KINGSBRIDGE is a small but busy and improving market town, pleasantly situated on rising ground, at the head of the estuary which runs up from the English Channel, between Salcombe and East Portlemouth, about six miles below, and has several creeks projecting from either side. It is distant about 20 miles E.S.E. of Plymouth, 34 miles S.S.W. of Exeter, 12 miles from Totnes and Ivybridge Railway Stations, and 205 miles W.S.W. of London. It is in the two PARISHES of KINGSBRIDGE and DODBROOKE, the former of which comprises only 32 acres, and had 1564 souls in 1841 ; and the latter has 343A. 1R. 39P. of land, and 1229 souls. The town has now upwards of 3000 inhabitants, exclusive of the suburbs in the adjacent parishes of West Alvington and Churchstow, from the latter of which Kingsbridge was separated some centuries ago. Dodbrooke forms the eastern part of the town, and is divided from Kingsbridge only by a small brook, which runs to the estuary under the southern part of the town, where there is a quay at which coasting vessels of 150 to 200 tons burden receive and deliver cargoes of coal, corn, timber, and general merchandise. The town is highly salubrious, and has a clean and respectable appearance. It is supplied with water brought in pipes from the hills near Combe Royal ; and with gas from works erected in 1834, at the cost of about £1000, raised in £7 shares. The principal street is of considerable length and breadth, and has several good inns and many well stocked shops. Behind it, on either side, are many neat gardens. The woollen manufacture was formerly extensively carried on here, but the last remaining factory was converted into a large steam corn mill, in 1845, by a company of shareholders. Here are now two foundries, a manufactory of sheep shears and other agricultural tools, a number of maltsters, and corn, coal, &c. merchants. There were formerly weekly markets at both Kingsbridge and Dodbrooke, the former granted about 1256, and the latter about 1461. Dodbrooke market, formerly held every Wednesday, became obsolete about the close of last century, after the establishment of a great cattle market, in 1773, which is still held on the third Wednesday of every month, as well as a fair on the Wednesday before Palm Sunday. Kingsbridge market for corn, &c., is held every Saturday, and its large annual fair, for cattle, &c., is held on the 20th of July, if that date falls on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, but if not, it is held the Tuesday after. The market is an extensive corn mart, and is well supplied with provisions, the town being in that fertile part of Devon commonly called the “South Hams.” The market-house was built about the close of last century, in lieu of the old one, which stood in the middle of the street. White Ale is extensively used in this neighbourhood, where it is said to have been introduced by a German regimental surgeon, some centuries ago, at Dodbrooke, where it pays a small tithe to the rector. Barracks for 600 men were built at Dodbrooke, in 1804, but were taken after the war, except the hospital and gun room. Kingsbridge has a Joint Stock Bank. At the bottom of the town, where the bridge stood, much of the ground has been warped in from the estuaury, and below Dodbrooke is Charleton embankment, which was made in 1805-6, and encloses about 40 acres. The want of a Town Hall has long been felt; and a large and handsome building, called the Public Rooms, is now erecting in the Italian style, by a company, at the cost of about £1000, raised in £5 shares. This building will have accomodations for the Petty Sessions, County Court, public meetings, lectures, and the literary institutions of the town; and will have a news room and corn exchange. There is an Assembly Room at the King’s Arms Hotel, where a large annual ball is held. There are well supplied News Rooms at Mr. Parkhouse’s and Mr. Smale’s. Kingsbridge and Dodbrooke Literary and Scientific Institution was established in 1848, and has a library, museum, and frequent lectures and discussions. Here are several Friendly Societies, and a Farmer’s Club, Kingsbridge is the head of a large Union, and County Court and Polling Districts; and the magistrates of Stanborough and Coleridge Division hold Petty Sessions at the Golden Lion, every alternate Tuesday. Mr. Thomas Harris, jun., is their clerk. The County Court, for all the parishes in Kingsbridge Union, is held at the same house, monthly; and Mr. T. Harris., jun., is the assistant clerk, and Mr. N. Southwood the high bailiff. The July fair continues three days, during which a stuffed glove is hung out at the market house, as at some other fairs, and like that which is carried in procession at Exeter Lammas fair, and stuck on top of the Guildhall.
The manor of Kingsbridge was held by Buckfast Abbey, as part of Churchstow, and was granted by Philip and Mary to John and Barnard Drake, who sold it to Sir John Peter. In 1793, it was sold by Lord Petre to the Scobells, and it now belongs to John Scobell, Esq. DODBROOKE is more ancient than Kingsbridge, and at Domesday Survey it belonged to the widow of Edward the Confessr, under whom the manor and parish were held, by the De Dodbrooke family. The manor passed successively to the Fitz Roald, Fitz Alan, Champernowne, Northleigh, Coxe, Southcote, and Hodges families, and is now held by John Froude, Esq.; but W. J. Clark, Esq., J. K. Gillard, Esq., and several smaller owners, have estates in the parish, mostly freehold. Pindar Lodge, at the Quay, was the birth-place of Dr. John Wolcott, under the assumed name of Peter Pindar, was the great satirical poet of the reign of George III., and often made the broad, uncouth dialect of Devonshire, the vehicle of his witty satires. Langwell House, a large and ancient mansion, in Dodbrooke parish, is the seat of J. K. Gillard, Esq., and has been modernised and partly rebuilt. A house in Fore street, now Mr. Weymouth’s office, is said to have been an occasional residence of the abbots of Buckfast, and still retains some finely carved wainscoting of a monastic character. KINGSBRIDGE CHURCH (St. Edmund,) is a large and ancient cruciform structure, with an embattled tower, containing six bells, and crowned by a spire. It is supposed to have been erected about the reign of Edward I., by permission of the rector of Churchstow; but it was rebuilt under a faculty granted by Henry II., in 1414. Its parish contains only 32 acres, nearly all in the town. It is in the same patronage, incumbency, and appropriation as Churchstow, and the Rev. Richard Luney, M.A., is the present vicar, and also one of the prebendaries of Exeter. He has erected here a handsome Vicarage House; and under his judicious superintendence, the church was repewed and renovated in 1845, at the cost of more than £500. A fine lithographic print of the handsomely restored interior has been published by Mr. Roberts. The Rev. T. L. Hill is the lecturer, and has a salary from Duncombe’s Trust Estate, as afterwards noticed. The vicar has £20 a year out of the great tithes of Churchstow; £6 a year left by the Rev. Francis Kingston; and also the great tithes of Stanscombe, and certain lands at Sherford, purchased with Queen Anne’s Bounty. DODBROOKE CHURCH (St. Thomas-a-Becket,) is an ancient structure, with a tower and four bells, and was repaired a few years ago. The benefice is a rectory, valued in K.B. at £8. 11s. 4d., and in 1831 at £183, in the patronage and incumbency of the Rev. S. T. Mosse, M.A., who has 30 acres of glebe, and a large and handsome residence, erected in 1834. The tithes were commuted in 1846, for £10. 18s. 4d. per annum. In Kingsbridge are four chapels, viz., a Friends’ Meeting House, erected about 1659; a Baptist Chapel, erected in 1702, rebuilt in 1799; an Independent Chapel, formerly a Presbyterian Meeting-house, rebuilt in 1847; and a Weslyan Chapel, built in 1814. Sunday Schools are attached to the churches and three of the chapels; and in Dodbrooke is a National Scool, established in 1847; and a British School, erected in 1842, at the cost of about £720.
The Town Lands, &c., which have been vested in trust from an early period, for the reparation of the church and highways, the relief of the poor, and other public uses, comprises 77 acres and 16 houses in this and neighbouring parishes, worth £200, but let for only about £100 per annum, in consideration of the fines paid by the lessees. The income is chiefly expended in repairing the church, streets, and water-works. The FREE GRAMMAR SCHOOL, with a good house for the master, was built by Thomas Crispin, who, in 1689, left three yearly rent-charges, viz., £5 a year for repairs; £15 for the head master, in consideration of his teaching at least 15 free scholars in classical learning; and £10 to a master for teaching 25 poor children to read and 12 to write. To provide for these payments, he left a farm of 72 acres at Washbearhays, in Bradninch, now worth about £40 a year. In 1691, WM. DUNCOMBE left all his lands and tenements, and the residue of his personal estate, to be vested, after the death of his wife and sister, for the support of a lecturer at Kingsbridge church; for the assistance of one or more boys going from the grammar school to Cambridge or Oxford; for apprenticing poor boys; and for the distribution of religious books. The property belonging to this charity now yields an annual income of about £360, and consists of several houses and about 290 acres of land, mostly in the parishes of Thurlestone, Sherford, and Cornworthy; and of £2330. 10s. 8d. Old South Sea Annuities. A new scheme for the appropriation of this charity was sanctioned by the Court of Chancery, in 1819, and another in 1846, at the termination of a long chancery suit relating to this and Crispin’s Charity. Under the latter, the lecturer’s salary has been advanced from £75 to £120 per annum, and that of the master of the Free Grammar School to £50. The yearly sum of £12 is now paid for teaching poor children to read and write. Twenty free boys are now sent to the Grammar School, and the last new scheme directs that there shall be four exhibitions of £50 each per annum, for boys going from this school to either of the Universities, and that four apprentices’ fees of £20 each shall be given with poor boys, on being bound to masters approved by the trustees. Another chancery suit, brought against the trustees of Crispin’s and Duncombe’s Charities, terminated in favour of the inhabitants, in 1849. The poor of Kingsbridge have 52s. a year from Sir J. Acland’s Charity, and 20s. a year from the latter, and 20s. a year left by John Peter, out of the tithes of Cornworthy. The poor of Dodbrooke have 20s. a year from the latter, and 26s. a year from the former. Dodbrooke Parish Lands, &c., vested in 1640, for the reparation of the church, &c., comprise twelve tenements, worth £72 a year, but let for only £11. 10s. 7d., in consideration of fines paid by the lessees.
KINGSBRIDGE UNION comprises the 26 parishes of Aveton-Gifford, Bucklandtout-Saints, Blackawton, Bigbury, Charleton, Churchstow, Chivelstone, Dodbrooke, East Allington, East Portlemouth, Kingston, Kingsbridge, Loddiswell, Modbury, Malborough, Ringmore, South Pool, South Huish, Slapton, South Milton, Stokenham, Stoke-Fleming, Sherford, Thurlestone, West Alvington, and Woodleigh, which extend over an area of 113 square miles, and had 21,357 inhabitants in 1841, living in 4047 houses, besides which there were 260 empty houses, and 22 buildings, when the census was taken. Of the inhabitants 10,489 were males, and 11,048 females. The total average annual expenditure of the 26 parishes, on the poor, during the three years preceding the formation of the union, was £9069, but in 1838, it was £9118; in 1839, £10,170; ans in 1849, £12,087. The Union Workhouse stands on the northside of the town, in Churchstow parish, and was built in 1837, at the cost of about £6000. It has room for 350 paupers, and Mr. T. C. and Mrs. Geyle are the master and matron; Mr. Thomas Harris, sen., is the union clerk and superintendent registrar; and the Rev. T. L.Hill, M.A., chaplain. The union is divided into 13 medical, 2 relieving, and 5 registration districts. W. Jarvis and H. Nicholls are the relieving officers. Messrs. F. D. and A. G. Pearce are registrars of marriages for the whole union, and the latter is registrar of births and deaths for Kingsbridge district.