Okehampton

Street Map

Okehampton is a town and civil parish in West Devon in the English county of Devon. It is situated at the northern edge of Dartmoor, and has an estimated population of 7,155.

Okehampton was formed by the Saxons. The earliest written record of the settlement is from 980 AD as “Ocmundtune”, meaning settlement by the Ockment, a river which runs through the town. It was recorded as a place for slaves to be freed at cross roads.

Like many towns in the West Country, Okehampton grew on the medieval wool trade. Notable buildings in the town include the 15th century chapel of St. James and Okehampton Castle, which was established by the Norman Sherrif of Devon, Baldwin FitzGilbert(d.1090), also known as Baldwin de Brionne.

Okehampton was the caput of a very large feudal barony which was held at the time of Domesday Book(1087) by Baldwin FitzGilbert(d.1090), The tenure of the barony is obscure for the next twenty years when the barony was held by the heiress Maud d’Avranches(d.1173), until her death, when it was passed to her daughter Hawise de Curci(d.1219). Hawise married Reginald de Courtenay(d.1190) of the French House of Courtenay, whose French possessions were confiscated by the French King Louis VII(d.1180) were given, together with the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth de Courtenay, to his youngest brother Peter of France(d.1183), Peter I of Courtenay.

Ultimately the Courtenay family rebuilt Okehampton Castle, until in 1539 King Henry VIII seized the lands and had Henry Courtenay, 1st Marquess of Exeter(d.1539) executed for treason.

Presently, the castle is owned by English Heritage and is open to the public during the summer season. The town is also home to the Museum of Dartmoor Life, which has received notable visitors such as Prince Charles.

Okehampton elected two members to the Unreformed House of Commons. The Reform Act of 1832 abolished its representation as a rotten borough.

There is a substantial army training camp on Dartmoor which can be reached via Okehampton, and is commonly referred to as “Okehampton Camp”. It is managed by the Defence Training Estate, and used by a variety of military units, including the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM), Lympstone, Devon, and many cadet training units. The Ten Tors event is run by the Army each year in early May from Okehampton Camp.

Okehampton’s location at the edge of the moor means that it has always been a route centre. The A30 trunk road now bypasses the town. Okehampton railway station is on the former northerly rail route from Exeter to Plymouth via Tavistock. The line from Exeter remains open for freight traffic to and from Meldon Quarry, two miles (3 km) west of Okehampton. In summer, and at weekends throughout the year, the Dartmoor Railway operates a heritage railway service between Okehampton and Meldon Quarry.

In 1997, Devon County Council revived a passenger rail service from Exeter, on summer weekends only, in an attempt to reduce motor traffic to the national park. As of March 2010 there were plans to reinstate a daily service terminating in Exeter.

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