The living was originally a rectory, but in 13th century, the last Rector, Symon Stiria resigned, and the Dean and Chapter appropriated the rectorial tithe. As this was just at the time when the office of Dean for Exeter Cathedral was created it seems likely that Westleigh, in common with many other parishes was deprived of its great or rectorial tithe to provide the Dean’s stipend.

There is an in interesting account in the Bishops registers at that period giving jurisdiction as to what proportion on of the vicarage should the vicars, and what belong to the Dean and Chapter.

The vicar was to have, “all the sanctuary, with the dwelling house in the sanctuary,” and also “the better grange” together with the moiety acre of land. He was to have all “fatting stalls” and all land “cultivated only with shovels”, this last as distinct from ploughland.

The glass in the church windows in the chancel, and cost of keeping the same to be borne for the first time by the vicar, and afterwards by the Dean and chapter.

The vicar is to have for his own use, “all sheep manure in the church, and. vicarage lands.”

This was of course before the date of vicarage, at a period when the vicar lived in a priests room close to, or possibly adjoining the church. I think it extremely probable that the old church house was the dwelling occupied then. Later in the post-reformation times, I am of the opinion that the “better grange”, mentioned in the Bishop’s register, was taken as a vicarage. If so, that would be the old part of Eastaway (until 1930 the vicarage now called White Lodge), the three gables which form this building date from the 12th century. In alterations made in 1930 an old stone staircase was found in the centre gable leading to the room above, and clearly the original staircase from the ground to the 1st floor. The stones from this staircase were re-erected as a flight of steps into the garden. In a terrier dated in 1745 (in church chest) a detailed account of the vicarage as it was then is given, and mention is made of the “hall” contained in it.

This hall was destroyed when an upper floor with two rooms was built into at a later date, but there is still one carved oak frieze that surrounded the top of the wall left there, though terribly covered with paint, and above it part of the original plaster decorations that surmounted it, in the form of a fleur-de-lys.

Mr Raleigh Radford, examined this old building in 1931 and gave it as his opinion that the hall was in detail very similar to the hall at Weare Gifford, both in design and decoration, though much smaller. The old open fire has gone, and it seems that the present larder is where it stood, at any rate the old wide chimney, connected now with nothing but a small bedroom Fireplace of comparatively modern date still stands.

The floor was supported on beams, probably of the “hammer type. One of these beams has been used at some period to support the ceiling of what is now a cloakroom, and the bevelled side can be seen there plainly.

The small canopy over the north doorway is Tudor. The cobbled entrance to this door is done in a peculiar pattern, with a “cross” formed in the cobbles. It has been suggested that this form, of cobbling was put intentionally, to ward off “the evil eye”. In the room, on the side of the present garage, approached by a nice flight of probably Tudor steps, there are the original very wide oak floor board of 15th century date. The other out-buildings are very old. Unfortunately this old house so long the vicarage no longer has its status, but it should not be lost sight of that for at least 400 years it was the centre of parish life, in connection with church.

Leonard Prince, who held this living with that of Instow in 1695, left in his will, dated that year, “All the furniture in the vicarage at Westleigh, except the feather bed in the great bedchamber, the great chair and the little sideboard” to his daughter Anne.

Another vicar Evan Griffiths, who was here from 1579 to 1627 left sum of money to be distributed among the poor of Westleigh, and the notes as to its distribution, and to whom it was distributed are to be found on a sheet of the old register.

In 1643, Arthur Giffard, who had been Rector of Bideford, and turned out of Bideford by the Cromwellians, was living in this parish and serving the church here, teaching also ‘ in the school ‘ , Since there was no vicar here at the time there is no doubt that the Cromwellians had also turned out the vicar for the time being, and that but for the ministrations of Arthur Giffard there would have been no one in charge. Giffard suffered terrible persecution both in. Bideford and here, but did his duty in a noble manner, until at the Restoration he was begged to return to Bideford, where he was greatly beloved.

There are some very old houses in the parish.

Southcott the home of the Southcott family, whose name appears in the earliest registers, Weech Barton the home of a. family whose name was Weech or Wyche, Two members of this family followed one another here as vicars. Nicholas.S.Wicke, or Wiche and Roger Wicke or Wyche.

Eastleigh Barton with its wonderful great chimney stack, dating from 13th of 14th century.

Wearland In I393, Joan Legh, lady of Eastleigh, gave half a furlong at Wareland on the west apart of Legheford to Bideford Bridge.

Treyhill too would appear to be very old.

Bradavens is another old house, though modernised. There is a note o: the sale of it by Nicholas Parslwew of Churchhorwood to John Gifford in 1569.

Revels were part of the life of our ancestors, and one was held in this parish within the memory of people living today. On those days I am told by old people living in the village, the men wore silver spoon in their hats. The spoons were what they “wrestled’ for,

In the Bishops registers, is mentioned a visitations to the Parish dated 1330 which reads -:

“23 July 1330. The chancel is short, but sufficient with a canopy. There are two sufficiently good breviaries, one with a legenda, the other without. A good legenda by itself. Two fairly good psalters except the parish psalter. The venitary, hymnal, capitulare, collectare, and ordinal will surfice.”

Authorities consulted in drawing up this account.

D.A. Transactions.

Davidsons notes on churches.

Tingey Transcripts (Ex.Cit.Lib.)

Transcripts of Bishops Register (Hingeston Randolph).

Westleigh Parish Registers and terriers.

M.S.S British Museum.

Bells of Devon H.T. Ellacombe (I864)

Parliamentary Survey. (Lambeth Palace Library)

( Ed by PF )