The Coleridge Hundred and its Medieval Court
Bachelor of Law Thesis, Exeter University (1982)
The area covered by the Coleridge Hundred has changed little in the last 1,000 years. It is an area dominated by water – the long coastline, the great harbour at Dartmouth, and the River Dart, navigable as far as Totnes, 10 miles from the sea; the wide estuary at Salcombe, allowing navigation up as far as Kingsbridge, 5 miles from the sea. (Fig. 1 and tack cover).
Inland were steep, wooded valleys, lusn water-meadows and, higher, ricnly fertile agricultural land. There has been no major alteration to this landscape, and very little road-building, so that most of the roads a. e the original, single-track lanes used for getting from settlement to settlement, and for drovers to take their herds up to the great, free pasturing on Dartmoor, during the Summer months. These “drover roads” still run in a practically straight line from the settlements up to the moor.
The Hundred had 2 main vills, at Totnes and Dartmouth, and yet the Hundred court was in Stokenaam, in the far south, and the name of the Hundred derived from a farm hamlet just outside the village of Stokenham. An attempt to explain this apparent anomaly is made later. In order to give an impression of the administrative/legal establishment, I have concentrated on research into the 2 towns, Dartmouth and Totnes; the the ancient settlement at Dodbrooke, which was swallowed-up by Kingsbridge very early on; the parish of Blackawton, leased by the Abbey at Torre in Torquay, from about 1250 until 1539» and therefore well-documented in the Abbey Cartularies; and Stokenham itself, where the lordship of the Manor had the perquisite of lordship of the Coleridge Hundred (quoted in i.p.m. Mathew Fitz John 1258 – 3099).