Purpose: The Chudleigh History Group's purpose may be summed up as "Preserving Our Parish History". We take a very active interest in any matters relating to the history, preservation or investigation of the fabric of the community.
Meetings: The History Group meets once a month (apart from January and normally on the first Friday) in the Woodway Room within the Town Hall complex. (Chudleigh Town Hall is situated on Market Way, opposite the Coop and town car park.) Starting at 7:30pm, each meeting consists of an illustrated talk or presentation given by a member or guest speaker on some aspect of the history of Chudleigh, the local area or other part of Devon and occasionally beyond. The group's AGM is held at 7pm just before the normal March presentation. Meetings generally last for 45 minutes to one hour and are followed by complimentary refreshments. There is any entry charge (£1 for members and £4 for visitors) to cover room hire and speakers' expenses. Annual membership subscriptions (due in January) are £6 per person. This current year's calendar of events and be found on the Events page. Other daytime events are also organised in the summer months and the detail of these may also be found on the events page.
Membership: The Chudleigh History Group (CHG) was formed in 2002 and now has over 120 members. If you would like to join our thriving group then please get in touch via our Contact page or come along to one of our monthly meetings – dates and subjects on the Events page.
Privacy Statement: GHG maintains a list of members' emails so we can quickly disseminate reminders & updates to the events list, etc. Our usage of such lists is detailed in our Privacy Statement.
About Our Activities
An exhibition of Chudleigh's past was staged by the History Group in 2003, and a local 'Big Dig' was organised during 2004 in the grounds of The Rock Nursery close to Chudleigh Rock. CHG was also at the forefront of the conservation of the Town Mills Leat in 2004 and in the following year led the successful 'Save Our Twin Oaks' campaign at the Cavanna Homes development, Millstream Meadow.
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 416 page hardback, The Chudleigh Book.
May 2010 saw the opening of the CHG-led Heritage Room that shared space with the Chudleigh Tourist Information Centre (collectively, ''CHIC'). Unfortunately, for various reasons, CHIC was forced to close in 2012.
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 2010 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. WG 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.
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. Further details of the county-wide project and the Chudleigh portion of it can be seen on our 1838 Tithe Apportionment page.
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 assisted with organizing the ancient custom 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 (almost) the whole parish boundary, of 15 miles walking distance, was successfully completed on Saturday 8 September 2012. It was the turn of other groups to organise the 2019 beating.
Following extensive research a new Roll of Honour plaque for the WW1 Chudleigh fallen was commissioned and presented to the Town Council on 15 August 2014. It is now permanently displayed in the Town Hall. For more information see our war memorials page.
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 still available. If you wish to purchase a copy, orders may be placed via the Contact page (complete the webform or or phone your request directly to Alan Brunton).
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 the Chudleigh Parish Church website. The names of those lost in the two world wars are also listed on our war memorial page. CHG members have also completed transcribing the cremation plaques in the churchyard and all of those at the cemetery.
About Chudleigh – A brief historical overview
A postcard from 1909
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 mostly 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 and A380 trunk roads and the M5 motorway; the cities of Exeter and Plymouth; Newton Abbot; the beaches of Exmouth, Teignmouth and the 'English Riviera' (the Torbay towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham). For those seeking recreational facilities the town is also well-placed, with Haldon, Dartmoor, the South Hams and a several beaches all within easy striking distance.