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HER Number:MDV16749
Name:Countess Weir


Weir built in 1284 and altered between 1317 and 1327.


Grid Reference:SX 940 897
Map Sheet:SX98NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishExeter
Ecclesiastical ParishTOPSHAM

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX98NW/61

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • WEIR (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD (Between))

Full description

Braddick, C. E., 1953, The Port of Topsham, 18 (Article in Serial). SDV23368.

Original weir had been intended to provide power for a mill. A gap was left in the middle, a sort of flash lock, for the passage of ships. This gap was later blocked by Hugh Courtenay causing Topsham to become the outport of Exeter.

Stephens, W. B., 1957, The Exeter Lighter Canal, 1566-1698, 1 (Article in Serial). SDV23876.

Ugawa, K., 1962, The Economic Development of some Devon Manors in the Thirteenth Century, 662 (Article in Serial). SDV340690.

The author refers to the construction of the weir in 1284 and to the fishery at Topsham. Revenue to the manor of Topsham was increased because merchandise had to be landed at Topsham and carted to Exeter.

Hadfield, C., 1967, Canals of South West England, 19 (Monograph). SDV58.

It is possible that following an inquisition in 1290 navigation was restarted through a 30 foot opening, which was blocked by Hugh Courtenay between 1317 and 1327, thus becoming one of three 14th century weirs (see Monument IDs 16547 and 18200).

Clark, E. A. G., 1968, Untitled Source, 21 (Monograph). SDV337183.

Jackson, A. M., 1972, Medieval Exeter, the Exe and the Earldom of Devon, 64-65,66,70-71 (Article in Serial). SDV339439.

Site of Countess Weir. Built by Isabella de Fortibus around 1284-1285, partly washed away in 1286 but soon repaired. The main intention behind its construction was not to harm the city of Exeter by cutting off its trade but to increase the value of the share in the valuable fishing rights for the manor of Topsham. This seems to contradict Hooker's version of events which suggests that the countess built the weir to allow shipping to pass through and that Hugo de Courtenay had deliberately blocked it to secure the trade for his manor at Topsham. Channel obstructed by stone-built structure and part of it was carried off by flood water in November1285. Extensive repairs carried out and by 1290 the river was completely blocked.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV23368Article in Serial: Braddick, C. E.. 1953. The Port of Topsham. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 85. A5 Hardback. 18.
SDV23876Article in Serial: Stephens, W. B.. 1957. The Exeter Lighter Canal, 1566-1698. Journal of Transport History. 3. Unknown. 1.
SDV337183Monograph: Clark, E. A. G.. 1968. The Ports of the Exe Estuary: 1660-1860. Unknown. 21.
SDV339439Article in Serial: Jackson, A. M.. 1972. Medieval Exeter, the Exe and the Earldom of Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 104. A5 Paperback. 64-65,66,70-71.
SDV340690Article in Serial: Ugawa, K.. 1962. The Economic Development of some Devon Manors in the Thirteenth Century. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 94. A5 Hardback. 662.
SDV58Monograph: Hadfield, C.. 1967. Canals of South West England. Canals of South West England. A5 Hardback. 19.

Associated Monuments

MDV18147Related to: Exeter Canal (Monument)
MDV16547Related to: River Exe, St James's Weir (Monument)
MDV16751Related to: WEIR in the Parish of Exeter (Monument)
MDV18200Related to: WEIR in the Parish of Exeter (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Jul 15 2008 1:58PM