Until the 17th century there was no place called "Simonsbath"; it was probably just the name given to an ancient track crossing the huge area of wild moorland that lay at the heart of the Royal Forest of Exmoor.
This was not a forest of trees but was a vast open area of wild country where hunting and other rights were reserved to the Crown as they had been since before the time of the Norman conquest.
There was a ford here where "Siegmund's Path" crossed the River Barle. More than 500 years ago a wooden bridge was built by the ford and this became known as Siegmund's Path - or "Simonsbath" - Bridge. It is mentioned in the writings of John Leyland (c1503 -1552) passed this way in 1534.
"From Exford to Simonsbath Bridge a 4 miles all by forest, barren and moorish ground where is store and breeding of young cattle but little or no corn or habitation. There runith at this place called Simonsbath a river betwixt two great Moorish hills in a deep bottom and there is a bridge of wood over this water. The water in summer most commonly runith flat upon stones easy to be passed over but when rains come and storms of winter it ragith and is deep…. From Simonsbath Bridge I rod up a high Moorish hill and so passing two miles in like ground the soil began to become somewhat fruitful and the hills full of enclosures until I came a three miles further to a poor village called Brayford…."
In 1654, after the execution of Charles I, the Crown land was sold. It was bought by James Boevey who built the first house and farm here (since pre-historic times) and the settlement of Simonsbath began. The land was re-possessed by the Crown when Charles II came to the throne. The Royal Forest was re-established and James Boevey became a tenant. No new houses were built here until the 19th century.
Early in the 19th century the Crown decided to sell its land on Exmoor and on 4 June 1815 Royal Assent was given to an Act of Parliament for the enclosure of the Forest. The land in the Forest (which was then 20,014 acres) was divided between those with grazing rights. The Crown's portion (the largest at 10,262 acres) was put up for sale in 1818. Seven tenders were received and opened on 23 July 1818. The highest tender - £50,000 - was from John Knight (1765 – 1850) of Worcestershire. He also bought some of the other allotments.
The Royal Forest of Exmoor - which had existed for more than 1000 years - came to an end on 12 May 1819.
John Knight's purchase of the Crown's land was completed on 15 March 1820.
The two key books on the Royal Forest of Exmoor are
E.T.MacDermot (1911) The History of the Forest of Exmoor. Barnicott and Pearce, The Wessex Press
E.J.Rawle (1893) Annals of the Ancient Royal Forest of Exmoor. Barnicott and Pearce, Taunton.