Forde Abbey
Scroll down to find out more about the property.
Click on images or Charmouth Home to return back.

No single owner of Charmouth had more impact on its history than Forde Abbey whose Abbots were to be it's Lords for nearly 400 years. Their Abbey had been founded in 1147 and in time was to become one of the richest and most learned institutions in England. By the end of the 13th Century they owned over 30,000 acres of land in Devon, Dorset and Somerset. It seems that land would be given to them on the understanding that they prayed for the souls of the donor.
Amongst these bequests was one in 1170 by Richard del Estre for land in Cernia as Charmouth was known then. Later his son confirmed this gift with another adjoining piece of land given by his brother Ace. With additional blocks of land the Abbey was soon the owner of the village and the Abbot was being described as Lord of the Manor in later documents.
We are fortunate that many of the early transactions back to its beginning have been recorded in a Cartulary which still survives to this day. This valuable book records 64 separate entries for Charmouth which give a picture of the village in those times with it's Grange, Guildhall, Mill, Market Cross, Pillory, Fair and Bridge. Amongst them is one for 1281, which refers to the church being battered by the sea, and a new one needing to be built in a safer spot.
But the most important event in Charmouth's history took place in 1290 when William, Abbot of Forde improved the Manor by making it a Free Borough. The entry is very descriptive of the boundaries of the village and the half-acre Burgage plots that were to be created along either side of the Street. Unfortunately it was not a great success and the borough never really took off. Many of the plots were amalgamated into larger ones so that tenants could get a living from them. It is amazing that if you look at aerial photographs and maps the vestiges of the borough can still be seen. The thirteenth century wall along the rear of the buildings to the north of the Street is virtually intact and many of the long strip gardens can still be seen on both sides with a bank marking it to the south.
There was to be a revival in the fortunes of the village in the early 16th century under the last Abbot, Thomas Chard who was the Lord from 1501 until the dissolution in 1539. He was instrumental in rebuilding the church in 1503 and a model constructed by the village carpenter, Mathew Locke, shortly before it was rebuilt in 1838 reveals how it once looked.
The initials T.C. still grace a former doorway in the Abbots House, formerly the Queens Armes on the Street and provide a clue to the fine building this must once have been. More recently a picture of the front of the old Manor opposite the Church in 1828 has come to light that shows the remnants of an ornate front and leaded windows similar to those of Forde Abbey when Thomas Chard rebuilt it. The lay Subsidy of 1525 reveals a population for the village of about 200 at that time, though it accounted for less that 10% of the total income of the Abbey.
In 1539 a map was commissioned to show the defences along the Southern coast. Though simplistic it does give an idea of how the village looked with a group of buildings surrounding the Church. Unfortunately the fortunes of the village were to change in the same year when the village was given back to the Crown. Sir William Petre who was later to become the Lord supervises the deed of surrender of the Estates.
There is one other reminder to be found in the village of the link with Forde Abbey. It is a small statue of an Abbot that would have once stood on the front of the building that by some miracle has survived and was recovered in the grounds of the Church.

Forde Abbey as it appears today owes much to Thomas Charde who remodelled it between 1521 and 1539.  
The doorway soon after it was revealed and as it is today.
The Abbots House, formerly the Queens Armes though much extended still has the original doorway left of centre which goes back to the time when Thomas Chard was Abbot and had his initials carved above it.  
A close up of the initials of Thomas Chard elaborately carved into the shield.
The Porch and Great Hall with it's detailed carvings carried out under the auspices of Thomas Chard.
Above this window can be seen three shields each with Thomas Chards initials carved decoratively into them.
A view of the Manor taken from the old Rectory in 1828 showing how the building looked before being refaced later in the century. It reveals windows and stone work very similar to that seen today at Forde Abbey. It may well have been built during the time of Thomas Chard.
The view today, the Section to the right is still covered in Ivy, though the front has changed beyond recognition.
  A composite picture of how the original church may have looked using the 1836 model kept in the Pavey Room.
The statue of an Abbot which was originally on the outside of the old church and a similar model of how it may have one looked.
The Cartulary is still kept at Forde Abbey. The left hand pane shows the original cover and to the right is just one of the many pages with references to Charmouth as clear today as when it was written 8 centuries ago.
A small section of the stone wall dating back to the 14th century which stretches along the boundary of the properties to the north of the Street.
The first really detailed map of Charmouth is the 1841 Tithe Map of which this is only a part. It clearly shows the Burgage plots stretching back from the street on both sides with the stone boundary wall to the north and bank to the south.
The 1880 Ordnance Survey Map clearly shows the lines of the mediaeval village and the vestiges of the strip field system can be seen in area known as the Common to the south.
An aerial photo of the village today with the boundary wall almost unbroken along it's length.  
In 1539 a map was commissioned to show the defences along the Southern coast. Though simplistic it does give an idea of how the village looked with a group of buildings surrounding the Church. To the right of the beacons is Lyme Regis with its Cobb clearly shown at the top.