Cromwell House

CROMWELL HOUSE ABBEY ROAD : Owners and residents of the holding from 1596-1939

Frances and Malcolm Billinge 2019

Figure 1. Cromwell House Frances Billinge 2019

Cromwell House is situated on Abbey Road in Bovey Tracey (Fig.1).  In earlier times this area, near Hind Street, was referred to as ‘Henstreete’ or ‘Hen Street’, the dialect pronunciation of Hind Street meaning the street behind the main street. Ottery St Mary, Bradninch and Whimple are other Devon places with a Hind Street.

‘Cromwell House’ Area in 1596- Owned by William Oxenham

 The first reference to this area was in the 1596 Bovey Tracey Church Rate (Devon Heritage Centre 312M/0/ZPH/1-2). This was a rate levied on property owners in Bovey Tracey.  At that time one holding in  ‘Hendestreete’ was owned by William Oxenham. He paid a rate 20d for his ‘house and backside’. This was a significant sum as the smallest houses paid 3d. As yet we do not know who William Oxenham was. A man, or men, of the same name had property in North Bovey, South Tawton and Chagford, but no connection has yet been made between them and Bovey Tracey (Devon Heritage Centre  1508M/0/Moger/284/1 for North Bovey and South Tawton; 1508M/0/Moger/118 for Chagford in 1609) Another entry for ‘ Hindestreete’  was that John Cotes held two closes nearby for which the rate was 7d. A close was an enclosed/walled field.

‘Cromwell House’ Area in 1641

The first map we have of Bovey Tracey is the Guliemus Map c. 164O. (Fig.2; Devon Heritage Centre 2802Z, ‘Gulielmus’ Map of Manor of Bovey Tracey c.1640). On this map can be seen the central streets of Bovey Tracey but no dwelling house was shown on Hind Street even although forty-five years earlier a tax was raised on a house and backside in ‘Henstreet’. Possibly the building was demolished as sixty-six years later a large property was sited there.

Figure 2. Gulielmus Map Bovey Tracey 1641 showing the Parish Church, East Street, Mary Street Fore Street and Hind Street (By Kind Permission of Devon Heritage Centre)

‘Cromwell House’ Area in the 1700s

Owned by Pinsent Battishill in 1705. The next reference to this area was in the 1705 will of Pinsent Battishill. He left ‘Henstreete’ to William Cumming, Richard Dyer, Robert Tapson, Elizabeth Tapson his wife, Jane Battishill and spinsters Elizabeth and Honor Battishill. We know this from later deeds held by the Hole family (Devon Heritage Centre 312M/0/TH/916-936, Hole of Parke, 1707-1891 Hen/Hind Street Deeds). Such division of property was not unusual as estates were divided between sons and daughters and those who had a financial interest through perhaps a mortgage. As yet we do not have any information on Pinsent Battishill.

By 1707 the Estate was Divided and Part Owned by Edward Wotton. The male inheritors of Pinsent Battishill’s estate renounced their interest and passed their share to Elizabeth and Honor Battishill. This was because there was not enough money to pay off Pinsent Battishill’s debts. These could have arisen from raising money on the estate. Elizabeth and Honor Battishillthen immediately sold ‘Henstreete’ to Edward Wotton. The sale details described the sale as being. ‘All that dwelling house called Henstreet, eleven ground rooms with the chambers over, two outhouses commonly called the stables, shippens one  orchard …..herb garden in the fore court, the s[aid] court commonly called the forecourt …with a chief rent of 3s’. (Devon Heritage Centre 312M/0/TH/930 Hole of Parke, 1707-1891 Hen/Hind Street Deeds, abstract of title).

A property with eleven ground rooms was large and it comprised the area  where the Baptist Church is now sited as well as buildings where ‘Cromwell House’ now stands. As it was not shown on the 1641 map it is likely to have been erected between 1641 and 1707.

All we know about the Battishill family is that Honour [sic] Battishill was born in Ilsington in 1684 and her parents were John and Elizabeth Battishill (Islington parish register, Their relationship with Pinsent Battishill is not yet known.

Another Part Owned by Thomas Coniam in 1707– Apart from selling the dwelling house, stables, gardens and fore court to Edward Wootton, in 1707 Elizabeth and Honor Battishill also sold ‘…the barn under one cover to Thomas Coniam called Henstreet barn and one court called Henstreete Inner Court’.

These deeds tell us that the ‘Henstreete’ estate was divided by 1707. (Devon Heritage Centre 312M/0/TH/930 Hole of Parke, 1707-1891 Hen/Hind Street Deeds, abstract of title).

Wotton Sold Part of His Estate to Joseph Satterley in 1709– Satterley immediately then sold it to John Harris.

From Satterley to Harris to Staddon in 1710- In 1710 John Harris sold his holding to Samuel Staddon, and the sale comprised ‘four Messuages or Dwelling houses and courtlage thereto…with part of the forecourt which then remained unsold one orchard three herb gardens, two stables, one shipping [shippen] with the appurtenances next and adjoining  to the said capital messuage then used for a Meeting House (Devon Heritage Centre 312M/0/TH/930 Hole of Parke, 1707-1891 Hen/Hind Street Deeds, abstract of title). This is the earliest reference yet found for the site of the Meeting House. The owner Samuel Staddon is still recalled today in the naming of Staddon’s View.

Frequent sales and divisions of land were not unusual, and we will see that they continued.

Edward Wotton still held Part of the Estate in 1727 Edward Wootton had retained some part of the estate when he made a sale to Joseph Satterley in 1709. We know this because in 1727 Samuel Staddon and Edward Wotton between them sold the following property to William Mead, a Bovey Tracey clothier, ‘three messuages or dwelling houses a courtlage one stable and one shippen two herb gardens orchard and also all that part of the fore courtelage purchased by Samuel Staddon and all that other belonging or dwelling house, herb garden and all that other stable then in tenure of Thomas Ellis all of which premises are part of a capital messuage called Henstreet and adjoining or near to other parts of the same capital messuage then used for a  Meeting House.’ (Ibid.)

The tenure became more complicated over the next few years which showed several people had a stake in the property. By 1739 John Jackson and Susannah his wife sold their part to William Mead. In 1749 Francis Coniam sold his interest to Richard Pulling. In1755 Samuel Mead, son of William Mead sold it to John Mead who was the brother of Samuel Mead. Mary Steer, the widow of Thomas Steer also had a dower interest in the property which meant her interest lasted for the rest of her life

John Burd, Samuel Mead and John Mead Owners of land including ‘Cromwell House’ 1743

It is after this that the Burd family, and in particular John Burd, came into the story of the ownership of ‘Cromwell House’ as confirmed by later deeds. John Burd’s family held several properties in Bovey Tracey but his main residence was Chapple. His family also owned Elsford. In 1743 John Burd leased out his part of ‘Henstreet’ (Devon Heritage Centre 7987M Henstreete) Over the next thirty years the property was leased or sold to various people including John Bridgman, and Samuel and John Mead [1755]. The property was variously described as, ‘two messuages one cottage one stable gardens one orchard three acres one acre of pasture one of common… with 7 acres of meadow’. This refers to ‘Cromwell House’ area and nearby Bullens’ meadow to the west.

Samuel Mead’s Ownership 1788- 1788

In 1788 a Land Tax Assessment was made and this document informs us who owned properties in the parish of Bovey Tracey, who occupied the property and the tax payable. (Devon Heritage Centre 1148M, 1788) Samuel Mead then owned part of Henstreete on which he paid £1 2s 3 ½d. Samuel Mead was  a sergeweaver (1782 Apprentice records) Another part of the Henstreete estate was Henstreet Meadow and this was owned by Esquire Lane with a tax of 6s.

In 1797 Samuel Mead sold part of the property to John Hamlyn of West Bradworthy. In 1801 John conveyed this to Richard Hamlyn.

In 1799 Samuel Mead sold another part of Henstreet to Joseph Lee Sprague, Moses Savery and others for the Baptist Meeting House. (Devon Heritage Centre 916, 917, 918, 920) As there was already a meeting house in the area this transaction suggests that the Baptist community increased the size of its holding with this additional property.

Richard Hamlyn’s Ownership 1799- 1807

In that year Samuel Mead died and his son William sold the properties which include ‘Cromwell House’ to Richard Hamlyn. The conveyance makes interesting reading as it gives a full description of land ownership leading up to the sale which was of part of ‘the capital messuage of Henstreet that is to say four messuages or dwelling houses and courtlage including that part of the Fore Court which was purchased by Samuel Staddon one orchard three herb gardens five stables and one shippen who were near or adjoining the capital messuage with appurtenances were adjoining or near to the other part of the capital messuage then used for a meeting house and Henstreet barn and shippen under one covering and one Court called Henstreet Inner Court and the Linneys therto ….all of which hereditaments and parcels of land were Part of the capital messuage’. (Ibid.) This shows that the ‘Cromwell House’ area included four dwelling houses. Looking at the later Tithe Map of 1841 this conveyance would seem to describe the three small cottages and nearby ‘Cromwell House’ adjoining the meeting house (Baptist Church)

Burd Family Ownership 1807-1868

1807 Richard Hamlyn conveyed this property to John Burd who kept it for the next fifty years (Devon Heritage Centre 312M/O/TH/916-936 being 926, 927 1807 June 23 conveyance)

John Burd immediately leased the four dwelling houses to Richard Wills of Lemonford Ashburton. (Devon Heritage Centre 928, 929, June 24 and 25) Leasing out a property did not necessarily mean the lessee lived in any of it as most residents rented their property from owners or lessees. These leases refer to the lane, now called Abbey Road, going between ‘Cromwell House’ and the other cottages as shown on the Tithe Map of 1841 (Fig. 3).

By the time of the map Hen Street Orchard, number 892 was owned John Burd and occupied by Hugh Collander. This is land where the primary school is now sited and comprised 3 rods and 27 perches. Opposite a barn and its courtlage was situated number 893, comprising 29 perches and this was  owned by the Earl of Devon and others. The Earl of Devon was Lord of the Manor of Bovey Tracey and owned a considerable part of the Borough of Bovey Tracey. Three cottages by this barn, numbers 1468-70, were each of one perch.  John Burd also owned Lower Orchard, number 894, which was just over an acre and occupied by James Cade. What is now ‘Cromwell House’ was number 1466 and described as a dwelling house and courtlage of nine perches. Next door at 1467 was a smaller cottage of two perches now called ‘Cromwell Cottage’. Again the ownership was the Earl of Devon and others. The ‘others’ here no doubt included John Burd but ownership was complicated because of mortgages and it was safer for the Tithe Apportionment scribes to list ownership as in this way.

Figure 3. Tithe Map Bovey Tracey 1841 showing Henstreete and properties later called ‘Cromwell House and Cottage’. By kind permission of Devon Heritage Centre, 2160A/PB/4/a/1). 

At the same time as the tithe map was drawn the 1841 Census took place. This census tells us who was living in the eleven dwellings on Hind Street, but we are not able to pin point ‘Cromwell House’ as the enumerator did not necessarily go from one house to the next. The tenants/owners are listed as an appendix.

In 1843 William Burd, the owner of Chapple farm, died. It is from his will that we learn the process of inheritance within the Burd family. William’s ‘Cromwell House’ area property passed to his son John Burd who already had an interest in it (England and Wales Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills).

The next record is the 1851 Census. Again we learn who was living on Hind Street and a later deed confirms that John Burd was living in ‘Cromwell House.’ All the owners/tenants are listed in the appendix. John Burd had inherited Chapple farm. but he obviously preferred to actually live in Bovey Tracey as there was only a housekeeper in residence at Chapple.

Not only was John Burd a landed proprietor but by 1852 he had an insurance agency in Regent Place Teignmouth. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 3 January 1852, p.1) Also he was involved in the administration of the Borough of Bovey Tracey as he served on the Board of Guardians of the Poor (Exeter Flying Post 1852, December 9, p.3; The Western Times 1853, June 4, p.7)

In 1855 John Burd died and the Borough Court presentments recorded that his nephew William Burd became tenant of his property on Hind Street, which included a barn and courtlage. (Devon Heritage Centre Bovey Tracey Borough Court 1856, Michelmore and Co. 5595B). William only survived his uncle by three years and then ‘Cromwell House’ and its nearby dwellings passed to John’s niece, William’s sister, Grace Perrott née Burd in 1858. She was a young widow living in Plymouth at the time and she immediately mortgaged the properties to William Robert Hole.

On the 1861 Census we see the residents of Hind Street but this time cannot pin-point ‘Cromwell House’.

William Robert Hole ownership 1858-1911 Ten years after she inherited ‘Cromwell House’, Grace Perrott sold it to William Robert Hole. He was to own it for the next fifty years. Hole was the major land owner in the area and his family seat was the prestigious estate of Parke. (Devon Heritage Centre 1797-1891 Hen/Hind Street Deeds 312M/0/TH/916-936). This sale recorded the premises as six dwelling houses, two orchards with a poundhouse and hereditaments. (Ibid.Devon 312M/3/T/16) It described the dwelling house and attached cottage of ‘Cromwell House’ [two messuages formerly one] where John Burd and later William Burd had lived. It also described the three cottages as shown on the Tithe Map 1841 as being at some time in occupation of John Heard, J. Coucher, John Hole and John Shapley. The two orchards were Hen Street Orchard and Lower orchard numbered 892 and 894 on the Tithe Map, both then owned by John Burd. Another record lists who the tenants were at the time of this sale being-John Shapley, James Aggett, David Parkes, J. Sampson, W. Raymond, and J Courtier with the cider press and engine in the occupation of George Beer. (Ibid. 312M/3/TH/937]

By the 1871 Census the number of dwellings had reduced to seven, and again we do not know which was ‘Cromwell House’.

The 1881 Census shows ten dwellings in Hind Street, and again ‘Cromwell House’ remains elusive.

In the 1891 Census the road was called Hind Street Lane and for the first time an indication is given of the number of rooms in each house. It is not possible to say which was ‘Cromwell House’.

In the 1901 Census the road reverted to its original name of Hind Street and  provided the same information as the previous census, but again we cannot pin-point ‘Cromwell House’

The information on the 1911 Census included the newly built Abbey Road but we cannot be sure which road included ‘Cromwell House’.

It is hoped that further research will uncover the residents of ‘Cromwell House’ from this census material.

Sydney James Turner ownership from 1911

Five months after this census William G. Hole sold ‘Cromwell House to Sydney James Turner a builder of Station Road. (Indenture 23 August 1911). This was at the time when William Hole started to sell his extensive local property portfolio as running the large state of Parke was proving too costly. Sydney probably let out the property as he continued to live at Station Road where he died in 1929 (National Probate Calendar).

William and Maria Heath Residents /Owners until 1936

William Heath was living at Cromwell Cottage in 1928, we know this from his obituary (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 30 April 1928). His wife Maria continued to live there until her death in 1936. (The Western Times 17 April 1936).

William Pring Resident /Owner by 1939

By the 1939 Register there were two dwelling houses named Cromwell Cottage, both listed on Hind Street. One was vacant and in the other lived William Pring, a master tailor with his wife Elizabeth.

How did Cromwell House/Cottage Get Its Name?

The first reference to the name ‘Cromwell Cottage’ comes from the report of William Heath’s funeral in 1928 mentioned above. Where did the name come from? 

Local legend describes this area as being the site of an ancient priory. There is no evidence for this. The site was of a medieval merchant’s house built in the 14th/15th Century in a prime position in Bovey Tracey with a field and water meadow sweeping down to the river ( MDV 86390).

Part of the medieval house still exists and is called Cromwell’s Arch. This naming was a late nineteenth century aggrandisement first stated locally in a newspaper sketch of 1894 (East and South Devon Gazette, 1894 February 3, p.5). Abbey Road was named as such by at least 1908. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 10 July 1908, p.9). The nearby road called Priory was named when the new houses were built there in 1930. Monk’s Way, the by-pass, was named in 1988.( Frances Billinge  2016The Meaning and History of Indio in The Devon Historian, vol. 85, p.29-30.)

The first suggestion that there ever was a priory in Bovey Tracey came from a member of the Baptist church, and this was William Ellis who had emigrated to America. (Devon Heritage Centre 6136D/Z2 William and Ann Ellis baptised 1840 – later entry gone to America; East and South Devon Gazette, 1894 February 3, p.5, Cromwell’s Arch). In 1885 he wrote articles about the ‘history’ of Bovey Tracey to sell to an American newspaper, reprinted later in a South Devon newspaper. These were gothic tales of monks and nuns and lords of the manor marrying penniless orphans and so on. One story was that Oliver Cromwell slept at the priory on his way to what was to be the Battle of Heathfield during the time of the civil war in the winter of 1646. As the dissolution of the monasteries commenced in 1536 this story could not be true. Later Ellis stated that his tales were fictional. In 1930 Mrs Hole of Parke chose to re-print these tales and clearly stated that they were just legends. Unfortunately some local historians have been taken in by them (East and South Devon Advertiser 3 February 1894, p.5; Armitage Hargreaves, 1968. Bovey Tracey History and Legend [Newton Abbot, Mid Devon Newspapers] p.61; Lance Tregonning, 1983. Bovey Tracey an ancient Town[(Exeter, A.Wheaton and Co.] pp.18-19, 30; Hole, M.A. 1930. Note in front of Sketches of Bovey Tracey and District (Bovey Tracey, M. A. Hole). Aggrandisement of medieval buildings is not uncommon and Bovey Tracey is one of many places to fall into this trap of the imagination.


Like many houses in the area Cromwell House has had many owners over the years. It is in a prime position in the heart of the ancient borough. Its current name reminds us Bovey Tracey’s historic past and the Civil War.


We would like to thank the owners of Cromwell House for their interest in this research and for sharing the 1868 deed with us.



1841 Census Hind Street

Susan Amery school mistress with her three younger sisters, six in the house

Joseph Steer carpenter and family, six in the house

John Heath agricultural labourer, six in the house

Robert Hale agricultural labourer, five in the house

John Woodley agricultural labourer, two in the house

William Brook Baptist Minister, three in the house

John Abraham agricultural labourer, six in the house

William Winsor agricultural labourer, four in the house

Thomas Mitchel army pensioner, six in the house

John Mardon mason, four in the house

Ann Lidger independent, four  in the house

1851 Census Hind Street

(Cromwell House) John Burd landed proprietor and his wife

John Shapley a farmer of twenty acres with three lodgers

Henry Payne a labourer with his wife and three children

Joseph Steer a carpenter with wife and eight children

John Heath a labourer with wife and four children

Robert Hall a labourer and his wife

William Brook a Baptist minister with his wife, four children and a servant- this is likely to be the house above the Baptist Church.

William Skelly a potter with his wife, two children and a lodger

Richard Haymond a labourer and his wife

Joseph Coniam a carpenter with his wife daughter and a lodger

Samuel Skinner a labourer with his  wife two children and his brother

1861 Census Hind Street

Mary Pecke a coachman’s wife with five children


Mary Daymond a potter’s widow

John Davis an agricultural labourer with his wife and child

John Winter a carpenter with his wife and brother in law

John Shapley a farmer of a few fields and a carter living with his twin brother

John Morgan a potter with his wife, five children and a lodger

James Aggett a thatcher with his wife and seven children

Thomas Wyatt an agricultural labourer with his wife and five children

Joseph Sampson an agricultural labourer with his wife and child

Robert Hall an agricultural labourer with his wife and grand daughter

William Sercombe a copper miner with his wife

Elizabeth Sparke a farmer’s widow with two grandchildren

1871 Census Hind Street

Mary Ellis an errand woman

Mary Ann Church a dressmaker with her two sons

William Coniam an agricultural labourer with his wife and five children

James Aggett a thatcher with his wife and five children

John Tancock railway packer with his wife, two children and his father in law

John Shapley a farmer

John Winsor a carpenter with his wife and brother in law.

1881Census Hind Street

John Pethybridge a farmer of 230 acres and his sister

Joseph Pearce the Baptist minister and wife, three children and a servant. This would have been in the house next to the Baptist Church

John Winsor a carpenter with his wife and sister-in-law

Elizabeth Hannaford a widow with a retired commercial traveller lodger

 George Treleaven a stone mason with his wife and daughter

William Redstone a quarry man with his wife, four children and two lodgers

William Coniam a carter with his wife and two sons

William Aggett a thatcher and his wife

Joseph Steer a carpenter with his wife and son

George Edwards a harness maker with his wife and son

1891 Census Hind Street Lane

George Winsor an agricultural labourer, three rooms

George Winsor a bricklayer with his wife and two children, three rooms

William Coniam a coal and wood dealer with his wife and two children, three rooms

William Redstone a stone quarry man with his wife and three children, more than four rooms

William Warner a widowed pottery engraver with his daughter and a Wesleyan Minister lodger, more than four rooms

William Culler a retired Royal Naval with his wife and daughter, three rooms

James Redstone a gardener with his wife and daughter, three rooms

William Daymond a mason with his wife, two children and a lodger, more than four rooms

William Rowe a Head Postman with his wife, a servant and six lodgers including the Baptist Minister

 Mr Webber Spark a widowed retired Inland Revenue supervisor with his two daughters lived at Viewfield which was the house at the top right-hand side of Hind Street (now called Rosemount), more than four rooms

1901 Census Hind Street

Albert Moore a Brickyard Labourer with his wife and two daughters, more than four rooms

George Winsor plumber with his wife and three children, three rooms

Sarah Lavers launderess with her god-daughter and a border, four rooms

William Wyatt insurance agent with his wife and five children, three rooms

Mary Loveys living on her own means with a housekeeper, more than four rooms. This is The Laurels as confirmed by the 1911 Census.

Baptist Chapel

William Warner pottery engraver with three adult daughters, more than 4 rooms

William Redstone a general labourer with his wife and two children, more than 4 rooms

1911 Census Abbey Road and Hind Street

Abbey Road

Abbey Road Samuel Coish hotel cab driver with his wife son and two lodgers, six rooms 

3 Abbey Road John Gaved a gold mineral miner with his wife and child, five rooms

Abbey Road Harold Prettyjohn 35 grocer’s assistant with his wife three children and his uncle five rooms

Abbey Road John Palmer a carpenter with his wife and daughter, five rooms

Hind Street                           

William Redstone a labourer with his wife and daughter, five rooms. His house had caught fire in 1909. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 1901, February 26, p. 2)

John Rothery a bricklayer’s labourer with his wife and five children, four rooms

Samuel Dear a stone mason with his wife and two lodgers, five rooms

William Browning a gardener with his wife, three rooms

1 Hind Street, John Jordan a butler with his wife and two daughters, a three-roomed cottage

The Laurels, Hind Street, Miss Mary Loveys of Independent Means, eight rooms

Rowell House [this was next to the Baptist Church and is now named Hind Street House] Rev. John Way Baptist minister with his wife and six children, nine rooms

Rosemount, Harry Moody of private means with his wife, daughter and two servants, eight rooms