Bideford is an Ancient Parish and a market town in the county of Devon.

Parish church: St. Mary

Parish registers begin:

  • Parish registers: 1561
  • Bishop’s Transcripts: 1607

Nonconformists include:

  • Bible Christian Methodist
  • Independent/Congregational
  • Particular Baptist
  • Presbyterian
  • Primitive Methodist
  • Society of Friends/Quaker
  • Wesleyan Methodist

Adjacent Parishes

Historical Descriptions

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

BIDEFORD, a town, a parish, a subdistrict, and a district, in Devon. The town stands on the river Torridge, 5 miles above its influx to the sea, and at the terminus of the Bideford extension of the North Devon railway, 9 miles SW of Barnstaple, and 42 miles by road but 48½ by railway NW by W of Exeter. Its site is chiefly a hillside on the left bank of the river, amid pleasant environs; and commands delightful views of the river’s vale. The place was given, soon after the Conquest, to Richard de Granville, a Norman knight; remained with his descendants till 1750; and was then sold by one of the heirs of William Granville, third Earl of Bath, to J. Cleveland, Esq. of Tapley. It gave the title of Baron, in the time of Queen Anne, to Lord Lansdown. Forts were erected at it, on both sides of the river, by the parliamentarians, in the civil war; but they were taken for the king by Colonel Digby, in 1643: and one of them, called Chudleigh fort, a small battlemented structure, is still standing. The plague raged here in 1646 and 1680; and three aged female inhabitants were put to death on a charge of witchcraft, in 1682. The French privateers, in the time of Queen Anne, captured so many valuable vessels, engaged in the town’s commerce, in their crossing the bay off the river’s mouth, that they called it the Golden bay. The streets are wide and airy; some new good houses have taken the place of old mean ones; and there are a noble mansion and a series of villas in the outskirts. A bridge of 24 arches and 677 feet long, erected in the early part of the 14th century, forms the approach on the NE; was widened in 1863-5, at a cost of about £4,000; and is a favourite promenade. The town hall is an ornamental edifice of 1850, and serves for courts, town-business, and concerts. The parish church was recently rebuilt; superseded an early English structure; and is large and handsome. The Independent chapel was rebuilt in 1859, and is a very fine edifice. The Wesleyan chapel is large, and was much improved in 1865. There are also chapels for Baptists and Bible Christians, a free grammar and other public schools, a working-men’s club established in 1864, a dispensary, alms-houses, and a workhouse,-the last built in 1836, at a cost of £3,645. The charities amount yearly to £577; but include £435 for keeping the bridge in repair. The quay adjoins the bridge; is upwards of 1,200 feet long; admits vessels of 500 tons at high water: and forms an agreeable walk. The Bideford extension railway joins the North Devon at Fremington Pill, is 6 miles long, and was opened in 1855; and a line from it to Appledore and Westward-Ho, 4 miles long, was authorised in 1866. The town has a head post office, a railway station with telegraph, two banking offices, two chief inns, two weekly markets, and two annual fairs; publishes a weekly newspaper; and is a seat of sessions and a polling-place. Ship-building, sail-making, rope-making, and pottery-work are carried on; and a large saw-mill was erected in 1865. The port is a bonding one, and formerly had a large foreign commerce; but is now engaged chiefly in the coasting-trade. The vessels belonging to it, at the beginning of 1868, were 56 small ones, of aggregately 1,854 tons, and 75 larger ones, of aggregately 9,104 tons. The vessels entering coastwise, in 1867, counting repeated voyages, were 710 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 29,878 tons, and 99 steam-vessels, of aggregately 7,230 tons; clearing coastwise, 106 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 6,715 tons, and 99 steam-vessels, of aggregately 7,230 tons; entering from the British colonies, 6 vessels of aggregately 1,850 tons; entering from foreign countries, 9 vessels, of aggregately 2,493 tons; clearing for the British colonies, only 1 vessel, of no more than 53 tons; and clearing for foreign countries, 2 vessels, of jointly 807 tons. The customs in 1867 amounted to £3,147. The chief exports are oak-bark, corn, earthenware, tiles, sailcloth, cordage, and linens; and the chief imports, timber, coal, and lime. A steamer sails regularly to Ilfracombe, Lynmouth, and Bristol. The town sent members to parliament in the times of Edward I. and II., but not since; was incorporated by Queen Elizabeth; and is now governed by a mayor, four aldermen, and 12 councillors. Sir P. Grenville, the naval hero, Dr. John Shebbeare, author of the “Adventures of a Guinea,” and Abraham and Benjamin Donne, the mathematicians, were natives; Strange, the philanthropist, died here of the plague in 1646; and Hervey, the author of “Meditations,” was for some time curate, and wrote here part of his works.

The parish is conterminate with the borough. Acres, 3,196. Real property, £18,170. Pop. in 1841, 5,211; in 1861, 5,742. Houses, 1,188. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Exeter. Value, £633. Patron, Sir G. S. Stucley, Bart.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

Parish Records

FamilySearch – Birth Marriage & Death Census Migration & Naturalization Military Probate & Court


England, Devon Bishop’s Transcripts, 1558-1887

England, Devon and Cornwall Marriages, 1660-1912

England, Devon, Parish Registers, 1538-1912

England, Devon, Plymouth Prison Records, 1821-1919

Exeter Marriage Licenses 1523-1631

Exeter Burial Records

Devon Cemetery Photos

South Hams Memorial Inscriptions

Appledore Burials 1844-1970

Devon Calendars of Prisoners

Devon Convicts Transported to Australia 1782-1821

Records for England

Births and Baptism Records

England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975

Great Britain, Births and Baptisms, 1571-1977

England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008

United Kingdom, Maritime Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1787-1933

Marriage Records

England Marriages, 1538–1973

Great Britain Marriages, 1797-1988

England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005

United Kingdom, Maritime Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1787-1933

Death Records

England Death Records, 1998-2015

England Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991

Great Britain Deaths and Burials, 1778-1988

England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007

United Kingdom, Maritime Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1787-1933

England and Wales, National Index of Wills and Administrations, 1858-1957

England and Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1640-1660

Non-Conformist Records

England and Wales Non-Conformist Record Indexes (RG4-8), 1588-1977


England and Wales Census, 1841

England and Wales Census, 1851

England and Wales Census, 1861

England and Wales Census, 1871

England and Wales Census, 1881

England and Wales Census, 1891

England and Wales Census, 1901

England and Wales Census, 1911


United Kingdom, Merchant Navy Seamen Records, 1835-1941

War and Conflict

Great Britain, War Office Registers, 1772-1935

United Kingdom, Chelsea Pensioners’ Service Records, 1760-1913

United Kingdom, Royal Hospital Chelsea: Discharge Documents of Pensioners 1760-1887 (WO 122)

United Kingdom, Maritime Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1787-1933

United Kingdom, Militia Service Records, 1806-1915

United Kingdom, World War I Service Records, 1914-1920

United Kingdom, World War I Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Records, 1917-1920

Newspaper Archives

British Newspaper Archive, Family Notices

British Newspaper Archives, Obituaries


Vision of Britain historical maps


County: Devon
Civil Registration District: Bideford
Probate Court: Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Archdeaconry of Barnstaple
Diocese: Exeter
Rural Deanery: Hartland
Poor Law Union: Bideford
Hundred: Shebbear
Province: Canterbury

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