The Ruins of Boveycombe

Extract from Parish Magazine November 2011

If you go down to the woods today…. you might come across a small group of archaeologists and volunteers excavating the site of the ruins of Boveycombe Farm.
For those of you not familiar with the area, if you walk from Heaven’s Gate down to Hisley Bridge, approximately half way down, either side of the bridle path are a few granite walls – all that is left of one of the earliest tenements in the parish.  Prior to work on-site, in depth research into Boveycombe’s past was carried out in our archives room, by one of the archaeological team. We thought it might be interesting to look at a little of the history of this farm, abandoned (for what reason we do not know) probably in the 1940’s.

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Is this the remains of Boveycombe farmhouse? The first building you reach is to the left of the path as you walk downhill.

The Devonshire Lay Subsidy of 1332 is the first real mention of Boveycombe. It was one of the eight tenements of Lustleigh (the others being Pepperdon, Foxworthy, Pethybridge, Mapstone, Caseley, South Harton and Barncourt).  By 1603, the reign of Elizabeth I was over and James I was about to become King. In 1615, Boveycombe was “held by William Grose, rent 8/- 8d, heriot* the best beast and acreage 50 (acres?)”. Richard Caseley, aged 30, held the reversion. This meant that on the death of William, Boveycombe would pass to Richard. By 1628, Nicholas Gray was resident at Boveycombe and the acreage had decreased to 32 acres. Martin Trend held the reversion.

By the next time the Manor of Lustleigh was recorded in 1742, Gilbert Babbacombe farmed Boveycombe’s 33 acres of “land, meadow and pasture” and the rent was £2 10/-. The farm remained in the same family until the 1837 Tithe map shows it in the ownership of John Gould, and occupied by George Wills, the total acreage now recorded as being 69 and a half acres.

The recent history of Boveycombe is patchy, but it is noted in the Archive by Ann Jones, formerly of Lower Hisley, that she and her sister Tish Roberts met George Crocker, who was probably the last person to farm Boveycombe, growing potatoes there in the early 1940s.  The current excavations have revealed that one building, probably the farmhouse as it had remnants of internal lime plaster, straddled the bridle path diagonally. There is also another building – possibly a barn – on the right  as you walk downhill.

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As you continue downhill, you reach the remains of a small building to the right of the bridle path, possibly a barn.

Another mystery is the old cart track that leads to the farm. On the bridle path beneath Lower Hisley it can still be seen on the right hand side. This path followed a route between two fields of Higher Hisley, dropping steeply down through the woods and into the farm.

* Heriot – payment to Lord of Manor on death of the tenant, the best live beast or dead chattel.