The parish of Chideock lies mostly in a valley two and half miles west of Bridport and four miles east of Charmouth. Currently it has a population 630 inhabitants, and the parish covers an area of 2052 acres of which 70 are foreshore.
It has been known by many names over the centuries. It first appeared on a map by William Kip in 1615 as Chidioc and Emmanuel Bowen gave it the name Chedioake on his map of 1769, the year the road from Bridport west became a turnpike. In Victorian times it was suggested that hoc as in Cidihoc (the name by¥ which the village is called in the Domeday Book) may refer to Hock or Hoke a festival held the second Tuesday after Easter to commemorate the destruction of the Danes at the time of Ethelred (a Saxon king of the 10th century).
Rev Worthington the curate here in 1880, described Chideock “The village, which is exceedingly picturesque, lies in a valley between the hills of Quor, Eype Down and Thorncombe on the east, and Haddon Hill, Langton and Golden Cap on the west. From each of these hills there is a magnificent aspect, extending many miles in each direction and embracing the most varied scenery. The houses, generally with a small garden frontage and an orchard background, lie for the most part along either side of the turnpike road, a distance of about half a mile, branching north towards the site of the old castle, and to the south, opposite the church, to Seatown a hamlet and a coastguard’s station, at the foot of Golden Cap, and three quarters of a mile from the village. A road west of the church leads to the manor house.
In much earlier times, there were a few people living at Chideock when William the Conqueror’s men travelled round England assessing the value of his new kingdom. In the Domesday book Chideock appears as part of lands held by the King at Burton Bradstock, Bere Regis, Colber, Shipton Gorge, Bradpole and Chideock and North Chideock.
This might suggest that it was a small community which did not have a church or a manor. This situation may have changed with granting of the lands to Geoffery of Mandeville who lived in a castle at Marshwood.
Thomas Bretthun was granted Chideock by Geoffry de Mandavill “and convenants to find seasonable timber sufficient to construct a hall there, which the said Thomas is bound to build”. Geoffry son and heir of Robert Maundevill on undated charter granted to John Gervas the whole of his manor of Cydyok….
35 Edw I (1306) John Gervase held lands in Bridport and afterwards assumed the name Chidiock from the place of his residence. (History of Dorset John Hutchins)
The De Chidiocks owned the manor for over one hundred years. In 1379 John de Chidiocke knight “had licence to kernallate his manor house at Chidioke and to construct a castle there”.
When John Chidiocke died in 1450, his daughters Margaret and Katherine inherited the estate and when Katherine married John Arundell of Lanherne, the estate came to that Cornish family.
The 16th century traveller Leland gives this description of the place and it ancient lords. “From Charmouth to Chidwick, 3 miles by meatly good ground. This is a fishar town distant a mile from the shore. Arundell, of Lanheron in Cornwall is lord of the town and has a manor place and park there”. (Hutchins History of Dorset)
Chideock manor at that period included land in the parishes Bradpole Walditch Allington Marshwood and Whitchurch Canonicorcum. Fishing and seafaring were very important to Chideock and Seatown.
In 1512-13, 126 impressed men came from the Chideock district and in 1565, 10 vessels belonged to Chideock, Charmouth and the neighbourhood, of which the largest was 18 tons. In 1629 an assessment for seamen and fishermen returned 86 for Chideock (and Seatown), Bridport 49 , Swanage 36, and Charmouth at 36. Abbotsbury and Burton had 64 each. (Victoria County History)
1567 rental for the Manor of Chideock records 19 ‘seahouses’ on the shore at Seatown. Apart from the threats from the Spanish during the Elizabeth period -Armada
1588 – and Napoleon 1793-1815, a landing happened at Seatown in 1685. At dawn one day in June 1685, Seatown fishermen sighted the fleet of the Duke of Monmouth, making for Lyme. Before ever the rebels landed at Lyme, however, a boat put off from one of the ships and three men rowed ashore at Seatown. This advanced party consisted of Colonel Venner, who was to lead the Duke’s cavalry, Thomas Dare, who was to be paymaster General, and another man called Armstrong. Dare, a Taunton banker and goldsmith, was shot dead some time later, after having brought friends and relatives and equipment to Lyme” Chideock and Seatown John Eastwood) One young man from Chideock, who lived where Lilac Cottage stands now, joined the ill fated Monmouth Rebellion. He was Thomas Mathews who was imprisoned and tried at Taunton and transported to Barbados to serve his sentence.
The other important occupation was agriculture. There are medieval strip lynchets visible at Seatown, probably worked by the fishermen when they could not go to sea. Before 1700 farming was mostly carried out on mixed small-holdings. In Chideock these were usually 10/20 acres with one or two large landowners farming 100 acres. In the 18th century small units were merged to create fewer, much larger farms, and by the 20th century most of the land was farmed by 8/10 farmers.
Lord Arundell of Wardour in Wiltshire inherited Chideock from his Cornish cousins in 1738.
The Arundell family remained at Chideock until 1802 when they sold it to their cousins, the Weld family of Lulworth. Thomas Weld gave the estate to his son Humphrey, whose first action was to build a manor house. No Lord of the Manor had lived on the estate since John Arundell, who had died in the castle in 1633, nearly two hundred years before. The Weld family made improvements to the estate. A map in the Dorset History Centre shows the hedges that were removed from estate land. Next to the manor house is an Arboretum – a collection of specimen trees from around the world.
In 1920 some of the estate property was sold. The Welds remained the principal landowners and in 1938 gave many acres of coastal land to the National Trust. There was another sale of manor property in 1950, and in 1996 the remaining estate changed hands. The Coates family are the present owners of the manor.
How is George IV connected to Seatown? Find out next month. Interested in the history of your house? Did you know a John Palmer ran a pub called the Crown and Sceptre 1730’s!
by Antony Broad