A typical old Devon town, Chudleigh has numerous narrow lanes and passageways between quaint old cottages. It is located at the end of the Teign Valley, close to the Haldon Hills. Perhaps more to the point is that it is on the main road from Exeter to Plymouth, to which it owes its prosperity as a wool town from the 13th century onwards. There was certainly a settlement here in the 11th century, when it formed part of the bishop’s Episcopal manor. There are still some traces of a former medieval bishop’s palace on the edge of town. Unfortunately, most of the medieval properties in Chudleigh were destroyed by fire in 1807.
St Martin’s Church is an early 14th century building with an even earlier tower of an unusual design for this area. The south aisle was added in the 15th century and there were extensive restorations during the 19th century. The rood screen bears the arms of the Courtenay family, one of whose tombs is in the chancel. The carved bench ends, tablets and floor slabs are all of interest.
The old grammar school is next to the church and dates from 1668. It is now privately owned. Ugbrooke House, with its collection of paintings, furniture, dolls and uniforms, is close to Chudleigh. It was formerly the seat of Lord Clifford and lies in a fine deer park. The first mansion was built by the well-known Lord Treasurer, Sir Thomas Clifford of the Cabal, who died in 1673 and is buried here. The present house was rebuilt, to its detriment, almost a century later. However the interior is more interesting with decoration by the Adam brothers as is the chapel.
Dramatist JohnDryden was a close friend of the first Lord Clifford and is known to have visited Ugbrooke. In fact, there is a walk still known as Dryden’s Walk in the park Rumour claims that he completed his famous translation of Virgil here. At the highest point of the park is Castle Dyke, an earthwork which commands a wonderful view of the area to the north and west. It is believed to be an Iron Age fort.
Chudleigh is an ideal base for exploring the local countryside, the Dartmoor National Park and the English Riviera. The town has numerous local footpaths, and there is an activity centre and craft workshops. This is the Wheel Craft Centre in the old town mills.
South west of the town are Chudleigh Rocks, a limestone outcrop with a rock called the Pope’s Head. If the pin you stick into it does not fall out then your wish will be granted! Or so they say… This was a favourite destination in the past from Exeter and other local towns.
Three miles to the west is Canonteign Falls and Farm Park, a natural hillside gorge landscaped by the first Viscountess of Exmouth. The park has the highest waterfall in England and was recently restored to its full glory.