May 2021 Newsletter

Beating the Bounds 3
This is the third stage of our tour of the outer limits of our parish boundaries. So far, we have been to the south at Red Post and to the west at Ambrook. This month it is the turn of Dornafield in the north.

We know Dornafield as a welcome break for refreshments on our long trek and as we pass through the impressive old archway and pause to take photographs, we can see that this is a building of great antiquity.
Dornafield is old but it does not appear in the Domesday Book. It is first referenced in the Assize rolls of 1238 when Roger de Dornefeld is in possession and nigh on a hundred years later in 1332 when the Devonshire lay subsidy states that a Robert de Dornefeld was taxed in the sum of two shillings.
So, part of what we see is an early medieval building. It is a particularly good example of a Devon medieval single storey farmhouse comprising three rooms and a cross passage. It has been much added to in later centuries with cereal barns, chimney stacks and new wings as befitting more prosperous times for Devon’s farmers in the sixteenth century.
It was a substantial building, therefore, that famously received the unwelcome attention of Sir Thomas Fairfax and his troops at the end of the Civil War in January 1646. Parliamentary forces were all over South Devon during the siege of Exeter mopping up pockets of resistance in Dartmouth, Bovey Tracey, Ashburton and Totnes.
Heading back to Exeter Fairfax was following a route that took him through Newton Abbot. On the way he must have regarded the Crossings family of Dornafield as a target because the farmhouse was bombarded with cannon fire suggesting Fairfax believed Royalist soldiers might be present. It is true that the Crossing family had previously in 1641 declared their allegiance to the King in the Devon protestation returns.
Serious as the siege was the Crossings survived staying there until the first half of the eighteenth century. Since those momentous events it has passed hands many times. Since 1982 the farm has been run as a caravan park by the Dewhirst family.
Please note that this article is an adaptation of a piece by Paul Presswell.
John Marsh


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