It is not a previous vicarage, nor was it built by
the church. In modern times it would have been called the village hall.
Up to the 15th century the nave of the church was used by local people for
plays and wedding parties. Ale was also made for sale for the parties.
It was also used
for conducting business. By 1500, the Church wanted churches to be
kept more 'religious' and so "Church Houses" began to be built,
usually by the Lord of the Manor near or adjacent to the
church and run by the churchwardens, the profits going to the church.
In Dawlish it is complicated as the Dean and Chapter were the owners of
all the land in the town. They built this Church House which they
rented at 12d. per annum in 1589 until 1613 or so when it seems to have
become an inn. This is difficult to prove, but certainly it was a malt
house until 1740 or so and leased out.
In about 1760, the Manor of Dawlish was leased to Richard Inglett
Fortescue and then around 1780, to Peter Churchill, an attorney, one of the Dorset Churchills,
who married Fortescue's daughter. They leased Church House but made a lot of alterations, building on top of the original cob malt house
creating No. 18 next door. Peterís wife died and he took another wife, related
to the family who leased Bridge House.
When the Dean & Chapter sold Dawlish in 1802, Peter Churchill
seems to have bought the house and it stayed in the family until, in
1856, when the Luscombe Estate bought it along with next door, No.18, and
all the thatched cottages which stood next to the church.
From 1856, the house was let to various people, a vicar or two, then at
least three doctors lived here, including Dr. Lees before WW2. After the
war it was leased to the miller from Town Mills, which was in Church
Road where Mill Row is now. They kept budgies in the top room flying
free and this explained all the bird seeds found under the floorboards
some time later!