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Aylesbeare Parish History

Aylesbeare is a village and civil parish in the East Devon district of Devon, England, eight miles (13 km) east of Exeter. According to the 2011 census it had a population of 583.  Known for the Site of Special Scientific Interest on Aylesbeare Common[1] that is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Aylesbeare was tragically in the news during 1978 as the scene of the disappearance of Genette Tate.


Aylesbeare is on the northern side of the East Devon Pebbled Heathlands.  Locally known as Woodbury Common, the heathlands are made up of 8 parish commons, including Aylesbeare Common.

From the highest point of the Parish (512 feet, 159m) on the Common, the land gradually falls away to the northwest reaching its lowest point of 98 feet (30m) near Exeter International Airport.  With an area of 2948 acres (1193 hectares), Aylesbeare is slightly below the average for a Devon parish.

Although the population is widely distributed around the Parish, it clusters in Aylesbeare village itself, the hamlets of Rosamondford/Perkins Village and Withen, and small groups of houses on the site of former farm buildings.

Aylesbeare has a long, but lightly recorded, history.  Tumuli on Aylesbeare Common indicate that the area was inhabited in prehistoric times.  By the time of the Domesday Book, the village was known as Ailesbergon though, in common with many place names, it had many spellings over the years, including Aillesbir and Ailesberga.

The oldest building in the Parish is the Church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  It dates to the 13th Century. Gregory was the first recorded incumbent, in 1261.  The Church has been rebuilt and restored many times – in the 14th Century, a major refurbishment in 1899 and a new roof in 2004.  Substantially younger, the village pub (fomerly known as The Aylesbeare Inn was 400 years old), now redeveloped and called The Nightjar (https://www.thenightjarinn.co.uk/).  

Originally a farming parish, Aylesbeare still has one working farm within the village itself with many others spread throughout the Parish.  However, agriculture is no longer the main source of employment, with many people working in Exeter and surrounding towns.

The Parishscapes Project produced historical records of the landscape in AONB East Devon as it was around 1840. Why not become a landscape detective and log on to http://www.eastdevonaonb.org.uk/dro/aylesbeare_tithe.html to view the Parish as it was in those days.    The Parish boundaries have changed a lot.  Tithe apportionments are also available to be viewed online which relate to the numbered areas on the AONB map:  http://files.devon.gov.uk/tithe/aylesbeare.pdf

Aylebeare Book
This fascinating detailed history of Aylesbeare from the time of the Exon Doomsday 1086 is available by post.  Canon Howard Senar was a priest at Aylesbeare and has left a legacy of knowledge in this book, published in 1986.  The book is sold in aid of the Repair Fund of the Church of The Blessed Virgin Mary priced at £5.95 - plus postage.  For information on how to obtain the book, including details of postage, please contact:

Miss H. A. Turl
Halls Cottage
Exeter, EX5 2BX

Email: annandmaryturl@btinternet.com