History and the Evolution of the Landscape
The farms and villages of the parish emerge
St.Edward's church which is the oldest surviving building in the parish of Shaugh Prior was built in stages mostly between the 14th and 16th century. It surprisingly appears to have been built some distance from the farms where most of the parishioners lived! Some people have suggested that its position is linked to the route ways followed by the monks who travelled to and from Buckfast Abbey.
There were stone crosses marking the routes close to the church and a church house where the monks and other travellers could stay the night. This is one of the oldest buildings in the village and is situated right next to the church. The house and crosses were probably constructed by the monks of Plympton Priory which has a long standing link with the church. It is because of this link that the word 'Prior' was added to the parish name.
Most of our other remaining old buildings were constructed between the 16th and 19th century. Lee Moor, which is first mentioned in 1695 (Leigh Moore), may have been chosen as the site for a small group of farm buildings at this time. Our ancestors often rebuilt or extended their homes and shippens (barns) using stone from older buildings. One of the most important periods for building and rebuilding was the late eighteenth century.
Local landlords were eager to improve their profits by increasing crop yields and by extending the areas used for animal production. Big profits could be made from the improvement of farmland at this time as the population in the towns was expanding rapidly and the demand for food was growing at an unprecedented rate. New tenant farmers were recruited and the dispersed farmsteads of the parish were built to accommodate the farmers and their labourers. Parts of the moorland were enclosed into large regular shaped fields which can still be seen today. Other buildings were constructed to house the people who served the farming community. By the middle of the 19th century there were blacksmiths, millers, shopkeepers, shoemakers and innkeepers recorded in the parish directories.
It seems amazing that only one hundred years ago the villages provided most of the needs of the local community. The opening up of the parish to the outside world by rail (1859) and by bus (1927) meant more people could shop in the nearby towns. From this time on the services disappeared gradually - by the 1930's Shaugh Prior was no longer a self sufficient community.