Blackawton

Blackawton is a village and civil parish in the South Hams district of Devon, England. According to the 2001 census, it had a population of 647. Blackawton is a major part of the West Dart electoral ward. The ward's population at the 2011 census was 1,946. The village is about six miles west of Dartmouth.

The church is 15th-century, with a Norman baptismal font and a well-preserved rood screen. Blackawton has hosted an annual worm charming competition since 1980. There is one pub in Blackawton, The George Inn, and one restaurant, The Normandy Arms. The village runs its own village shop and post office, all run by volunteers.

Nobody knows when Blackawton was first settled, though we do know that it was long before written records were kept. Archaeological evidence, such as flint scatter and burial mounds, suggests habitation well before the time of Christ. It is likely that settlement was influenced by available resources, such as water, and that the area was bounded by tracks along the ridges to its east and west, which were used for moving livestock. These can still be seen as today’s roads.

The origin of the name Blackawton is also uncertain. The earliest documentary evidence, from the Domesday Book of 1086 is that ‘...the King holds Avetona. Asgar the Cramped held it before 1066...’ Avetona appears to combine the Celtic afon with the Saxon tun to mean ‘settlement on the river’. The prefix ‘Black’ was first recorded in 1281 and could mean ‘bleak’ or be a reference to the very dark soil found in some parts of the parish.

The Domesday Book goes on to say of Avetona ‘...there are 25 villagers and 22 smallholders....with 24 ploughs and 3 1/2 hides...’ It was a farming community then and remained substantially so for nearly 1000 years. It was only after World War II that people started to move away to find work and the number of working farms started to decline; now there are only a few left. Blackawton is still very much a working village, though, with some of its parishioners travelling from it to work elsewhere.

The parish has not, however, always had the boundaries it has today. The ancient ecclesiastical parish of Blackawton included Strete, but excluded a block of land west of the River Gara and Hutcherleigh Brook, including Abbotsleigh, Larcombe, Seccombe and Pasture farms. This block was in Halwell parish from the 13th century until the reorganisation of rural parishes in 1870, when it was added to Blackawton. Strete became a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1881 but only became a separate civil parish in 1935, when Blackawton Parish Council voted the fledgling Strete Parish Council the sum of seven pounds, with which to get started.

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