MEM23985 - Exford (Place)


The historic village core has been recorded from historic mapping available to the HER. There may be surviving features relating to the settlement outside of this area.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

The historic village core has been recorded from historic mapping available to the HER. There may be surviving features relating to the settlement outside of this area, particularly in light of the linear feature containing burnt remains dating to the Anglo Saxon period, noted to the east of the church (MEM22780). [1-4] Exford is often known as 'the capital' of Exmoor, including by the artist Cecil Aldin and the writer Laurence Meyness, due to its connections with hunting (it was calculated that over 12 percent of the population depends on the direct or indirect employment provided by the Hunt). The Exford Horse Show in mid August is an active and established event, promoted jointly by the Exmoor Pony Society and the Devon and Somerset Staghounds. [5] During the Civil War in September 1673, around 400 Cavaliers marched from Minehead to Dulveton, then to Exford, and then onwards to Chittlehampton near Barnstaple. [6] Exford is in the southwest corner of Carhampton Hundred. It is named from the river Ex and the Anglo-Saxon Ford, IE a ford over the Ex. The parish is of c.5000 acres, with half being inclosed and cultivated and the remainder commons. The inclosed part consists of one deep valley, through which the Exe flows, and several smaller ones running laterally into it. The main road across into Exmoor and others in the area were improved in the early 19th Century by John Knight (after he purchased Exmoor in 1818) and the Rev Joseph Ralph, rector from 1822. The village was said to have two inns and some shops, with its fortunes improved since Mr Knight began his improvements on Exmoor. The soil was described as "white rag lying over the granwacke", with no lime rocks worked here. No manor was recorded in the parish, which was divided into many separate freeholds and had been for some time. There were two hamlets, Edgecot and Lower Mill, and two mesne manors, Monkham and Almsworthy. In 1821, the Population Abstract return for Exford states there were 68 inhabited houses, 5 uninhabited, and 74 families; 28 of these were employed in agriculture, 9 in trade and 37 otherwise. There were 202 males and 171 females. The Manor of Exford was annexed to Dunster. In Domesday it was recorded as Aisseford and held by Domno and Sarpo, but both were given to William de Mohun before being passed on. The principle estate was since early times owned by the Cistercian abbey of Neath, in Glamorganshire (founded AD 1147). The manor was still called Monkham ("from its ancient owners") and belonged to Hugh Vessey Esquire, but in 1830 belonged to John Knight. [N.B. This is not related to Monkham House, sited at SS85193805, which is 20th Century in date.] [7] Exford's population was 403 in 1965. The chief industries were noted as sheep farming, tourism and hunting (distances were too great to make commuting to towns impractical). Some of the social aspects of the community at that time are listed as a British Legion, Women's Institute, Mothers' Union, a flourishing flower show, a village hall, a cricket club, a village school, two good pubs and "enough matters of controversy (but not too many) to keep the talkers happy". The settlement had won the cup for "Best Kept Village in Somerset" for the third time in that year. Much of the economy of the settlement was thought to depend on hunting, with 8 people directly employed by the Devon and Somerset Staghounds and a blacksmith and 12 people employed grooming or hiring horses also associated. Many of the patrons of the two hotels and one guest house were also thought to be hunting visitors. [8] The 1961 Census placed Exford's population at 450. Local employment included two hotels, a garage, a builder, several shops, and the kennels of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds. There was a cricket club, an August Horse Show and the Exmoor Branch of the Young Farmers' Club was centred on the village, as well as a well supported Women's Institute. [9] William Henry Hudson, a distinguished author and field naturalist, visited Exford in 1895. He said that unlike Winsford, the settlement was not picturesque but "its 'one perennial charm… is the swift river that flows through it, making music on its wide sandy and pebbly floor'. Here he watched wagtails, pied and grey, perched on pebbles protruding above the water, comparing them to a little village girl whom he saw standing on a flat stone in the river, cooling her feet and studying her reflection in the stream." He observed that the village had a "disproportionately large number of inns" supported by the August stag hunt and visited the stag hounds in the hunt's kennels. [10] In the 1920s and 30s there were two village shops in Exford, with a branch of Lloyds Bank opening on Monday mornings and the Exford cattle and sheep auction. Tradesmen such as the Fruit Man and a lady from Withypool selling Guernsey milk visited each house. A London parcel run from Barker's of High Street, Kensington was also run, with a light blue catalogue delivered on a Monday, orders placed on Tuesday and on a Thursday hampers sent via train from Paddington to Dulverton, before continuing via a trolley and then carrierman's lorry to Exford. The settlement also had three taxis. Most residents shopped at Minehead. [11] The settlement is sited where a branch of a ridgeway route connecting two major routes across Exmoor crosses the Exe River. "Exe" is believed to come from the Celtic word osc or uisg, meaning water. At Domesday, there were five manors, owned by Domnus, Sarpo, Aewulf, Edricus and Uluinnus, also with Edmundeswortha or Almsworthy Manor. They were given to William de Moione (lands south of the Exe) and Roger de Courcelle (lands north of the Exe). William is "said to have encouraged the breeding of the "equae indomita" or wild brood mares." In King John's reign [1166-1216], William gave the Manors of Exefordham and Cubihiete (Chibbet) to the Abbot of Neath in Glamorgan on the condition that a monk would be maintained at Exford to pray for William and his heirs; these lands became the Manor of Monkham. In 1645, Prince Charles rode through Exford on his way from Dunster Castle to Barnstaple, trying to avoid the plague. In this year, 29 people died in the settlement between May and September of the disease. In 1839, when the Tithe survey was undertaken, Exford comprised 6314 acres, of which 566 were arable, 3500 were common land, 142 were Glebe owned, 1970 were meadow, 37 were woodland and 60 acres were of rivers, roads and wastes. Exford was always a sheep based economy and agriculture was generally only practiced for self sufficiency. A 1618 lease mentions mining for lead, coal and iron. In 1875, Exford became the home to the Devon and Somerset Staghounds. This was a massive boost to the settlement, which increased in size and prosperity. Previously, there were no large houses and the cottages were mostly thatched. There were four blacksmiths, two saddlers, a carpenters shop, three shoemakers and three masons, and two shops. The settlement was always self sufficient, with Tiverton and Barnstaple having the nearest railway stations (before Minehead) and a horse and cart being the only method of haulage. Working days were long, with workers walking to work to be on site at 7am and horses still being shod at 8pm. The Parish Council was formed in 1894. They first met on 1st January 1895 in a club room in the Coffee House. In 1895 the village was lit by three oil lights on standards. Also in this year a water supply was installed for £200, upgraded in 1901 and then replaced in 1950. The village suffered during the Exmoor Flood on 15 August 1952. An account of the event is given. No loss of life was suffered but there was much damage to property, all of which was put right by the flood relief fund within 6 months. [12] Exford was one of three settlements to be studied in detail in a survey of 1962 to assist Somerset County Council in forward planning. The 1961 Census states there were 450 people in Exmoor Parish, a reduction of 63 over 30 years. The centre of the village was susceptible to flooding from the river and a small stream running from Lower Prescott and through land east of the Crown Hotel. and valley frosts in the winter. Expansion of the settlement has been linear along existing routeways, with most of the population in the village but various small farms of c.150 acres each around the parish. Exford was described as "a hotch-potch of old cottages and modern hotels, villas and bungalows which defies classification". Mains electricity was installed in 1955 by the South Western Electricity Board but outlying homes still used home made electricity, calor gas and oil. A water supply serviced 51 houses, three hotels and 13 other properties, including a village hall, school, reading room, two shops, one office, two garages, one smithy, one stables and three stand pipes. It was fed from Sharcott to the north, through a reservoir in Coombe Lane. Four doctors attended the settlement separately on one day a week and a district nurse was based in Winsford. The nearest hospital was Minehead.

Sources/Archives (14)

  • --- Monograph: Anonymous. 1086. Domesday Book / Liber de Wintonia / The Great Survey. N/A.
  • <1> Map: 1840. Exford Tithe Map and Apportionment. 40-42.
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-1907. County Series, 2nd Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey. 2017. MasterMap.
  • <5> Monograph: Lawrence, B.. 1984. Exmoor Villages. The Exmoor Press.
  • <6> Monograph: Rawle, E.J.. 1893. Annals of the Ancient Royal Forest of Exmoor. Barnicott and Pearce. 94.
  • <7> Monograph: Savage, J.. 1830. A History of the Hundred of Carhampton. 535-548.
  • <8> Serial: Exmoor Society. 1959-present. Exmoor Review. Volume 7 (1966), "Exford: A Thriving Community", 40-43 (Rev FH Warren).
  • <9> Serial: Exmoor Society. 1959-present. Exmoor Review. Volume 8 (1967), "Villages in a vacuum", p31-3 (V Bonham-Carter).
  • <10> Serial: Exmoor Society. 1959-present. Exmoor Review. Volume 29 (1988), "WH Hudson on Exmoor", p53-55 (D Shrubsall).
  • <11> Serial: Exmoor Society. 1959-present. Exmoor Review. Volume 34 (1993), "Hampers down the line!", p68-71.
  • <12> Monograph: Hamilton, C.M.. 1953. A history of Exford. N/A. 1st Edition. 1,4-5, 10, 14, 27, 28, 29, 45-7.
  • <13> Report: Gibbs. 1962. Exford Village Survey.



Grid reference Centred SS 8549 3839 (782m by 376m)
Map sheet SS83NE
Historic Parish EXFORD

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Other Statuses/References

  • Local Plan - Historic Core: Exford

Record last edited

Jun 22 2020 2:08PM


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