The Domesday Book (1086) records that prior to the Norman conquest the land here was owned by an Anglo Saxon named Brictric. He was was a powerful Saxon Thegn whose many English landholdings, mostly in the West of England, are recorded in the Book. (A Thegn ranked between an ordinary freeman and a hereditary noble and held land granted to him by the king or by a military nobleman). Britric’s land holdings included Halberton, Bideford, Winkleigh and Morchard Bishop (to name but a few)
According to the Norman poet Wace (c1100 – 1174) in his youth Brictric declined a marriage proposal from Matilda of Flanders (c 1031 – 1083). Matilda then married her cousin, William of Normandy (William the Conqueror), and when she became Queen of England she had her revenge; Brictric had his lands confiscated and they passed to the Queen. He was thrown into prison at Winchester Castle, where he died.
William and Matilda had nine or ten children and following her death Halberton passed into the possession of their third son, William (King William ‘Rufus the Red’, 1056 – 1100), who bestowed it upon Robert Fitzhaman as part of a huge reward that Fitzhaman received for supporting the King during the Rebellion of 1068.
From Robert Fitzhaman the land passed to his eldest daughter, Mabel. In 1119 she married Robert de Caen, First Earl of Gloucester, an illegitimate son of Henry I. The lands then passed to William Fitz Robert, their son, the second Earl of Gloucester.
Several hamlets and farms in the parish were settled before 1066, including Ash Thomas, Leonard Farm, East Manley, Sellake and Moorstone Barton. Two Mills are recorded at Halberton in the Domesday Book. Watton Farm is first mentioned in 1166.
In about 1160 William Fitz Robert gave the lands of the Church of Halberton to the Abbey of St Augustine in Bristol. In that same year Augustinian Monks arrived in Halberton and set up a Priory here.
What this all tells us is that almost 1,000 years ago Halberton had become home to a Christian society with land divided up into territories under crown, private and church ownership. The countryside was under cultivation, farms were in place and society was governed by an elite group and the law.
An analysis of the Domesday Book entries for the Halberton Hundred is available as an Excel file. A copy of the entry in the original book is available as a Pdf file. Click on an icon below.