Hartland

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The town of Hartland, which incorporates the hamlet of Stoke to the west and the village of Meddon in the south, is the most north-westerly settlement in the county of Devon, England.

Now a small town which acts as a centre for a rural neighbourhood and has minor tourist traffic, until Tudor times Hartland was an important port. It lies close to the promontory of Hartland Point, where the coast of Devon turns from facing north into the Bristol Channel to face west into the Atlantic Ocean. There is an important lighthouse on the point. The town’s harbour, Hartland Quay, is to the south of the point: the quay was originally built in the late 16th century but was swept away in 1887. The high tower of the Church of Saint Nectan at Stoke remains a significant landmark for ships in the Bristol Channel.

Hartland is a convenient centre for walking parts of the South West Coast Path, and the wild coastal scenery around the point is some of the most dramatic on the path, with excellent views across to Lundy Island. It is from Hartland Point that the Lundy Company operate their helicopter service to Lundy, during the five months from November to March. The Service 319, a council-supported infrequent bus service run by Stagecoach Devon, runs from Barnstaple to Hartland and vice versa. There is also a 519 service which runs to Bude.

The town was in the past known as Harton and was an unreformed borough, finally abolished in 1886. In medieval times there was an important abbey at Hartland where the shrine of St Nectan was venerated. Hartland Abbey and the parish church are located some two miles away at Stoke.

Hartland Abbey was built in 1157 and consecrated by Bartholomew Iscanus in 1160 (Bartholomew was appointed Bishop of Exeter the following year). It was converted into an Augustinian abbey in 1189. In 1539 it was the last monastery to be dissolved by Henry VIII. The King gave the building to William Abbot, his Sergeant of the Wine Cellar at Hampton Court. William Abbot converted what had been the Abbot’s Lodging into a mansion. The present house incorporates a few components from Tudor times but is mainly the wing added to the old house in 1705 (the north-west corner being the work of ‘Mr Mathews’ (according to the author of the Beauties of England and Wales). Further alterations were done about 1860. The gardens were laid out by Gertrude Jekyll.

Saint Nectan, sometimes styled Saint Nectan of Hartland, was a 5th century Celtic holyman who lived in Stoke, Hartland. The Anglican church is St Nectan’s Church, Stoke, Hartland. The Roman Catholic Church (Our Lady and St Nectan’s Church, Hartland) was opened in 1964: it is also dedicated to St Nectan.

The Parish Church of St Nectan has the highest tower in Devon (128 ft), built in the late Perpendicular style. The church is large (137 ft long) and was built in the mid 14th century. Notable features include the fine Norman font, the rood screen (the finest in north Devon) and the old wagon roofs. The monuments include an elaborate medieval tomb-chest, a small brass of 1610 and a metal-inlaid lid of a churchyard tomb of 1618.

The name “Hartland” presumably derives from the Old English word “heort” for a deer (compare with Swedish “hjort” and Dutch “hert”) and it is therefore surprising that it is not more common in England. The many places in other English speaking countries called Hartland probably bear witness to the historic importance of Hartland rather than being independent derivations, since the word “hart” was largely obsolete before the European discovery of the New World. Before the discovery of America, the word Hart was common in surnames. Family names such as Hartshorne were first mentioned in the Domesday Book.

The coast at Hartland is part of the North Devon Coast AONB. The British Geological Survey operate a magnetic observatory (one of three in the UK) just to the north of Hartland.

In early 2008, scenery and a cottage on the Hartland Abbey estate were featured in the BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.

Hartland is twinned with Plozévet, Brittany, France.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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