Old Odcombe
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Tom Coryate

So who was this famous son of Odcombe?

Thomas Coryate (1576-1617) was an incredible man, his exploits were simply astonishing, and if his life were not cut short in India, he would have surely circumnavigated the globe, on foot! Well, maybe.

A Parson's son of Odcombe, Somerset, he is credited with being the man who introduced the fork to Britain, and coining the word 'umbrella'. But most importantly of all Tom Coryate is thought to have made the very first Grand Tour of Europe in 1608. He recorded his exploits in his first book Coryate's Crudities (1611), commonly believed to be the first 'travel book' of it's kind. This book was then used by the 18th Century Grand Tourist as the blue print for their European travels.

From his humble start in the beautiful village of Odcombe, he found himself eventually in the Court of Prince Henry. He was regarded as both a wit, a cunning court jester and, through his colourful use of 'made up' English, the butt of many jokes! In an attempt to assert himself as a person of genuine intellect and a worthy of respect, he decided to embark on his first epic journey. However, I think he was just trying to impress the future King and had had enough of other Courtiers taking the p*ss out of him!

This epic journey was a 2000-mile trip across Europe encompassing some of the finest cities of the time. From Calais to Paris and on to Lyon he travelled through France. He then crossed into Italy via the Col de Cenis pass. From here he took in Turin, Milan, Cremona and Padua on his way to the magical city of Venice. He then set out back across Italy via Verona and the lakes to cross into what is now known as Switzerland, via the Passo de St Marco. He passes up through the Swiss alpine valleys via Zurich to Basel where he took a rowing boat up the Rhine to Strasbourg. From here he got back on foot up to Mainz where he takes a little detour to visit the Frankfurt book fair and hobnob with some dignitaries. Back in Mainz he gets in a boat again and rows all the way up the Rhine, stopping at various towns and cities to the Dutch coast and then by ship back to London.

A detailed map of the route Tom took, and the route we plan on taking, can be found on the Route page.

The whole journey took him 5 months, as recorded in the final paragraph of his book.

The Cities that I saw in the space of these five Moneths, are five and forty. Whereof in France five. In Savoy one. In Helvetia three. In some parts of high Germanie fifteene. In the Netherlands seven.


On returning to Odcombe, Tom hung his boots up in the village Church to mark the end of his journey. Here, his boots remained, until they mysteriously went missing in the early 19th Century. Maybe the smell just got too much? He only used one pair for the whole 2000 miles !!

Tom had trouble getting his book published. Due in part, to the fact that all books published at the time had to have Royal approval, it turned out that the Prince wasn't that impressed with tom's travels after all !! To the relief of the modern independent traveller, he finally got his book published and with it started the era of the classic European Grand Tour.

Tom's story does not finish there, to find out more please check out the following books, especially Odd Tom Coryate. Without giving too much away, Tom wanted to really impress the court and decided that more adventures were required. So, he set out to walk across Asia to some of the greatest Kingdoms of the time. However, we will never know how far Tom was prepared to go, as he met an untimely death from illness in Surat, India.

To find out more about Tom I can recommend a number of books.

Link to Amazon This book has helped me enormously in learning about Tom. It is the excellent Odd Tom Coryate (Sutton Publishing Ltd, 2004) by R. E. Pritchard. For me Mr Pritchard really captures the spirit of Tom, and gives you a real insight too life as Tom saw it in the 17th Century. I've also used it extensively in writing this page, so please dash out and buy it!

Click on the book for a link to the Amazon.co.uk reference.

Link to Amazon Tim Moore's book Continental Drifter (Abacus, 2001) Is genuinely hilarious in places! In others it's not so much, I think Mr Moore might have got a little bored at the end, it is a long way, no matter how you travel. Anyway, I think the book is great and well worth a read.

Click on the book for a link to the Amazon.co.uk reference.

The book that first got me interested in Tom's life was Michael Strachan's book The Life and Adventures of Thomas Coryate (Oxford University Press, 1962). I first discover a copy of this book in Yeovil Library, where I also discovered the joy of library fines through taking this book out for far too long.

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