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The Rev J A S Castlehow identified Coombe in the Exeter Domesday of 1086 as follows:

"The Bishop of Coutances has a manor called Coma, which Brongar held on the day on which King Edward was alive and dead and it rendered geld for one virgate. This can be ploughed with one plough. And Drogo holds this of the Bishop. On it he has one plough and he has there one serf and 10 head of cattle and 8 swine and 30 sheep and 2 acres of coppice and 3 acres of meadow and it is worth yearly 5 shillings and when the Bishop received it, it was worth 3 shillings"

Also, the Rev Castlehow noted William Mouncil at "Comb Mouncell" in 1243, William de Monteaux at "Combe Monteaux" in 1276, the le Marchant family there in 1302, 1303, 1316 and a connection between the Martin and Marchant families with Combe Monceaux in 1326. There is a Deed of Release of 1367-8 from Richard de Brankescombe to Robert Cutteclyve of lands including "Votheliswyke", identified as today's Buddleswick in the neighbouring parish of Thelbridge. In 1479 nearby lands were "feoffed" by "Richard Cutteclyf of Northcote, gent to Richard Cuttedlyff of Trentham in the County of Stafford, gent" A deed if "Feoffment to Uses" dated 24th February 1498 from "Richard Cuttlyff the elder" to Richard Chichester, Thomas Cutclyff the elder and others has the names of three attorneys on it, one of which is "Thomas Cutclyff of Wutherygge". This is the earliest connection I have found between the Cutcliffes and Witheridge.

By 1505 the family are believed to have come into possession of lands including Damage Barton, Mortehoe, North Devon, where they remained until 1922. Included in these lands was property in the parishes of Witheridge and Thelbridge; these may have been theirs before their arrival at Damage.

In 1637 the Inquisition Post Mortem on Charles Cutcliffe included Coombe, described as:

"3 messuages, gardens, orchards, 60 acres of land, 10 of meadow, 60 of pasture, 4 of wood and 40 of down etc called Come Monceaux"

It also included the farms called Heiffers and Myncham Beadford; the latter may be today's Menchine.

The Cutcliffe possessions remained as one unit until 1745 when, under the will of Charles Cutcliffe, the main body of land was left to his eldest son Charles, but the Witheridge and Thelbridge property, including Coombe, passed to his second surviving son John, Rector of Ashreigney. The closer connection between the family and Witheridge may be said to have begun at this point, although it was not until the beginning of the 19th century that we can be sure of Cutcliffes living at Coombe. As to Thelbridge (or Delbridge as some old documents and maps show it) the Land tax returns show no Cutcliffe ownership of Buddleswick in 1780 or afterwards. They do however show "Mr Cutcliffe" as part owner of "Chapmer" (today's Chapner). By 1797 farm had been sold to Jacob Cobley. In the Tithe Apportionment for Thelbridge in 1840 there is no land in Cutcliffe ownership. Nor in 1840 is there confirmation of Menchine ownership.

The Rev John's son, Charles George, was born on 16th February 1754 and was baptised in Ashreigney. In 1785 this Charles George married a South Molton girl, Hannah Elworthy. There is a deed of marriage settlement dated 10th September 1785 by which Charles' father guarantees £500 and the farm "Heiffers" to Hannah in the event of Charles' death. The Land Tax assessment for 1780 shows "Heiffers" ("Heavers" in the document) as being then owned by the Rev John Cutcliffe and rated at £3 12s per annum, whereas Coombe, also owned by the Rev John, was rated at £5 8s (for comparison Dart Raffe was also rated at £5 8s).

Both the sons of Charles and Hannah were baptised in South Molton church, Charles John on 23rd July 1786 and John Elworthy on 17th June 1789. With this generation we can place Cutcliffes actually at Coombe, Charles John married a Witheridge girl, Mary Besley, on 11th May 1811 in Witheridge Church, where their two sons were baptised, John Elworthy on 17th July 1816, and George on 17th May 1825. Their father was a Witheridge Churchwarden from 1817 to 1830 and again in 1833. The Listed Building description of Coombe House dates it as "early 19th century", so it may well have been built by Charles John about the time of his marriage in 1811. It was built on the site of an older farmhouse; in the 1970s an old bread oven was discovered, which may have been part of that older house.

In the Tithe Apportionment of 1840 Coombe is shown as belonging to Charles John Cutcliffe, and to comprise of 168 acres. Also recorded is Newhouse, of 275 acres (it then included what later became Broadridge), in the joint ownership of Charles John Cutcliffe and Francis William Cutcliffe. By the time of the 1841 census the family no longer lived at Coombe. In 1851 Charles John is recorded as being a land agent and surveyor, living in Back Lane, South Molton, as a widower with his daughter Mary Ann. Near him, in Broad Street, lived his brother John Elworthy, surgeon, with his wife and two children.

Not until 1882 would there be Cutcliffes back at Coombe. In the intervening years the house is occupied either by a tenant or a bailiff. In Trewman's Exeter Flying Post of May 29th 1861 is the following advertisement:

"To be let by tender for the term of 14 years from Lady Day 1862 determinable by either party at the end of the first 10 years on giving 12 months notice". A desirable messuage and farm called Coombe and Cannington situate in Witheridge aforesaid and now in the several occupations of Messrs White and Mogford, consisting of a good dwelling house with convenient outbuildings, 4 labourers cottages and gardens and about 169 acres of arable, meadow, orchard and pastureland. The taker will have to discharge the Land Tax, Tithe Rent Charges, all other outgoings and to keep the premises in repair (except the walls and timber work of the roofs) on being found rough timber. The estate is desirably situated both for markets and manure. It adjoins good roads and is capable of much improvement. Mr Joseph Dinner, of Witheridge, will show the lands any Monday or Thursday, full particulars may be obtained of either J E Cutcliffe Esq., surgeon, Silverton, or Charles John Cutcliffe Esq. of South Molton. Top of Page

The 1891 census for Witheridge shows George Cutcliffe and his wife Mary at Coombe with the younger members of the family - Grace (b 1860), Edith (b 1864), Gertrude (b 1865) and Montagu (b 1869). George had been Actuary and Secretary to the Clerical and Medical and General Assurance Company in London for 24 years. In June 1882 he retired and was presented with an engraved salver "In token of the affectionate regard and with the best wishes of the United Staff of the office". In the centre of the salver is the Cutcliffe crest of three pruning knives. George decides to spend his retirement at Coombe, and may have been responsible for the late 19th century chimney pieces in the house, and for the very fine range of farm buildings behind the house, referred to in the Listed Building description as "late 19th century".

George Cutcliffe took an active part in local affairs. This aspect of his life is covered in a separate paper, based on reports in the South Molton Gazette. He died after a long illness in 1900. His widow and two daughters continued to live at Coombe until Mary died in 1917. The estate was sold in 1919. Coombe was bought by Mr Counter, who two or three years later sold it to Mr William Cox.

The family however did not lose touch with Witheridge, and in the 1930s Ernest Cutcliffe, son of George Cutcliffe's brother John, and his family paid visits, staying either in Cypress House, West Street, or with James and Ethel Woollacott at West Yeo. In 1940 Ernest bought Coombe and the family were back after a break of 21 years. Ernest's son Michael and his wife Sue and their daughters lived there for a number of years before the property was finally sold in the early 1980s.

The connection of the Cutcliffes with Witheridge goes back certainly to 1497, and with Coombe to 1637. These few notes are an attempt to record so long an association.

George Cutcliffe at Coombe, Witheridge, 1882-1900

On November 17th 1900 the South Molton Gazette announced the death of "Mr George Cutcliffe, J P of Coombe House, Witheridge after a long illness" The report continued "Mr Cutcliffe for many years occupied the important position of actuary to the Clerical Medical and General Assurance Company. On retiring about 20 years ago he settled at Witheridge, devoting himself to the duties and recreation of a rural landowner. His kindness and geniality made him universally popular among all classes. The Lord Lieutenant placed him on the roll of County Magistrates, and he was returned as representative of the District on the County Council".

On December 22nd 1900 the paper reported that the Executors of the late Mr George Cutcliffe, who died on November 7th, aged 75, were two of his sons, "Mr George Cutcliffe of Cheapside, Solicitor, and Mr John Cutcliffe of the Stock Exchange". Other reports in the Gazette give some indication of Mr George Cutcliffe's life in Witheridge, following his retirement to Coombe in June 1882.

He was clearly not a man to waste time, for only two months after his retirement he decided to put an end to the vagaries of the Witheridge church clock, which had been an annoyance for years, and offered to provide a "new clock with modern appliances" to the value of £200. The offer was accepted and the order was placed with Messrs Ellis, Depree and Tucker of Exeter. It was to include "the newest improvements" and would strike on one of the large bells "so that it will be heard for a long distance".

On December 26th 1882 it was noted that "the new turret clock" had been "opened". It was first set going on Wednesday afternoon a few minutes before four o'clock by Master Cutcliffe. The clock first chimed and then struck the hour. The Vicar, the Rev J P Benson, told the crowd that they were deeply indebted to Mr Cutcliffe for his magnificent gift to his native parish. They should all rejoice that he had come back to reside with them after an absence of some years. He wished Mr Cutcliffe a long life. Mr Cutcliffe thanked the Vicar for his kind words and said he "felt great pleasure in presenting the clock to the parish, which he believed was one of the best that skill could produce". The report said that the clock had two dials of 6 feet 4 inches diameter, fixed to the eastern and southern sides of the tower. The western and northern sides of the tower were not visible to the people in the village.

Mr Cutcliffe's duties as a magistrate sometimes made the news. In August 1885, he was on the bench in South Molton when a local man was charged with assault and threats of bodily harm. He and his fellow magistrate dismissed the charge of assault but bound the man over for six months for the threats.

At some point, he must have purchased a marquee, for when the Alswear Wesleyan Chapel was opening in 1887 he lent it to them for the occasion. This is likely to be the marquee that did much service for Witheridge Flower Show in later years.

In spring 1887 he took the chair at a meeting in the National Schoolroom, called to discuss how to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee. His suggestion that a dinner be provided for the men and a tea for the women and children was not accepted. It was decided that there should be a free tea for all, but that the tea for the men should include meat. There was to be a special church service, sports in the afternoon, and a concert in the evening. Among the ladies on the committee was a Miss Cutcliffe. Subscriptions of £5 each had already been received from Mr G Cutcliffe, the Earl of Portsmouth (local landowner) and Dr Llewellyn, the Witheridge doctor. A total of £45 was raised, and on the last Tuesday in June "the celebration passed off most successfully. There was a church service in the morning, ending with the National Anthem and the Hallelujah Chorus. Just before 2pm, 200 children marched to a field lent by Mr Partridge, where sports and amusements were provided. At 3pm, the children had tea in the large marquee, and sports for the adults began. At half past four the adults commenced to take their places at the tables where they found a plentiful supply of boiled and roast beef, cake etc, awaiting them. Altogether about 400 adults took tea. Dancing to music supplied by a string band brought a pleasant day to a close".

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In October 1888 we read that "Mr Cutcliffe, J P of Coombe House, Witheridge" was a candidate for the local seat on the County Council. He was duly elected and served for one term of office.

On October 12th 1889, the Gazette devoted two full broadsheet columns to a report on the "Wedding of Miss Edith Cutcliffe and Mr Richard Davey at Witheridge". The road leading up from Coombe and the streets of Witheridge were "profusely decorated with floral arches and festoons and a large number of flags and banners floated in the breeze". The children of both schools were entertained to a "sumptuous tea in the National Schoolroom, followed by dancing for all until 11 o'clock". The same evening all the estate workers "numbering over 60", were entertained to supper at the Angel Hotel. During the day the Witheridge Brass Band "paraded the streets in their new uniforms, discoursing appropriate music". They also paid a visit to Coombe House. On Wednesday the presents of the bride and groom were on exhibition at Coombe House and all the adult population of Witheridge were invited to see them. On entering the drawing room where the presents were laid out, each individual was requested to partake of the bride cake, and after having completed the inspection of the presents, all were directed to the barn where a substantial tea had been laid out The reporter's verdict on the occasion was that "altogether the wedding is considered to be the finest celebrated in Witheridge within memory".

At Christmas 1889, "Mr G Cutcliffe and the Misses Cutcliffe" gave the Church Sunday School their annual treat and Christmas tree. There was tea and presents and "the remainder of a very enjoyable evening was filled up with seasonable amusements" Each child got a present from Mr Cutcliffe, the junior's six pence and the seniors a shilling.

In December 1893, it was announced that Mr Montague Cutcliffe (son of George) had been appointed Medical Officer of the North Tawton District of the Okehampton Union, after a spell as Assistant Surgeon at the Devon and Exeter Hospital. In the previous year, the Gazette had noted, "G Cutcliffe Esq had been made Vice Chairman of the South Molton Board of Guardians".

In March 1894, Mr Cutcliffe at the South Molton Petty Sessions seconded a motion by Lord Ebrington drawing attention to "the urgent necessity of another constable being stationed at Witheridge, that parish having been undermanned for several months".

This is the last mention of George Cutcliffe in the Gazette until his death in 1900, when his obituary spoke of "his long illness".

The Cutcliffe involvement with Witheridge was carried on by his widow, Mary and by two of his daughters.

January 1903 saw Mrs Cutcliffe's representatives in action over recompense for stone taken from Coombe Quarry.

November 1904 brought a report that £57 16s 6d had been collected towards the 100 guineas needed to provide heating apparatus for Witheridge church. One of the collectors was "Miss Cutcliffe" who handed in £20 10s. Next year Miss Cutcliffe joined the Vicar's family in providing the annual parochial tea, for which 173 paid for admission. This was followed by an "exceptionally good entertainment".

In late 1908, Miss Gertrude Cutcliffe organised a class who met every Friday at Coombe House, working for the Toy Fair at Plaistow, London. After a month's work, they sent up "30 very prettily dressed dolls and 30 Santa Claus stockings". Several members of the class sent financial contributions. The class planned to work during lent for the YMCA. In 1911 Miss Cutcliffe became a member of the committee set up to raise money towards the appointment of a District Nurse. (Note; only rarely did the Gazette specify which Miss Cutcliffe they were referring to). The class mentioned above continued to work, and in 1912, there was a report that the Misses Cutcliffe had organised an annual outing to Teignmouth for class members.

In 1913, the Annual Witheridge Ploughing Match was held at Cobley Farm "kindly lent by Mrs Cutcliffe of Coombe House". In 1914 the family allowed 450 yards of stone to be taken from Coombe Quarry to build the new Drayford Bridge. In 1916 the Gazette announced that Miss Gertrude Cutcliffe was canvassing the village for the names of ladies willing to help. The paper did not state what the help was needed for.

August 1916 saw 25 wounded soldiers from Knightshayes Hospital, Tiverton brought by "motor car and motor cycle" and entertained at Coombe House by Mrs and the Misses Cutcliffe. Tea was served on the lawn. A Mr Charles Pickard had paraded the village with his accordion and had collected £2 3s 9d, which was spent on "smokes" for the visitors and for the other soldiers at the hospital.

The Gazette has no report of the death of Mrs Cutcliffe in 1917, nor the sale in 1919.

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