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History of the River Bovey at Parke

A family playing in the stream at Parke
Visitors cool off in the stream at Parke | © National Trust Images/Trevor Ray Hart

The River Bovey runs through Parke and was an important source of water to power Bovey Tracey's historic mills sited downstream. Find out more about its history.

Historic mills

There was a mill in Bovey Tracey at the time of the Domesday survey completed in 1086. By 1353, there were three. A watercourse called a leat was dug to provide water to these town mills and the water flow was controlled using a sluice gate at the head of the leat. The start of the leat can still be seen at the junction of the weir about half a kilometre up-stream from Parke House.


The 1353 record also describes a fishery on the River Bovey. This fishery might well have been by the weir, as weirs are known to have been used in this way. However, at some stage, the leat was also used to fill a lake, or possibly medieval fishponds, in front of Parke House.

The leat

The earliest map showing the leat is dated 1641. Today you can still follow the leat from the weir into the lower end of Bovey Tracey, where the mills were sited near The Dolphin Hotel. The leat then returns the water to the river at Bovey Bridge.

20th century

In the 1920s the owner of Parke, Major Hole, was concerned about aspects of the water in his leat being used to develop Bovey Tracey's electricity supply.

According to correspondence, an inspector from the Dartmoor Electricity Supply Company Ltd was impeded from checking the leat on 9 November 1922, because Major Hole had arranged a shooting party on the estate. Following further correspondence until agreement was reached, the leat was used to benefit the townspeople once again.

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