Bideford, Devon Genealogy

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EnglandGotoarrow.png DevonGotoarrow.png  Devon Parishes

Parish History

BIDEFORD (St. Mary),a sea-port, incorporated market-town, and parish, having separate jurisdiction, and the head of a union, locally in the hundred of Shebbear, Great Torrington and N. divisions of Devon, 39 miles (N. W. by W.) from Exeter, and 201(W. by S.) from London. This place, called also Bytheford, of which its modern appellative is a variation, derives its name from being situated near an ancient ford on the river Torridge. It was a town of some importance in the time of the Saxons: in early records it is styled a borough, and in the reigns of Edward I. and II. returned members to parliament; but the burgesses having pleaded inability to supply the usual pecuniary allowance to their representatives, this distinction was withdrawn. In 1271, Richard de Grenville, to whose ancestor Bideford had been granted in the reign of William Rufus, obtained for it a market and a fair; and, in 1573, Queen Elizabeth incorporated the inhabitants, and made the town a free borough. From that time it rapidly increased as a place of trade, and the expeditions of Sir Walter Raleigh to Virginia and of Sir Richard Grenville to Carolina, established the basis of its foreign commerce. During the civil war in the reign of Charles I., two small forts were erected on the banks of the river, and a third at Appledore, which was garrisoned for the parliament; the ywere taken for the king by Col. Digby, after the battle of Torrington, Sept. 2nd, 1643. Between this period and the beginning of the eighteenth century, Bideford was in its highest prosperity. The weaving of silk was introduced in 1650, and after the revocation of the edict of Nantes, in 1685, many French Protestants settled in the town, and established the manufacture of silk and cotton; a great quantity of wool was imported from Spain, and in 1699 its trade with Newfoundland was inferior only to that of London and Exeter. From 1700 to 1755, the imports of tobacco exceeded those of every port except London. The church is a spacious cruciform structure in the early English style, containing a handsome stone screen, and some interesting monuments. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyans.[1]


Civil Registration

Births, marriages and deaths were kept by the government from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is FreeBMD.

Church records

Overview, Include information for parish registers and Bishop's Transcripts, Contact information for the office holding the original records, Links to the Family History Library Catalog showing the film numbers in their collection.

Census records

Census records from 1841 to 1911 are available online. For access, see England Census Records and Indexes Online. Census records from 1841 to 1891 are also available on film through a Family History Center or at the Family History Library.

Probate records

Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to [county] Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.

Maps and Gazetteers

There are many maps and gazetteers showing English places. Valuable web sites are:

  • 1851 Jurisdiction Maps
  • Vision of Britain

Web sites

Add here any relevant sites that aren't mentioned above.


  1. Lewis, Samuel A., [A Topographical Dictionary of England] (1848), pp. 233-237. Date accessed: 01 August 2012.