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Otterton History - Church Hill Cottage

Church Hill Cottage or Church Cottage 1984

Tithe No. 1230
C/R 215

Cottage is not listed and I am only able to research history from 1813. It appears to be built of lathe and plaster, with a kitchen built on of brick abutting the north end of the cottage.

However it is evident that the cellar underneath the cottage is older and is of some antiquity. Roz Hickman(Shipton) when living in Otterton as a school child in 1950’s and again in the 1980’s and myself in the 1990’s have descended into the huge cellar that exists under the old Manor House (now St. Michaels Close). It is known that 3 passages led from this cellar, one of which led to the cellar under Church Cottage. Today this passage is bricked up at both ends. Archaeologists examined the cellars in 1980’s and were of the opinion that they date from 13th or 14th centuries. They could not examine the passages to see if they were of the same date. However, they must have been built for some purpose. That from Church Cottage may have been used by smugglers
Smuggling in this country probably dates from the 14th century when both imported and exported goods were first taxed to pay for the 100 years war with France. The first record seen implicating Otterton people is in 1684 when 8 men were caught smuggling tobacco into Ladram Bay and then brought to John Rice’s House, split up between Richard Warry’s house, Richard Dolling’s farm in Otterton and Abrahams Yard in East Budleigh. One of these houses may have been a building with the cellar at Church Cottage which would have been an ideal hiding place for contraband. (More research required), Smuggling continued through to mid 19th.century.

The Church Cottage cellar had 4 entrances. Three are now blocked up on the east side but one, on the west road side is still probably usable.

The first named leaseholder was John Sanson holding Conventionary Lease No.215 with lives from 1813 “House Rent 2/6d pa”. 215 was a new lease and the cottage above the cellar may have been built or rebuilt at that time. Sanson  held it for 4 years when it was transferred to William Harding of Stantyway Farm, his family holding the lease to 1850, it was then transferred to a Rack Rent in favour of Robert Till who had been Harding’s tenant at least since 1841 (Census). He was a carpenter and he and his wife Sarah were both aged 25 at that time.  The Tithe Award 1843/6 lists “House, garden 10 pole”. Whites Directory 1850, states he is a wheelwright.

The first known wheelwright business in Otterton was opened by John Baker in 1847 in the coopers shop of Joel Hayman, now Bramley Cottage, and Robert Till had joined Baker as his assistant wheelwright. He probably died shortly after as the 1851 Census for Church Cottage, names Thomas, Roberts brother, living there with his wife Caroline and family.

The Till family members had been living in Otterton since early 18th century and were holding two houses in Fore Street where Nos 7 & 5 are today. One was a small farm. There are descendants living locally today.

Thomas Till and family lived in Church Cottage for the next 25 or so years. He was a very industrious person and during this time farmed 36 acres and ran a carrier service to Exeter on Tuesdays and Fridays from before 1861. His wife Caroline ran a shop from the Cottage. By 1881  Census he had moved to Clapps Farm, now Basclose, presumably to house his expanding family. His sons and families lived and worked on the farm.

George Bolt, carpenter, wife Mary and family of 3 sons and 4 daughters are living in the cottage at the 1881 Census. By the following Census Francis and Sarah Hitt are living there on a Rent of £4.4/-pa, last mentioned there in 1917.
 It is not known who the tenants were until after the Second World War. Tenants known since then are Mrs. Burt 1956/61; Leslie Carter 1970/74: Stephen Counter 1974/82: June Hillier of Bicton Restaurant 1982/83.

19th. October 1984 the Clinton Devon Estates auctioned the cottage and was sold to Tom Griffiths of Sidmouth and sold on to John and Vera Budgen in 1985. They lived there for the next 20 years until Mr. Budgen died in 2005 and Vera Budgen moved to Budleigh Salterton.

Prof. Robert (Bob) and Mair Miles bought the cottage and moved in for the next four years, then moving to Sidmouth. Then Chris, and Emma Greenwood bought it using it as a Holiday Home, followed by James and Janet Keliher in 2013.

 Barn on The Green

BARN below Church Cottage, facing The Green 1960
Tithe No. 1229

The Barn was listed in the 1946/51  Scheduled Buildings Grade 11. It is described as “Small barn on corner of Lane leading to the Church, opposite Mill” “C17 or earlier. Old moulded stone architrave to door with Tudor dripstone above. Doorway unusually wide. Partly blocked, partly filled with modern door. Stone coping to gable end with mutilated finial. Building mainly brick”.

The earliest reference seen is the entry in the Tithe Award, where it is included in the Lease of Otterton Mill as 1229 Storehouse. 1875 the new tenant of No.1 The Green (now part of No.17) George Baker, carpenter & joiner,  used the Barn as his workshop. He died at No.1 in 1936. During Edward V11’s reign a wall post box was set in the wall of the Barn by the door. This was transferred to a brick construction on The Green when the Barn was demolished in early 1960’s.

Gerald Millington 2013


Clinton Devon Estates :-Leasehold & Rack Rental Books, Tithe Award 1843/46
Census Returns, Otterton 1841/1911
Directories :-Whites, Kellys etc.
Auction Prospectus, Church Cottage, 1984
Otter Valley Assn. website – OVApedia:-
“Passages under Manor House, Otterton” by Roz Hickman 2011
“Smuggling” by Gerald Millington 2008
Photograph (enlarged from photo. by the late Fred Farrant)

© Gerald Millington 2013



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