Subject:Oldaport, Modbury

NGR:SX 6855 4940

The earliest reference to Oldaport is dated c.1250, when John de la Port is said to have taken 'his name of an old fort that standeth upon the river of Erme and gave the name unto a family'.  John's son William gave the property to his son in law Thomas de Heanton, whose son William was granted a licence for a chapel of ease at Oldaport in 1332.  His daughter Joan brought the property as a dowry when she married Richard Somaster in the 1330s, and the property continued in the family until sold in the early to mid 17th century to Sir Warwick Hele, who seems to have let it.  At some time before 1801, it was acquired by Lord Ashburton, who then leased it to Luke Pearse.  It was sold to the sitting tenant John Wilson in 1860 and has had various farming owners since then.

Archaeological evidence shows that the long spur, on the side of which the farm is located, was occupied by a promontory fort in the Iron Age, c.600-100BC, while cropmarks on the ridge top, west of the farm may relate to a later Iron Age or Romano-British farmstead.  In the late Saxon period, the site was chosen as a defensive burh or fort, possibly being an early 11th century addition to a sequence of burhs placed at strategic locations across England in the 9th century by King Alfred the Great.  This was confirmed in 2004 by a radiocarbon date in the early 11th century for the construction of its walls.


The farmstead sits on the south side of a terrace cut into the steeply sloping south-east facing side of a long spur, projecting out into the estuary of the River Erme.  Steep-sided valleys pass down both sides of the spur, whose streams enter the estuary through marshy areas, formerly creeks flanking the promontory.

Developed farmhouse of three room and cross-passage plan, facing north-east with a double courtyard plan; the outer court containing a stable block and threshing barn, while the inner is backed by a detached lodging and kitchen block.


1C 15-early C16?

South-eastern (lower) end of farmhouse has thick rubble walls & small window openings.  Arched oak doorframe to front of cross-passage of late C15 form.  Three room and cross-passage plan by C15 & probably before.

2C 1560-1630

Main range of farmhouse rebuilt and re-roofed with single storey porch & two rear stair turrets serving rooms at either end of building.  Several finely carved oak door frames & slate slab lintel to large hall fireplace.
Rear detached block built, containing kitchen & heated lodgings with stair turret to rear.  Yard walls built to inner and outer courts.

3C 1630-1670

Stable block and threshing barn added to outer court, covered staircase to lodging in inner court.  Upper end room on ground floor of house remodelled with moulded plaster ceiling and panelling on walls.

4C 18Agricultural buildings added including shippon lean-tos on barn 5, suggesting that the house's status as a small mansion had fallen to that of an ordinary farm.  This may date to its acquisition by Lord Ashburton.

5C 19 Several additions including rear lean-tos to house, ranges of animal houses 8 & 9, and horse engine 6 added to barn.  Garden walls to front of house date from this period, keeping animals away from building.


Oldaport is a fine example of a developed yeoman farmer's house of the C15-C17.  It is notable for its well-defined courtyard plan and high quality features such as its carved oak door frames.  The presence of several stair turrets including one in a rear lodging and kitchen block is also unusual.  The site is known to have been occupied for more than 2000 years.