History of Cotleigh

This is an on-going project and we request that if you have any interesting facts of the history of the village or its people, to submit the details, so that this page can be updated. We would also be grateful for any old photographs/maps/plans to add to the details here.

Earliest records

Following the successful invasion by William the Conqueror in September 1066 and the subsequent battle of Hastings on 14th October 1066, William subsequently handed over much of the land to the nobles who had helped him. In 1085 William was concerned about a Viking invasion and needed to know the Country’s population and worth, so he could raise taxes (and therefore an army). In December 1085 William ordered commissioners to carry out the first census of England. This was completed in 1086 and the entry copied below is the page that includes Cotleigh

The entry stated in the online Domesday is

Cotelei Richard from Count of Mortain.

This was stated to be in the “hundred” of Colyton in the county of Devonshire. The hundred was a tier of local government. The entry stated:

Land of Count Robert of Mortain

Households: 17 villagers. 4 smallholders. 1 slave.

Land and resources: Ploughland: 8 ploughlands. 2 lord’s plough teams. 6 men’s plough teams.

Other resources: 1.12 lord’s lands.

Livestock in 1086: 8 pigs. 60 sheep.

Valuation: Annual value to lord: 2 pounds in 1086; 1 pound when acquired by the 1086 owner.



Count Robert of Mortain (c-1031-c1095)

Count Robert was a Norman nobleman and the half brother of William 1, he was one of the few proven companion’s to William at the battle of Hastings and was one of the greatest landowners in England. He had been granted 797 manors at the time of the Domesday book, mostly in Cornwall and administered these holdings from Launceston in Cornwall and Montacute in Somerset. He was an ardent supporter of William and was well rewarded by him. He was although reported as being:


“a religious man yet ill-tempered enough to beat his wife, but was not known as a man of great wisdom”.

The Bayeux tapestry shows him seated on Williams left hand at dinner


Although Robert was the lord, Richard son of Turolf was the person in charge of the estates and who paid tax to the tenant-in-chief. Richard appeared to have control over 64 villages in both Devon and Cornwall. He was born around 1050 and died c-1104.

Cotleigh was one of the larger villages at the time, with the number of households  putting it in to the top 40% of the settlements recorded.

Parish Church

There is some evidence that a church existed in the village, prior to the Norman conquest, often a “field” church was basically just a cross erected in the open air where the people gathered to pray.. It is also possible that it was a “Chapel of Ease”  attached to Dunkeswell Abbey, or possibly founded by a knight

The extant parish Church was built in the 15th and early 16th Century’s.

Questions over the Dedication

The present dedication is to St Michael.

However records only show this dedication from the mid 19th Century. In White’s Directory of Devonshire 1857 the church is referenced St Michaels. Prior to this the church did not have this dedication and previous reports did not list any dedication to any Saint. However some research by Mr Ewart L Page in the 1990s found that a previous researcher called Henderson had found in the “Brodregan Cartulary” from a manuscript at Mount Edgecombe House in Plymouth the following:

Deed of 1292, Robert De Rupe Knight, Lord of Tremodret grants land in Tremdret to William de Lestre, he paying the grantor for life five silver marks ‘in ecclesia Sancti Petroc aput Cottelegh juxta Honyton’. In other words the church of Saint Petroc at Cotleigh near Honiton.

St Petroc was originally a Prince in Cornwall, from Welsh ancestry, but became a preacher throughout the South West and died on 4th June 564AD. He went to Rome and his reliquary (casket with his remains) was at Bodmin Church

The church was restored with a rebuilt chancel in 1867. It is constructed of local stone and flint rubble with Beerstone and some Hamstone detail, and has a slate roof, the tower is partly rendered . The church has a nave with lower and narrower chancel. North aisle is not quite full length and the north chapel is now used as a vestry. West tower and south porch. Most of the exterior detail has been replaced and therefore it is difficult to work out the development of the church

(Photo from https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101098246-church-of-st-michael-cotleigh)

A list of the Rectors at Cotleigh, dating from 1292 can be found in the church




Further Religious Building

Bible Christian Chapel, Coombewater. Former bible Christian roadside church. Opened 1890, closed 1951.

Editors note- if anyone has any more information on the use or history of this building, please get in touch!

1810 Risdons Survey of Devon (owners listed of Manor houses)

In the additions to this survey, in 1810,  “The manor of Cotleigh,  by an intermarriage, descended from Rolle to Lord Orford

1840 Tithe Map of Cotleigh

The tithe maps and apportionments are an important source of information about the history and topography of a parish. They provide details of land ownership and occupation, and the type of cultivation of the land, and are often the earliest complete maps of parishes. They were produced in order to assess the tithe payable in cash to the parish church for the support of the church and its clergy. This tithe had been paid in kind until The Commutation Act was passed in 1836, when it was agreed that this should be converted to a monetary payment. A survey of the whole of England and Wales was undertaken in the decade or so after 1836, to establish the boundaries of each parish, and assess the amount of tithe due for each parcel of land within it. This resulted in the survey of all tithe-able land in each parish, the production of a map covering the whole parish and a reference book (apportionment) identifying each plot of land.

Reproduced by kind permission of Devon Archives & Local Studies, DHC DEX/4/a/TM/Cotleigh

You can also view this map, which can be zoomed in to a particular section here: Tithe Maps and Apportionments (devon.gov.uk)

There is a written record of all the farms and houses, with the type of land, plot name and area, together with the Land Owner and the occupier, on the link below:

cotleigh tythe record

A transcript is also available here:

cotleigh tythe transcript 1840

Lord Ashburton was the main Land Owner

Lords of the Manor and Scandal

Alexander Baring (of Barings Bank) was a prominent member of Robert Peel’s government. He was made a peer in 1835 for his services, and took the title of Lord Ashburton, around this time he purchased the land around Cotleigh. He was often sent to the US and in 1842 concluded the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which was to do with freeing slaves. Lord Ashburton had around 500 slaves around that time, which were freed (and which he gained reimbursement from the Government).

The 1st Lord Ashburton died in 1848 and his son inherited the title. In the Mid 1850s, the London and South Western Railway Company wanted to extend their line from Salisbury to Exeter, Lord Ashburton objected to the line going through his land and succeeded to get the line built in a tunnel  from near Combewater. The tunnel was the longest on the LSWR at 1345 yards. Then in 1858 the 2nd Lord, following his first wife’s death, married his second wife Louisa Caroline Stewart Mackenzie and had one daughter Mary Florence Baring (b 1860). Louisa was quite a girl and following the 2nd Lord’s demise in 1864 had a 3 year relationships with poet Robert Browning, a 25 year relationship with US sculptor Harriet Hesmer and a brief relationship with her daughters governess Margaret Trotter.  Following the death of the 2nd Lord Mary Florence, his only daughter, inherited the estates. In 1879 Mary was introduced to Prince Leopold, Queen Victoria’s son, and after some months he proposed, but she turned him down, possibly due to his health (he had haemophilia and actually died a few years later). Queen Victoria was not happy that her son had been turned down and the family was not in favour for some years. After a few years she eventually met and  married William Compton, 5th Marquess of Northampton in 1884, who thus gained all of the Cotleigh Estates by her inheritance.

They had a son in 1885, William Bingham Compton (known as Earl Compton 1885-1913), who was by all accounts quite a lad! He was educated at Eton and went on to Balliol college Oxford, gaining a BA in 1906. He joined the army, initially in the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, then a commission in the Royal Horse Guards. In 1911 he went to the Globe theatre and saw the play “The Glad Eye”. Miss Daisy Markham was playing the leading role of Suzanne Polignac in the farcical comedy, she was one of the leading actresses at the time, having even been over to New York in 1904/5. He at once arranged to meet Daisy who was actually “Mrs Annie Moss” who had  previously been married to a stockbroker Mr Harold Moss. She had married him when she was 17, but the marriage was not a happy one and she left Mr Moss in 1903 to take up an acting career. They were divorced in 1906 (uncontested).  Daisy and William got together soon after their first meeting and in 1912, William asked her to marry him. Following this Daisy became pregnant and bore him twin girls.  When the 5th Marquess became very ill in 1913, William went to visit his father, who on his deathbed, made William promise that he would not marry Daisy. William wrote to Daisy two days before his father died and in a rather poignant letter told her he was breaking off the engagement, for a sense of Duty, he said that he had loved her and sign off with the words “Your broken-hearted, Bim.” William inherited the title and became the 6th Marquess a few days later.  Daisy subsequently took him to court for “Breach of Promise”. Daisy won the case and was awarded the highest sum in damages that were ever granted to any woman for breach of promise in British legal history  of £50,000 (approximately £7.2m in todays terms). In order to pay off this debt and legal fees, William had to sell off estates and thus Cotleigh estate was put up for auction and sold off in 1919.

Daisy Markham in 1906 From the National Portrait Gallery


Daisy built a fine house and lived there with her parents, only briefly going back on stage in the years following the war. She died in 1962 aged 76.

William fought in the 1st world war, during which he was twice mentioned in despatches and wounded. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of Leopold (Belgium) and in 1919 he was awarded the DSO. He was also a Commander of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. In 1921 he married the Marquess of Baths daughter Lady Emma, who was 28 at the time. They did not have children and were divorced in 1941. In 1942 he then married Virginia Heaton, (born 1919 in Plymouth) and they had 2 sons and 2 daughters, but again they were divorced in 1958. Also in 1958 he married Lady Elspeth Grace Whitaker (born 1904) who was previously married and divorced in 1955 .  Lord Northampton died in January 1978, aged 92, and was succeeded in his titles by his eldest son from his second marriage.



First World War

Eleven servicemen died in the conflict and they are commemorated with a plaque in the church

                     We have photos of eight of the servicemen, the two men in the centre of the photo are Captain Wyndham Halswell of the 1st Highland light Infantry (left) and Captain Arthur Lea Harris of the 4th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Top centre is Private Arthur Wilson of the machine gun corps and bottom centre is Office Steward Ernest E Morris, HMS Landrail. Top right is Private Spiller (we are not sure of Christian name as 2 private Spillers were killed, T.G and E.G). Bottom left is Private William J Aplin of the 5th Devon Regiment. Top left we believe is Private John William Larcombe of 4th Devon Regt and bottom right we think is Private Samuel Larcombe, 1st Devon Regt





Additional Information we have on some of the Servicemen

Captain Wyndham Halswell (HU 122748) CWGC family information: son of Helen Halswell, of Wylmington Hayes, Honiton, Devon, and the late Keeley Halswell. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205300553


Captain Halswell was born in London, but his family lived in Wilmington Hayes House near Cotleigh. He was a renowned athlete and in 1908 won the Gold Medal for the 400m at the London Olympic Games. There was controversy over the race as one of the US runners called Carpenter was disqualified for elbowing Halswell. The race was re-run but the other American runners refused to take part, so Halswell was awarded the Gold by default. He held the world record in the 400m at 48.4 seconds until 1912.

He was killed by a sniper on 31st May 1915 at Neuve Chappell and was mentioned in dispatches by Sir John French, Field Marshall


Captain Arthur Lea Harris was the son of the Rector of Cotleigh 1908-1921, Seymour Frederick and Mary Elinor Harris; husband of Winifred Harris, of Cotleigh. Captain Harris was killed on the 31st July 1917 in action near Ypres.


Ernest Edward Morris was the Son of James R. and Agnes Morris, of Cotleigh School House, Honiton, Devon, he died   on Sunday 25th February 1917 (aged 19). We do not know how Ernest died, but we do know that he was serving on HMS Landrail that was patrolling near the Dover barrage and have found the following

“On the night of 25 February 1917 the Germans launched a major raid by Flanders-based torpedo boats against Allied defences and shipping in the Channel. One group of five torpedo boats were to operate against shipping near the North Foreland lighthouse and The Downs, while a second group of six torpedo boats were to attack the patrol boats of the Dover Barrage, while three more torpedo boats were to attack shipping off the mouth of the River Maas. Landrail was one of five destroyers patrolling the Barrage. The attack on the Dover Barrage withdrew after a confrontation with the British destroyer Laverock while the attack on the Downs carried out a brief bombardment of the North Foreland and Margate before withdrawing, hitting a house and killing three civilians but doing little other damage”

Between the Wars

In 1919 the Cotleigh Estate was auctioned off by Lord Northampton (see above) on the 20th September. The auction was held at the Dolphin Hotel Honiton at 2pm, by Messrs J Hannaford and sons. A total of 1323 acres in 49 lots. All tenants were give notices to quit at Lady Day 1920 or in the case of large tenants on Michaelmas Day 1920.


Cotleigh was a very rural and mainly agricultural parish and we have a photo of Southcote Farm with shire horses in front of the farmhouse with Eli Broom beside the wagon and Frank Broom at the front of the first horse








Second World War

Recorded on the plaque in Cotleigh church is one serviceman killed, Signalman John Potter Royal Signals, who was in the 8th Army Group, the Royal Artillery Signal Section, transferred from the Devonshire Regiment. Son of John and Gladys Potter of Cotleigh. Died 15th July 1944, aged 21

The home Guard
Back Row: Lenard Manly, Ernie Snell, Fred Garness, Jon Retter, Jack Bright

2nd Row: Bill Wilson, Horace Netherway, Jim Loosemore, Perce Harding, Edwin Hawker

3rd Row: Jack Hoile, Bob Newbury, Bill Paris, Frank North, Jack Woollacott

Bottom Row: Donald Batten, Bill Pearce, Eric Stamp