During the Roman occupation, the whole area was known as Taintona. It is thought that the Romans built the first bridge across the Teign estuary as well as planting the first vineyards on the slopes of Haldon, the moor above Teignmouth and Bishopsteignton. Taintona was important to the Romans for the production of salt, using salt pans at low tide, just up from where Bishopsteignton lies today. The salt obtained would have been taken over Haldon to the market at Exminster.
In 927 AD, there was a battle on Haldon Hill, between the Celts and the Saxons. The outcome of this battle was that Cornwall became a Celtic area, and Devon, Saxon. King Athelston then established Benedictine monks at Radway Manor, which led to the founding of what is now known locally as ‘Old Walls’.
Then in 1042, Edward the Confessor split Taintona into two. He retained one part for the Crown, now known as Kingsteignton, and gave the other to Bishop Leofric (See of Exeter), which became known as Bishop’s Tainton.
The Summer Palace for the Bishops of Exeter was built during the 13th century, taking its water supply from White Well, on Haldon, where today there is a picnic site. Bishop Walter Bronescombe is credited with building the palace and often resided there in the later years of his bishopric, which was between 1258 and 1280. Bishop John de Grandisson (1327-69), who was responsible for rebuilding Exeter Cathedral, later rebuilt the palace (One of Bishopteignton’s pubs is named after him – the building is thought to be Elizabethan in origin). The palace itself was used as a refuge during the Black Plague. Bishop Veysey (1509-49) was the last bishop to reside at the palace, which was disbanded by Edward VI in 1549. Edward granted the palace, along with the Manors of Bishop, Radway and West Teignmouth to Sir Andrew Dudley, who was later executed for his role in Lady Jane Grey’s claim to the English throne.
Once the palace fell into disuse it was used as a source of building material, hence its now sorry state – several 19th century houses in the village include stones ‘recycled’ from the palace. The palace at Bishopsteignton is a good example of one of the smaller and more compact forms of Bishop’s Palace in which both an inner and outer court remain in existence. The buried remains appear to be extensive and relatively unharmed by subsequent activity.
The remains are now scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.
In deference to the Old Walls site the vineyards which cover the nearby hills are known as ‘Old Walls Vineyards’, a reminder that almost 2000 years earlier the Romans had once harvested the grape here.
The above has been extracted from three sources:
For more about Old Walls Vineyard see: