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History Of Chillaton


Chillaton is a small village about seven miles north-west of Tavistock. At one time it was a collection of small, mainly 19th century stone cottages lying in the valley on the banks of a small stream, itself a tributary of the river Lyd. The centre point was the square, from which roads ran to Lifton, Lewdown and Tavistock. Today these cottages have been joined by a number of more modern houses.

Several of the buildings are very old indeed, at least in part. Park and Forda in the centre of the village and Billacombe on the road to Lifton can boast a mention in the Domesday Book.

About a mile from the village centre is Sydenham House, standing on the banks of the river Lyd. It was built in 1603 by Sir Thomas Wise and remained in the family until 1937 when the estate was sold. It then had a chequered career, even at one time becoming a boarding school for girls, but has now reverted to being a family home. It is a most romantic house and it is said to have at least one secret passage leading down to the banks of the river.

Mention must be made of the small hamlet of Quither, closely associated with Chillaton. The name means 'rubbish heap' and it too was recorded in the Domesday Book. Part of East Quither Farm is said to have been the retreat for the monks of Tavistock Abbey.

At one time the people who lived in Chillaton were mostly associated with the land or the mining of manganese, which was carried out on Hogs Tor. The spoil heaps can still be seen in the valley bottom as grassy hummocks. Later quarrying for stone was started to the east of the village.

Evidence of quarrying and mining activity can be seen in and around the village, often in the form of unmarked and overgrown industrial features, such as this kiln.

Naturally such a thriving, busy community had a variety of associated occupations. There was a blacksmith's shop, a carpenter's shop, and a butchers, a mill at Splatt, a general stores, and at one time Park was a pottery. Later there was a separate post office, a garage selling petrol and two public houses. 

Since the Second World War however the picture has changed and many people from the village now work in Tavistock and Plymouth. There is a large proportion of retired people. Some still work on the land and at the local milk factory but the stone quarry is now disused. Currently there is one public house and a post office service on two days a week, as well as a local garage for car sales and servicing. Local children attend schools at Lewdown, Milton Abbot or Tavistock. 

Chillaton is part of the parish of Marystowe, a hamlet close by and its church of St Mary the Virgin stands on a small hill overlooking the village. 

The village information above has been adapted from The Devon Village Book, written by members of the Devon Federation of Women's Institutes and published by Countryside Books. Click on the link Countryside Books to view Countryside's range of other local titles. 

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