Brief History

The Feudal Manor of St James Priory was located in the current district of Heavitree, a suburb of the city of Exeter, Devon.  The name appears in the Domesday Book.  The book, commissioned by William the Conqueror in Christmas 1085 and completed in 1086, was a survey of most of the area of England and Wales.  The information recorded in the book included details on the owners of every parcel of property, population, and taxable value of the land. 

In the book, it is recorded that the Viking of Whipton and the nobleman Roger Blunt were Lords of Heavitree in 1066 and 1086 respectively.  In addition, it also stated that Ralph of Pomeroy was the Tenant-in-chief of the Lordship at the time of Roger Blunt. 

The parcel had a value of 20 shillings (£1) and consisted of one villager, 2 slaves, and 2 carucates of land.  Carucate is derived from caruca, the Latin word for a plough, and was a unit of assessment for tax.  A carucate was the amount of land cultivated by a team of eight oxen in one farming season, which was a nominal 120 acres.  It is important to mention that in many instances, there was not a direct relationship between a carucate and the actual size of the land taxed.  Therefore, the land extension of the Manor was much more smaller than 240 acres. 


Heavitree - Original Entry from Domesday's Book


The Priory of St James was founded in 1146 by Baldwin de Redvers, the 2nd Earl of Devon, a nobleman descendant of the Dukes of Normandy.  The Priory was a cell to the Cluniac monastery of St Martin-des-Champs near Paris.  The title was inherited by Balwin's son and heir, Richard, who married Dionysia, daughter of Reginald de Dunstamville (illegitimate son of Henry I).  They left two sons who later inherited the title of Earl.

Between 1284 and 1431 the Prior of St James held the Lordship in alms from the Barony of Plympton, which Barony was held by the Earls of Devon (the sons of Richard I, King of England and Duke of Normandy).  Afterwards, the Lordship passed with the Earldom until the reign of Henry VI.

In 1444, Henry VI granted the Lordship to King's College, Cambridge, which he founded in 1441.  The Lordship of St James Priory was in King's College possession until 1992.