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The Romans had their chief station in this county at Exeter, from which they had roads diverging mostly in the lines of the British track ways. The principal of these passed through the whole length of Devonshire from northeast to southwest, and was called Ikeneld street. It entered this county from Dorsetshire, a little east of Axminster, whence it proceeded by Shute hill, Dalwood-down, Honiton, &c., to the large entrenchment at Hembury Fort. From the latter it passed by Colestock, Talewater, Tallaton Common, and Larkbeare to Stretwayhead, where it is still known by the name of the Old Taunton road. It crossed the river at Exeter, a little below Exe Bridge, and went over Haldon hill, near Ugbrooke, where there is a strong British camp. Below Newton Abbot it crossed the Teign by a ford still called Hacknieldway. After leaving another British camp on its left, it passed over Ford common to Totnes, which was a station of the ancient Britons. This ancient road was joined at Streetway-head by that from Exmouth, which passed through the great camp at Woodbury. Owing to local circumstances, antiquarians have found much difficulty in tracing the Roman roads, and fixing the sites of the stations in this county; and their opinions are so much at variance, that we shall dismiss the subject by referring the reader to the histories of those towns and parishes where there are remains or traces of them.
Though vestiges of numerous fortifications and encampments shew that Devon was a seat of warfare at a very early period, the earliest military transaction on record is the defeat of the Britons, in 614, by Cynegils, King of the West Saxons. The Danes having made frequent descents upon the coast, at last settled themselves in Exeter, but were besieged by Alfred the Great, and compelled to a truce. In the ensuing year they landed on the northern coast, and were defeated, with the loss of their favourite standard the raven. In 894, they attempted to besiege Exeter, but withdrew on the approach of Alfred. In 1001 they were equally unsuccessful in their attack upon that city, but pillaged the surrounding country and retired with the spoil. Subsequently, however, they gained possession, and nearly destroyed it. In 1067, Exeter stood a regular siege before it surrendered to William the Conqueror. On the accession of Wm. Rufus, it was laid waste by the partizans of Robert, Duke of Normandy. During the civil wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, Devonshire was much disturbed; though no battle was fought within its limits.
In 1497, Perkin Warbeck besieged Exeter, but the siege being raised by the Earl of Devon, Warbeck proceeded to Taunton. When the civil wars between Charles I. and the Parliament commenced, this county was controlled by committees, and the majority of the inhabitants were attached to the Parliament. Plymouth was fortified by the townsmen against the royalists. Exeter was garrisoned by the parliamentarians, and a cavalry body, raised in the county, was stationed at Fitzford, near Tavistock. After the defeat of the parliamentarians, a cessation of hostilities was agreed on; but the treaty was soon broken off, and the county again disturbed by internal broils.
In 1644, the Earl of Essex fixed his head quarters at Tiverton, and having secured Barnstaple for the Parliament, marched into Cornwall, and was followed by the King. In October, Ilfracombe and Barnstaple surrendered to the royal forces. In 1645, the clubmen of Devon declared for the Parliament, and from this time the royalists experienced great reverses. In the midst of their disasters, Sir Thomas Fairfax, commander-in-chief of the parliamentarian Army, entered the county, and soon reduced every town and fortress. He took Exeter, after a long siege, in April, 1646. Pursuing his victorious career, he stormed the church and castle of Tiverton, and attacked and defeated Lord Hopeton's army at Torrington. This victory appears to have given the death blow to the royalist's power in the west, and the last garrison which held out for the King was Char1es-fort, at Salcombe-Regis. The latest event of great national importance, which took place in Devonshire, was the landing of William, Prince of Orange, at Torbay, in 1688, preparatory to the "glorious revolution" which placed him upon the throne.
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