CASTLE COMBE – The Wiltshire Mecca of Picturesque Villages
Originally home to a Roman Villa and then a castle as well. Castle Combe is the Wiltshire Mecca of picturesque villages. There are many wonderful buildings including the Dower House and the White Hart as well as the lovely church.
The church was extensively restored in the 19th century but mostly remains the old work. Round the top of the tower run 76 arches high and low. The parapet is carved with nearly fifty stone heads. Looking down on the roof is a carving of a shuttle and scissors the mark of the cloth industry put there by the merchants who built the tower. Walter De Dunstaville (1270) whose family owned the Castle after the Norman conquest, has his tomb in the church with effigy showing him in full chain armour with angels at his head and a dog at his feet, and six small figures in the panels of the tomb.
The Scrope family moved in as Lords of the manor in the reign of Richard II and stayed for nearly 500 years. The manor house along with later additions became a hotel. Castle Combe did develop as a weaving town along with the rest of Wiltshire in the fifteenth century. It manufactured a red and white cloth known as ‘Castlecombe’. Weaving was carried out in the 50 or so weaving cottages.
Caslte Combe is most famous for being portrayed as a fishing-port in the filming of Dr Doolittle staring Rex Harrison and Anthony Newley. The television aerials were removed and a little jetty was built on the banks of By Brook, to make the town into a seaport. Local inhabitants became ‘extras’ at 50s. per day, with meals, alcohol, and clothes all thrown in.
One local who was in the film used to sit by the market cross and recant the stories of the filming.
“Tell ‘ee wot, zome o’ them vilm volk, they be all right, out”