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Salmon Pool

Salmon Pool is a self descriptive section of the River Exe, about 1½ miles from the ancient walled city of Exeter, on a stretch of the river, close to salmon pool weir and to the site of a ford over the river in the parish of Alphington. St James’ Weir that creates Salmon Pool dates from the 14th Century and was built by the Courtnays so as to raise the rive levels for the leat that drove their mills further down in the Countess Wear. This caused great problems for Exeter as it stopped any shipping from the sea. The townsman got around this by building a canal around the obstacle.

Thomas Templer (1737-1796) followed his father as freeman of Exeter as a Butcher (by succession). He seemed to branch out as he called a Grazier. It is likely that he made his fortune by providing cattle for the Royal Navy at the time of the Napoleonic Wars when the surrounding area was dominated by the Navy. There are stories of the Templer cattle being driven down to the beach to be slaughtered, salted and barrelled, for supply to the ships of the Navy.

Certainly he had sufficient status to marry the daughter of General Vinicombe (Alice Mary Vinicombe 1752 –1829), who is mentioned further below.

At the time the land belonged to King’s College Cambridge and the following letter provides some of the history of Salmon Pool.



4th, May, 1933.

Dear Sir, (addressed to Lt. Col. W. F. Templer.)

Your letter to Professor Jenks dated March 24th has been passed on to me from the College Office.

The house now known as the Old Abbey is built on or near the site of the former Cluniac Priory of St. James by Exeter. This was a small religious house founded before 1142 by Baldwin de Redvers, Earl of Devon, and a cell to the priory of St. Martin-des-Champs in Paris. It was suppressed sometime after 1428, and in 1444 the reversion of its property was granted to this College. The estate included, besides the site of the Priory itself, a property known as Crealy Barton, tithes in Tiverton, and Cotley Woods near Honiton.

The site seems first to have been leased to a member of your family in 1788, The lease was granted to Thomas Templer of Alphington near Exeter, Gentleman, for ten years and at an annual rent of £7. The property is described as "the Site of the Barton of St. James near the City of Exeter in the County of Devon formerly enjoyed by the Widow Pansford, deceased, and since by Richard Cross, Gentleman deceased, consisting of a Dwelling-house, a Barn, a Stable Courtlages and Linnys, and also a peice of around called the Goyle leading to Duck’s Bridge, and also one part of a Close of Ground called Path Park, and also one other piece of Ground called Bailiffs Piece, and also a piece of Ground lying in Glare Park containing about half an Acre."

In 1798 a lease for fourteen years at a rent of £12 was made to Alice Templer of Alphington, Widow.

In 1812 a lease for twelve years at a rent of to £30 was made to the Rev. John Templer of Newton St. Cyres (John Templer, Vicar of Collumpton (1784-1829), Clerk; and in 1822 another lease to the same John Templer for twenty years at a rent of £30, rising in the third year to £31.10s.

I have not been able to discover when the Rev. John Templer's tenancy ended. The next lease, made in 1856 to Mr. James Petherbridge, describes the premises as "late in the occupation of the Rev. John Templer  (d.1829) deceased afterwards of William Beer and now of the said James Petherbridge." By this time they are “the Site of the Barton of St. James In the Parish of Heavitree near the City of Exeter in the County of Devon heretofore consisting of a Dwellinghouse Stable Garden Courtlages, Linnys and other Buildings but many years since converted into two Dwellinghouses with several Cottages, Linneys and other Courtlages and Gardens."

The College possesses many records of the estate including a fine collection of mediaeval charters and a map of the site and adjacent copyhold lands dated 1740.

  Yours faithfully,

John Saltmarch



“The Earl of Devon owns most of the soil and is the lord of the manor of  Alphington, which was obtained by his family in the reign of Richard II, in exchange from the Seagraves. Matford, formerly the seat of the Smith and other families,  belongs to Sir L.V. Palk; and the Gibbs family and others have estates here. The village was one of the principal quarters of Sir Thomas Fairfax's army in 1646,  when he was blockading Exeter.
(ref.  Whites Devonshire 1878)

The history of the site is well documented from before the Norman Conquest and includes the site of The  Priory of St James, which was founded by Norman, Baldwin de Redvers, second  Earl of Devon in AD 1138-1141. The Priory, sometimes referred to as St James Abbey stood on a marshy situation close to the river on a site, known as Abbey Field into the 20th Century.
(Devon and its People; G. Hoskins; Wheaton, Exeter 1959)

In 1146, the “Chapel of St James without Exeter”, as it was then known, was given by Baldwin de Redvers with the tithes and estates to the Head Monastery of St Peter at Clugny and  to the Abbey of St Martin de Campis in Paris, stipulating that a Prior and some monks of that Order should be settled there.  As one of many “Alien Priories”, its revenues were frequently seized by the Crown during wars with France. Finally, in 1441 Alien Priories were suppressed by Henry V and the lands and revenues of The Priory of St James were given by Henry VI and by his successor, Edward IV to Kings College, Cambridge, which has enjoyed them ever since.
(ref; the History of the suburbs of Exeter; Chas Worthy; Henry Gray, London 1892)

Salmon Pool, near Exeter / drawn by Fredk.Tucker, Bartholw.Yd, Exeter; J.R.Jobbins,  litho. Warwick Court.
[c.1825].  Lithograph vignette ; 90x160mm.  Somers Cocks catalogue: 0760 Original: Westcountry Studies Library.

The first reference I have found to occupation by the Templer family is from “Travels in Georgian Devon - the Illustrated Journals of the Revd John Swete; Devon Books ISBN 1 85522 755X”. Writing in 1799 he says:

“The road from hence .... soon joins the great public road leading from Topsham to Exeter.  These together in a manner insulate the grounds of Major Hamilton called  Northbrook .... the site of the house is extremely pleasant, commanding much of the expanding valley of the Exe and of the woodland hills beyond. Nearly contiguous to these are the inclosures of the farm commonly called the Old Abbey which are in the possession of a Mr Templer under lease from Kings College, Cambridge.  Here was a Religious House, of which I have been able to obtain no other information than that its  appellation was the Priory of St James and that the buildings or the lands which  appertain to it form portions of the respective parishes of Heavitree, Alphington and St Leonards.”

“Whilst I was traversing the open ground around the house with the view of discovering (if there were any) vestiges of the ancient Edifice, Mrs Templer (widow I understand of the  late proprietor) civilly accosted me, offering to shew me what she held to be the only curious relique on the place, which she said was a stone coffin of  one of the monks who formally lived at the Abbey. This she carried me to see in a corner of her garden behind the  house, and I found it to be, as she had reported, the shell of a coffin excavated in a single stone of great apparent hardness for it was not mutilated. It was now converted to a use of a very different nature; for what had been the repository of a substance that had ceased  to exist, now teemed with life, - the dead body of the Monk had been supplanted by a little parterre of flowers which gave it a decoration, beautiful at least, if not appropriate.

This Mrs Templer would appear to be Alice (nee Vinicombe) the widow of Thomas Templer (1737-1796). His obituary (Gent Magazine 1796/622) described him as the “eminent grazier of Abbey House, Alphington, who was thrown from his horse and killed prematurely on 21st July  1796.

I believe the house was demolished in the 1960's and Exeter University was built on the site

Today, Salmon Pool is still fished by the Exeter and District Angling Association and the stretch of the river is still attractive, being accessed from the Topsham Road via Salmon Pool Lane.


Salmon Pool weir Exeter City of Exeter Tour: Dukes Marsh & Salmon Pool

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