Winkleigh History & the village of Winkleigh in the county of Devon, England with Photographs Jackie Freeman Photography. A Historical Time line

strickly Winkleigh logo.

'Strictly come Winkleigh'

Written & adapted by David Freeman ©2008

For the Television Series:Secret Britain

Winkleigh crest coat of arms.

An illustrated History of  the village of Winkleigh

With photographs by Westcountry Photographer Jackie Freeman






o fully understand the History and development of the village of Winkleigh in Devon, which was known in Norman times as Wincheleie, it is useful to also understand something of the unique history and timeline of the History of the English County of Devon itself. So here's a potted history of Devon and its chronology in about five minutes flat:


Saxon England map,

Samuel Lewis, 1831
:  In his Topographical Dictionary
of England, tells us that;

"DEVONSHIRE, is a maritime county, bounded on the north by the Bristol channel, on the east by the counties of Somerset and Dorset, on the south by the English channel and on the west by Cornwall"

Winkleigh Autumn Landscape  Devon.





Photograph: Winkleigh Autumn Landscape in Devon

Photographer:Jackie Freeman Photography, Winkleigh © November 2008


he history of Devon which is a rural English county in the south west of England on the bottom left hand side, has shown us that the county was the scene of frequent warfare right from the year dot.




 Devon's year dot, as the history books have it, is somewhere around the year 6,000 BC. When the first hunter gatherers who had settled in the caves around Torquay on the south coast of Devon, began to inhabit Dartmoor & their cousins settled in the now submersed prehistoric forests in Barnstaple Bay to the north of Winkleigh.


 So it was the rustic early English cave dwellers of Devon who set about the difficult job of deforesting Dartmoor and began the serious business known as English agriculture. But why they didn't just move inland a bit more and start their farming there, no one knows?

Perhaps they just liked to chop down oak trees for the heck of it?


 Now, at about this time, the Greeks and the Phœnicians, chancing their arm a bit and wanting to see what lay beyond their own horizons, happened upon Devon and trade, such as it was back then, began.


 The Belgians then popped over the English channel to take a look at what all the fuss was about in the 365 square mile county which called itself Devon and swiftly but surely kicked out its inhabitants as they didn't believe in the God  Mayo-Naisse. Which incidentlally is why the little village near Plymouth is called Noss Mayo!

Belgian for no mayonaisse!

 The Devon locals by then had given their own race the name of Cimbri who we know as the Celts but they couldn't spell Celts at the time.

The Celts then invent Ireland because there's no where else to go and then it's "hello, good evening and welcome" to, the Romans!

Told you it was a quick history!



Dartmoor, a view from Belstone


Photograph:  Dartmoor, a view from Belstone village looking west towards Yes Tor, Devon

Photographer: © Jackie Freeman Photography - Winkleigh, 2008


The history of Devon continued:





ow, the Roma
ns were into trade big time, but they were also into conquering and stealing all and everything they could that any country they plundered had to offer. So with that in mind, they made a serious job of settling in the city of Exeter which was cleverly named by the Romans after its river, the Exe, which translates directly from the Latin to ' WATER! '


"Quite imaginative, these Roman city namers eh ? "


 Back then, the city of Exeter was navigable from the sea.  And that was absolutely wicked for the Romans as it was a safe haven for their Galleys or 'Biremes' as they were known back then and ultra strategic for its legions.

It was just close enough to good mineral deposits of tin and lead of Dartmoor which had been discovered by our old friends the Cimbri. Presumably whilst they chopped down the trees. That in turn made the effort worthwhile in digging it up. Or at least in getting their slaves to dig it up for them!

Chaio Romans for the input!

Next we welcomed into Britain our Nordic friends the Saxons but not so welcome at the time.... and things in Devon changed somewhat !









History  of  the  Borough  Town  of  Winkleigh

The good old village of Winkleigh having previously been called;

Wincheleie, Winchelia, Winkley Lookout - Wynckeleighe, Wynkelegh, Winkly Beacon, Winkelea, Winkley, 

For a time called the Fee of Gloucester then the Fee of Winkley,

Winkley Keynes, Winkley Tracey and now Winkleigh !


All Saints Church - Winkleigh.

Photograph:  Looking north towards All Saints Church - Winkleigh. Devon

Photographer: © Jackie Freeman Photography - Winkleigh, 2008













he ancient market town of Winkleigh sits on the top of a strategic green hill between the rivers Taw and Torridge in the beautiful rolling Devon countryside of England.




 Winkleigh village itself, sits atop an ancient and key defensive settlement site and reasonable evidence exists that there may have been a community here in the Bronze age and possibly even earlier in prehistory. Archaeologists suggesting that perhaps there was once a Mesolithic or Neolithic colony on this spot and an ancient line of barrows here seems to back that theory up.

 Certainly it's clear that the Romans were here around Winkleigh in numbers, though some commentators argue they were not. Yet Lyons tells us that the Romans held a 'strong post' at Winkleigh lookout which was; 2/3 of an acre in a Square Form. We also know there was a Roman Camp and a Fort just a hairs breath away from Winkleigh at North Tawton in about 50 AD and there is a typical Roman road just to the north of Winkleigh too. That's at Stable Green between Wembworthy and here.

A pretty good theory then is that the Romans built it and it and Winkleigh too had a serious purpose !

 It's also recorded that the Thane, Brictric the Golden Hair, better known as Brictric the Saxon - Lord of Gloucester, the son of Elfege of Devonshire (alt. Elphege) who was the primate of Exeter in 1009 at about the time of the Norman Conquest, once owned all the land around Winkleigh.  That's from about 1030 until 1066 when he got clobbered !

So good old Winkleigh certainly changed hands a fair bit during its time line and history.


Onwards then:



he Saxons during their illustrious time in Britain built fortresses all over Devon, as there was always someone trying to kick them out. Particularly the Britons who didn't like them a bit and obviously thought that the Saxons as a nation were heathens because they couldn't cook !


 Winkleigh Hundred as it was called during the Middle Ages, was the name given to the whole area in which the village of Winkleigh stands and it had nothing to do with the popular misconception that it's a hundred acres of land. It was simply down to its population.

The hundred was actually responsible in its own right for sending 100 men in times of war to fight for King and Country and when that finally happened as fears of the Grande y Felicísima Armada - the notorious Spanish Armada were rife in the court of Elizabeth I, the Muster Rolls called for; 




"All  habell bodeyed men in the hundred "

 Winkleigh muster roll.

"Muster ye Winkleigh, All ye habell bodyed men in the hundred."


In fact, the year 1569 records show that Winkleigh Hundred could proudly sport a fair old first team including;

20 Archers

18 Harquebusiers, local rifleman with a musket of the time.

11 close combat Pikemen, who were well versed in using a spear that was up to 20 feet long.

And 12 Billmen armed with axes.


But they still fell a bit short on manpower and had to call in hand to hand men who could handle anything big and heavy, blunt or sharp as

long as it could maim or kill !







Winkleigh coat of arms.


As the Winkleigh coat of arms motto suggests; Fortes fortuna juvat  or

Fortune Favours the Brave.

And Winkleigh has always borne its sons and heroes, as we shall see later.




ommotion after commotion occurred then between the Saxons, the Britons and the Normans until things settled down a bit and normality, if you can call it that, or should we call it  'Norman - ality',  prevailed?


Along comes '1066 and all that', when William the Conqueror (who happened to be French and at that time also the Duke of Normandy) invaded Britain and set about dividing the whole county of Devon up amongst his rich pals, his Norman Barons.

William rather cleverly put them in place, not only as a reward for their allegiances and their services to their King, but also to keep an eye on the Devon inhabitants and to all intents and purposes, govern it. After all, they made good scrumpy!


 In the meantime, William the Conquerer surreptitiously gifted the whole manor of Winkleigh following the rather unlucky events surrounding the demise of Brictric - along with all the rest of his possessions to his consort Queen Matilda of Flanders who waltzed away with it keeping it all in the family so to speak and giving it a name, 'Wincheleie', under which it is first listed in the Doomsday book in 1086 !


Winkleigh Doomsday book entry.

The Doomsday book 1086 - entry for Winkleigh is Wincheleie

 This translates to: Wincheleie paid geld for 5½ hides. There is land for 40 ploughs. In demesne are 8 ploughs and 16 slaves; and 60 villans with 40 ploughs, and 10 swineherds. There are 80 acres of meadow and 500 acres of woodland, pasture 1 league long and another broad and a park for beasts.

It renders 30l by tale. Of this land Norman holds 1½ virgates of land.

They are worth 12s6d








t was in the rural county of Devon then, that the Norman Barons built their great homes and  estates which were called 'honours' and the Devonshire Barons in turn ruled & influenced the local economy & its agriculture.

Naturally, it follows that its associated industries flourished in the centuries ahead.



 The most important of these 'honours' were at; Plympton, Okehampton, Barnstaple, Harberton and Totnes. Though Winkleigh and North Tawton feature pretty highly. These influential families then grew in size, wealth and strength and became the most prominent families in Devon.

 So it was around these great family estates that the Devonshire villages grew and some of the villages grew up to become  towns, granted a charter by the King based upon their population.


Winkleigh from Grays Bridge - Devon



Photograph: Winkleigh aspect from Grays Bridge - Devon

Photographer: © 2008 Jackie Freeman Photography, Winkleigh - Devon - England



*The village of Winkleigh, strategic at the convergence of five major roads &  built on the highest  hilltop between

Dartmoor and Exmoor,  was no different.




Continued on next page




A History of the village & Borough Town of Winkleigh, Devon. UK

About the Author:

A Winkleigh History Continues with:

Risdons Survey of Devon and an account of Winkleigh village and 100..

How Winkleigh got its name

Winkleigh a History and the years in between

The role of Bartholemew Gidley, defender of Winkleigh

All Saints Parish Church: Winkleigh, Devon

Local industry and agriculture around Winkleigh

The village pump 

Buildings in Winkleigh
Pubs in Winkleigh & Devon Thatched Cottages, Inns, Ghosts, cars.


RAF airfield Winkleigh: Photos and squadron archive images  

Winkleigh  and the "Black" Squadron espionage missions

The Canadians at Winkleigh,

The US Air Force at Winkleigh.

Project Anvil - Operation Stay Flush: The Kennedy Mission









Cows, Home Barton near Winkleigh .

Photograph: Cows, Home Barton near Winkleigh

Photographer: © 2008 Jackie Freeman Photography, Winkleigh - Devon - England


More Vintage Images of Winkleigh:



Jackie freeman email.


Copyright Jackie Freeman 2008








Copyright:/ 2008 | Jackie Freeman Photography - Grays Cross - Winkleigh, Devon, England. UK. All rights reserved
Unauthorized use of the images illustrated is prohibited and protected under international laws of copyright.


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