Hectic Old Stratton
Try to conjure a picture in your mind of Stratton as it was in the approach to the nineteenth century. Some of these images will help a little, but you need to imagine lots of people, a veritable throng, which made Stratton thriving and bustling, a hive of activity.
Stratton was, according to John Wordens in 1584 “a market towne verie well served of all kynde of necessaries”. Certainly, later on, it was very well served with pubs. The church dominated Stratton at this time, but there were also an amazing twelve ale-houses and inns, including the Ackland Arms, Bay Tree Inn, Bideford Inn, Butchers Arms, Commercial Inn, Cornish Inn, Glovers Arms, Griffin, Kings Arms, Market Inn, New Inn, Poughill Inn, Ring O’ Bells, Ship Inn, Three Tens and The Tree. Church House in Jubilee Square also sold beer which was drank on the spot, all revenues going to the church. The population was around 900, so a pub per 75 people! Maybe there was little else to do, or maybe life was hard and the ale alleviated it.
At fair time, around 19th May) and 10th December, the Church House wardens who brewed for the church, was let to merchants and gypsies, and usually a dancing bear.
Well, with all this activity in boozy Stratton, law and order was also an issue. A jail existed near the churchyard but later moved to the old Market Place; its door (the Clink) is still preserved in the church porch. By 1863, Stratton had a police station. It was a seat of justice, with a Court Leet and Court Baron held at The Tree until the 1900s.
Hardly surprisingly, a cottage hospital followed in 1866; a poor house had been built in 1856, but not without opposition. Indeed, it led to riots.
Stratton is an old place. It was mentioned in the will of Alfred the great who died in 901, pre Domesday, where it was called Straneaton Triconscire. Later, it was important enough to be given its own Hundred (an administrative division). This consisted of:
Wyke (Week St Mary)
Tam’ton (North Tamerton)
Stratton town never had a resident squire or Lord of the Manor but had eight men, elected by a parish meeting, to oversee accounts.