About the Parish

Sydenham Damerel is a small rural parish on the east bank of the River Tamar in West Devon. The parish covers about 2200 acres, mainly farmland and woodland, and the population is just over 200. There are three main settlements; the village of Sydenham Damerel, located about half a mile from the river, the hamlet of Horsebridge, where there is an ancient stone bridge, erected in 1437, crossing the Tamar, and the hamlet of Townlake on the hill above Horsebridge. There are several smaller communities scattered across the parish.

The main road from Tavistock to Launceston crosses the northern part of the parish. Tavistock is about 5 miles to the east, and Launceston about 10 miles to the north west.

The parish lies on the south side of a ridge which runs to the north of the Launceston road. The ground slopes from an elevation of 680 feet down to the Tamar at a height of 50 feet above sea level below Horsebridge. Springs on the higher ground feed several streams which run in wooded valleys across the parish to join the Tamar. Most of the parish lies within the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Sydenham appears in the Domesday Book as a village and farmland in the Hundred of Lifton, tenanted by Judhael of Totnes, who is believed to have arrived from Brittany with William the Conqueror. In 1242 there is a mention of Sydenham being held by John D’Albemarle, from whom the name Sydenham Damerel is derived; Sydenham meaning ‘broad riverside pasture’. By the fifteenth century, Sydenham was in the ownership of John Tremayne of Collacombe, whose family also owned land across Devon and Cornwall, including the estates at Heligan near Mevagissey.

The land then passed to John Carpenter of Mount Tavy around the beginning of the nineteenth century. The parish remained primarily agricultural, although this time also marked the beginning of mining activity. Wheal Carpenter (West Collacombe Mine) produced copper, lead, silver and zinc, and Wheal Grace (Collacombe Down Mine) produced copper, iron, and zinc.

The parish nowadays has returned to agriculture. Many of the residents work locally, or in Tavistock, Plymouth, Launceston or Exeter.

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