Privately owned, Passionately run

Formerly The Queens Armes – See some pictures at the bottom of the page

(As transcribed from Reginald Pavey’s)

The name suggests that Queen Catherine of Aragon stayed here, but the County Record Office has no such record. C Wanklyn told me that her route from Plymouth was not planned to pass through Charmouth, so I leave it at that. The house is sixteenth century and was built by an Abbot of Forde Abbey, probably as a guest house.

Entrance was made through a Tudor doorway to a passage with a doorway, which was not so ornate, into the garden. On the left of the passage, as you entered, was a doorway leading to a kitchen. Here was a large fireplace with an oven (the latter was discovered in 1945 by W Willis) and a doorway in the south wall. On the right of the passage a door led to a large room with an open fireplace, which included the present entrance hall.

Beyond there, was a smaller room with a window looking up the street and another looking into the garden. The panelling was ornamented with poppies and candle flower, which may have been the work of some wayfarer, and traces of which can still be seen. A Tudor fireplace was in the west wall.

The doorway into the house may have been built when Thomas Chard was Abbot Forde if the initials T.C. on the eastern spandrel refers to him. Upstairs – not the present staircase – the bedrooms have Tudor fireplaces.

In the seventeenth century, it was an Inn, patronised we are told by cavaliers and here King Charles II rested whilst waiting for Stephen Limbry to take him to France. (The king never hid in the kitchen chimney as we are asked to believe). A hamstone chimney piece with the initials C.R. was put up after the restoration, which was covered in plaster some time after 1825.

Roberts, in his history of Charmouth, says that towards the end of the seventeenth century the house was owned by Mrs Floyer, widow of Anthony Floyer of Berne Manor, Whitchurch Canonicorum. She gave shelter to the Rev. John Brice who had been ejected from the Marshwood living which was a hamlet of Whitchurch Canonicorum.

There was at this time a thatched cottage with mud walls at the east end of the building in what is now the chapel burying ground and this was turned into a chapel for Brice. At one end there were folding doors that led into a house that could be opened when Brice preached and quickly closed if an informer appeared. There was also a secret hiding place, so often confused with King Charles hiding in the chimney.

After the revolution Brice publically opened the chapel which existed until 1815, in his later years Brice married Mrs Floyer. He died in 1716. Thus the house became the home of Charmouth non-conformist ministers. Mrs Floyer died in 1675 aged 79. In her will she left John Brice £10 and two pairs of sheets and a bed, bolster and a down pillow and two books. She had made over the house to her daughter in 1673. It is worth noting that the minister of Charmouth, Bartholomew Wesley was deprived of his living when Brice had to leave Marshwood.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, the house suffered many changes. The Tudor entrance was bricked up; the kitchen and the small room were shut off to make a small cottage. A front door with an entrance hall was made by taking part of the larger room, in which a more modern fireplace was built, across the east wall with a brick chimney, which made its way through the bedroom above, blocking a plaster plaque on the wall except for two corners.

This room for many years after was supposed to have been where Charles II had slept and that the hidden plaque was his coat of arms. Downstairs the small panelled room was not altered except the two windows, looking west and south, were bricked up and another overlooking the street instead. In 1813, the Rev. B. Jeannes was appointed minister and he might have been responsible for the alterations. It is known that he pulled down the 120 year old thatched chapel, which was in a ruinous state and built a more substantial building in 1815.

In order to increase his stipend he opened a school for boys and so as to accommodate them he built two rooms and a staircase on the west end which necessitated bricking up the original windows in the panelled room. Among the pupils in the school were Henry Alford, the son of a clergyman, living at Curry Rival who afterwards became the Dean of Canterbury and James Lethbridge Templer who went (to sea) at the age of six and was later the commander of Minerva, East Indiaman.

I have already mentioned that Jeannes owned property in the village – he died 13th August in 1838 aged 55 and was buried beneath the floor of the chapel which he had built. Galpin, the drawing master made several sketches of the building in Jeannes’ time and reconstructed the doorway and windows as he imagined them too have been before the alterations.

The building remained the residence of the chapel minister until 1931. The kitchen portion was occupied by Mr and Mrs Lionel White and family. It was not a comfortable dwelling house. It included the room between the kitchen and the room on the left of the modern front door. A modern range filled the space of the open fireplace with cupboards on either side in which one could stand and look up the chimney and imagine the king hiding there.

A staircase led upstairs to the bedrooms, which were shut off from the rest of the house. Inside the kitchen door on the right was a recess which, it is said, was used when it was an inn in former days. In or about 1931 the whole house was purchased by Stapleforth of Lyme Regis, who removed the railing in front of the western portion and the wall in front of the cottage. A doorway was opened between the kitchen and the rest of the house and when the plaster and brickwork of the recess was attacked by iron bars a cavity was discovered which revealed the Tudor doorway.

The former manse then took on a new appearance. The fireplaces were restored in the sitting rooms and bedrooms and when the kitchen chimney and fireplace were opened outthe old oven was discovered. The western end which had been added by Jeannes became tea rooms and the plastered window of the panelled room became visible once more. The Queens Armes is so familiar as a hotel today that I need say no more.

Here are some interesting photographs from The Abbots House in the past ..history1     history2history3     history4history5     history6