For the next couple of weeks I am going to take you back in time to before Exmouth as a town existed.

This follows a chat I had with a couple just before the museum closed for the winter, who had heard of these place names and wondered if they still existed and if so where they were. To try and answer them I thought I would take you back to a time long ago when Exmouth was one of many small creeks and settlements along the mouth of the Exe, all of which were called Exmouth.

Prior to the Norman conquest in 1066 the Manor (or parish) of Littleham was owned by the Priory of Horton in Dorset which had been given to them by the Earl of Devon. The Manor of Withycombe, which then included East Budleigh, but not Withecombe Claville (then called Withycombe Barton and now Withycombe Raleigh) formed part of the Crown Estate which was included in The Domesday Book of 1086.

Chickstone is the old name of a sub manor or parish within the Manor of Littleham which had been given to Sherborne Abbey in Dorset in 1042. This is the part of Littleham that is now called Exmouth. The actual Manor House stood immediately north of Littleham Church until the 19th century and was called Lord’s House.

The City of Exeter claimed to control the river Exe estuary, the ferry and the fishing rights as far as a rock called Orcheston which was later renamed Chickstone. The Earl of Devon also claimed such rights as did Sherborne Abbey in respect of Littleham Manor as Horton Priory had been transferred to Sherborne Abbey in 1139. In 1265 Exeter and Sherborne agreed that all rights in the ferry, which was described as 'the passage of the water of Checkston' would in future belong to Exeter in return for which the abbot, monks, horses, carriages, etc would be conveyed without charge and the monks permitted to fish in the Exe and sell their fish at Littleham.

So where exactly was Chickstone or Checkston as it sometimes was referred to? It was an area of land in the north east of Littleham Parish where it bordered Withycombe and included a rock of that name in the estuary roughly opposite between where Ocean is now up to where The National Coastwatch Institution is, as identified on the map. The rights of the ferry and fishing were therefore controlled from Exeter all the way down the estuary as far as this rock and were important sources of income to whoever owned such rites. The deal struck between the City of Exeter and the Abbot of Sherborne gave such rites of income to Exeter but nothing seemed to have involved the Earl of Devon in these negotiations.

The growth of the settlement that eventually was to become Exmouth was hindered by the shallow waters of the approach to the quay and the fact that larger ships could not dock there but had to wait in the estuary where cargo was transferred to Lighters that could then tie up at the quay. Once ashore these goods had to be taken inland which was both costly and difficult due to the roads of that time. Chickstone, being in the north east of the parish found itself at the centre of controversy as in 1387 the road from Chickstone to Exeter was blocked by the Parson of Lympstone as he dug tranches across the road 'where men and cattle are wont to pass'. This was not an isolated incident as Court Rolls show that between 1453 and 1456 it took that length of time to repair the highway at Redsloe in Littleham.

Next time we will learn all about Pratteshide and how that along with Chickstone it formed part of the development of what is now Exmouth.

You can find out more about Exmouth Museum at the museum’s website or you can email me at