Petrockstowe is a small village and civil parish in the district of Torridge in Northern Devon, England. Its population in 2001 was 379, hardly different from the figure of 385 recorded in 1901. The southern boundary of the parish lies on the River Torridge, and it is surrounded, clockwise from the north, by the parishes of Peters Marland, Merton, Huish, Meeth, Highampton and Buckland Filleigh.
The parish church, is dedicated to Saint Petroc. The church has diagonal buttresses, obelisk pinnacles and an old west tower. Within the church is a Normon font with a Jacobean cover. It has some late medieval stained glass and a Jacobean pulpit. Two stained glass windows were made by Kempe Studios in 1891 and 1896. The church was “largely rebuilt” between 1878 and 1880, retaining the 14th century arcade, 15th century tower and features of an earlier Norman church.
The village pub, The Laurels Inn, dates to the 17th century when it was a coaching inn on the route between Launceston and Lynton. Since then, according to the village website, it has been used as a magistrate’s court, a home for fallen women of the parish, a lodging house, a coffee tavern and a private house before re-opening as a pub in the 1970s.
Opposite the pub, on the site of the old village school, is the Baxter Hall, a modern village hall, opened by Lord Clinton in 1978 and refurbished in 1998. Baxter Hall, named after Ethel Baxter who donated the monies for its construction, is a multi-purpose hall for community social events. It has a stage, large hall, kitchen and skittles equipment.
There are Bronze Age burial mounds just outside the village, but the first documentary mention of the place is in the Domesday Book. St. Mary’s Abbey of Buckfast was the lord in 1066 and 1086 and tenant-in-chief in 1086. Nearby places include: Allisland, Heanton, Hele, Little Marland and Varleys.
Sometime after 1086, Petrockstowe was owned by someone other than the abbey. In the 12th century, Robert Warelwast, Bishop of Exeter, restored the manors of Petrockstowe and Ash, also in Petrockstowe, to Buckfast Abbey. It was also owned by the abbey during the reign of Edward I (1272-1307).
Author Karen Jankulak, states that the name of the village, Petrockstowe, “suggests a pre-Norman cult of St Petroc (although probably after the ninth century)” and “undoubtedly” by 1177, at the time of the theft of Petroc’s relics. Buckfast Abbey “possessed the advowson” which gave them the right to nominate the parish priest.