MEM22092 - Selworthy (Place)


The village may have pre Conquest origins and was known previously as Selerude, Selworth and Syleworth. It was rebuilt as a 'model village' by Sir Thomas Acland in 1828 with a group of six cottages around Selworthy Green for estate pensioners.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

Selworthy is recognised as one of the more picturesque villages in Britain, both in terms of its setting and the quality of its buildings. It lies in a sheltered situation in a small hollow on the lower slopes of Selworthy Beacon to the north, with extensive views across the eastern end of Porlock Vale to high open moorland, including Dunkery Beacon to the south. It is part of the Holnicote Estate, the Exmoor seat of the Acland family. The village has good examples of local vernacular detail, especially in cottage groups, and several have been discovered to have medieval origins. Domesday names the village Selerude, with later references naming it Selworth (1243 Assize Rolls) and Syleworth (1291 Taxatio ecclesiastica). This indicates a settlement or enclosure with a copse of sallow. The manor at Holnicote (within Selworthy Parish, thought to be named after Holegn - holly - with pre Norman origins) was awarded to Ralph de Limesi by William the Conqueror, as was East Luccombe. Both were held by the Luccombe family on behalf of the de Limesi dynasty; they were transferred to Henry de Pynkeny in 1301 on the authority of Edward I but the Luccombes remained in possession. Manorial rights transferred to the St John family in 1333, and later to the Arundell family of Trerice in Cornwall. The Acland family became linked by an Arundell marriage to the Holnicote estate from 1745 and the estate eventually transferred entirely to the Aclands in 1802. Selworthy's Conservation Area was designated in 1984. Selworthy probably has pre Conquest origins, with an unbroken succession of estate landlords since Norman times until passing to the National Trust in 1944. Recent survey work undertaken by the National Trust has revealed previously unrecorded evidence of several late medieval open hall houses, such as smoke blackened roof timbers, dating from the 15th Century or earlier. Other local vernacular features such as tall front lateral stacks and adjoining rounded bread ovens, probably dating from the early 17th Century, can also be seen. The overall pattern where thatch combines with cream or honey coloured limewash over rendered cob or local red sandstone is especially harmonious. The group of six cottages around Selworthy Green (a delightful informally designed communal garden) was a layout planned by Sir Thomas Dyke Acland (10th baronet) in the early 19th Century for estate pensioners. The concept, and cottage ornee detail around the settlement, may have been inspired by John Nash's Blaise Hamlet (built 1809 for John S Harford of Blaise Castle). The settlement's main layout appears to be of medieval origin, with little change notable since the 1841 Tithe Map was drawn. [1,2] The GIS mapping for this monument shows the historic core of the village as deduced from the 1841 Tithe Map and 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map. [2-4] Selworthy Conservation Area was designated in 1984, and the first Conservation Area Appraisal was published in 2004 [1]. An updated Appraisal was research and written during November and December 2011, revised following consultation in 2015, and adopted in 2017; no changes to the Conservation Area boundary were proposed. Further details on the historical development and character of the settlement are included in the report. It states that the core of the historic settlement in the vicinity of the green has archaeological potential; the 19th Century remodelling of this area has eradicated much of the evidence of its former configuration but Isabel Richardson has noted parchmarks in the grass in dry summers so it is very likely that traces of former buildings and other archaeological deposits survive below ground. Further investigation may inform the understanding of the pre-Acland layout of the village. The National Trust has also undertaken a vernacular building survey of many of the properties within the settlement and has found that many have medieval origins, with features such as smoke blackened roof timbers showing evidence for former open hall houses. [5]

Sources/Archives (5)

  • <1> Report: Fisher, J.. 2004. Selworthy: Conservation Area Character Appraisal. 4-5, 6, 11.
  • <2> Map: 1841. Selworthy Tithe Map and Apportionment.
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1854-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey. 2013. MasterMap.
  • <5> Report: Pratt, N.. 2017. Selworthy Conservation Area: appraisal document. Exmoor National Park Authority.

External Links (0)

Other Statuses/References

  • Local Heritage List Status (Rejected)
  • Local Plan - Historic Core



Grid reference Centred SS 9185 4676 (485m by 252m) Historic mapping
Map sheet SS94NW

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Related Articles (1)

Record last edited

Nov 2 2022 4:39PM


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