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History of Culbone


From the end of the lane, a footpath leads throughthe hanging woods to Culbone, the smallest complete church in England. Like Worthy, it is older than all records. Its patron saint accompanied Saint Dubricius when he floated over from Wales on his cloak. Part of the building is pre-Saxon, and contains an exquisite barred window cut out of a single stone. One of its two bells is the oldest in West Somerset, dating from the early 14th century. The chancel screen and the churchyard cross are the same age. There is a Norman arch through which the encompassing Woods beckon. The hamlet is so hidden that the sun only reaches it during  four months of the year. In 1760 a fair was held in the  churchyard, where there was dancing, skittle-playing, and much drinking of ale among the gravestones. From the church, bridletracks lead to the moorland farms of Eastcott, Broomstreet, Birchanger and Yearnor, names beloved of the hunting people who associate such long heather-scented days with them. 

The old saw declares that

‘To Culbone, Oare, and Stoke Pero, Parishes three, no parson’ll go.’

on account of their remoteness, and the long distances between the sparse homesteads. The old mill at Yearnor has disappeared. There used to be a saying   that if Porlock heard Yearnor Mill the weather would be fine; if they heard Horner Mill (on the east) , it  portended rain.  

Strings of laden pack-ponies could patter inland   unobserved through the woods, and a. certain farmer of  Culbone used to work the land end of the smuggling from there. He showed a light on a, secluded beach and Frenchmen landed in boats the contraban he sold afterwards at Barnstaple. One night an Excise man rode up and arrested him brandishing a loaded musket. The Frenchmen knocked it out of his hand with an oar, hauled the farmer into their vessel and sailed with him down the channel. He landed at Ilfracombe and walked home later.