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Okehampton
Baptist Chapel, Okehampton - geograph.org.uk - 1810420.jpg
Baptist Chapel, Fore Street, built 1889
Okehampton is located in Devon
Okehampton
Okehampton
Population 5,922 (2011)
OS grid reference SX5895
• London 201 miles (323 km)
Civil parish
  • Okehampton
District
  • West Devon
Shire county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town OKEHAMPTON
Postcode district EX20
Dialling code 01837
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Devon and Somerset
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
  • Central Devon
List of places
UK
England
Devon
50°44′20″N 4°00′15″W / 50.7388°N 4.0041°W / 50.7388; -4.0041

Okehampton ( or) is a town and civil parish in West Devon in the English county of Devon. It is situated at the northern edge of Dartmoor, and had a population of 5,922 at the 2011 census. Two electoral wards are based in the town (east and west). Their joint population at the same census was 7,500.

Okehampton is 21 miles (33 km) west of Exeter, 26 miles (42 km) north of Plymouth and 24 miles (38 km) south of Barnstaple.

History

Okehampton was founded by the Saxons. The earliest written record of the settlement is from 980 AD as "Ocmundtune", meaning settlement by the Ockment, a river which runs through the town. It was recorded as a place for slaves to be freed at cross roads.

Like many towns in the West Country, Okehampton grew on the medieval wool trade. Notable buildings in the town include the 15th century chapel of St. James and Okehampton Castle, which was established by the Norman Sheriff of Devon, Baldwin FitzGilbert(d.1090).

Feudal barony

Okehampton castle hill
Remains of Okehampton Castle today

Okehampton was the caput of a large feudal barony, which at the time of the Domesday Book was held by Baldwin FitzGilbert. After his death in 1090 the tenure of the barony is obscure for the next twenty years after which it was held by the heiress Maud d'Avranches until her death in 1173, which passed to her daughter, Hawise de Curci (died 1219), who married Reginald de Courtenay. His French possessions were confiscated by the French King Louis VII, but were given, together with the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth de Courtenay, to his youngest brother Peter I of Courtenay. The Courtenay family rebuilt Okehampton Castle, until King Henry VIII seized the lands and had Henry Courtenay, 1st Marquess of Exeter executed for treason in 1539. Presently, the castle is owned by English Heritage and is open to the public during the summer season. The town is also home to the Museum of Dartmoor Life, which has received notable visitors such as Prince Charles.

Political representation

Okehampton elected two members to the Unreformed House of Commons. The Reform Act of 1832 abolished its representation as a rotten borough.

Okehamptonmap 1946
Map of Okehampton from 1946

Military presence

There is a substantial army training camp on Dartmoor which can be reached via Okehampton, and is commonly referred to as "Okehampton Camp". It is managed by the Defence Training Estate, and used by a variety of military units, including the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM), Lympstone, Devon, and many cadet training units. The Ten Tors event is run by the Army each year in early May from Okehampton Camp.

Travel links

Okehampton mural
A mural of Dartmoor on the side of an Okehampton building

Okehampton's location at the edge of the moor means that it has always been a route centre. After years of uncertainty, the A30 trunk road was finally re-routed in 1988 to bypass the town, which had previously acted as a holiday traffic bottleneck at summer weekends. Okehampton railway station is on the former northerly rail route from Exeter to Plymouth via Tavistock. The line from Exeter remains open for freight traffic to and from Meldon Quarry, two miles (3 km) west of Okehampton. In summer, and at weekends throughout the year, the Dartmoor Railway operates a heritage railway service between Okehampton and Meldon Quarry.

In 1997, Devon County Council revived a passenger rail service from Exeter, on summer weekends only, in an attempt to reduce motor traffic to the national park. In March 2010, the freight operator Devon & Cornwall Railways announced plans to reinstate a daily passenger service terminating in Exeter, but this has yet to happen.

In the wake of widespread disruption caused by damage to the mainline track at Dawlish by coastal storms in February 2014, leaving Plymouth and Cornwall with no rail connection to the rest of the country, Network Rail are considering reopening the Exeter-to-Plymouth route via Okehampton and Tavistock.

Okehampton is served by various bus services from Exeter, Bude, Newquay and Tavistock. Stagecoach service 6 links from Exeter Bus station via Exeter St Davids to Okehampton and then to Bude. Other services from Exeter Bus station include the 6A service via Exeter St Davids, which continues to Launceston.

Nearby settlements

Okehampton is surrounded by many smaller villages and towns including the hamlet of Stockley. Notable examples are the villages of South Zeal with its ancient burgage plots, granite thatched cottages and Dartmoor Folk Festival; Belstone, noted for its location on the very outskirts of Dartmoor and links to Agatha Christie's The Sittaford Mystery; and Sticklepath which has an annual fire show on Bonfire Night, 5 November. Other nearby villages and settlements include Folly Gate, Northlew, Jacobstowe, Bridestowe and Sourton.


Sport

The town's football team, Okehampton Argyle F.C., is a non-league club which was established in 1926 after the original side, Okehampton Town, disbanded. The club competes in the South West Peninsula League which sits at Steps 6 and 7 of the National League System; four leagues below the top division of non-league football, the Football Conference. The town also has a rugby club, Okehampton RFC, which is believed to have been founded in 1884. There is also a table tennis club in the town that was purpose-built for the sport beside the local post office off the town.

Education

Schools in the town include Okehampton Primary School and Okehampton College. There are also a number of smaller primary schools in the surrounding areas for children within the catchment area of Okehampton that include South Tawton, Hatherleigh, Chagford, North Tawton and Bridestowe.

Transport

Okehampton's location at the edge of the moor means that it has always been a route centre. After years of uncertainty, the A30 trunk road was finally re-routed in 1988 to bypass the town, which had previously acted as a holiday traffic bottleneck at summer weekends. Okehampton railway station is on the former northerly rail route from Exeter St Davids to Plymouth via Tavistock. The line from Exeter was kept open for freight traffic to and from Meldon Quarry, two miles (3 km) west of Okehampton. In 1997, Devon County Council revived a passenger rail service from Exeter, on summer weekends only, in an attempt to reduce motor traffic to the national park, which became a summer Sunday service, operated at its closure by Great Western Railway. In March 2010, the freight operator Devon & Cornwall Railways announced plans to reinstate a daily passenger service terminating in Exeter,though this never came to fruition. The station was also previously served by heritage trains, but closed to all services in 2019.

Okehampton station then reopened to a regular service on 20th November 2021 as part of refurbishment of the line. The Dartmoor Line, as it is now called, opened with a two hourly service to Exeter St Davids, but this will increase to hourly in Spring 2022.

In the wake of widespread disruption caused by damage to the mainline track at Dawlish by coastal storms in February 2014, leaving Plymouth and Cornwall with no rail connection to the rest of the country, Network Rail considered reopening the Exeter-to-Plymouth route via Okehampton and Tavistock.

Okehampton is served by various bus services from Exeter, Bude, Newquay and Tavistock. Stagecoach South West service 6 links from Exeter bus station via Exeter St Davids to Okehampton and then to Bude. Other services from Exeter bus station include the 6A service via Exeter St Davids, which continues to Launceston.

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