Nostalgic look at Sidmouth's former chapel

PUBLISHED: 15:34 15 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:09 18 June 2010

ALL that is left of the 13th century Chapel of the Blessed Peter in Sidmouth is a small section of masonry wall in the eastern wall of what is now Duke s. The chapel belonged to Otterton Priory and a gothic archway can still be seen separating Duke s din

ALL that is left of the 13th century Chapel of the Blessed Peter in Sidmouth is a small section of masonry wall in the eastern wall of what is now Duke's.

The chapel belonged to Otterton Priory and a gothic archway can still be seen separating Duke's dining room and conservatory.

The chapel is one of 32 properties featured in Julia Creeke's Sid Vale Association publication Historic Sidmouth, Life and Times in Sidmouth, which is a guide to the town's blue plaques.

William the Conqueror gave the Manor of Otterton to the Abbey of the Benedictine Order of Mont St Michel in Normandy and Sidmouth was a sub-manor of this.

Julia writes: "At the time of the Doomsday survey the Abbott leased to Ottery St Mary, which was in the hands of the Canons of St Mary of Rouen, salt pans and an orchard at Sidmouth, but with time as the settlement grew, there were other temporal affairs to be managed, so the Abbotts retained a Steward who lived at Pinn (just over the brow of Peak Hill on the road to Otterton)."

A group of monks were dispatched across the Channel each year to collect the Abbey's rents and tithes until around 1157 when, under pressure from Henry I, Prior Robert and four monks settled in Otterton in a small Priory and controlled the Manor's affairs from there.

First record of the chapel was 1322, when, because of the shifting River Sid, parish boundaries between Sidmouth and Salcombe had to be redefined with a line drawn eastwards from the chapel eastwards to what is now Port Royal.

"There was further boundary trouble between the two manors in 1352, when a flood washed away the boundaries and the Prior of Otterton, Roger de Bueys, and the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, the respective landlords, agreed to appoint a jury of 12 from each manor to agree the new boundaries."

It was assumed the chapel was directly linked to Otterton Priory, yet it is, says Julia, possible it was, like the equally small St Mary's Chapel, Honiton, "in fact a leper chapel founded to provide shelter and a place of worship for these unfortunates."

Once it lost its religious use, it became a drinking house and was, for many years, known by the Sign of the Anchor.

In the Survey of the Manor of Sidmouth of 1764 we learn Samuel Sandford was tenant of the property, given an annual value of £8, and is described as "a dwelling house in the town, formerly the Chapel and now the Anchor consisting of a Kitchen, two Parlours, Cellar, Buttery and four chambers with a garden in the Marsh."

To read more about the St Peter's Chapel and other Blue Plaque properties in Sidmouth, you can buy a copy of Julia's book at Sidmouth Museum.


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