Subject:West Worthele, Ermington

NGR:SX 6210 5420

Worthele is first mentioned in Domesday Book as Ordihella, when it was held by Judhael, lord of Totnes.  It was a reasonably large holding, with seven villagers and seven smallholdings within it.  The name means a neck of land with an enclosure on it.  From 1086 to about 1300, the ownership of the manor is not well known, but from about 1300, the manor may have been leased or tenanted to the Rich family, who later became its owners.  Thomas Rich, Gentleman who died in 1684, was described on his tomb in Ermington Church as "Being the last of the Name of the House of Worthele, whose Predecessors enjoyed that estate near four hundred year."  They may not have lived there always, as in 1418 Thomas Topclyff was granted a licence for a private chapel at Worthele.  The lack of any architectural fragments after about 1500 in the present buildings may suggest that the manor may have lost much of its importance by the earlier 16th century; the Rich family, although gentlemen, bearing a coat of arms, not being wealthy enough to rebuild their house after that date.

Description:

The farmstead lies 2km north-west of Ermington on level ground at the source of the Longbrook, which springs from the field just south of the house.  A C19 planned farmstead now occupies the site, with house and buildings arranged around an incomplete quadrangle, straddling a lane.
Slight earthworks in orchard to south-east of house may be the location of the earlier manor house and outbuildings.

Dating:

1C11-C15

The site of the medieval manor farm of Worthele may have occupied the slight earthwork platforms in the orchard just south and east of the present house.  A well here appears to be of medieval form.

2Later C15

A carved stone head of a large, possibly hall window now lies in the garden, west of the house and implies a rebuild of the house between about 1450 and 1500.  Very few other re-used carved stones survive, suggesting that no major alterations took place until the C19.

3Early C19

The farm buildings to the west of the present farmyard seem to be of this period and appear on the Ermington tithe map of 1842.  They have roughly dressed limestone window and door jambs which appear to be of early C19 date.  Other buildings existed in 1842, but were replaced later.

41844

Farmhouse entirely rebuilt, probably on a new site.  Hornless sashes and ramped stair balustrade seem to be of this date.  East range of farmyard largely replaced with a threshing barn & shippon, adjoining a double-arched cart shed with central flight of steps leading to a granary.  A small single storey building at the south end was probably a loose-box for a carriage pony.  All openings and quoins of cut granite, with three-centred arches for the two cart shed openings, dated 1844.

5Later C19

Large threshing barn added on north side of farmyard, between existing east and west ranges.  West porch of farmhouse possibly of this date, added to Period 1 building.  Many internal alterations, notably new doors and fireplaces, and apparently a new roof, with bolted trusses, as farm buildings 4 and 6.  This is rather odd, as the farmhouse appears to have been newly built in 1844.  Had there been a fire?

Conclusions:

West Worthele is an interesting farm for its well-preserved C19 planned layout, and some particularly well-built and attractive farm buildings.  Its continuation as an estate farm has ensured the survival of many of these features and the buildings continue to be used for agriculture.

The slight earthworks to the east and south of the present house, in conjunction with an apparently medieval well, are of considerable interest.  Deserted Domesday manor sites are rare, so these earthworks are potentially of considerable archaeological value.




West Worthele