Merton in Devon

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Merton and Huish History Project

Merton like so many villages dates well before doomsday – not so much is known about its early years but research shows a wealth of interesting links etc.
Famous historian W G Hoskins states in his comment about Merton that the founder of the church also founded Merton College Oxford – but no other proof has come to light so far. Ryalls corner is said to be the stand of the Royalist army as it ran away from parliament forces in 1646 after the famous battle of Torrington. The word ‘rials’ is old name for royal so there may be some truth in that. Kingsford House was a home for young women and the old School is thought to have been the tithe barn although Grange Farm may have been also linked with tithes as is traditional.

The greater portion of the church is C1400, northaisle built a hundred years later. In 1875 a good Perp style restoration cost £1700. The Church used to have a Gallery at the west end blocking the tower arch. In 1866 the chancel was built in Caen stone, with marble altar. Godwin’s tiles in the chancel floor. The steps are of Devonshire marble, and the candle coronae of polished brass.

The bells (six) are as follows:- 4th 1669; Tenor 1752 ; 1st and 5th by Warner of London 1858. The second has the inscription “Plebs omnis plaudit ut me tam sepius audit” The tenor is 10 cwt. There are 310 sittings. The baptismal register dates from 1687 and the marriage register from 1688.

The population of Merton in 1881 was 583. There used to be an Industrial Home for 17 orphan girls run by Lady Clinton (Kingsford)

The arch in the south transept could have been a tomb. The font is Norman. The revel used to be on Easter Sunday. In 1901 The Vicar at the time had the chancel painted in memory of his parents. In 1848 the population of Merton was 790.

In late Victorian and early 20th century Joseph Elliot took many high quality photographs and after his death in 1913 Henry Bright carried on taking pictures until he suffered a stroke in the 1920’s or 30’s so we are fortunate to have a mass of old pictures depicting the village over many years which has been collected and added to by many contributors. This picture library is maintained by Philip Collins and added to when possible.

Of course the outstanding influence on the parishes has been The Clinton Family and even now most land is owned by the Clinton Devon Estate company – which was set up after the death of the 20th Baron Clinton which sold much of its holdings to pay death duties in the mid 1950’s

These pages will (hopefully be posted with various history themes over next few years. If you have any information – family connections etc please contact Philip Collins at

A recent book ‘The Long Lane’ has been published which details his life at and around Towell Farm, Merton by Mark Boucher Quance – it offers an in site into farming and the way of life until he left in 1937 – available at £14 plus P & P from

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