Slavery, evacuees, refugees and a donkey called Petronella
Back in 2014, this country house hit the market with a guide price of £3.1 million. Unsold, apparently unwanted, it remains for sale with a vastly reduced guide price of £2.25 million. Easterlands at Sampford Arundel, near Wellington, is an impressive residence surrounded by its own parkland with secondary accommodation, traditional outbuildings and mature grounds and gardens.
Knight Frank, who are marketing the property, believe the house dates to the late 19th century. However, it is probably earlier than that, possibly early 1830s because its architectural style is typically Georgian.
Easterlands House was most likely built for William Bellet who bought the land in 1816 from Richard Yendle of Uplowman, yeoman, and Jeremiah Woodbury of Exeter, innkeeper. His daughter Elizabeth married John Shattock (1792-1860), an English landed proprietor and merchant, who made his fortune at Kingston, in Jamaica, and returned to England between 1831 and 1833. Shattock was connected to Jamaica’s slave trade and duly awarded compensation by the British Government when the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1833. There were two small awards, for a group of about ten enslaved people in Good Air, St. Andrew, and for the enslaved people on St. Mary, Jamaica.
A man of immense wealth, the couple settled at Easterlands and when John Bellett Shattock died in 1860 it passed to his eldest son, the Rev. John Bellett Shattock of Stalbridge, Dorset, who put the estate up for sale in 1862.
Easterlands was sold to Charles Moore in 1864. He was a Liverpool merchant and appears to have let the fully furnished property. Occupants included Charles Hutton Potts (1823-1886) and Major-General Cookson, who was a yearly tenant when the estate was put up for sale again in 1876. Failing to find a buyer, it went back on the market in 1878 under the instruction of Mary Louisa Moore of Clontarf, Dublin.
The estate was sold to Robert Arundel Were (1822-1892), a solicitor and gentleman of Wellington, who held many appointments with local authorities including Superintendent Registrar Clerk to the Wellington Bench, the Board of Guardians, the Rural Sanitary Unit and Milverton Highway Board. When he died in May 1892 the estate was put up for sale just weeks later.
It remained unsold and was let to Arthur Tristram E. Jervoise before the house and estate of 140 acres were bought for nearly £9,000 by Frederick George Slessor in 1897. Slessor, chartered civil engineer, was the son of Major-General Slessor of Sidmouth, Devon, and remained until his death in 1905.
After going to auction in 1906 it was bought by Colonel Joseph Henry Moore, a retired officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He’d spent 30 years in the Army, serving in the Ashanti War, the defence of the hospital at Foomana and in the Afghan War the occupation of Kandahar and the Battle of Khelal-i-Ghilzai. He later held several appointments in India and was principal medical officer both at Quetta and Bombay.
Colonel Moore enjoyed Easterlands only briefly. He died there in 1908 but his family remained until 1924 when it was offered for sale by private treaty.
Up until this point, Easterlands had slipped between families and it wasn’t until Alderman Gerald Fox bought the property in 1925 that the house enjoyed any stability. He moved here with his wife, Beatrice Cornish-Bowden, youngest daughter of Admiral Cornish-Bowden, of Newton Abbot, and was affectionately known as ‘Bee’.
Gerald Fox (1865-1947), was the second son of Joseph Hoyland Fox, for many years the chairman of Fox Bros, an old family woollen business at Wellington. He was educated at Marlborough College and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took his B.A.. He joined Lloyds Bank prior to becoming a partner in Fox, Fowler and Co, a Westcountry private banking firm, afterwards absorbed into Lloyds Bank itself. He was also a director of Devon & Courtenay Clay Company, the Commercial Union Assurance Company and of Candy & Company, a pottery firm at Heathfield. Aside his business interests, he also managed to be secretary of Somerset County Rugby Club and Somerset County Cricket Club. (Fox Brothers still survives and is run by ‘Dragons’ Den’ star Deborah Meaden who purchased a majority stake in 2009).
As the current sale particulars point out, Gerald Fox will be best-remembered for taking in several evacuees and refugees during World War Two, when several rooms in the house were converted to accommodate them. Easterlands also became the headquarters for the local Home Guard and had a near miss in 1940 when a German bomber dropped a 100lb incendiary bomb. It cleared the house and fell into the lake causing no damage except to a tree.
After his Gerald Fox’s death in 1947, his widow remained until the early 1950s before selling up and moving to the Quantocks.
Easterlands appears to have then been occupied by Mr Hans K.E. Richter and then Lieutenant-Colonel R.S. Rogers, both of whom little is known. However, in 1963, the estate was bought with great fanfare by Mr Edward Du Cann, the Conservative MP for Taunton and Economic Secretary to the Treasury. In later years he would become chairman of the 1922 Committee, the Conservative party’s parliamentary group.
Edward Du Cann (1924-2017) and his wife had been living in temporary accommodation while they waited for the sale to be finalised. When it was concluded they lived a very public life at Easterlands along with a donkey called Petronella.
He became a well-known businessman with his Unicorn Group, was a director of Keyser Ullman, a banking firm that collapsed in 1974, and later served as a director and chairman of Lonhro (later collapsing owing £10 million to creditors).
After Easterlands he owned nearby Cothay Manor which he was forced to sell after several legal disputes over debts and was made bankrupt in 1993.
The current owners arrived at unlisted Easterlands during the 1980s.
According to Knight Frank, the main reception rooms are well-proportioned with high ceilings and have elegant detailing including substantial fireplaces and panelling. As might be expected Easterlands provides the traditional room configuration – entrance hall, study/drawing room, dining room, garden room, billiard room, kitchen/breakfast room, pantry, larder, utility room, estate office, three cloakrooms, boot room and extensive cellars. Its master bedroom has two en-suite dressing rooms and bathrooms, in addition to a further six bedrooms and bathrooms.
The house also comes with extensive outbuildings including a two-bedroom cottage, a three-bedroom lodge, a coach house with stabling and stores, as well as barns.
Within its 44.4 -acres are a walled garden, hard tennis court, covered swimming pool, a former vineyard, mature gardens, woodland and a lake.