Chudleigh History Group

The Chudleigh History Group was formed in 2002. It now has a membership exceeding 160, and takes a very active interest in any matters relating to the preservation or investigation of the fabric of the community, and constantly monitors any proposed changes or rearrangements affecting the town.

The History Group was at the forefront of the conservation of the Town Mills Leat in 2004 and in the follwing year led the successful 'Save Our Twin Oaks' campaign at the Cavanna Homes development, Millstream Meadow. An exhibition of Chudleigh's past was staged in 2003, and a local 'Big Dig' was organised the following year in the grounds of The Rock Nursery close to Chudleigh Rock.

The Group supported a significant investigation that took place at the site of the former Bishop's Palace in Rock Road, and in 2007 wrote and published a book which was distributed to the local schoolchildren to commemorate the Great Fire of Chudleigh two hundred years before. The commemoration culminated in the building of a replica of the town centre at the cricket field which despite appalling weather conditions on the day was successfully and ceremoniously burned to the ground!

In the year 2009 the 700th anniversary of the granting of the Town Charter to Chudleigh was suitably marked by staging a Medieval weekend at the Play Park which included a Medieval Banquet for 150 local residents dressed in period costume. Coinciding with this event was the launch of our 413 page hardback, The Chudleigh Book, click here for more details.

May 2010 saw the opening of the Heritage Room that shared space with the new Chudleigh Tourist Information Centre. For more information click here.

A brand new, enlarged, revised and updated walking-trail leaflet produced by the CHG, describing forty-six places of interest in the town was published in 201o and available free of charge from local outlets. Thanks to our local advertisers who helped make this leaflet a reality.

On 9 October 2010 the group were delighted to learn that all their hard work in connection with The Chudleigh Book had paid off when we discovered that the Devon History Society had awarded the book the accolade of 'Devon Book of the Year 2009 - Hoskins Award'. The presentation of the certificate and prize at Exeter was made all the more special as it was presented to us by Susan Hewitt, daughter of the late local historian Prof. W G Hoskins in whose name the award was granted.

Another recent objective of the CHG has been met in that the cemetery burial register has been fully transcribed into digital format. We can now offer a look-up service for those seeking relatives buried here from opening date in 1879 to the present day.

On 15 April 2011 the group unveiled two memorials at the cemetery, click here for details.

In October 2011 at the request of the Devon Record Office vice-chairman of the History Group, Stephen Coombes undertook the digital transcription of the 1838 Tithe Apportionment Registers for Chudleigh Parish. That work was duly completed and a 'Look-Up' service is available. If you would like a search from the data please get in touch with us via the Contact page. For further detail of the county-wide project follow the 'History' link above and then click on Tithe Apportionment 1838.

The year 2012 saw two significant events for the history group. The first, in August was a successful garden party held to mark the 10th anniversary of the founding of the history group and a month later the CHG revived an ancient custom once again, that of Beating the Bounds, otherwise known as a Perambulation of the Boundaries. Taking place once every seven years - in early times done to ensure neighbouring parishes had not encroached where they should not have done - this circular clockwise walk of the whole parish boundary of some 14 miles was successfully completed on Saturday 8 September 2012.

In August 2014, following extensive research a new Roll of Honour plaque for the WW1 Chudleigh fallen was commissioned and handed to the Town Council on 15 August. It will be permanently displayed in the Town Hall.

On Friday 24 April 2015 the CHG latest publication was launched at the parish church. The A5 hardback, 165 page book, entitled 'Chudleigh's First World War Commemorations' is now available. If you wish to secure a copy orders may be placed with the CHG Chairman, Alan Brunton (see 'Contacts' page).

The History Group meet once a month (apart from January each year), normally on the first Friday and meetings take place in either the large hall or the Woodway Room, both within the Town Hall complex. Starting at 7:30pm the usual format is to have a guest speaker click here to see our calendar of events. Talks usually last for 45 minutes to one hour and are followed by complimentary refreshments. The evening is usually concluded by 9:30pm. Other daytime events are also organised in the summer months and the detail of these may also be found on the events page.

If you would like to join our thriving group then please get in touch, click here to go to the Contact page.

For those of you not local to the town but who may have had ancestors here you may be interested to learn that the CHG has been busy transcribing the monumental inscriptions in the town. We have currently completed those gravestones at the old Baptist Chapel site, the old Congregational Chapel site, the gravestones in the churchyard and all the memorials within the church. Details of the inscriptions of the former two places can be found on the Chapels page of this site and those for the church on our sister site, Chudleigh Parish Church. The names of those lost in the two world wars are also listed on this site, click here for that information. CHG members have also completed transcribing the cremation plaques in the churchyard and all of those at the cemetery.

Historical Overview

Few towns can have the diverse history of Chudleigh. Prehistoric remains found in the caves at the Rock are evidence of Stone Age man. Overlooking the town to the east is an Iron Age hillfort, 1500BC - 400AD, which would have been inhabited by people we now refer to as Celts. The origin of the town itself is Saxon. Some of our place and farm names are of this origin; a Saxon church probably existed on the site of the present church which was dedicated on 6 November 1259.

Following the Norman conquest and the country being under Norman rule the town grew in importance and by the 11th century the Manor of Chudleigh was in the ownership of the See of Exeter. Bishop Osbern is recorded as responsible for the building of a large rural palace in Chudleigh (a few remains of which can still be seen at the bottom of Rock Road). In 1309 Bishop Walter Stapledon was granted a charter by King Edward II allowing a weekly market and annual fair to be held. Until the Reformation the town was overseen by the church but during the 16th century ownership passed into lay control. The town continued to grow in importance due to its participation in the woollen trade. During the civil war it played host to both Royalists and Parliamentarians.

On 22 May 1807 the greatest disaster in the history of our town - known ever since as The Great Fire of Chudleigh - saw two thirds of the town centre burned down and 1200 people made homeless because of it. The then Lord Clifford of Ugbrooke, headed the relief committee which saw the town rebuilt within two years.

The Industrial Revolution heralded the demise of the woollen industry by the 1820s but the long established coaching trade kept Chudleigh alive. Being on the main coaching route between Exeter and Plymouth several ale houses and post houses along with all the ancillary businesses were supported by that service. The railway saw to the demise of the coaching era and the last mail coach through the town coincided with the railway coming to Newton Abbot in 1846. The Teign Valley Line - Newton Abbot to Exeter via Chudleigh - opened in 1882 and closed in 1958. In the 1950s and 1960s the town suffered severe disruption on summer weekends through increased holiday traffic along the A38, which then passed through the town. On the opening of the A38 bypass in 1973 the town regained some normality and became a close community again.

Over the past fifty years the population has doubled and Chudleigh is now a very desirable place to live being so close to the A38 trunk road, the M5 motorway, the cities of Exeter and Plymouth, Newton Abbot and the three Torbay towns. For those seeking recreational facilities the town is also well placed, with Haldon, Dartmoor, the South Hams and a number of beaches all within easy striking distance.

The History Group Logo

The History Group logo is in the form of a shield and is a representation of four coats of arms belonging to families once influential in the parish, the families were:

Top Left: Pynsent - Top Right: Inglett

Bottom Left: Eastchurch - Bottom Right: Wychalse

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