A footnote on Hubberstone

I mentioned that the Historical Gazetteer of England’s Place-Names records the name Hubbastone in Devon (hundred Shebbear > parish Northam > settlement Northam > place Hubbastone), the earliest version of the name being ‘Hubberstone’, 1765. The  source is given as ‘T. Donne, Map of the County of Devon, 1765’.

Title of Benjamin Donn's map of Devon. 'Entered in the Hall Book of the Company of Stationers and Published according to Act of Parliament, January 1.t 1765.

Title of Benjamin Donn’s map of Devon. ‘Entered in the Hall Book of the Company of Stationers and Published according to Act of Parliament, January 1.t 1765.

However, I find no record of a ‘T. Donne’, only Benjamin Donn[e] who produced a very famous Map of the County of Devon in 1765 (click on the graphic for a much clearer image).

So was Benjamin Donn’s map the source of the Gazetteer’s reference? Thomas Wright’s footnote in his edition of Gaimar (1850) said: “I am informed that there was formerly a mound on the “Barrows” or sand beach at Appledore, which was called Hubbaston, Ubbaston, and Whibblestan; but it has been long swept away by the tides.”

Certainly the problem of the tidal erosion of the Northam Burrows had existed for a long time, but did Benjamin Donn’s map of 1765 indicate a place called ‘Hubberstone’?


Detail from Benjamin Donn’s Map of Devon 1765: Northam Burrows, Henny Castle, Tapeleigh park

There is Henny Castle Olim Kenwith, west of Bideford, but I can’t make out Hubberstone, or anything like it, anywhere near Appledore or Northam. I have emailed the Gazetteer for clarification but have no idea if such queries elicit replies.

However, having mentioned 19th-c. historical fiction in the last post, it’s interesting to note ‘Burrough’ on this map, just to the right of the name ‘Northam’ (lower case, south of the Burrows). An original Burrough House, was probably built by a Stephen Burrough in the 16th century and subsequent generations were, like him, seafarers and adventurers (A Short history of Northam, CM Davis, 1967). It was pulled down by a Captain Yeo (denounced as ‘a barbarian’ on the Devon County Council website) in 1868 and replaced with the present building. In Charles Kingsley’s Westward Ho! (1855), Burrough Court was  the family home of the young hero, Amyas Leigh:

Beneath him on his right, the Torridge, like a land-locked lake, sleeps broad and bright between the old park of Tapeley and the charmed rock of the Hubbastone, where, seven hundred years ago, the Norse rovers landed to lay siege to Kenwith Castle, a mile away on his left hand; and not three fields away, are the old stones of “The Bloody Corner”, where the retreating Danes, cut off from their ships, made their last fruitless stand against the Saxon sheriff and the valiant men of Devon. Within that charmed rock, so Torridge boatmen tell, sleeps now the old Norse Viking in his leaden coffin, with all his fairy treasure and his crown of gold … ” (Westward Ho!, Ch. I).

On this basis, ‘Hubbastone’ is not on the Northam Burrows but somewhere on the left bank of the Torridge, opposite Tapeley Park (Tapeleigh on Donn’s map), near Burrough House or Knapp. However, Kingsley was writing a novel …

Burrough House, Northam

Burrough House, Northam

While on the subject of ‘romantic fiction’ perhaps this is also the place to mention Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of England, first published in 1831. Lewis had no known connection with Devon (unlike Kingsley who spent his childhood in nearby Clovelly, or Donn who was born in Bideford), and he subsequently published similar dictionaries for Wales, Scotland and Ireland. This is what he wrote about Appledore:

“… a small sea-port town, in the parish of NORTHAM, hundred of SHEBBEAR … This place is celebrated in history for the many battles between the Saxons and the Danes which took place in the immediate vicinity, more especially for the decisive and important victory obtained, by Earl Odun and the men of Devon, over a large army of Danes under the command of Hubba, who, in the reign of Alfred, landed at this place with thirty-three ships. The invaders were repulsed with great slaughter and the loss of their leader, who, being taken prisoner, was beheaded on a hill in the neighbourhood, on which a stone has been erected to mark the spot, and which still retains the name of Hubberstone Hill.”

Poor old Hubba to be so treated! It seems unlikely that Lewis or his local informant had known anything about Asser or the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle; but it’s a fair bet that many people with a local interest in the area were now learning a lot more about Lewis’s Appledore: the Topographical Dictionary ran into seven editions between 1831 and 1849, and must have been on many an educated library shelf. Along with Kingsley’s Westward Ho!.

So, 1831 and the main players are there in Appledore, at Kenwith Castle: Hubba and Earl Odun, Bloody Corner … And thirty-three Viking ships. Onwards and backwards.


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