Bableigh in Parkham

There appears to be enough material from various sources to warrant a separate document about this property, rather than including possibly extraneous material in a document about the Risdon personalities. As alluded to in the Risdon Dynasty document, there is some doubt, understandably given the historical period, as to the first place of occupation in Devon, and by which Risdon ancestor. Most sources seem to agree on Parkham and Okehampton, with Parkham always mentioned first; the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) is the timeframe; but Audrey Bartron, whose extensive research I have no reason to doubt, while confirming the timeframe, is alone in naming Robert Risdon as residing at Risdon in 1350, “a small place which is slightly north of Okehampton.” This certainly seems to confirm that locations in both north and south Devon were occupied simultaneously, but it must also admit of the possibility at least that Bableigh might not have been the first location occupied? Without firm documentary evidence, this must remain as pure speculation, however.

It is possible, of course, that the first Risdon family might have settled somewhere at Parkham, very probably in an existing property (especially if they were moving in as tenants of the Norman owner), so Bableigh as a house of any size might not have existed at the very beginning of the Risdon occupation, and recent sources might just have assumed that it always had done, by virtue of its relatively long existence.1 Only one of the three different copies of the post-Visitation lineages shows Bableigh (“in the parish of Parkham”) as being occupied by the first Giles Risdon; in other words, some time between 1493 and 1583, his documented lifespan; whereas the most detailed of the three doesn’t mention Bableigh until the time of the second Giles, i.e.: at the earliest, 1565 — it isn’t possible to be any more specific here, because the chart says that he was “aged 21 years and more (my emphasis) at his father’s death”, which was the second of April, 1586. His father was Thomas Risdon the elder, whose career at the Inner Temple is detailed here, but one of his property transactions will be detailed below.

The possibility of the earliest documented existence of Bableigh as a property of any size, and the associated date, is raised by a deed of “Bargain and sale”, whose existence I have found on the excellent Genuki2 site: it is a list of Parkham-related deeds3, compiled in 1930. The first, and therefore the earliest, deed4 on the list refers to a sale of a property to “Gelys Rysedon” but, unfortunately, it is not clear (because of the arcane nature of the language and usage) whether the Babelegh [sic] referred to is a house or land, or both, although the use of the word in rather than at is perhaps informative, leading one to suppose that it is the latter, from which one might safely be able to extrapolate that something, be it some sort of grouping of land or property, must already have been in existence in the year 1544 (by which time the family had already been living in Parkham for around 150 years at least), but it is not conclusively clear that the Sir John Fulford mentioned was the sole owner hitherto. The transaction is also rather unusual, in that, instead of a stated purchase price, the previous owner was granted an annuity (no period or expiry stated) “with power to distrain”5, although this was probably just a standard protection clause built in to many property transactions that were not straightforward sales, for whatever reason.

In 1544, his father John having died in 1518, and his mother not recorded, Giles Risdon (born 1493) and his first wife Elizabeth, née Bremelcomb, whom he married possibly in 1530 or thereabouts, with their children Thomas, Ambrose, William, Philip, Margaret, Edward, Hellen, Anthony and baby John, were presumably sharing the existing house with Giles’s sisters Johan (married 1545), Pascha (married 1548) and Jone (married 1555), so very probably this purchase (in addition to creating what would now be described as a ‘portfolio’ of property) was a bid for independence & privacy, most likely on the understanding that the original property would remain in the family once all of the sisters were married. In 1569, Thomas Risdon the elder, in addition to ostensibly living at Parkham (although whether this was Bableigh in uncertain, as stated above; his father was still alive, having married again in 1550 after the death of his first wife the year before, and having heroically produced another four children up to 1553) and, presumably, having simultaneously chambers at the Inner Temple in London (by which time he was well on his way to becoming a Judge: see the Thomas Risdon 1 page for details), also appears to have owned property in & around Dartington, which is no little distance from Parkham: approximately 70km south east, as the crow flies, which begs the question of when and, more pertinently, why, this property was acquired in the first place.

The transaction6 was between the aforesaid “Thomas Risedon of PARKHAM” and two individuals: the former, Anthony Will, a gentleman of Landrake in Cornwall (albeit only a few km over the border from Plymouth); and the latter, John Sperke [sic] of Hurberton [sic] in Devon, a yeoman, and it involved various properties that were currently tenanted by 4 or possibly 5 different men. The price was one hundred pounds, which the two men were given just under one whole year to pay, and it appears that previously, these properties had been considered to be part of the dower7 (anything that would have been hers by right, on the death of her husband) of his wife, Willmot, so one would like to think that this was not the full extent of what she might have been able to expect to sustain her when her husband died!

The mention of Hurberton, which I take to be Harberton, is quite interesting, because Thomas’s first grandson’s wife was from there (they married in 1630), and at some stage, Thomas Risdon the younger purchased a house or estate called Sandwell in the parish of Harberton, which is a couple of km south west of Totnes; but I digress. After Thomas Risdon the elder, there were another six generations living at Parkham, four of which definitely lived at Bableigh (and there is no reason to suppose that the others didn’t either) and five of whose eldest son & heir were named Giles. The last Giles shown on the Heralds’ lineage charts was baptised on the 2nd of April 1732, but there is no record of where he was buried, or when; his father, also Giles, was baptised on the 1st of October 1689, and buried at Parkham on the 9th of December 1718, so he appears to have been the last of the male line to have been buried at Parkham8, although his wife Anne, whom he married on the 5th of January 1729 at Alwington (6.5km south west of Bideford), was buried at Parkham on the 30th of July 1752: after this, there appears to be no record of Bableigh or, indeed, Parkham. It is conceivable that the family line living there hitherto might have died out; Giles’s younger sister, Elizabeth, was baptised at Parkham on the 11th of January 1735, but it is possible that she would have gone to live elsewhere after marrying, although that is not shown on the chart; but what happened to the property? The other sales or purchases of property, involving Risdons (see note 2) down to 1612, mention Parkham in every case, but not one of them mentions Bableigh.

Unfortunately, maps from anything like the contemporary period do not show Bableigh, because it is too small for the scale that is generally used, although Parkham is invariably shown; the earliest map9 found so far that shows Bableigh dates from 1830, and it is a map of Unions in the Bideford area — the meaning of Unions in this context is not clarified on the site. Later maps, such as the one from 1884 available on an external site here, show a group of disparate buildings to the east of the earlier site, labelled “Bableigh on site of a Barton”10, but the earlier site is now devoid of any buildings, giving rise to the conclusion that they must have been demolished at some stage in the intervening 50 years. Another map11, while belonging to a period “before 1850”, and which was used as the background for this page, while again confirming the existence of Bableigh, does not throw any new light on the situation because of the smallness of the scale. Click here to see the map in its original format. Bableigh can be seen in the first square south east of Parkham.

If the original collection of buildings was left vacant during the second half of the 18th century, and therefore fell into disrepair, it is not unduly surprising that they might have been demolished, possibly for safety reasons, but it does seem odd that they would have been completely removed, and the plot they occupied left vacant, as shown in the 1884 map mentioned above. If that is the case, what became of the land: was ownership transferred to someone else, conceivably not a Risdon? If so, there should be records lodged somewhere. According to the Historic Parkham site, “PARKHAM contains a number of former “mansions.” … Bableigh was a home of the Risdons from the 1st century [sic] until 1760, but the rebuilt farmhouse is uninteresting.”; it doesn’t say when or where the farmhouse was rebuilt (always assuming that the original significant building was a farmhouse), but on the Wikipedia page for Bableigh, Parkham (see note 1), there is a photograph of “The present Bableigh Farm, in the parish of Parkham, Devon, near the site of the demolished former mansion house occupied by the Risdon family from the 12th - 18th centuries”: unfortunately, it does not give any details about how near to the former “mansion house” the present building is, but this might be for reasons of privacy for the current occupiers, which is perfectly understandable.

One possible clue from the Genuki site is a 1780 land tax12 assessment for Parkham: the assessment is for Bableigh, the proprietor (aka owner?) is shown as “Mr John Iron”,13 and the occupier is shown as “John Shutt”; the amount of the tax, £7 16 shillings and threepence three farthings, although by no means insignificant, is less than half that required to be paid by The Revd Mr Swindale for the Rectory and Glebe in Parkham, namely seventeen pounds, eighteen shillings and five pence, so that might give some sort of idea of what Bableigh comprised at that time, in terms of land and/or buildings, in comparison to the “Rectory and Glebe in Parkham”: possibly mostly or all land, and not particularly good land at that.

All that remains to be said here is that Bableigh is one of several properties that were owned by the Risdon families of what might be called the ‘middle period’ (i.e., from around 1400 to 1750), but have all been sold and probably subsequently fragmented, and of which none appears to remain intact; whether this is a bad thing depends upon one’s personal viewpoint, but I do feel some regret in the case of Bableigh, because it was very probably, to the best of my knowledge, the first ‘ancestral home’ of the progenitors of the Risdon dynasty, and now it is as if it never existed. It is an intriguing subject to ponder: whether, should an archaeological dig there ever be possible, any remains of the original manor house (if that is not too grand a claim) might be found?