Medieval Relics Timelines: All, Norman (1066 - 1154)


The crown may have granted the manor of Bideford to Sir Richard de Granville in reward for his service in Wales, for it made strategic sense. The Granville family also held the Manor of Stowe, just over the border in Cornwall, and were thus well placed to defend their stake in the Norman’s newly acquired Welsh territories. However, later in life Granville, returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, stopped at Cyprus, where the Lord rebuked him in a dream for taking the Welsh territories. Upon his return, a repentant Sir Richard resolved to restore the land to any rightful claimants and to give the unclaimed land to God and his saints forever. He then set about a program of church building that included the construction of the Abbey at Neath (founded in 1129). Sir Richard died in the abbey, leaving his brother to finalise the transfer of the lordship to the Church. In later life he had done much to reconcile his family to the natives of South Wales, thereby removing potential barriers to trade, for that region was a natural market for Bideford pottery, whilst Bideford could benefited from Welsh coal and lime.

At some point a larger Norman construction was built around the existing Saxon church on the site of St Mary’s, but the much quoted date of c. 1259 is incorrect (thanks to an antiquarian misreading Bridford, in S. Devon, as Bideford). The style of the scant physical evidence from that original building point to an early Norman construction, making it is possible that the abbey-building Sir Richard de Granville had a hand in it. The Granvilles certainly had a vested interest in St. Mary’s as the advowson was annexed to the manor of Bideford, giving them the right to present a candidate when the benefice came vacant.

Much of what is now East-the-Water is built on a grange. Granges were typically areas of land, linked to a monastic settlement or the house of a feudal lord (though often some distance from it) and used for food production. There would often be some form of grain store on a grange and some early maps mark a Grange Barn near what is now Barton Tors. The name Barton is consistent with this, as it derives from the Anglo-Saxon for an area, typically an enclosed courtyard, used to store the equipment and agricultural produce of a sele or wic (i.e. a nobelman’s house or manor). The Grange Barn area later developed into a farmstead known as Barton Farm, before being lost to modern estates.