East Coker is a large Parish of natural beauty made up of several hamlets, a perfect example of the formation of a village dating back to Norman times, rich in history and fine architecture:
The poet, T. S. Eliot, who wrote the poem ‘East Coker’, had a great affinity with the Parish, and after his death on Easter Sunday in 1965, his ashes were buried in St. Michael’s Church. The Church stands on a hill overlooking the Parish and celebrated 700 years of unbroken administration in 1997.
Next to the church is historic Coker Court, dating back to 1275 in part, with its noble hall complete with minstrel gallery and magnificent Jacobean fireplace.
In the north of the Parish, the Manor House was occupied by John de Mandeville in 1275. In 1377 it was the home of the Hymerfords, and today it is known as Hymerford House, although the family has long since gone. In 1651, William Dampier is claimed to have been born there and at the age of 16 he went to sea to become an explorer. Later he obtained finance from Col. Helyar enabling him to pursue his exploits. After sailing around the world, he became Captain of the Roebuck. Dampier Island and Dampier Straits off the coast of Australia, remain a memorial to him.
In the far north of the Parish is Naish Priory, a beautiful old building. The many alterations to its structure have made it difficult to distinguish its period, but there is a strong hint of Tudor architecture. It is reputed to have had a secret tunnel running from the Priory to the West Coker Road, believed to have been used by smugglers. The northern entrance from the road, now not used, gives it the appearance of a gatehouse with its ancient oak door remaining in situ. At the close of the reign of Henry VII, Naish belonged to James Courtenay, second son of Sir William Courtenay, Lord of Coker.
North Coker House was built between 1877-1880 for George Troyte-Chafyn-Grove, known as the “Old Squire”.
Pavyott’s Mill stands to the east of the Parish, so called after a former owner named Pavyott, and it was in 1820, when a boundary dispute was called, that a jury found the mill to be in Coker.
New boundary stones were erected to celebrate the unique identity of the Parish and the commemorate the centenary of the Parish Council in 1995. Four Stone were created by a local stonemason, one for each point of the compass.
- The Northern Stone at Wraxhill features a Buzzard (“Wraxhill”, 1614)
- The Eastern Stone at Darvole features a Deer (“Derefeld”, 1321)
- The Southern Stone at Isles features a Sheep (“Sheeps Sleight”, 1785)
- The Western Stone at Holywell features a Swan (“Swan Hills”, 1639)
The Parish Profile (2011), compiled by South Somerset District Council, can be found HERE. This contains additional information and statistics concerning the Parish.