image-jpeg-huntshaw cross transmitter
The Huntshaw Cross transmitter

This very tall and busy mast stands next to the B3232 a short way North East of Great Torrington. It is a main station TV transmitter for this area of Devon and also has many of the North Devon coast relays dependent on it

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  © Copyright David Neale and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence




Huntshaw has little mention in books, not because it lacks historical interest, but because its position is secluded. A glance at the Ordnance Survey Map, will show there are no less than 10 hills with a steeper gradient than 1 in 7. Huntshaw Cross (by the mast) the most eastern point of the parish is one of the highest points for miles around. According to records, the actual point is 681 feet above sea level. It is possible to see Lundy Island and the coast of Barnstaple Bay. The word Huntshaw was interpreted to mean 'Honey Wood'. The idea may have been suggested by the sweetness of the water, or there may have been swarms of bees in the nearby woods. Huntshaw is comparatively rich in historical interest. On the extreme border of the parish in a field known as Burrow Park (3 miles north of Torrington) are two tumuli or ancient burial mounds dating from historic times. There are 3 others close by in Torrington. These tumuli were explored and one of the most interesting finds was a bronze dagger, nine and a half inches long, which is now in Exeter Museum. Berry Castle is the earliest record of any form of civilisation at Huntshaw and is the Early British Camp. Originally it was a spur-sited Iron Age defensive work. The outline of the camp is still perceptible.


The Domesday Book (a record of survey of the land in England, carried out by William I commissioners in 1086) provides the first written record of Huntshaw. The translation of what is known as the Exeter Book is as follows: 'The land of William Capra in Devenesira'. William owned a manor called Huneseua (Huntshaw Barton). He did not necessarily live at the Barton for he owned 46 manors. It formerly belonged to a Saxon called Alward Touchesone who lost the manor at the Norman Conquest (1066). It is recorded in the Exeter Book as: 'Alward held on the day on which King Edward was alive and dead, and it paid geld (a tax on land levied in late Anglo-Saxon and Norman England) for one hide (unit of land measure, varying in magnitude from about 60-120 acres). This ten ploughs can till. Thereof William has 12 villeins (peasants), 3 virgates (approx 30 acres of land) and 4 ploughs. There, William has 12 villeins, 5 serfs, 2 swineherds paying 20 swine, 10 beasts = 100 sheep, 30 goats, 30 acres of wood, 10 acres of meadow, and pasture one league in length by half a league in breadth. Worth 4 pounds.' After the Domesday, the first landowner was Henry FitzReginald 'Lord of Huntshaw'. Again, he did not live there. For the whole of the 14th Century, representatives of the Wellington family owned the manor. Towards the close of the 14th Century, the manor was passed into the hands of the Beaumonts. In Henry VII reign (1457-1509) the manor was passed into the Rolles and Trefuss family and the senior member is Lord Clinton. Today, Lord Clinton owns land in Huntshaw. In 1635 local historian, Sir William Pole, valued the manor at £11 7s 1d (eleven pounds, seven shillings and one penny). During the Civil War at Torrington, it is recorded that the Royalist Major General Webb was quartered at the Barton. He commanded three regiments and 200 horse. Huntshaw Barton is now a Grade II listed farmhouse, which has changed little over the centuries.


The church of St Mary Magdalene, which is next to the Barton, is a fine, small church built of stone in the Perpendicular style. Most of the work is probably 15th century and was built under the direction of Bishop Lacey (Bishop of Exeter 1420-1458). There are records that date back to the taxation in 1288-1291 when the church was taxed for forty shillings. In the porch there remains a stoup for Holy Water. The tower is 15th Century and has a newel staircase of the same age, which is built around the central pillar. The tower on the west window is late 14th century. The wagon vault roof with its medieval wood carvings are of a type only found in Devon and Cornwall. The 15th Century north arcade is exceptional for a small village church. It has wonderful carvings with unusual niches for statues. On one pillar, there is a carving of a tumbler (gymnast) depicted in a most compromising position! There are two monuments dated 1700, and tombstones lying down the aisle, the oldest being 1610. In the vestry window, there are fragments of medieval painted glass. The small window on the south side of the chancel is 13th Century. The good quality, stained glass is Victorian (1879) and comes from The Kempe School. It depicts the Annunciation. The medieval tiles are exquisite and were made in Barnstaple. There are 3 bells in the tower. The first two are dated 1634 and 1665. The oldest one is still rung today, but sadly the cradle has swung to one side and it may have to cease ringing. In 1862 the church was completely restored. The most famous rector of Huntshaw was Cuthbert Mayne. He was instituted Rector of Huntshaw in 1561. During Elizabeth I reign, Cuthbert Mayne came into touch with members of the Catholic Party. Unfortunately, Huntshaw did not see him again as in 1577 he was thrown into Launceston Goal and martyred on 29th November, 1577. A national shrine is dedicated to his memory at Launceston Roman Catholic Church. There is a picture of him in Huntshaw church today. The church is still very active, but restoration work is still needed to maintain this beautiful old building.


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