Borough Trail Walk



TITHE Map 1841 by kind permission of Devon Heritage Centre

Bovey became a borough in 1260.   Henry de Tracy, Lord of the Manor, encouraged trades people to settle here.  He granted them narrow strips  of land each with a front on a main street. They could grow crops and sell their wares.  The plots were called burgage plots, and the owners were burgesses.  Twelve of the burgesses were appointed to sit on the  Court Leet which managed  matters relating to the  borough and law and order until 1883.  The grant gives a general description of the borough’s boundaries.  It is not until the Church Rate list of 1596 that we have a tangible description of the extent of the borough.

START your walk at the Information Centre in the Station Road car park,  cross at the pedestrian crossing. Turn left, pass the Bovey Weavers and  the Dolphin Hotel, and continue to St. John’s Lane.  This area marks the boundary of the borough as it was recorded in 1596.

On the opposite side of the road is a house called Pludda.  Pludda means a pool or swamp.



Along Albert Terrace you can still see the old thatched buildings.

Retrace your steps. The land on your left, including the Dartmoor Garage, was the site of the ancient mill.   A mill was noted in the Domesday record of  1086 and would have been somewhere here. The mill leats can still be seen on both sides of the road.  These leats also provided ‘pot water’ for residents, but probably it was not clean enough to drink.

Continue to The Dolphin Hotel. This is where the Manor and Borough Courts met towards the end of the nineteenth century. Look up the road towards newton Abbot. This is where Stray Park was, the field where stray cattle were  impounded and only released on payment of a fine – an earner for the borough.

Continue walking back to the pedestrian crossing.  The car park was the site of several cottages. They were built on marshy land where some of the poorest inhabitants lived.  The field behind belonged to the Indio estate and was not part of the borough.

Go towards the river bridge and just before crossing take a few steps into Mill Marsh Park. Look how shallow the river is. This is where the river was forded  and was still being used as an animal crossing in the late 1800s.

Ford Across the River Bovey

Cross the river and stop at Parkelands. Look across to Le Molay Littry Way.  The first of the ancient fields on the right was in the borough, and it was used as a water meadow for early spring grass to feed lambs. This meant it was a field of high value. The fields further along on the right were too valuable for the Lord to relinquish so they were not borough land. All the land on the left, now mainly built on, was borough land as far as  Bradley Bends. These bends mark the end of the borough and were on the ancient route to Chudleigh and Exeter.

Continue on, up Fore Street. Houses on both sides had burgage plots. Union Square is part of the ancient triangle of roads joining up the significant dwellings of the borough. The Cromwell Arms was previously called The Union before that it was The Lamb, and the Court Leet met here in the early nineteenth century before the Dolphin Hotel was built.

Union Square

Carry on up Fore Street to Town Hall Place.

In 1210 Eva de Tracy obtained a grant for markets to be held, and the grant for fairs  was 40 years later. The market and fairs were sited here on what  was a green in historic times.   The Town Council possesses the  original market weights, measures  and staves, which are preserved  in the Town Hall. The town’s water  pump was also here.

Town Hall Cross

South of the Town Hall, behind the business premises, is thought to be the site of one of the original open fields. This has now been built on.  It would have been a field used  communally in strips.  Bear right along East Street to Pound Place. A cider press was found here. This is also part of the area close to the village green where animals would have been penned on market days.

Along East Street the houses on the left still have parts of their original burgage plots.  Many of the plots ended in cider orchards, and are still orchards today. The original houses were called tenements in historic documents, they did not have numbers and were known by the name of the landowner. The Tithe Map of  1841 illustrates these plots.  The Manor House is one of the  oldest and most prestigious houses  in the borough. A person of  importance, such as the reeve, is likely to have lived her, but the lord lived elsewhere.

Continue until you reach Trough Lane. This marks the point on the road where the borough stops. In some boroughs you can still see evidence of where chains were pulled across the road to ensure visitors paid a toll on market day.  No evidence of the use of chains has been found for Bovey, but if they were used this is one of the borough entries where they might have been. You can see the church from here, it was not in the borough.  Fields on the right were in the borough leading down to ‘Bradley Bends’.

Go up Trough Lane, continuing along a footpath. Stop at the entrance to the field on the left which has a telecommunication mast. This is one of the two Portreeve’s Parks of the borough. The portreeve had the revenue from these fields to pay for borough celebrations such as beating the bounds. Look at the view.

Portreeve’s Park

You can see Parke, this house is on the site of the original manor. An impressive place for the lord to reside.

Retrace your steps back to the Town Hall and continue right along Mary Street. The houses on the right have the best preserved burgage plots. You will pass Hind Street which used to be called Hen Street, and made up the borough’s triangle of streets.   Continue up to Cross Cottage and beware of traffic when the pavement stops. In the wall is one of the ancient crosses of the borough. It used to be further up the road but was moved to permit widening.

Cross at Cross Cottage

Carry on to Atway cottages. They were in the borough, but Atway farm was not.  A little further on, just before the bypass you can hear water flowing. This is Beera Brook. The borough stopped at Beera Tenements sited near here.  Opposite Atway Cottages go down Southbrook Lane. The field on your right is the second Portreeve’s Park.


Portreeve’s Park

Turn left at the bypass.  After a few metres take the footpath on the left, then turn right along the path and into the field which was called Peas Close and was part of Atway farm on the 1841 Tithe Map. The field was valuable and was not in the borough, but the land above on your left was.

Continue along the footpath and at the end take a flight of steps left into

Cromwell’s Way.  You are now back in the borough. The fields which were once above would have backed on to the Hind Street burgage plots.    Return along Abbey Road to Union Square and back down to the river.

If you want to extend your walk return to the car park, leave the borough and take the Mill Marsh Lane footpath up on the left. Sit at the top and admire the view of the borough, its burgageplots, and some ancient fields systems on the hills to both left and right just beyond the borough boundaries.



The borough and its court continued for over six hundred years until the Municipal Corporations Act of 1883. Bovey Tracey then became part of Newton Abbot Rural District, and later Bovey Tracey Town Council. It still has a mayor and councillors, and charity work of the borough continues under the Bovey Tracey Town Trust.



Posted June 2017