View of open fields - Eastern Urban Development Extension
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Historical Interest



In 2003 Nick Smart wrote in his book ‘Devon and the Second World War’ (Mint Press)


“Devon (in 1941) was the largest English or Welsh county in the Ministry of Agriculture’s

 Book covering one million areas of cultivated land, making it the largest agricultural production unit in the land”.


With the recent county-wide rash of development, one wonders what position Devon now holds?



Local Additions to Heritage Assets 

 Following representation from West Manley Lane Conservation Group the following were added to MDDC Heritage Assets Register in September 2014:


Flint Scatter (Manley Field) West Manley Lane

see Prehistoric West Manley Lane below


Old Drovers Track

These are added to the exisiting Listed Buildings of Poole Anthony Farm and Prowses Farm House.


Prehistoric West Manley Lane

Download PDF from the Reports and Documents Page.

In pre historic times West Manley Lane and its surrounding area was considered to be very important (Tiverton Archaeology Group TAG 2007). TAG carried out work in the area and thanks to the permission of the late Colin Glendinning of Pool Anthony Farm his fields were worked on as well. TAG found prodigious amounts of prehistoric flint and chert some of which were probably used since Mesolithic times. It is thought that Ailsa Brook and the surrounds 'provided an ideal position from which to prey on fish, fowl and deer in this fertile bowl'. This would be in keeping with the transition from old Mesolithic sites to the proliferation of Neolithic and Bronze age sites along the sunny slopes above the Lowman River.

More recently (summer 2013) Edward Salter found more prehistoric artifacts in the same area as below.


Mesolithic core stone & two Neolithic/early Bronze Age arrowheads


Medieval pilgrim's badge found in the area of proposed building Mar 2015

"The pelican in her piety a medieval image. The pelican is said so to love her chicks that she gives them blood from her own chest. Likewise Christ gives us His body and blood, his very self in the Eucharist". Quote from Hereford cathedral.



The above phoyographs show a medieval pilgrim's badge found in the locality of the proposed EUE. The badge is copper alloy with some gilding remaining. It shows a pelican. This was a symbol of christianity in medieval times. The Portable Antiquities Scheme archaeologists are unable to put an exact date on it but the likelihood is that it is 14th or 15th century.

Devon County Sites and Monuments Register-Tiverton WML

Map of survey area

Map of finds

Finds page 1

Finds page 2

Finds page 3

Find page 4

Reproducted with the permission of Barbara Keene Tiverton Archeological Group

The Old Railway Walk:  the former Tiverton Branch line

By 1830, Tiverton was the third biggest town in Devon and strategically placed in middle of the county. It was already on the route of the Grand Western Canal (a branch on the grand scheme to link the Bristol Channel to the English Channel) with a branch to the quarries at Westleigh and Burlescombe.

By 1841, Brunel's broad gauge track ran between Paddington and Bristol and the following year it progressed to Taunton. In 1844, the line advanced to Exeter with a potential station en route at "Tiverton Road". Interestingly, both the main line and the canal preferred the Culm Valley to the Exe Valley because of the wider flood plain and the less variable gradient.

In 1848, following the completion of the aqueduct to carry the canal over the railway near Halberton in the previous year, the Tiverton Branch Line was completed and "Tiverton Road" was renamed "Tiverton Junction".

The line was some 43/4 miles in length, originally planned as double track broad gauge and was opened on 12 June 1848, at which time the station at Tiverton was unfinished such was the rush to complete; the first train was "Bristol and Exeter No 58.

By 1876, the Tiverton Branch Line, the North Devon Railway and other local lines had become part of the Great Western Railway and by 1884 the track had changed from broad gauge (7' 01/4") to standard gauge (4' 81/2"). In 1927, Halberton Halt was opened. At its busiest, ten to twelve trips per day were made taking an average of twelve minutes to complete one way but by 1964, now owned by British Rail and under the infamous Beeching cuts, the line closed for passenger traffic, to be followed by freight in 1967.

A visit to the Tiverton Museum to view the related artefacts and a glimpse of the Tivvy Bumper No 1442 is a must. For more information, read John Owen's "The Exe Valley Railway" and Mitchell and Smith's "Branch Lines Around Tiverton" which have been consulted in the writing of this history.

Finally, solve the puzzle of the track's mile long Bramley apple orchard, and the danger of the aqueduct's icicles!


Steam Trains  on the Old Railway Track

This is a photo of a 4800 class tank engine leaving Halberton Halt to Tiverton Junction taken in August 1963. The short platform which is under the bridge is hidden by the engine and train. The Auto coach is one of the later BR pattern, named carriages, possibly 'Thrush' Great Western.

Extract from: 'Images of Exeter and East Devon Railways'  photograph from The Maurice Dart Collection: Halsgrove 2008


Below a photo of the locally named 'Tivvy Bumper' No. 1442 in its last shed, the railway gallery at Tiverton mueum. Lord Amory bought the engine and presented it to the town. Beofre its removal, it stood in the old timber yard on Blundell's Road.


Locomotive No. 58 around the 1840s. One of the Bristol and Exeter Railway Company's engines which started to run to Tiverton from Tiverton Road (Tiverton Junction) in 1848.



Beeching's axe closed the Tiverton Juction line to passengers in 1964 and the Exe Valley line in 1963.

Extract from 'Tiverton and the Exe Valley' by Mary de la Mahotiere Phillimore 1990.



Some information on the bridges of the Railway and Canal Walks 


The railway era brought forth a great flurry of bridge building, with land for the Exe Valley line bought up from 1876. Bridging the Exe was the biggest challenge:


a) Westexe Railway Bridge By November 1881 the piers were in place. A manuscript notebook in Tiverton Museum describes the construction thus: “It is built throughout with fitted rubble masonry of Westleigh stone and has Ham Hill stone coping, string, voussoir caps etc. It has three piers, four spans of 35 feet clear, each pier from foundations to springing at 16 feet. The rise of the arch is 7ft 6in.” The

bridge was exceptional in that all the other bridges in the Exe Valley were of iron.


b) Lowman Railway Bridge Where the Exe Valley railway crossed the Lowman an iron trough girder was provided, with flood opening close by, “to provide for floods when the Lowman becomes exceedingly swollen.”

c) The branch line to North Devon also had to cross the Lowman on its way north.

More railway bridges were necessary, for example, over the mill leat to the Roller Mills in Westexe South, and over tributaries. Where Cotteybrook reaches the Exe at Ashley, the stream was culverted under the railway line and a road bridge constructed over railway and stream. Here, striking brickwork forming the roof of the bridge can, with difficulty, still be viewed under the A396 Exeter road, at the

bottom of Palmerston Woods. The railway also called for several road bridges to be built - from Station Road to Canal Hill, on Blundell’s Road, Cowleymoor Road and Brickhouse Hill - all now gone. In St Andrew Street, on 6 September 1882, the Exeter Flying Post records “considerable excitement” caused by the collapse of a temporary bridge put up to carry traffic over the deep railway cutting whilst a

permanent bridge was being constructed. Today the cutting carries Great Western Way and the road bridge has given way to a high footbridge linking lower Andrew Street to its upper half.


The Exe Valley Railway opened on 1 May 1885 and closed to passengers in 1963, with the carriage of freight continuing until 1975. Despite efforts by Mary de la Mahotiere and others, the impressive Westexe Bridge of four arches was demolished on 3 June 1993


Some Bridges on Tributaries

In addition to the bridges mentioned above, there were many small bridges over tributaries. Historically, the most important of these was Wellsbrook or Willbrooke Bridge, in Westexe, mentioned in the schedule of repairs in 1614, and in the Turnpike Act of 1758. The bridge crossed the Wellbrook at the junction of Wellbrook Street and Westexe North, just before the stream entered the Exe. Both stream and

bridge had been lost by 1845, and Harding explains (vol I, bk 1, p47) that the stream had been turned. Thus, the ancient stream which gave the name to Wellbrook Street had fallen foul of the early water engineers who were creating leats from the River Exe throughout Westexe. After flowing north east from Seven Crosses, the stream was turned at the bottom of the hill, where Seven Crosses Road meets Higher

Wellbrook Street, to flow due south as Cotteybrook, reaching the Exe at Ashley.

Another bridge with an interesting history is the Ailsa Brook footbridge, on a path between Blundell's Road (opposite the Jet service station) and Old Road. This is an important relic from Tiverton's railway era. It comes from the footbridge at Tiverton Station, by which passengers crossed from one platform to the other. Rescued at demolition, known affectionately then and now as the 'Tin Bridge', the riveted steel panels were cut down for its present position, right beside the Railway

Walk. As Ailsa Brook approaches the roundabout on Great Western Way, it enters a culvert, only to re-appear when it is disgorged into the Lowman close to the Tiverton Hotel, which you can see when walking along the Lowman path in the Recreation Ground. An almost forgotten tributary of the Lowman flows alongside Chapel Street, beside the allotments.


The Great Western Canal

Also, of course, there is the splendid set of bridges over the Grand Western Canal, built in 1810-14, their stone reflecting the local geology, each bridge with masons’ marks. Where the canal crossed the Bristol & Exeter railway branch line from Tiverton Junction to Tiverton, a fine aqueduct was built in 1847. It is an iron trough on two cast iron arches enclosed in brickwork, the second arch because it was expected that the line would be doubled. Today it is still impressive, standing 40 feet above the Railway Walk near Halberton.

Prowses Farmhouse in West Manley Lane

Farmhouse. Probably C16. Rendered cob with stone rubble plinth; water reed thatched roof; stone end stacks including
external stack to left. 2-room plan plus lean-to possible extension on the right and former probable cider loft at rear
left rebuilt 1993-4 as domestic wing.
EXTERIOR: 2 storeys plus lean-to on the right; 3-window range with doorway approximately central to the 2-storey part. Old
planked door; 1993-4 casement windows.
INTERIOR: has original smoke-blackened purlins and some  rafters above an otherwise probable C18 roof structure.
Room on the left has large partly-blocked C17 fireplace and a broad-chamfered oak crossbeam.  Room right of entrance hall has a hollow-chamfered oak  crossbeam and probable re-used head of C16 former muntin and plank screen as end beam on the right; C17 fireplace with  later oven and re-used chamfered oak beam (with blocked joist sockets) as replacement lintel.
Prowses Farmhouse has the superficial character and appearance of an C18 house, but as with many Devon houses, on closer
examination there is evidence for a much older fabric.

Historically important Tidcombe Fen showing Tussock Grass on a January morning 2014

Tidcombe Fen July 2012

Tidcombe Fen Tussock grass Sep 2012






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