Sidmouth's Tudor Cottage history

PUBLISHED: 13:12 22 October 2009 | UPDATED: 10:42 18 June 2010

UNDOUBTEDLY Tudor Cottage in Chapel Street is one of Sidmouth s oldest buildings with origins hidden in mediaeval history. It is fitting there should be a Blue Plaque outside telling people of its historical value, and be included in Sid Vale Associatio

UNDOUBTEDLY Tudor Cottage in Chapel Street is one of Sidmouth's oldest buildings with origins hidden in mediaeval history.

It is fitting there should be a Blue Plaque outside telling people of its historical value, and be included in Sid Vale Association's Guide to The Blue Plaques, written by local historian Julia Creeke.

We learn from her research that the cottage was closely connected with the Manor of Sidmouth and was still in the possession of the Lord of the Manor when it was put up for sale for the very first time in 1919.

The construction of Tudor Cottage, "a small hall house of typical mediaeval cruck construction," probably dates from the middle of the 13th century with the creation of parishes in Sidmouth in 1259.

It is likely to have served as both a residence and administrative centre for the Manor, suggests Miss Creeke, who writes: "Early in the reign of Henry VIII, as relations between church and king worsened, the Abbess of Syon granted a lease of the Manor of Sidmouth for 99 years to Richard Gosnell, possibly hoping it might save Syon's position, but in 1537 the smaller monastic houses were disbanded and two years later came the final Dissolution.

"The Crown seized all monastic lands, but although the Abbey of Syon was disbanded and the nuns pensioned off, the lease granted by the Abbess to Richard Gosnell was left in place with the Crown now as landlord."

During Henry VIII's reign the house, with its centre hearth and cruck roof, was altered to provide more comfortable living conditions.

"A plank and mutin screen dating from 1503 was used to divide the hall into two ground floor rooms and a first floor was inserted to make a solar above the parlour as was the fashion of the times."

In around 1588 the screen was painted, with the royal arms of England "impaled with a Bishop's mitre and two pallium against a background of the cosmos and crescent moons orbiting round the frame."

Floral emblems of the New World decorated the strapwork.

Miss Creeke writes: "The reasons for the painted screen and the significance of the decoration are not fully understood, nor has it been possible to discover who occupied the house at this time, although there is little doubt that the history of this ancient building is inextricably linked to both the Manor and the Church, although its use remains obscure."

Eventually, the house became outdated and reduced to two, more humble dwellings. The screen was plastered over and forgotten.

Until the early 19th century it would have enjoyed an open prospect right down to the sea as it was situated on rising ground in what was known, until 100 years ago, as Silver (Silva) Street.

In 1972, during renovations, it was decided to remove the partition between the two downstairs rooms.

"On stripping away some old lath and plaster the screen was rediscovered. It underwent professional restoration and conservation under the supervision of the County Archaeological Service and is now revealed in its full glory, a rare survival from the Tudor period.


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