Symondsbury Parish Council
West Dorset

Saturday, 18th September 2021

Symondsbury Parish History

The Parish Definition

The historic definition of 'Parish' is an area served by a priest from a local church to whom tithes* and other church dues were payable. A parish could contain more than one township, or be part of a much larger manor. Parish Councils were created in the Parliament Act of 1894 and reformed in 1974.
* The word 'tithe' is derived from Old English, meaning 'tenth'. Thus one tenth of a commodity was paid as a contribution, tax or levy. Historically, this was usually paid in kind, such as agricultural produce or other such items.

Symondsbury Parish History

The Doomsday Book appears to suggest that ownership of the West Bay area around the 11th Century was split between Symondsbury ('Aeschere') holding the west bank for the Abbey of Cerne and Burton Bradstock holding the east bank for the Crown. However, medieval records indicate disputes over both beach and harbour involving a third party upstream on the River Brit; the Borough of Bridport. 'Right of Wreck' was a contentious issue, the Abbot of Cerne and the Prior of Frampton (for Burton Bradstock) apparently often taking legal action against the 'Borough of Bridport' for removing wrecks from the foreshore.

It appears, according to the Charter of Cerne Abbey in 987 that the Symondsbury area had been known as 'Aeschere'. However, following the Viking invasions, Symondsbury apparently took on a new name of 'Sigismund's Berg' after a Viking chief named Sigismund saw a beacon at the top of Colmer's Hill ('berg' being Norwegian for hill). Sigismund's Berg merged over time into the name of Symondsbury.

By the mid 18th Century, cider production had become popular, apple orchards being prolific in the areas of Symondsbury, Chideock and Beaminster. Many orchards were attached to houses and cottages, the census of 1839 recording over 100 acres being used in the Symondsbury Parish. Only a couple of small production orchards still exist, with the remains of a handful of others.

Colmer's Hill didn't receive its name until the beginning of the 19th Century. The windswept pine trees at the summit were planted by Mr John Sprake (for Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Alfred Colfox 100 years later) who lived in the small barn at the bottom of the hill in Shutes Farmyard. It was named 'Colmers Tenement' in the 17th Century Court Rolls when John Colmers daughter, Elizabeth Lush, was the tenant. Colmer's Tenement also included a field in the deert park on Axen Drive still called Colmer's Park.

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