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Title: Modbury  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Ivybridge, River Erme, Earl Fortescue, Thomas Savery, Devon
Collection: Civil Parishes in South Hams, Towns in Devon
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View down Church Street, Modbury
Modbury is located in Devon
 Modbury shown within Devon
Population 1,454 (2001)[1]
OS grid reference
   – London 181 mi (291 km)  
Civil parish Harford
District South Hams
Shire county Devon
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district PL21
Dialling code 01548
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Devon and Somerset
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament South West Devon
Website Modbury Parish Council website
List of places

Modbury is a town and parish in the South Hams region of the English county of Devon. It is situated on the A379 road, which links it to Plymouth and Kingsbridge. The current parish population is approximately 1,500.


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
    • Civil War 2.1
    • 19th century 2.2
  • Manor 3
  • Historic estates 4
    • Wympston 4.1
  • Plastic bag ban 5
  • Modbury Rovers FC 6
  • Notable former residents 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The name Modbury is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon name, Moot burgh from 'Moot' meaning either 'Mud' or 'Meeting' and 'Bury' meaning 'Fortified Enclosure'.


Modbury is recorded in the Domesday Book. The population of the town was greatly reduced as a consequence of the Black Death.

Civil War

The exterior and interior of Modbury's parish church of Saint George.

It was the site of two battles in the English Civil War. The first battle was a minor royalist victory on 9 December 1642, when a small Royalist force put to flight a smaller Parliamentarian force.

The second Battle of Modbury occurred on 21 February 1643 when the Royalists forces, expecting an attack by Parliamentarian forces assembled at nearby Kingsbridge, had fortified the town. Outnumbered approximately four to one, and running short of ammunition, the royalists retreated. This victory was largely instrumental in the lifting of the Siege of Plymouth, and the driving of the encircling Royalist forces into Cornwall.

19th century

By 1801, the population of Modbury had risen to 1,813, with almost half engaged in the wool trade. The impact of the mechanisation of the wool industry was to have a dramatic effect on the economic prosperity and population of the town in the mid-1820s and later. Many workers left the town and headed to large cities in search of employment; others left the country altogether, emigrating to America.

The railway line bypassed Modbury, contributing still further to this decline. Modbury remained an important market town until as late as 1944 when the cattle market ceased.


The manor of Modbury was long held by the Vautort (alias Valletort) family, feudal barons of Harberton, Devon, and feudal barons of Trematon, Cornwall. It was granted, together with Bridford by Sir Roger de Vautort to Alexander de Okeston, of Okeston (alias Oxton), Devon,[2] the second husband of Joan de Vautort, widow of Ralph de Vautort, Sir Roger's elder brother.[3] Joan de Vautort was the mistress of Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall (1209-1272), second son of King John. By Okeston she had progeny Sir James Okeston, who died without progeny, and Joan de Okeston, wife of Richard Champernowne of Clyst Champernowne, near Exeter, Devon.[4] Her son Sir Richard Champernowne inherited Modbury and Bridford by command of King Edward II (1307-1327)[5] who in 1314[6] compelled Sir James Okeston to convey the former Vautort lands to his nephew Sir Richard Champernowne.[7] The Champernown family was thenceforth seated at Modbury. in 1700 Arthur Champernowne (1672-pre-1717) sold Modbury to Nicholas Trist and died without progeny.[8] A junior branch of the Champernowne family continued at Dartington, Devon, until 1925,[9] being descended from Sir Arthur Champernowne (d.1578) (2nd son of Sir Philip Champernowne (d.1545) of Modbury[10]), who in 1559 purchased the manor of Dartington.[11]

Historic estates


Whympston in the parish of Modbury is a historic manor. In the 12th century it became the earliest English seat of the prominent Norman family of Fortescue, influential in British and West Country history, which survives today as Earl Fortescue, seated in Gloucestershire, but until recently seated at Castle Hill in Devon.

Plastic bag ban

In April 2007 local traders declared that for environmental reasons, they would no longer give customers plastic bags.[12][13][14] This initiative led to other communities, such as Ilam in Staffordshire and Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, to pursue similar enterprises.[15]

Modbury Rovers FC

Modbury has a recreation field with a football pitch, tennis courts, and a tarmac all-weather surface used mainly for skateboarding. This is the home of Modbury Rovers, who are managed by Alex Pitcher and compete in the Plymouth and West Devon Combination League.

Notable former residents

Katherine 'Kat' Ashley née Champernowne (? – 1565) governess to Elizabeth I was probably born in or near the village.

John Batterson Stetson, founder of the Stetson cowboy hat company in the US, is descended from Modbury natives Robert Stetson and Honour Tucker (who emigrated to Massachusetts c. 1634).[16]


  1. ^ "Parish Headcounts". The  
  2. ^ "Oxton manor house on the road between Chudleigh and Exeter", per Hamilton, Dom. Adam, OSB, History of St Mary's Abbey of Buckfast, 1906, p.92[2]
  3. ^ Pole, Sir William (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon, Sir John-William de la Pole (ed.), London, 1791, pp.248, 309
  4. ^ Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.) The Visitation of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895, p.160, pedigree of Champernowne
  5. ^ Risdon, Tristram (d.1640), Survey of Devon, 1811 edition, London, 1811, with 1810 Additions, p.187
  6. ^ Risdon, p.129, regnal year "8 Edward son of Edward"
  7. ^ Risdon, p.129
  8. ^ Vivian, p.165, pedigree of Champernown
  9. ^ Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, 15th Edition, ed. Pirie-Gordon, H., London, 1937, p.384, pedigree of "Champernowne of Pound and formerly of Dartington"
  10. ^ Vivian, pp.162-3
  11. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus & Cherry, Bridget, The Buildings of England: Devon, London, 2004, p.311
  12. ^ Vidal, John (28 April 2007). "Welcome to Modbury. Just don't ask for a plastic bag".  
  13. ^ Elliott, Valerie (28 April 2007). "Modbury (pop 1,553) is first to ban plastic bags".  
  14. ^ Barkham, Patrick (12 May 2007). "World asks town that banned the plastic bag: how can we do it too?".  
  15. ^ Sunday Telegraph 22 July 2007 2, 406 pC12
  16. ^ Stetson Kindred/History

External links

  • Visit Modbury – Shops and Businesses
  • Modbury Heritage
  • Modbury Information
  • Modbury News
  • Modbury Music Festival
  • Aerial photo of Modbury in 1930, part of a series
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