives (3)

  • <1> Monograph: Reichel, O. J.. 1928-1938. Hundreds of Devon: The Hundred of Shirwell in Early Times. 463-465, 468-471, 477, 478, 481, 483, 484, 493.
  • <2> Report: Fisher, J.. 2004. Parracombe: Conservation Area Character Appraisal. 4-5, 7.
  • <3> Monograph: Constable, N.. 2004. Parracombe and the Heddon Valley: An unfinished history. Parracombe Archaeology and History Society.



Grid reference Centred SS 670 449 (930m by 756m) (Historic mapping)
Map sheet SS64SE

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Other Statuses/References

  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 19077
  • Devon SMR: SS64SE/104
  • Local Plan - Historic Core

Record last edited

Oct 5 2020 1:42PM


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