TODAY many people only know Colyford as the place where the Seaton
Electric Tramway (established in 1970) crosses the main A3052 coast
road alongside the old White Hart Inn
The tramway uses the old railway track that was once the branch line (laid in
1868) to Seaton from Axminster via Colyton and closed under "Beechings
Axe" in 1967. Apparently Colyford gained its name from an
ancient ford on the River Coly which today passes under the old bridge
to join the River Axe. This road was part of the main Roman route
to Exeter and a branch of the Icknield Way. As an important route and
river crossing point an inn or hostelry of some kind has doubtless
existed here for many centuries. Opposite the inn is Chantry Field
where once stood St Edmunds Chapel used by travellers passing through
and noted in records of at least 1547.
THE EARLIEST OCCUPATION
after Iron Age man is thought to be by the Phoenicians who first used
the estuary establishing a trading post somewhere between Seaton and
olyford. Later, the Romans occupied the area early during their
conquest of Britain and established a port at Seaton (supposed to be
the roman town of Moridunum). The estuary was an important harbour in
ancient times becoming known as Culliton Haven. After the Romans and
Saxons, it was used by the Danes.
THE SAXON PERIOD places
Colyford within the Hundred of Colyton and was part of a royal estate.
The Manor of Colyford was granted to a succession of Barons after the
Norman Conquest. In 1199 it came into the possession of Thomas Bassett
by Richard I. Subsequently a Royal Charter was obtained which
constituted Colyford as a Borough. King John granted rights of a
Michaelmas Fayre to Thomas Bassett in 1207.
It flourished for a hundred
years or so as a medieval town, mainly associated with the sea because
the estuary was deep enough for ships and boats to reach the dock at
Colyford. In about 1500 a decline set in, due to a large shingle bank
being thrown up at Seaton which caused the estuary to silt up. As with
so many communities it was decimated by the plague, after which it
became a tithing of the parish of Colyton. MOVING ON,
Colyford in later years was a Rotten Borough and therefore had a
right to be represented in Parliament. These were boroughs in which
parliamentary elections were determined by bribery and corruption, in
which nomination of candidates lay in the hands of one or few
individuals. The 1832 Reform Act defranchised 'rotten' boroughs
restoring the meaning of borough to its previous significance.
THE ANCIENT BOROUGH still exists, although no part of local
government structure, and at its annual meeting elects a mayor, clerk
and constable. Famous for its Goose Fair which retains all the flavour
of medieval fayres and always takes place as dictated by tradition on
Michaelmas Day, the last Saturday in September.
Today Colyford is now mainly residential with a population around
seven hundred and home to Colyton Grammar School taking great pride in
its academic achievements.
The school was originally created by the
Chamber of Feoffees in Colyton in 1546 and moved to its current site
during the 1920s. The school was originally housed in the building
shown left which later became a post office and is now a private
dwelling named Church House.
An excellent book "Colyford
Ancient Borough and Royal manor" written by Roy Chapple was published
in 2005 and provides a comprehensive history. It is out of print but
available in local libraries.
A STROLL UP THROUGH THE VILLAGE
along what is now Swan Hill Road reveals many points of
interest and attractive
properties, some still thatched.
Ship House is opposite Pear
Tree Corner, once an inn and farm.
A few doors along is the old filling station with
original pumps which operated for much of the last century having been
built around 1928. Painstakingly restored and maintained; their
attendant service existed until it finally closed for fuel in 2001.
Across the road the old wheelwright's house and workshop 19
became the inn of that name in the
1970s having been a tea room for many previous years. Behind was a
Weslyan chapel built in 1833 with a later school room added at the
rear and converted to a home in the 1980s.
In the now developed
surrounding grounds is 16th century Stowford Manor House which became a farm until the
1920s when it returned to a private residence, later a hotel and
finally divided into three homes. Opposite Yeomans Acre Hotel was
Mount Pleasant Farm and one of over twelve farms in the borough.
Adjacent to the post office and butchers the house named Hillside
was once the Swan Inn.
By church standards St. Michael's & All
Angels Church is relatively new, having been completed in 1889. The
inside reflects the architecture of the mid to late nineteenth century.
At the western end of the village is
Stafford Barton an impressive
Tudor house once the dower house to the manor. A walk around Colyford's lanes
reveals much more, and from opposite the White Hart a pleasant
riverside walk connects with Colyton.