History of Bishopsteignton

Bishopsteignton, as a settlement, dates back to the stone age. There is also evidence of Roman occupation of the area, and the village grew further during Elizabethan times. Many of the buildings seen in the village today date back to the 1800s. This page intends to provide a flavour of the history of the village. References have been made to two books about the village: "Bishopsteignton Villages and Lanes" by WD Cleland and "About Bishopsteignton" by Philip Gourd. If you are interested in learning more about the history of the village, you may be interested in visiting Bishopsteignton Museum of Rural Life, or reading more about local history on some of the sites which can be accessed using the link below.

Origins of "Bishopsteignton"

The name, Bishopsteignton, may seem strange, especially since the middle syllable is pronounced "tain" rather than "teen", as the River Teign is pronounced. The name in fact is not derived from the river itself, but instead from the Celtic word for river, which is Tain (or teign), and the Anglo-Saxon word "Ton" which meant an enclosure, so there was a farming connection. During the Roman occupation, the area was known as Taintona.

In 927 AD, there was a battle on Haldon Hill, between the Celts and the Saxons. The outcome of this battle was that Cornwall became a Celtic area, and Devon, Saxon. King Athelston then established Benedictine monks at Radway Manor, which lead to the founding of what is now known locally as "Old Walls". Then in 1042, Edward the Confessor split Taintona into two. He retained one part for the Crown, now known as Kingsteignton, and gave the other to Bishop Leofric (See of Exeter), which became known as Bishop's Tainton.

In the 1930s questions arose as to whether the village should be known as Bishop's Teignton, or Bishopsteignton. A decision was made to use Bishopsteignton as the official name, as telegraphs were priced at a penny per word, so having a village name of a single word would be more frugal!

A village "chronology"

As stated, there is evidence of stone age inhabitation of the area around what is now Bishopsteignton. There is also evidence of the Roman settlements in the area, and it is thought that they built the first bridge across the Teign estuary, as well as planting the first vineyards on the slopes of Haldon. Taintona was important to the Romans for the production of salt, using salt pans at low tide, just up from where Bishopsteignton lies today. The salt obtained would have been taken over Haldon to the market at Exminster. One of the first recorded notable events in the area was the burning of the village by the Danes in 1001 AD. Following this dreadful event, the signing of a peace treaty between the English and the Danes was supposed to have taken place in Peace Park, close to the site of Old Walls.

The Bishop's Palace

The Summer Palace for the Bishops of Exeter was built during the 13th century, taking its water supply from White Well, on Haldon, where today there is a picnic site. Bishop Walter Bronescombe is credited with building the palace and often resided there in the later years of his bishopric, which was between 1258 and 1280. Bishop John de Grandisson (1327-69) later rebuilt the palace. The palace itself was used as a refuge during the Black Plague. Bishop Veysey (1509-49) was the last bishop to reside at the palace, which was disbanded by Edward VI in 1549. Edward granted the palace, along with the Manors of Bishop, Radway and West Teignmouth to Sir Andrew Dudley, who was later executed for his role in Lady Jane Grey's claim to the English throne.

Stones originally from the Bishop's Palace were used during the 1800s to build homes in the village, such as 10 Radway Street, which was built in 1863.

Bishopsteignton village school was founded in 1719 by a local farmer, Christopher Coleman. The older part of the remaining school building was built in 1726 and the school was originally run as a charity school for the children of poor labourers in the village. The school was extended during the 19th century, as can be seen from the dates above the doors to the building now. The oldest part of the building now houses Bishopsteignton Museum, whilst the remainder is used as a community centre. It was in 1979 that villagers began to raise funds to renovate the old school house and convert it into a resource for the community.

Today Bishopsteignton is blessed with a relatively low crime rate, and perhaps this has been so for many years. The last man to be hanged in the parish was Greenslade, the gardener to Reverend Yarde in 1783. Greenslade murdered the Reverend in retaliation for being given a poor reference (written in Latin), and may have got away with his crimes had he not shown off the gold watch he had taken from his previous employer. The hanging took place on Haldon.

Bishopsteignton did not escape untouched by the ravages of the Great War in 1914-18. The war memorial, outside the Methodist Church was erected after the end of World War I, to commemorate those villagers who lost their lives in battle. It now also bears the names of those who perished in World War II.

The name of he Gourd family was synonymous with transport in Bishopsteignton for many years in the earlier part of the 20th century. Their business started with the carriage of goods in a push cart, progressing on to a horse-drawn cart. Then, just before the Great War, H.D. Gourd converted a Daimler into a bus, which was used to take passengers to and from Teignmouth. After the war, the Daimler was replaced with a Ford T bus, and goods vehicles were also run. The bus fare to Teignmouth in the 1890s was 4d, and in 1951, when the Gourds sold their bus service, the fare remained at 4d!.

Another form of transport associated with Bishopsteignton was the aeroplane. There was an aerodrome on top of Haldon, from where air trips were run for views of the bay, and there was an annual air circus. In 1933 an air mail service was started between South Devon and South Wales, from the aerodrome. Up to 6 passengers could also be carried as well as the mail. During World War II, the aerodrome was taken over by Fleet Air Arm. Today there are only a few signs of its existence, such as the remains of the club house.

John Nash

John Nash (1752-1835) was an architect, who has been credited with designing much of the layout of London, during the Regency period, beginning work for King George IV in 1811. His most famous piece of work however is probably Buckingham Palace, which, along with the Royal Mews and Marble Arch, he worked on remodelling to its current state (1825-35). Nash spent part of his early career in Devon, and during 1800-1804, Nash was based in Dawlish, designing Luscombe Castle. During his times in South Devon, his influence was also felt in Bishopsteignton, where a number of houses were either designed by John Nash, or were built in a Nash-esque style. Examples include Cross House (where Nash may even have lived for a short time, on Fore Street), Cross Gate (on the corner of Fore Street and Shute Hill), Rose Cottage (an alteration, which is reputed to be Nash's first work, on the corner of Fore Street and Clanage Street), Lendrick (Forder Lane), Clanage House (Clanage Street), and the Ring of Bells pub (the part of the building on the left hand side, with the iron railings). The typical style of John Nash's designs is shown in the pictures in this section.

Some other houses in the village

There was considerable evidence of development in Bishopsteignton in Tudor times, Lower Radway was a traditional longhouse style farmhouse, which dated back to the 1400s. There was also evidence of Elizabethan drains running along what is now Radway Street. These were cobbled structures, topped with stone slabs, and survived hundreds of years. "Green" is also a part-Tudor building, and some parts may be even older. It was updated during the Georgian period, and the angel placed above the door was probably originally from the church. Green was inhabited by the Cove family for over 300 years. Tapley Manor, now demolished was also thought to date back to the Elizabethan period. This house was Nash-like in style, and had vegetable gardens which were hidden away behind the red stone wall which runs up Radway Hill. After the end of World War II, Tapley was run as a hotel before being demolished to make way for new housing. Another building thought to be Elizabethan in origin is the Bishop John de Grandisson pub (previously known as the Commercial Inn).

Radway Manor, which stood at the top of Radway Hill changed hands many times, but in 1696 the Comyns family became Lords of the Manor and they continued to own the manor house for 100 years. The building itself was thought to have been Elizabethan, on Saxon foundations. Sadly the building was demolished.

Huntly is the largest house in the village. In 1878 it was established as a hydro hotel, offering turkish baths and massages, and the owner, CF Carpenter, also founded the Band of Hope group within the village to encourage abstention from alcohol amongst the villagers. In 1950 Huntly was purchased by the Officer's Association and is now run as a home for retired officers of the armed forces. Huntly was not the only building in the village to be used for recuperation and the improvement of health. The small wooden chalets overlooking the estaury at Luxton Steps were used to allow people to escape from the stresses of everyday Victorian life, and in the post war period they were used for convalescence for returning members of the armed forces.

Cross House is important in the history of Bishopsteignton for a number of reasons, having been influenced by John Nash, but also because of a Saxon cross which once stood in its grounds. This was dismantled and the base used on a local farm as a trough for many years, but the base of the cross has now been restored to its rightful place, and can now be seen near the bus stop, topped with a granite ball. The cross itself has been lost. Cross House was also considered to be a "house of firsts", being the first in the village to have a self-draining bath, and the first to have a vacuum cleaner!

The grounds of Kittoes were relaid by Sir Joseph Paxton, the creator of the Crystal Palace, in 1852. The connections of this house with famous names of the past does not end there either. In 1925 the house was purchased by Harry Younger, of Scottish Brewers (now Scottish and Newcastle). Mr Younger also bought a number of smaller houses along Fore Street to house his staff.

St John's House, opposite the parish church, was originally the vicarage. The house was rebuilt in 1801 and continued to serve as the vicarage until 1970.

Cockhaven Manor, now a hotel and restaurant, was inhabited by the Paddon family for over 200 years. In the inter-war years it was utilised as a sanitorium for those suffering with nervous disorders, before being converted into a hotel.

Lindridge was a large house built in the Queen Anne style. The building that stood on this plot previously was dated back to 1044, and from this date until 1549, was owned by the Bishops of Exeter. In the 1960s the building was due to be opened to the public, but sadly this never happened as the building was completely destroyed by fire. Legend had it that if the statues of Pan and Time were removed from the house, it would burn down, and this seems to be exactly what did happen!

However, Bishopsteignton is not only a village of larger houses. In 1861 the Church Houses were built on Radway Hill. These were tenements to be let to "poor men and women of good character". They retain their original use to this day. It is thought that the triangle of land now enclosed by Fore Street, Clanage Street and West Street, would originally have been a village green, where some original almshouses would have stood.

Over the years, many of the buildings in the village have had other uses. For example, there was a grocery shop and a baptist chapel in Radway Street. The post office, now located on Fore Street, was originally run by the Pook family and was located further down Fore Street on the high pavement. At the turn of the 20th century Fore Street was even named Post Office Street. In 1881 the post office moved to Smith Hill, but was still run by the Pook family, and it was also previously run from where the village shop is today. During the 1930s there were also two banks operating on Fore Street! Fore Street was worthy of its name as the main street in the village as previously there was a second pub, called the Manor Inn, which later became the Pasty Mine, and has now reverted back to residential accommodation. Where the public conveniences now stand on Fore Street was previously a working forge, and horses would be taken along the raised pavement to be shod. The names of other homes in the village reflect their past use: The Old Laundry on Cockhaven Road, or The Old Bakery on Fore Street, for example.

If you are interested in the history of any of the churches in the village, please see the Local Information - Churches page. There was also a Catholic Church, built in 1930, in the village until recent times, but this has now been demolished.