A Comical Combe Martin Court Case

Modified on March 10, 2024

A story about the Rev. R. A. Seymour M.A., Rector at Combe Martin St Peter ad Vincula Church in 1928

A dark comedy happened in 1928, when French ladies Mrs de Beaumont-Checkland and her adult daughter moved into Combe Martin. It appears they weren’t exactly a blessing to the village.


During February 1928, the two Beaumont-Checkland ladies ended up in court, for “disorderly and aggressive conduct” committed in Combe Martin Parish Church. At the hearing, Reverend Seymour testified to harassment that started when the daughter approached him.

She claimed to be in touch with the rector’s deceased wife through spiritual seances. If that were not enough: "the ‘spirit’ had 'told' the daughter to marry the rector".

The situation escalated after an evensong service when the daughter remained in the church, yelling and making ‘gestures’ the nature of which we’ll never know. The rector asked her to leave but she declined and locked the church door from inside.

The police were called, and a PC Bolt arrived on the scene. The mother promptly showed up and started berating the rector for upsetting her daughter; also levelling “a grave and distressing accusation” against him.

At the court hearing, the rector presented several letters he had received from Miss Beaumont-Checkland that contained much “unpleasant content”. Numerous other witnesses attested to the ladies’ behaviour; and when summonsed, only Mrs Beaumont-Checkland appeared in court.

The mother didn’t attempt to defend herself but merely stated that her daughter was suffering from “hysteria”, adding rather strangely, “We are French, thank God, not English.” The magistrates imposed a fine of £5 on Mrs Beaumont-Checkland and ordered her to pay costs.

They also instructed her daughter to maintain peace for a year, and prohibited her from entering Combe Martin or communicating with the rector again.

In 1928, Rev. Seymour was one of 22 Vice-Presidents of the Combe Martin Regatta, which took place on August 14th. The Regatta President was Michael B. Snell Esq., J.P. The Chairman was W.J. Delves Esq., C.C.

Village history articles and photographs are contained in books such as COMBE MARTIN YESTERDAY (Combe Martin Local History Group 1997) available from Combe Martin Museum.

There is more on Rev. Seymour in the rare book OLD COMBMARTIN, Engine House Series No. 3, by Combe Martin Local History Group (1994) prepared by Fenella Rook. 

Combe Martin History, Combe Martin Parish Church, Rev R. A. Seymour M.A., Rector at Combe Martin
Combe Martin Martin Magistrates Court 1928, Mrs Beaumont-Checkland


Representations (above) of the Rev R.A. Seymour, and Mrs Beaumont-Checkland at Combe Martin Magistrates Court (1928).

Story sourced from author Peter Christie’s North Devon History (p. 119, Gaskell 1995).

The story also features in the North Devon Journal - Heritage Album - 175 years in North Devon (1824-1999).

This article and pictures by JP, 03 October 2023.