The Parishscapes project, entitled Life in the Manor of Doccombe is looking at the settlement of Doccombe in the parish of Moretonhampstead over the last 800 years.


Transcribers around the table

The project team researching Doccombe

Moretonhampstead Parishscapes Project - Life in the Manor of Doccombe

Moretonhampstead’s Parishscapes project is led by the Moretonhampstead History Society with support from a wide range of organisations and community groups within the parish.  These include residents, The National Trust, Mardon Commoners, Greenhill Arts and Heritage Centre, the Woodland Trust, the Dartmoor National Park Authority as well as Natural England.

In 1174 King Henry II put his seal to confirm a charter that changed for ever the destiny of a corner of north-east Dartmoor;

‘I grant & make over to the Chapter of Canterbury, for the love of God & the salvation of my own soul & the souls of my ancestors, & for the love of blessed Thomas Archbishop & Martyr, of venerable memory, by way of alms in perpetuity & free from any & all charges, one hundred shillings' worth of land in Moreton[hampstead], namely Doccombe with its appurtenances & with the adjacent lands, in such manner that those hundred shillings' worth of land may be made up from Doccombe & the other adjoining lands. I grant this for the clothing & provision of one monk in that monastery for ever, who may celebrate masses there for the salvation of the living & the repose of the departed.’

The original grant had been made by William de Tracey as penance for his role in the murder of Thomas Beckett in 1170.

The Parishscapes project, entitled Life in the Manor of Doccombe is looking at the settlement of Doccombe in the parish of Moretonhampstead over the last 800 years. The project is researching the settlement’s curious ties to Canterbury as alluded to above as well as undertaking an historical survey of Doccombe properties with a particular reference to evidence of long houses and hall-houses.  Researchers are also focusing on the relationship between Doccombe and the building of the nearby National Trust property of Castle Drogo.  

The transcribing and translating of the manorial records from the courts of Henry VII is on-going and some interesting references to char pits in the woods and tin-mining have emerged. Other researchers have looked at a number of 17th century leases of tenancies and have started to use QGIS software.

In March 2017, Professor Nicholas Vincent gave an informative and well attended talk, titled 'Who killed Becket?' in Moretonhampstead Parish Hall. He is the leading authority on the subject and gave particular insights into William de Tracy and his grant of Doccombe to Christ Church Canterbury in atonement for his part in the murder.

Following the work of the Mardon Commoners in clearing the bracken and furze from potential archaeological sites, it was decided to film the area before the vegetation grew back. Evidence of a possible reeve or boundary between the manors of Moretonhampstead and Doccombe was followed. The film also covered the prehistoric remains of circles and cairns, the remains of tin streaming and the earthworks of the US troops in 1944 in preparation for D-Day. The film was made by Tom Williams of Dartmooruav who was contracted after being recommended by the Woodland Trust after his work for them in their Fingle Woods Project. He followed the coordinates that we gave him in twelve hours filming. Project volunteers and Mardon Commoners helped to safeguard the area being filmed from grazing cattle, horse riders and walkers and their dogs.

The use of Mardon Common (part of the Doccombe estate) from pre-historic settlements to its use by US troops in WWII and subsequent sale to the Commoners is being explored alongside research into the manor’s woods at St Thomas Cleve and Coleridge in the Teign Valley.  This will provide insight into the management of woodland by its manorial overlords and ties-in with research already being carried out by Moretonhampstead History Society into the history of Teign Valley Woods on behalf of the Woodland Trust.

Next steps...

For more information about the Doccombe Manor Parishscapes Project please visit their website at

You will also be able to subscribe to their newsletter. To view previous copies of their newsletter please click on the following links:

Doccombe Parishscapes Newsletter May 2016
Doccombe Parishscapes Newsletter August 2016
Doccombe Parishscapes Newsletter January 2017

For further information about Moretonhampstead History Society, please visit this link

For information on Greenhill Arts and Heritage Centre, please visit

For more information, please contact the Community Heritage Officer, Emma Stockley 01822 890 904

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Last update: 24 Oct 2017 10:33am