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In the footsteps of Katherine Champernowne — A Woman of Noble Wit

October 08, 2022

Although her famous sons, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Humphrey Gilbert, travelled far beyond England’s shores Katherine lived all her life in Devon. These are just a few of the places she knew.


Katherine was almost certainly born at the Champernowne’s mansion in Modbury. Known as The Court House, it occupied an important strategic position high on the hill above the market town, commanding sweeping views over the surrounding Devon countryside.

Nothing remains of the Court House except a …

Riding and Riding Apparel for women in Tudor and Elizabethan England

August 22, 2022

— a post prompted by watching the Starz TV series Becoming Elizabeth

August 2022 brought quite a heatwave to Devon. It was far too hot to work in my attic-room office, so I took some time off to binge-watch the Starz TV series Becoming Elizabeth. Set in the years immediately following the death of King Henry VIII, it concentrates on the relationship between the young princess Elizabeth and the charismatic but dangerous Thomas Seymour. I often find TV dramatisations disappointing but, despite having a few qualms about some of the plot …

Agnes Prest — Exeter martyr — Burned at the stake in Southernhay on 15 August 1557

August 14, 2022


Today Southernhay is a leafy street of attractive Georgian town houses and modern offices just beyond Exeter’s ancient city walls. It follows the line of the great town ditch, know as the Crulditch a name which, according to Devon historian Hoskins, comes from the word crull, meaning curly, as the ditch followed the curve of the city wall.





You might just be able to make out the name Crulditch on this map of the city which was commissioned in 1587 …

Merchants, privateers and pirates on the River Dart and the Shipman of Dartmouth

June 15, 2022


Spawned from rainfall on the heights of windswept Dartmoor, two streams —the East Dart and the West Dart — gather tributaries as they gush over waterfalls and rush under ancient clapper bridges.  When they reach Dartmeet they join to become the River Dart, which then continues its tumbling descent from the moor, through the towns of Ashburton and Buckfastleigh and on towards Totnes. 




From there the wide river makes its stately progress between high wooded banks towards the sea at Dartmouth.


The Last Wishes of Katherine Raleigh

April 16, 2022

"Deare Sonnes"

On the 18th April in the year 1594 Katherine Raleigh lay in her bed in a house close to the Palace Gate, near Exeter Cathedral. She was well into her seventies, a long life for a woman of her time.

Fearing her end was near, she called for her grandson, Arthur Gilbert, one of Sir Humphrey's many sons. Along with Nicholas Bolte and Richard Jerman, probably Exeter merchants, Arthur Gilbert witnessed her last will and testament. 

As she lay, probably very near death, Katherine’s overriding concern was to see all her accounts on earth …