|Post town:||Newton Abbot|
Moretonhampstead is a little town in Devon, on Dartmoor, a place of which caters for visitors as well as locals with a wide selection of busy shops pubs, cafés, hotels, bed and breakfast, self-catering and camping accommodation.
Moretonhampstead relies heavily on visitors coming to enjoy the delights of Dartmoor, and its central position on the moor makes it an ideal base to explore both Dartmoor and the rest of Devon. The whole parish is within Dartmoor National Park. The central part of the town stands at an altitude of 700 feet but a short stroll within the parish will elevate the walker to beyond 1,100 feet and afford spectacular views of the surrounding area.
The town has a good range of sporting facilities and the great expanse of Dartmoor makes it popular with ramblers and cyclists, in particular for mountain biking. No part of the National Park is more than a one-hour drive away and most of the well-known beauty spots considerably less.
Moretonhampstead is said to have the longest one-word name of any place outside Wales.
The parish church is dedicated to St Andrew.
The heart of Devon from the early Middle Ages was divided into vast estates, and one of these divisions included all land within the boundaries of the rivers Teign and Bovey, with Mor Tun as its major village. The present parish of over 6,000 acres is the residue of that ancient crown lordship. The Domesday Book of 1086 shows that the manor of Moreton, with some neighbouring manors, supported upwards of 5,000 sheep. Wool and (in later years) the manufacture of woollen cloth formed the basis of the town's economy for over 700 years. The economy was evidently healthy when the town established a water-powered fulling mill before the end of the 13th century.
In 1207 AD King John granted a weekly market and an annual five-day fair, indicating that Moretonhampstead had developed into an important local community. The town grew steadily through the Middle Ages and remained prosperous until the end of the 17th century, when the wool industry began to decline. The town continued to be a local trading centre and a rest stop for travellers on the difficult routes across Dartmoor and from Exeter and Newton Abbot.
A series of fires in the 20th century destroyed many of Moretonhampstead's ancient buildings, but sufficient still remains to demonstrate the Saxon and Mediæval heritage, and the later industrial prosperity. Much of the town is designated a conservation area, with many listed buildings of architectural and historic interest.
When King John granted the town its charter during the 13th century, the rent was set as one sparrowhawk per year. The bird has become something of a symbol for the town and will be incorporated into works of public art under development by an artist in residence Roger Dean.
Sights of the town
The Cross Tree
The Cross Tree, immortalised by R D Blackmore in his 1882 novel Christowell, is now only represented by a cross minus its shaft, which is enclosed near the almshouses. This famous dancing tree, a fine old elm, cut and clipped in the form of a punch bowl (by which name it was also known), has long since disappeared, and in its place a beech tree has been planted. It was around the original tree that the village lads and lasses would dance and it recorded that French officers on parole from Dartmoor Prison at Princetown during the Napoleonic Wars, "did assemble around the Cross Tree with their Band".
Standing behind the Cross Tree are the famous almshouses, built in solid granite. The date of 1637 on the outside is actually the date they were refurbished. Recent research has shown that main core of these buildings to be at least two hundred years older.
Early in the 19th century the building was converted from two tenements into four and the facade was damaged. By 1938 they had fallen into disrepair. In 1940 they were purchased for the town and converted back into two tenements. In 1952 they were purchased by the National Trust.
Moretonhampstead has an annual carnival, held on the fourth Thursday in August which raises funds for local groups and associations.
Other events include a fireworks night, annual pantomime, food and drink festival and music events spread throughout the year
Sport and recreation
Moretonhampstead has a King George's Field as a memorial to King George V.