It is fairly easy to follow the history of many of the farms and their occupiers over the last 300 years or so. For the period up to 1780 (and afterwards) there are many references in leases etc., housed in the D.R.O. From 1780 to 1843, the series of Land Tax assessments, and the Tithe Apportionment provide a year-by-year record of ownership and occupancy. After this, the story is carried on by the census returns and the Trade Directories
The situation of the farms results from the geography of the area. The high ground of Bratton Down is at the centre of the parish. Valleys to the north, west and south run down to the river Yeo. To the east of Bratton Down a north-south valley carries the River Bray which eventually joins the Taw much further south.
The farms in the various valleys are as follows. The names in brackets are those occupying the farms in 1780 (from the 1780 LTA )
The village area - "Town"(Leworthy), "Glebe"(Corner), "Beara"(Gammon), "Down" (Mogridge)
* CHELFHAM *
Chelfham, within Bratton Fleming parish, is half-way to Barnstaple. Chelfham slumbered for hundreds of years, was briefly awoken by the railway construction there, and now slumbers again. The railway was the short-lived Lynton and Barnstaple Railway; the biggest engineering work on the whole route was the massive brick viaduct at Chelfham.
Chelfham Barton and Chelfham Farm are two adjacent farmsteads within the Chichester estates, established there for hundreds of years. Written records certainly go back to 1628 and there is a well-preserved lease (to John Hunt) dated 1687 in the NDRO. This farm, and other properties (including Kipscombe, below), was passed down to a succession of John Hunts and the succession was certainly determined by entailment.
Documents from 1828-1829 illustrate the extraordinary complexity of entailment. In 1828, the John Hunt of the time initiated a "Common Recovery", a procedure designed to free properties from an existing entailment by citing a fictitious court action. (See the brief, but adequate explanation in Devon Family Historian, Nov 1997, p.7). Once the entailment was broken, John Hunt prepared a will of great complexity which re-established entailment. This re-entailment did not have much further influence over the ownership of the various Hunt properties since the 1834 Act simplified the whole business.
* KIPSCOMBE *
Kipscombe and North Land are properties in the Bray valley, north-east of Bratton Fleming village. By 1780 they belonged to the Hunt's of Chelfham, and they too were involved in the re-entailment of the properties in 1828/1830.
* HAXTON *
There are several different farms in the Haxton area, south of the village. Whybrow declares that "Joce's Haxton" belonged to the Hunt family early in the 17th century. "Haxton" then passed down a different branch of the Hunt family. Around the 1780s "John Hunt of Haxton" and "John Hunt of Chelfham" were both prominent in parish affairs. They were quite distant cousins.
* FRIENDSHIP *
This property in the far north of the parish was originally called "Shirrledon", later "Middle Ridge" (possibly a different farm in the same area), and finally "Friendship". It was purchased by Hugh Hunt in 1666. Both the Haxton Hunts and the Chelfham Hunts seem to have occupied parts of this area in the late 18th century, but the farm finally called "Friendship" descended to a branch of the Haxton Hunts.
In 1838, parliament passed an Act for enclosing the previously open down-land of Bratton Down. The allotments of land took place in 1840 and Whybrow's book gives the details.
* SOURCES OF INFORMATION *