There is a rare chance to see inside one of Charmouth`s most ancient houses on Sunday 12th August from 2pm. The present owners, Dorothy and Helen Parker have a wondeful set of Deeds which reveal its fascinating history which stretches back to the times in the middle ages when the village was owned by the Abbot of Forde. It was known then as Yandover and formed part of a larger estate leased by the Limbry family.
In 1649 when there was a series of Court cases between the Limbry's and Edward's families, with a reference to a lease granted by John Petre to Edward Limbry in 1575. William and Andrew Limbry are his grandsons and each inherits half (moiety) of Yandovers. Edward Edwards, a wealthy citizen of Lyme Regis buys William's share and seeks to obtain the other half from Andrew. Initially he provides him with a mortgage against the property with an abstract as follows:
“… Said Andrew Limbry being possessed of the remainder of a term of 2000 years of one moiety of a messuage or tenement in Charmouth and of another tenement and lands there called Yandover containing 16 acres of the yearly value of £20, and that said Andrew having occasion for £50 did borrow the same of the said Edward Edwards and the said Andrew Limbry by his deeds dated April 1667 did mortgage the premises unto him”.
The House was to retain the 16 acres of fields untill they were seperated and sold to Richard Craze in 1815 and still referred to as Yandover. The deeds show that a Henry Samways was holding a mortgage on Yendover (Yandover) for £48. He was living in the village as his burial is recorded in 1706, but it is his elaborate, though rather sad memorial, in Beaminster Church, that provides valuable information about him. It reads as follows: "Death, the Gateway of Life. In Memory of Henry Samwayes, Gentleman, who died the 22nd day of July, in the 60th year of his age, the year of our Lord 1706. And of five sons, John, Thomas, George, Garland and Robert, carried off by death in boyhood. And also of Henry his eldest son, who departed this life the 25th day of August 1711. Aged 35. And of Mary his only daughter, the last of his children and wife of Giles Merefield, Gentleman, who expired the 18th day of July, a.d. 1712. Aged 23. Five moons (months) saw her married and buried in the tomb. Joan Samways the widow erected this monument as a lasting token of her wifely and motherly love, earnestly desiring that her remains should, after the funeral (after her death) be deposited beneath, and under no circumstances in the future, be removed."
Joan, widow of Henry Samways and her son in law, Giles Merefield of Beaminster sold their share of Yandover in Charmouth to William Hutchins alias Chappell in 1718. A deed in the Dorset Record Office relates to a surrender of Yondover Meadow by Ann Crabb to Robert Merefield of Beaminster who later owned it. It would seem that both the Samways and Merefields were Sail Cloth Makers and when it was sold to William and Agnes Chappell the description of the existing property bears this out as follows:
“ all that dwelling house with coach house, warehouse, workshops, curtilage, gardens , orchard, stable with several pieces and parcels, closes called Yandover formerly 7 closes and now 5 closes consisting of 16 acres”. Agnes and William Chappell were to have a daughter, Mary who was born in 1716. But in 1743, a year after the death of her husband the deeds show that Agnes Hutchings alias Chappell and Sarah Clapcott sell Yandover to Jacob Kitt, who is also described as a Sail Maker.
The earliest Poor Rates List for the village describe Mr. Jacob Kitt of "Yandovers" and in the same year William Gale is shown as an Apprentice to Kitt, Sail cloth manufacturer. The Parish Records reveal that he married Mary Ruttley and they were to have two children- William and Jacob Ridley Kitt. Sadly he is to die in 1770 aged just 50 and leaves his business to his wife, as his children are just 16 and 14 respectively at the time of his death. But in 1776 Mary remarries John Randall, a widower living in the village and it is his name that appears on the Land tax and Poor Rates lists for Charmouth. A detailed lease to Yendover estate in 1779 showing John Randall as Landlord and James Harris paying £42 per annum as Tenant for a large house and 16 acres of field.
The Deeds for Yandover in the year - 1793 are very descriptive:
“ William Kitt conveys to Jacob R. Kitt all rights to House with workshops, Courtleys, garden, Orchard hitherto belonging to Jacob R.Kitt and that Jacob Kitt shall convey to William Kitt house belonging (now 2 houses bought by Francis Rutley and John Davie and now in possession of Jacob R. Kitt as tenant) to William Kitt and to the several pieces, parcels and closes called Yandover formerly 7 closes and now 5 closes containing 16 acres” .In 1795 the Land Tax return confirms that the fields known as Yandover are owned by William, but rented by Jacob Ridley, who also owns and lives in the house on the Street. By 1804 the rates on the houses has jumped from 3s 8d to 17s 3d that must show a number of additional buildings on the site.Sadly his success was to come to an end with the sharp decline in the market for sails after the end of the war in 1815, when it would appear that Jacob was to lose his business. For the Land Tax list show that Richard Graze, who had lent him money, was now the owner of the Yandover fields with James and Stephen Atkinson owning most of his buildings, though fortunately, his daughter Ann Kitt had been provided for with the family house (Little Lodge) and garden on part of the site.
It was Stephen Atkinson who was to combine the two adjoining warehouses into the neighbouring house now known as "Charmouth Lodge".
Ann Kitt opened a shop at the side of Little Lodge in 1816. A bill from her time there has survived in the Parish Records from that year with her name on the letter heading for the sale of cotton. Ann was aged 27 when she married John White who was also a shopkeeper from Ilminster. They then sold the premises to James Welsh a Mariner from Lyme Regis just 2 years later. He was later described as a Grocer and in due course in 1822 sold it to William Stephens, who also owned a neighbouring property for £390. William then leased the shop to Charles Cookney, described as a Linen draper in an 1830 Pigots Directory for Charmouth. But by 1834 William has moved to Exeter and sells it on to George Biddlecombe of Winsham, Somerset who was also a Linen draper, for £425. In 1837 his nephew Samuel Aplin rents it for £26 per annum from his uncle and opens a general store, of which billheads have survived. It is short lived and the business is advertised in the local newspaper on 7 April 1837 as follows:
“To Drapers, Grocers, Ironmongers, and General Shopkeepers. To be let, with immediate possession, in the populous village of Charmouth, Dorset, - A good, extensive shop, warehouse, and dwelling house adjoining, lately in the occupation of Samuel Aplin, where a considerable trade has been done, and susceptible of great improvement, Rent moderate. Apply (if by letter, post paid) to George Biddlecombe, Winsham, near Chard. "
A George Denning takes on the lease but by 1841 the Tithe map and census shows Charles Frost, a Draper renting the shop. George Biddlecombe died in 1846 and left it to Daniel Hitchcock, who managed his other shop in Winsham for over 20 years. But by 1848 he was in financial difficulties and mortgages the property with a Mrs Edwards of Winsham, for £400. But he is soon unable to pay the interest and she forecloses on him, but when she dies in 1856 her executors are Brown and Tucker. The 1851 Census shows Samuel Byles, described as an Ostler aged 52, renting the property. The devastating fire of 1864 that destroyed most of propeties to the west of the house reveals that this property was only just prevented from being destroyed by removal of the thatched roof. In 1870 it was sold to the Rev Montefiore, the owner of the adjoining property, "Charmouth Lodge"for £325. It is detailed as being used by the National School, which was only there briefly whilst a new building was erected on their site in Lower Sea Lane. The neighbour and owner Rev. Montiefore appeared twice in the School Log Book (now kept in the Dorchester Record Office), complaining about the excess noise of the children and there is also a reference to the building being a former shop. Early in the 1880s, the historian, Reginald Pavey's family occupied the house until 1892 when they left Charmouth, and Alfred Haggard and family became tenants. They left in 1900 when Canon Richard Whittington and family came to live there.
He was descended from the brother of Dick Whittington, Lord Mayor of London and famous in pantomime. The name Richard seems to have perpetuated down the centuries and his own son also went by the same name. He had retired to Charmouth from previously being Rector of Orsett in Essex. There were seven children in the family, two boys and five girls. Richard Junior went on to become a Canon and retired towards the end of his life to Hillside in Charmouth. Four of the daughters, Dolly, Winnie, Beryl and Joan were later to open a school in the adjoining building now known as "Little Lodge", whilst living in The Limes. They were well-known in the village for nearly 70 years through their involvement in church matters, the tennis club and their exclusive private school. None of the five daughters married and the longest surviving, Winnie died in 1974, aged 95, Joan died in 1976, aged 91, Beryl died in 1963 and Alice in 1953. An album of their family photographs has come down to us and many are shown here.
Charmouth Tennis Club was a very select club and only high-ranking service officers, landed gentry, doctors, lawyers and those of independent means were allowed to join. It seems to have remained like this until well after the Second World War. The four Whittington sisters - Beryl, Winnie, Dorothy and Joan - were of the Victorian era and mould, and were the last living descendants of Sir Richard Whittington, Lord Mayor of London in his day. Joan drove an ambulance for the LCC during the war. The sisters seemed to have run the club from the early part of the 20th Century and once seen, never forgotten! All four played in long black skirts, white blouses and black cardigans. They all wore their hair plaited and close to their heads. Joan was the best player and was accepted for Wimbledon, but was not allowed to play as she declared winning prize money from a tournament in Cairo. At least two of the sisters played for Dorset.