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Our History

Kilkhampton stands central to its parish of 8206 acres. To the west are fine views down deep-wooded coombes toward the Atlantic ocean. Eastward is a bleaker landscape separated from Devon by the upper reaches of the river Tamar and its twin man-made lakes.

The fields, roads, woods and paths are a living record of the history of the parish. Some fields still have the graves of Bronze Age people who lived and worked thousands of years before written history. Later Iron Age folk trod the ridgeway which divides this parish, now the A39 road, and which passes through our town and commercial centre. Enclosures situated to the southeast and west of the village may have been farmsteads or forts of those people.

When the Saxon kings ruled Wessex a settlement was established here called Kilketon. Several Strip Fields and a Lord’s Meadow survive from those times.
From the 12th century until recent times one family owned most of this parish under the name Grenville of Stow, later by descent Carteret and Thynne of Penstowe. The most famous of these was Sir Richard of the ship “Revenge”, and Sir Bevil of the Civil War whose monument may be seen in our church. We have an interesting Motte and Bailey Castle, situated west of the village that was certainly occupied by a Grenville in the 13th century.

About the year 1300 Kilkhampton was a Borough, permitted to hold markets and three fairs per year; so we may call this place ‘Town’ instead of village. The economics of the parish have always been based upon agriculture. Generations of farmers cleared and husbanded the land, and the pattern of their field hedges records their progress. We should expect to see cattle and sheep sharing the landscape.

The parish Church, dedicated to St. James the Great, is one of the finest buildings of its kind in the diocese. Some of our town properties and a few of the farms are Listed as heritage buildings. Public footpaths are maintained to permit folk to engage more deeply into rural life. In summer it’s easy to identify 40 different species of wild flower, the wild birds and mammals are less well encountered, though owls may hoot at night.

Many ships have succumbed to Atlantic storms along our pitiless rocky coast, and in the days of sailing ships our coastline was frequently strewn with wreckage. Today tourism brings many families to enjoy summertime on the same sandy beaches. There is public access to our ‘playing field’ named Lamb Park, here the Football Club performs, skate boarders glide and there is children’s activity equipment. Down Underhill to the west of the town you will find Commons, an open space popular with dog walkers; it is privately owned.

Generations of men and women have lived and worked here. Their monument is the rich and varied landscape that we have inherited; and in turn will pass on to the future to enjoy.

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