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The Most Rebellious Town In Devon

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Colyton (Coly is derived from Culli an old English word meaning narrow) is a small and beautiful east Devon town situated where the river valleys of the Coly and Axe meet. A medieval town steeped in history. The Romans settled in Colyton in 70AD. The Fosse way started from alongside Colyton and stretched as far as Lincoln. Roads also radiated from Colyton to Sidmouth, Lyme Regis and Exeter. Roman ships would be able to sail up the estuary to within almost a mile of Colyton. A Saxon parliament took place in Colyton in 827AD under King Egbert of Wessex. Colyton is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. The seaport, once a mile from Colyton, was by now 3 miles away because the estuary had silted up over the centuries. Despite this disadvantage, Colyton became even more prosperous, trading probably in wool, leather, salt and silk. In 1539 Henry VIII ordered the beheading of Colyton's lord of the manor and confiscated his lands. In 1546 they were bought back by twenty local merchants and yeomen for £1,000. These are the men that formed the Chamber of Feoffees, which continues to this day. It is felt they provided the basis of England's councils or local governing bodies. They established the Colyton Grammar School in Church House in 1599. During the civil war Colyton, being strongly anti-papist supported Parliament against King Charles I. The Parish of Colyton's registers contain many entries of soldiers killed in skirmishes in the Civil War of 1643. Colyton was the virtual battleground being situated between the Royalists at Colcombe Castle near Axminster and the Parliamentarians stationed at Stedcombe near Lyme Regis.
Later that century, Colyton provided more men than any other town in Devon in support of the Duke of Monmouth in his rebellion against James II. When the rebellion failed, the notorious Judge Jeffries ordered that 14 Colyton men be hanged and 22 transported to slavery in the West Indies. Saint Andrew's Church with its unusual octagonal lantern tower and reconstructed Saxon cross dating from 900AD is set at the heart of the town. The church was remodelled and extended by the Normans during the period AD1090 to 1200. The records of 1838 show a remarkable range of trades in the town including market traders, farmers, millers, butchers, bakers, shoemakers, coopers, druggist, a fishing rod maker, glove maker, tanner, gunsmith, linen drapers, foundry, maltsters, brewers, innkeepers, milliners, saddlers and harness makers, rope and twine maker, stone masons, surgeons, barbers, tin plate worker, watchmaker, wheelwright. Most are no longer operating in Colyton, but almost all the day-to-day requirements and services can still be bought in the towns thriving shops. Several mills were powered by the fast flowing Coly, the millhouses still stand but the water wheels have since disintegrated. Colyton has one of only two oak bark tanneries in the country still fully operational. Enjoy the friendly atmosphere as you walk around the circular street pattern of Saxon design. The centre is a conservation area with a variety of architectural gems from little stone cottages to substantial houses.