Hartland Digital Archive

Hartland Digital Archive

Hartland Digital Archive (2002 – 2011)

The Digital Archive Project commenced in 2002 with an award from Tarka Millennium Awards, this has been followed by further grants from such as The Bideford Bridge Trust, The Federation of Master Builders (SW), North Devon Athenaeum, Torridge District Council (Councillors grants). This allowed for the purchase of specialist equipment and consumables to make digital copies of the numerous documents still held within collections attached to Hartland, N. Devon.

The archive materials cover the period from 1400 until the present day and include the archives of: the Borough of Harton, St. Nectan's Church, the Parochial Church Council, the Parish Council, the Harton Town Trust, the Prust and Gregory papers, MSS of Richard Pearse Chope (a local antiquarian) and many public and private papers of the 19th and early 20th. centuries.

The Register of the Parish of Hartland, complete from 1558, was used as a resource by CAMPOP as one of its primary resources, and the accounts of St. Nectan’s Church (1597-1704), have been published. Hartland material from the Lay Subsidies of 1331 and 1524, the Muster Roll of 1569, the Protestation Roll of 1643 and Hearth Tax of 1674 have been utilized by recent researchers, while individual documents were studied by R. P. Chope.

We are fortunate in that a substantial body of documents from the 16th to 19th centuries has now come to light as a result of our programme. This includes a number of complete Rate and Tithe books with details of persons and holdings from the 16th century onwards, Poor Relief books in detail, Overseers Books, numerous settlement and bastardy papers, land conveyances, to name but a few.

The Project has also digitised records for other bodies including Morwenstow Parish Council, Cornwall, The Rolle Canal Society and the Federation of Master Builders (SW). The later contains some 22,000 document pages mainly from the Gloucester and Bristol regions and commence c.1800 continuous until the re-organisation of the regions in c.2007. There is fascinating detail of the methods of operation of the Federations in regard to contracts and employees, apprenticeship details and an extensive collection relating to members operations in times of war. The rebuilding of Bristol is covered within this section.

The largest single collection recorded is that of the document archive of the Stucley family of Hartland Abbey.

Hartland Records:

When looking at the Parish or Hundred of Hartland one must appreciate that it was effectively divided into Manorial and Monastic. The Monastic records are probably lost, however the Manorial records (c.1100 – c.1600) exist in the Arundel collection held at the Cornwall Records Office, Truro.

The Dinham family, as Lords of the Manor of Hartland from c.1100 - 1501, held the majority of the non-monastic lands of the parish. Their accounts and dealings are extensive and two studies have been made of their archive, one by Fox & Padel concentrates on the Cornish lands of the Arundel’s but contains numerous references to Hartland. The second is an unpublished thesis by Dr Hannes Kleineke on the Dinham family and uses the Arundel archive extensively in his work. On the death of the last Dinham, Lord John in 1501, the estate was arranged into the benefit for four portions between his sisters. This brought a prolonged period when the joint ownership in a property has complicated any research. To this can be added a certain amount of fluidity in the right of ownerships particularly in the 17th & 18th Centuries.

We can therefore, within the Hartland Abbey Archive, discover a variety of documentation relating to Manorial properties. In particular numerous Manorial Court Rolls for the manors of Stoke, Southole, Week St Mary, Launcells, Newton St Petrock and Poundstock amongst others. The manors of Meddon and Milford, within the present Hartland parish, were always outside the control of either the Monastic or indeed the Dinhams. These manors falling by inheritance to the Waddon-Martin family of Morwenstow. Similarly the parishes of Clovelly and Woolfardisworthy, which were within the Hartland Hundred, have little or no documentation within Hartland records.

Hartland Abbey has one of the larger collections of papers still in private hands within Devon. The collection is not available for inspection although a representative sample is always on display when the house is open to the public.

The discovery of the collection was by the fortune of a rainy day, when Sir Dennis Stucley and his sister decided to inspect some of the miscellaneous boxes and trunks stored in various locations within the buildings. This revealed extensive sets of document bundles of all types and further searches later added to the collection.

The Historic Manuscripts Commission (HMC) inspected the collection and numerous papers were taken to London. A Col. Mallett produced a basic index which was in use until recently when Louise Rose from the North Devon Records Office spent many hours of her own time attempting to sort and catalogue the papers. The index she produced has been the base information for many years and a copy of the index is available for viewing at the North Devon Records Office.

Since 2006 the papers are once again being indexed and if possible digitally imaged. This is being undertaken as part of the Hartland Digital Archive Project; the aim being to bring into the research arena a collection of interesting and important documents by way of the digital capture.

The first point to say is that the previous indexes were incomplete. Col. Mallett’s being no more than a cursory recording and that Louise Rose indexed by the bundles in which the papers were stored. However Louise Rose did accomplish the better storage of the papers within suitable boxes and the more fragile are protected by tissue and each within its own container.

In the course of digitisation each individual document is being indexed and the numbering sequence established by Louise Rose is extended to incorporate the additional content thus backward compatible. The benefit being gained is the greater detail of the archive content and just how extensive the coverage is.

Scope of the Hartland Abbey Archive:

Pre Dissolution:

The history of the Abbey estate is well documented and one may expect the archive materials to follow the estate history. However there is very little material that can be associated with the religious establishment excepting where it is closely linked by way of property leases in the subsequent private ownership. As far as I am aware there is no known deposit of the records of the monastic house other than those in central hands. It must be assumed that during the final rush of the Dissolution that any archive was not considered of importance and thus has been lost. (Unless anyone knows different?)

1539 – 1583

The document collection starts with the papers of the Abbat family who purchased the Abbey in 1560 admittedly there is not a large collection and that that exists are property indentures. It is possible that the Abbat family managed the whole estate and did not enter into leaseholds on the various properties. There is little in the way of private papers of the Abbats.

1583 – c.1700

The Luttrell family having by marriage gained the estate were slightly more adventurous in its management. They entered into a number of property indentures often over a number of lives and on stringent conditions. Therefore the document collection reflects their activities.

1700 – 1812

The marriage between Paul Orchard and Mary Luttrell marked the expansion of the document archive. The Orchard family held extensive property in north Cornwall, Devon and Somerset. Charles Orchard, father of Paul, was Officer of Customs for Devon based at Exeter, he also held the office of Under Sheriff of Devon (both in the period c.1685 - c.1710). A series of correspondence with Charles Orchard as Officer of Customs exists for the period of his office and runs into may hundreds of letters, all previously unknown.

The combining of the two estates brought together the bulk of the early documentation, although heavily weighted towards the Orchard collection. Paul Orchard's further marriages expanded the estate into other regions in particular the marriage to Rebecca Smith, whose father was an Alderman of London, enhanced their standing substantially. The property brought in by this marriage covered substantial areas of London especially around St. Thomas and in Isleworth.

1812 – 1824

Paul Orchard (2nd) with his wife Bettina enjoyed the benefit of the estates and enhanced it for their pleasure but the records do not show Bettina as such a strong character as her Mother in law Rebecca who ran the estate as a widow for many years. The passing into the hands of Hooper-Morrison did not produce much in the way of documentation, he enjoying the benefit for a short period.

1824 – Date

The second major increase in documentation happens with inheritance of the Buck family of Daddon, Bideford. The Buck's were a major trading family engaged extensively in the tobacco trade, holding estates in Maryland and Virginia; they held extensive amounts of property in and around Bideford. A proportion of the Bideford archive has been deposited at the North Devon Records Office. On the granting of a Baronetcy to George Stucley Buck they took the name Stucley this from an earlier Buck/Stucley marriage to Susanna the last in the Stucley line

The Marriage of Sir Dennis Stucley to Lady Sheila Bampfylde further joined two large estates. The Bampfyldes having left Poltimore House, near Exeter, for Court House, North Molton the residue of the personals have been appended to the Hartland Archive. This again is a substantial collection of materials much previously unseen. The estate property leases and the account ledgers provide a very detailed insight into the estates operations.

Intermixed with the later collection are also papers from the Stucley, of Affton, archive. Much of the archive was lost whilst in storage at their solicitor’s office at Exeter during the World War II bombing. The remainder was returned to Affton and has gradually become mixed into the Hartland collection.

The emphasis of the estate up until the 20th Century was largely as a sporting estate. The majority of the property leases reserving the rights to hunt over grounds to the benefit of the owners. Often a sub-clause would oblige the tenant to provide a hound or housing and keep for such; one document refers to the tenant having to provide suitable hawks as may be needed. A similar sub-clause refers to the benefit of timber, woods, saplings or underwood etc which were without exception reserved unless a small amount was allowed for agreed repairs to buildings as part of the tenancy. An interesting detail from within the estate ledgers are the change from thatched roofs on dwellings and farm buildings to the use of slate. This was an extensive programme of rebuilding.

Apart from a period of manorial stewardship by the Arundel family and also the Steward of the Earl of Bath the manor was often operated in absentia. This did not however assist in the day to day needs of such a large parish and therefore the owners of the Abbey Estate often fulfilled the necessary parish civic positions. This in turn generated documentation much of which has been deposited within the archive.

The majority of recorded materials are available on CD/DVD at the North Devon Records Office for viewing. The Hartland Abbey material is pending public release. The Hartland Digital Archive Project ended in the spring of 2011, a small amount of digital recording remains to complete the outstanding collections.

Conclusions: A record base of some 400,000 digital page images have been created, held four well attended exhibitions, given around 60 talks/presentations. The project has engaged the community on a number of levels. Funding from various sources has enabled a variety of associated projects in areas such as archaeology, history, landscape, ecclesiology, genealogy. It is estimated that over the nine years around 3000 people have either been engaged directly or facilitated themselves of the project materials including schools and disadvantaged groups.

With the University of Exeter a series of community archaeology projects has expanded our knowledge of the early coastal and high ground landscape, similarly the Poltimore House Project (Exeter) is aiming to draw on materials to enhance their work, guided by the University of Exeter archaeology and history schools. It is pleasing to see that the Hartland Digital Archive materials are being cited and used in numerous publications and drawn on by such as local authorities, archaeology contractors, architects, authors, English Heritage, A.O.N.B. researchers and students. In particular it is pleasing to see a number of people be inspired by their surroundings and have gone on to undertake further and higher education studies.

Spin offs from the experience gained has been advising other proposed projects, establishing catalogue programmes for a number of institutions. In particular the collection of the North Devon Athenaeum when c.70,000 items were recorded and are now available to reference online (

Recommendations: This is the more difficult aspect in as far as the project engaged the community but relied completely on the tenacity of its originator to assemble the outcomes. Any community group who is considering engaging themselves in such a project should be aware that it is costly, time consuming, addictive, frustrating, and is never complete or future proof. It is not an alternative to paper, photographic print or books. Some digital content can degrade after as little as three years and needs a constant scheme of replacement. On the bright side it will bring more materials into the public domain in a way that does not degrade the original Would I attempt another such project – probably not!

Stephen Hobbs; archive holder, Email

Brian H. Warmington, MA (Camb.) formerly Reader in Ancient History,
University of Bristol and Hon. Fellow in Classics University of Exeter.