Set in the splendour of the Barle Valley, Simonsbath is set in the heart of what the locals refer to as “Exmoor Proper”.
Simonsbath House stood alone for over 150 years before the small hamlet developed in the 19th Century, with the local Church, St Lukes, built in 1856, presiding over the largest Parish in Somerset 56 square miles but with only 75 houses.
There are many great walks and rides both on and off road from Simonsbath, notably down the River Barle and north through Ashcombe onto the high moor, overlooking the magnificent Exmoor coastline.
James Boevey - the first owner of Exmoor, was of Dutch parentage, born in London on 7th May 1622. Schooled in London, he trained as a Banker and Solicitor. His work took him all over Europe but ill health forced him to give up his career at the age of thirty two, and he retired to the country. Boevey purchased Exmoor Forest in 1652 and it can be assumed from the date 1654 carved into an oak beam above the old Kitchen fireplace, that he commenced building this house as soon as he took possession of the land. Boevey remained Warden of the Forest for 43 years, the longest period for any person, until his death in 1696.
However, Boevey was not a popular man, having introduced high charges for grazing rights, causing outcry amongst the local farmers. Towards the end of his life he returned to Cheam in Surrey, where he was buried, leaving his mark on Exmoor in the shape of Simonsbath House, which until 1815, was the only dwelling house in the Forest. Margaret, his third wife, became the Warden of the Forest on her husband’s death, but after only eight years sold the remainder of the forest lease and house to Robert Siderfin of Luxborough. As Siderfin was only interested in the grazing rights he let Simonsbath House to several tenants, most notably in 1702 to John Dennicombe who allowed the house to fall into a ruinous state of repair. Despite Siderfin paying for some repairs to be done, and giving Dennicombe a second chance, he still would not co-operate and eventually locked himself and his family inside the house to escape arrest, burning doors, windows, panelling and floors for firewood. Although most of the original wood was destroyed the original front door remains although it still bears the axe marks of Dennicome’s attacks. Eventually Dennicombe was arrested and the Sheriff of Somerset evicted the family in 1719.
When Siderfin died in debt in 1720 his wife lost the house to Robert Darch, a nephew of Siderfin, as principal creditor. On his death the forest and house was willed to his wife Hannah, although during this period the house became the home of various deputy foresters.
The Wardens between 1767 and 1814 were three members of the Acland family whose contribution to moorland life saw the revival of stag hunting and the protection of the Exmoor deer herds from poachers who had almost exterminated them.
From around £60.00
- Dogs Welcome
- Secure Bike Lockup
- Dry Room
- Bike Washing
- Credit Cards
- Evening Meals
- Licensed Bar
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Simonsbath House, Simonsbath, Exmoor, TA24 7SH
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