Pronounced ‘Chiddick’ the village of Chideock approximately half way between Bridport and Lyme Regis, is another casualty of a tussle with the A35 but a village rather more accustomed, from its history, to alarming sounds and the hot breath of mobility.
This was always staunch Roman Catholic country and it was from Chideock House or Castle, (now the Chideock House Hotel, priest's hole and all) that the Chideock Martyrs were taken.
John Cornelius (called also Mohun) was born of Irish parents at Bodmin, in Cornwall, on the estate of Sir John Arundell, of Lanherne, in 1557. Sir John Arundell took an interest in the talented boy and sent him to Oxford. Not satisfied with the new religion taught there, John Cornelius went to the great "seminary of martyrs", then at Reims, and later entered the English College, Rome, to pursue his theological studies. After his ordination he was sent as a missionary to England. While acting as chaplain to Lady Arundell, he was arrested on 24 April, 1594, at Chideock Castle, by the sheriff of Dorsetshire. He was met on the way by Thomas Bosgrave, a relative of the Arundell family, who offered him his own hat, as he had been dragged out bareheaded. Thereupon Bosgrave was arrested. Two servants of the castle, John (or Terence) Carey and Patrick Salmon, natives of Dublin, shared the same fate. The missionary was sent to London and brought before the Lord Treasurer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and others, who, by words and torture, tried in vain to obtain the names of such as had given him shelter or assistance. He was brought back to Dorchester and with his three companions condemned to death, 2 July, 1594. He was accused of high treason, because he was a priest and had returned to England; the others were charged with felony, for having rendered assistance to one whom they knew to be a priest; but all were assured that their lives would be spared if they embraced Protestantism. They were martyred at Dorchester, 4 July, 1594.
The present R.C. church, dedicated to Our Lady of the Martyrs and St. Ignatius, was built in Romanesque yet highly original style in 1870-72 by the Weld Family, who had succeeded generations of the Catholic Arundell family at the beginning of that century. Sir Joseph Weld, past lord lieutenant of Dorset, is also acknowledged as one of the leaders of today's Roman Catholic community in the area. (see also Lulworth.)
The village is filled with well-built and well-maintained cob and sandstone cottages, some of them thatched, all of them colorful with gardens which seem so planted as to ensure graphic flowering at any time of the year.
The ‘Chideock Gang’ in the 18th century, were a select band of smugglers who limited their activities to the coast between Seatown and Charmouth. Their leader, ‘The Colonel’ cloaks the name of some local gent who obviously had military training. The gang had a magnificent look-out post on the top of the 617 foot High Golden Cap.