Colyton – the most rebellious town in Devon
When I think of Colyton, the last thing I think of is rebellion.
I see the River Coly running lazily around the edge of the town. I see a wonderful view of open countryside across the meadows. There are sheep grazing the lush green pastures, buzzards floating silently above, birds singing in the trees.
It’s the perfect English small town.
The town centre has some lovely little, highly individual businesses. They include shops as diverse as an art gallery, an independent butcher and a baker. The smell from the bread ovens made us feel hungry as soon as we entered the street.
There is a faint twang of horses in the air. The Wagon Wanderer runs every 20 minutes from the Gerrards Arms to the tram station. The wagons are pulled by Suffolk Punches, a rare breed of horse with less than 300 of their kind left in the UK. The trams run every 20 minutes throughout the summer.
The clock on the church of St Andrew, set into a very unusual octagonal lantern at the top of its tower, chimes the quarter hour. The church bells are rung every Sunday and services are held there regularly.
Not at all a rebellious town. So what was it about this East Devon town that gave it the label of "the most rebellious town in Devon"?
The answer lies in the history. The town gained this reputation because it wouldn’t conform. During the 1600s there was much interest in religious non-conformity and many residents of the town joined the movement. They simply did not see why they should be told how to worship.
The people of Colyton have a long history of non-conformist activity. The chapel at Loughwood was an important meeting place for them and many services were held in secret at this chapel. That’s why the Chancery Records of the time noted that this is “the most rebellious town in Devon”.
The Monmouth Rebellion in June 1685 also had an impact upon the town’s people. Because of their non-conformist views they didn’t like the Catholic King James II. They sent 105 men to march with the Duke of Monmouth to fight for their religious freedom. Many of them died in the Battle of Sedgemoor.
All this is long ago though and whilst those events had an effect on the town and its people it doesn’t alter the fact that 21st Century Colyton is a charming little town with heaps of character. In fact it's a wonderful place to enjoy some Devon hospitality.