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LYDFORD, or LIDFORD, a village, once an important town, in the western parliamentary division of Devonshire, England, near the western confines of Dartmoor, 27 m. N. of Plymouth by the London & South-Western railway. From its Perpendicular church of St Petrock fine views of the Dartmoor tors are seen. The village stands on the small river Lyd, which traverses a deep narrow chasm, crossed by a bridge of single span; and at a little distance a tributary stream forms a cascade in an exquisite glen. Close to the church are slight remains of the castle of Lydford.

Lydford (Lideford) was one of the four Saxon boroughs of Devon, and possessed a mint in the days of /Ethelred the Unready. It first appears in recorded history in 997, when the Danes made a plundering expedition up the Tamar and Tavy as far as " Hlidaforda." In the reign of Edward the Confessor it was the most populous centre in Devonshire after Exeter, but the Domesday Survey relates that forty houses had been laid waste since the Conquest, and the town never recovered its former prosperity; the history from the 15th century centres round the castle, which is first mentioned in 1216, when it was granted to William Briwere, and was shortly afterwards fixed as the prison of the stannaries and the meeting-place of the Forest Courts of Dartmoor. A gild at Lideford is mentioned in 1180, and the pipe roll of 1195 records a grant for the reestablishment of the market. In 1238 the borough, which had hitherto been crown demesne, was bestowed by Henry III. on Richard, earl of Cornwall, who in 1 268 obtained a grant of a Wednesday market and a three days' fair at the feast of St Petrock. The borough had a separate coroner and bailiff in 1275, but it was never incorporated by charter, and only once, in 1300, returned members to parliament. Lydford prison is described in 1512 as " one of the most hainous, contagious and detestable places in the realm," and " Lydford Law " was a by-word for injustice. At the time of the Commonwealth the castle was entirely in ruins, but in the 18th century it was restored and again used as a prison and as the meeting-place of the manor and borough courts.

Lydford should not be confused with a village in the neighbouring county of Somerset, Lydford-on-Fosse.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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