The History of Farringdon



There is certainly very little doubt that Farringdon has been in continuous occupation since the Neolithic times, about 5,500 B.C.

Recent flint tool finds suggest Farringdon may well have been occupied during the Palaeolithic period, (Old Stone Age) as far back as 250,000 years ago.  

There are numerous known Roman sites, including a Romano/British farm. A recent find of a Roman oil lamp at Denbow suggests there may well be a villa not too far away.

There is a known Saxon site near Upham farm.

Following the Norman invasion, most of the lands at Farringdon were held by the Chief bowman to William the Conqueror and there is some evidence that he made much of the area into a deer park .

The Church, although rebuilt in the Victorian period, has its origins in the 12th century. The church was almost certainly built on top of a former Pagan site.

The life blood of Farringdon has always been the abundant supply of very pure spring water that reliably bubbles up in numerous places in the village, most notably near Farringdon House and Upham farm.  

Many settlements in Farringdon can be dated back to the 12/13th century, such as Denbow and Crealy. Rosemond House is believed to be on the site of a former Priory.

Throughout all this period the supply of pure water remained vital, with farming being the mainstay of the local economy. The huge number of marl (clay) pits in the area suggests that Farringdon clay has played a vital part in the growth of the whole region. This would have been mostly used for the manufacture of bricks and tiles.

The following information about 

the history of Farringdon has been provided by the Farringdon History Society.....




Farringdon has an abundance of the one thing that historically really matters -- very pure spring water. There is a vast array of springs, notably but not exclusively, at Upham and Farringdon House. Almost every field we’ve checked in Farringdon has a low level of napped Neolithic flint. One field has huge quantities off offcuts and cores and presumably was their favourite clearing to sit down and make their tools. Interestingly though, this field crosses the Parish boundary and not a single piece of flint has been found in the rest of the field on the other side of the boundary.

Could this part of the present Parish boundary have its origins six or seven thousand years ago as a Neolithic tribal boundary? It is known some boundaries are very old indeed, but this would probably hold the record, if true.

A greenstone axe dated to the bronze age has been found at Rhyl Cross some time ago. The History Society has clear evidence of at least one iron age settlement in Farringdon as well as one or more Saxon sites, leaving little doubt that this area has been continuously occupied from Neolithic times, some six thousand years ago or so, until the present times.

Until recently it was generally assumed England was covered with continuous dense forest. Some are now questioning this suggesting there is plenty of evidence of large herds of grazing animals, that need open meadows to graze. They also graze off young tree saplings, preventing the spread of trees in the grazed areas. A modern field of cows is a prime example. With all this spring water here to drink, trees would not stand much of a chance to get established. It is also suggested that felling a tree with a flint axe ( or fire) is very hard work indeed, so the first Neolithic settlers would have simply settled in the more open meadow areas. With so much evidence of Neolithic man having lived right through the Farringdon area it is reasonable to assume much of Farringdon has always fairly open park land, with maybe a few patches of denser woodland. As the name "Farringdon" is believed to originate from "fern down" we must also assume some of the higher areas, at least in Norman times, was more like Woodbury Common is now.



The history of Farringdon House seems very disjointed, with much of the 19th century being owned by Bishops Court and rented out. 

We recently obtained a copy of the auction catalogue of the contents of the house on 17th and 18th December 1918. This is fascinating reading and gives an insight into the type of life enjoyed by the landed gentry of the time. This was just prior to the Putnams moving into the house.

There seems to be some confusion over exactly who owned Farringdon House in the 16th century. Extracts from the Devon Association in 1900 clearly state Thomas Hunt owned both Farringdon House and the manor house at Chudleigh. Canon Senar’s book gives precise dates for the Farringdon family owning it until 1667 when the Farringdon sisters sold it to John Cholwich. One can only presume both are right, but not talking about the same manor house.

It is not known the exact age of the present Farringdon House, but is not thought to date back further than the 1600s.

Click here for the story of the Putnams of Farringdon House 


There are several coats of arms associated with Farringdon, and we hope to make copies of these in future projects. We have pictures of two coats of arms for the Denbow family, probably different

branches. The Hunt family went to great efforts in the 16th century to prove their connection to an earlier Hunte and so benefit from the Family name including the crest.

As the "Farringdon" family were descendants of the Norman conquest, who introduced coats of arms, it is reasonable to assume they had one as well. Likewise, Crealy dates back to Doomsday and almost certainly the owners had armorial rights as well. All we have to do is find them and prove they are the right ones.

The system is further complicated as officially all coats of arms must be recognised by The College of Arms. There are many hundreds of family crests that are not recognised by them for various reasons.



In 1757 a Mr. Dean Milles et al. issued the following questions to the incumbent of every Parish in Devon.

1/  What quantity of acres under orchard.

2/  What sort of apples are planted, or are found to agree best with the soil?

3/  What quantity of cider is generally made yearly?

4/  Is it remarkable for its goodness? Is it of the rough or sweet sort?

5/  And what is the usual value of it per hogshead at the pounds mouth?

FARRINGDON reported the following:-

1/  One 20th of ye parish may be orcharding.

2/  The sweeter kind tho’ ye rougher are much planted.

3/  N(escio) perhaps 200 hogsheads.

4/  Very remarkable. Rough and sweet.

5/  A great bearing 10s at other times 16s or 20s. (1s = 5p)


1/  About 120 acres

2/  The North side of the Parish is a good soil for apples, but the fruit (as to kind and sort) wants to be improved. In the light ground at Newton the cider has no body.

3/  Sometimes 1,200 or more. Sometimes none.

4/  Both but mostly rough. Good but not the best.

5/  From 10s to 20s per hhd.

For comparison, EAST DOWN reported:-

1/ 10 acres

2/ No particular sorts

3/ Ten hogsheads

4/ Good-for-nothing upon ye evidence of ye Parish.

Before modern factories and the understanding of yeast and bacteria infection, cider making was very rule of thumb. There was three main disorders that could effect a batch. One was called "Cider sickness" and is a bacillus that in addition to producing alcohol, makes a most unpleasant additional chemical, that spoils the aroma and flavour. Another was "Ropiness". Hence the phrase "a bit ropy". The cider became literally thick and pored in long strings. The third, is when air gets to the cider and it goes vinegary.

Devon Association 1900

Science & Fruit. Long Ashton research station.

The early years


The "naughty girls" school at Farringdon House, as it is sometimes affectionately called, started life as the Devon and Exeter reformatory School, an institution for the industrial training of juvenile offenders - that is, for girls up to the age of 16 years, who had been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment. They spent a short time in an adult prison, followed by up to 5 years in Devon and Exeter Reformatory, which was a certified Reformatory School. The order for detention was made by the Court.  

Voluntary reformatories for young people had been opened by the Philanthropic Society and by private founders in the early 19th century. However, juvenile delinquency was viewed with such increasing concern that in the 1840s, a select Committee of the House of Lords was set up, and this resulted in the passing of two Youth Offenders’ Acts in 1854. The Acts required the Home Office to certify certain recognised institutions, which came to be known as Certified Reformatories and Certified Industrial Schools. Reformatories were classified differently from Industrial Schools, which were for potential, and not actual, offenders.

Devon And Exeter reformatory and Refuge for girls was certified on 26th June 1858, and was situated in Polsloe Road, Exeter. The premises also housed a refuge for discharged prisoners which had moved in 1858 from Lawn Lodge, Sidwell Street, Exeter.

The female reformatory was a residential school, where clothing, food and lodging were supplied whilst the girls were given training. In reality, punishment was also an essential part of a very strict regime, which included hard labour.

In 1927, the institution became the Devon and Exeter Girls’ training School, and on moving in 1960, it was renamed Farringdon House School, after its new premises. The records from the school are held at the Devon Records Office in Exeter and are subject to the 100 year closure from the date of the last entry.

The earliest records start in 1859, presumably the date of the school actually receiving girls.

Typical entries are as follows:-

1859 Copy of warrant, Eliza Hooper of Kidderminster, Worcestershire, to be imprisoned in House of Correction, Worcestershire and afterwards at reformatory school.

1859 Quarter Sessions Order for detention at Dover Borough House of Correction, and afterwards at reformatory school, Clara Squire of Dover, Kent.

Other early names include Margaret Ann Marshall, of Exeter, Jane Coombs of Frome, Lydia Coles of Frome, Mary Ann Price, of Birmingham.

Shortly after their committal to prison, there are entries from Doctors, such as the following:-

Certified by Dr. Solomon, surgeon, Borough prison, that Mary Ann Price is free from disease and fit to be removed to the reformatory school (1860)




Following on from the Tree walk in Farringdon last April, the history society, assisted by Kate Tobin from East Devon’s Great Tree project, conducted a full survey of all the oldest trees in Farringdon, mostly oak.

A pattern rapidly emerged, suggesting all the land around Farringdon formed part of an ancient Deer Park. This is not too surprising, as the custom of deer parks came from the Norman invaders and the land around Farringdon was owned by the chief bowman to William the Conqueror himself. If he and his decedents, didn’t like deer hunting, then who did?  

Checking on the maps of 1880 also gave a bit of a clue. In the middle of the fields, just North of Shutebridge, the land is named "The Park". Likewise the copse at Marwood Cross, on the airport road is named "Deer Park Copse".

Those who have read Canon Senar’s book, will know that Perkins Village (shown as Parkyns village on the 1880 map) traditionally came from Park End. This now gives meaning to the origin of the name and some sort of shape and parkland area is emerging.

Of all the trees measured, the largest circumference tree is an oak growing in the paddock owned by Anne & Michael Pursey of Meadow Lodge, The Drive. This tree measures a massive 7 metres round and is estimated as between 6 and 7 hundred years old. The next oldest is 6.4 metres, near the road in windmill field.

With the owners permission all the largest trees have been registered on the local East Devon and National tree registers.

To celebrate the oldest tree in Farringdon, and by way of thank-you to Anne & Michael for allowing us onto their land the tree has been formally named for posterity, on the registers as "Anne’s Great Oak"

It is traditionally stated an oak grows for three hundred years, rests for three hundred years and then gracefully declines for three hundred years. Anne’s Great oak is in excellent health and should easily see out all of us!