Category Archives: DEVON

MAMHEAD HOUSE

This country house, described as “one of the finest houses in the South of England” was Anthony Salvin’s first major commission.

The magnificent Mamhead house which dominates the East Devon coastline has a rich and interesting history. Image: Strutt & Parker.

Mamhead House, in the Haldon Hills, Devon, is one of those country houses that hasn’t been able to find its identity in recent times. For many years we have known this Grade I-listed Tudor-Gothic property as Mamhead Park, and it has just been launched on the market at Strutt & Parker, price on application.

The impressive late Georgian country house that today stands overlooking the dramatic scenery of the coast was built in 1833, replacing a much older house. Image: Strutt & Parker.

This is one of many houses that has stood on the estate. Mentioned in the Domesday Book, the estate passed through several distinguished families. In 1547 it was bought by the Balle family. In 1672, Peter Balle, an attorney to Queen Henrietta Mara, was awarded a baronetcy for his services. Later, William of Orange billeted his supporters on the estate. It passed into the hands of the Earl of Lisburne who sold it to Robert William Newman, MP, in 1822.

The imposing home was designed by celebrated English architect Anthony Salvin. An architect who was renowned for his expertise on medieval buildings and restored many castles and churches. Image: Dartmoor Archive.

Robert Newman was a senior partner of Newman and Co, general merchants of Dartmouth. Originally Hunt, Newman, Roope, Teague and Co, the company had buccaneered out to Newfoundland, and commenced selling salted codfish to Portugal in the 1500s, encountering wines of that country through bartering fish for wine. In time, the company built up its own shipping fleet.

Newman’s family motto ‘Ubi amor ibi fides’ (where there is love there is trust) is exquisitely carved above the grand front door. Image: Dartmoor Archive.

When Robert Newman bought Mamhead Park for £106,000 the original house was built on low-ground, without the views across the Exe Estuary. He turned to Charles Fowler, an architect born in Cullompton and articled in Exeter, who produced several E-shaped plans for his client. Fowler probably intended to rebuild Mamhead Park on the site of the existing house. Alas, Newman rejected each plan, excited by new building styles and preferring a new house about 400 yards up a hill to the west of the old mansion.

The classically proportioned house has played host to a great many kings, queens and distinguished royals from around the world. Queen Adelaide even had her own private bedroom, now entitled the Queen’s Room. Image: Dartmoor Archive.

Newman instead gambled on Anthony Salvin, an aspiring young architect, who grasped his first major commission. Built of mellow Bath stone, Salvin retained one of Fowler’s original ground plans into the design and construction commenced in 1827 and the shell completed by the following year. It was a slow-build. The new house was funded out of Newman’s income and its interiors weren’t completed until 1833.

The beautiful building boasts a glorious facade constructed out of mellow Bath stone and is made up of ornate stone carvings and towering chimneys. Image: Strutt & Parker.

Mamhead Park was a ‘marriage house’ for his new bride, Mary, and one befitting a man of his status. Robert Newman had become MP for Exeter in 1818 and became a baronet in 1836.

He was succeeded by his son, Captain. Sir Robert Lydston Newman, who was killed at the Battle of Inkerman in November 1854, and Mamhead passed to his brother, Sir Lydston Newman, whose son, a prominent churchman, was created Lord Mamhead in 1931.

He died unmarried in 1945, leaving life tenancy of the estate to his brother-in-law, Frederick Lumley.

The romance of the place is unquestionable even from afar and only grows as we encounter the beautifully restored wood panelling, fine plaster work and beautiful stained glass—designed by Thomas Willement, heraldic artist to William IV— of the interiors. Image: Strutt & Parker.

On succeeding in 1948, Sir Ralph Newman, great-grandson of the first baronet, was able to buy back furnishings but eventually abandoned the idea of living on a grand scale.

In 1954, he sold the estate, but retained the house and 20 acres, choosing to let the fully furnished property to an evangelical organisation. Mamhead was sold to Dawlish College for Boys in 1963 and was acquired by a property company in 1988, who converted the house and stables into offices, at one time occupied by the Forestry Commission.

The property seems to have a natural flow as we are transported from beautiful room to beautiful room; some of the most impressive being the oak room, dining room, library and drawing rooms. Image: Strutt & Parker.

Mamhead Park returned to private use in 2000 and twelve years later was bought by a group of overseas investors, headed by Richard Fuller, for £8 million.

After considering various uses, including an ill-fated wedding business, the mansion is once again available to buy.

The property also features a music room, summer dining room, sitting room, study, snooker room and snug, Image: Strutt & Parker.

The sale also includes Grade II*-listed Mamhead Castle, also designed by Salvin as stables at the same time as the big house, a copy of a pele tower at 14th century Belsay Castle in Northumberland, and currently providing six office suites.  

One of the most intriguing things about Mamhead though is the fact that it has its own Grade II listed castle on the grounds. Believed to be an architectural copy of Belsay Castle in Northumberland, the astonishing building is constructed of local red sandstone in the baronial Gothic style and was originally used as stabling and a brewery. Image: Strutt & Parker.

BRADFORD MANOR

This old country house once  boasted an 1,110-acre estate complete with five farms and three workers’ cottages. They now make up the hamlet around the manor.

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The 10th Century Bradford Manor was damaged by fire in around 1770. Purchased and then rebuilt in the 1860s, the existing Manor was styled and rebuilt by J. T. English. Image: Fine & Country.

Bradford Manor, near Holsworthy, in Devon,  is being marketed by Fine & Country, with offers wanted over £1.95 million.

The manor house stands on the site of an older manor house destroyed by fire in the 1770’s and subsequently demolished.

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The previous Bradford Manor was a Doomsday recorded Manor dating back to the 11th century. Image: Fine & Country.

The present house was built in 1868 by Joseph Thomas English (1819-1892), a successful businessman who was married twice and had ten children. He was the younger brother of Henry Hampden English and together they founded English Brothers, timber merchants, of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. J.T. English subsequently moved to Stamford (Lincolnshire), Stratford-on-Avon (Warwickshire), Stratton (Cornwall) and finally Bradford (North Devon). Amazingly these moves all took place in the 1860’s. When he built Bradford Manor the estate was 11,000 acres with five farms. As well as managing his estate he held shares in shipping, railways and finance.

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Bradford Manor contains many original Victorian features including panelled doors, fireplaces, moulded coving ceilings and a servants’ bell system. Image: Fine & Country.

Following his death the house passed through several sons but the longest tenant was Alexander Emanuel English (1872-1962), the younger son, who obtained the freehold of Bradford Manor in 1904. He was frequently absent in India and Burma during a long career with the Indian Civil Service.

The house was extended during the mid-20th century and comprises of 25 rooms. The sale also includes a Victorian walled garden, open fronted carriage barn, coach house, garaging and extensive stone and slate barns.

As property owner of this important historic and quality manor house the prestigious title, Lord and Lady of Bradford, is obtained which rarely becomes available.

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Bradford Manor has a pillared entrance with lighting and wrought iron railings. There is a front door screen with solid hardwood door and brass fittings, door lock and bell push with etched glass over, and sash side windows. Image: Fine & Country.

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Bradford Manor has four reception rooms and six bedrooms. Image: Fine & Country.

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Each room has been sympathetically refurbished in keeping with its age and style with particular quality in its recent library, kitchen and master bedroom en-suite bathroom. Image: Fine & Country.

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The first floor landing area contains a number of period features, including original sash windows with deep sill and wood panels. Image: Fine & Country.

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A period wood banister staircase climbs to the first floor. Image: Fine & Country.

KNAPPE CROSS

In June 1938. Ashley Courtenay, the resident hotel inspector for The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, visited ‘a new sporting hotel’, Knappe Cross in Exmouth, Devon, managed by Mr William Dedman and his wife Winifred.

Knappe Cross - The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News - Jun 3 1938 - BNA
Knappe Cross. Designed by William Ansell, a member of the Arts Workers Guild of which he was master in 1944. It was described in 1909 as… ‘extremely simple, projecting mouldings being avoided and good material and proportions being relied upon for effect.’ Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Driving up a narrow lane on the Honiton side of Exmouth you will come upon an imposing pair of park gates. It is a magnificent building designed in the best Tudor style by a famous architect, and its outside appearance, as it stands in its beautiful tree-girt grounds looking across the valley to the sea, a mile away, is truly impressive. Inside you will find rooms which are as magnificent in proportion as the outside of the building suggests.

“The furnishings are modern and very fine, but chosen to accord, perfectly with the natural dignity of the house. Every modern luxury of equipment, such as central heating and softened water, is here for your convenience, but the pleasant features of the more romantic periods of domestic architecture have been allowed to take their place.”

E Petrie Hoyle - Sue Young Histories
Dr Ethelbert Petrie Hoyle (1861-1955). Image: Sue Young Histories.

It was a new dawn for Knappe Cross, a country house that was completed in 1908 for Dr Ethelbert Petrie Hoyle (1861-1955) by architect William Ansell and built by Crediton builders, Dart and Francis. Hoyle was an American homeopathic doctor who was said to have enjoyed a generous income from investments in South African tin mines. It was a large house of red brick with stone dressings and clay tiled roof in Elizabethan style; an interesting design that attracted the interest of Architectural Review magazine.

In the end, Hoyle’s stay at Knappe Cross was short-lived. Shortly after moving in, tragedy struck when his son Michael died at birth, possibly casting a shadow over the mansion.

Knappe Cross - The Country Houses of Devon
Knappe Cross. Designed in 1908 by William Ansell and built by Dart and Francis of Crediton. Ansell later became President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Image: The Country Houses of Devon.

In 1910, Hoyle sold Knappe Cross to Augustus Arthur Perceval, 8th Earl of Egmont (1856-1910), whose family had been owners of Cowdray Park in Sussex which he had sold two years earlier. He was an interesting character. Born in Lancashire he had lived in New Zealand for a while, later becoming a naval cadet, a fireman and a caretaker at Chelsea Town Hall. Unfortunately, he died before taking possession of Knappe Cross, and it was his widow, Kate, daughter of Warwick Howell of South Carolina, who lived in the house.

Knappe Cross - Western Morning News - 9 Oct 1926 - BNA
Sale notice from October 1926. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

By the 1920s the house was in the possession of Mr E. J. Spencer, passing in 1928 to George Ernest Wright of Pudleston Court, Hereford. He had been High Sheriff of Hereford in 1914 and was a director of the Lilleshall Company and John Wright and Co of Edgbaston in Birmingham. Wright died in 1933 and his wife, Matilda, stayed at Knappe Cross until her own death two years later.

Knappe Cross Devon Ltd was formed in 1938 as the holding company for the new hotel. However, the outbreak of war in 1939 meant it was an unfortunate and ill-fated move. There was little enthusiasm for a ‘sporting’ hotel and Mr and Mrs Dedman needed alternative revenue to keep the business solvent. Salvation came in 1941 when the Royal United Service Orphan Home for Girls (‘children of our brave sailors, soldiers and airmen’) moved from Devonport to the peace and quiet of Knappe Cross.

Knappe Cross - Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News - 15 Apr 1938 -BNA
Knappe Cross Hotel opened in 1938. This advertisement from the same year appeared in newspapers across the country. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

After the war the orphanage moved to the Army and Navy Villas at Newquay, in Cornwall, and Knappe Cross became a hotel again in 1946, this time under the management of Edgar Philip Jenkins. It became a convalescent home for the Post Office in 1952 and became a hotel again in 1981, before being converted into a nursing home, with a new wing added to the house in 1992.

OLDWAY

Built by the Singer family to take advantage of Devon’s mild climate and cosmopolitan society. One hundred years after use as a military hospital it faces an uncertain future.

Oldway Mansion - The Victorian Society
The tradition for building large villas in the hills overlooking Torbay began in the late 18th century. Image: The Victorian Society.

On the day that The Victorian Society has released their Top 10 Endangered Buildings List 2018, we take a look at Oldway Mansion at Paignton, the only country house to feature on this year’s listing.

One hundred years ago, life at Oldway was very different, if not more traumatic. American women were rendering generous and greatly appreciated help here to the wounded Allies’ forces, the house renamed as the American War Hospital. It was one of the finest and best-equipped in the whole range of Red Cross undertakings. Mr Paris Singer, who was well known as a skilful aviator, had given over his palatial residence with its hundreds of rooms and beautiful grounds, an ideal home for the wounded. Dr Penhallow was the chief surgeon, and a staff of over a hundred and fifty nurses carried on the work under Colonel Gunning.

Oldway - The Illustrated War News - Jan 3 1917 - BNA
Paris Singer rebuilt Oldway between 1897 and 1910. Four years later, he converted the mansion into a military hospital, after which he never lived here again. He departed for America where he developed the resort of Palm Beach. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

This glorious house of 1873 was built by George Bridgman as a private residence for Isaac Merritt Singer, founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, and later rebuilt by his third son, Paris Singer, in the style of the Palace of Versailles. Following the end of an affair with dancer Isadora Duncan in 1917, Paris Singer went to live in the United States. Oldway Mansion became the Torbay Golf & Country Club in 1929 and was bought by Paignton Urban District Council in 1946.

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From The Illustrated War News. January 1917. The wounded soldiers seen in this photograph were enjoying a came of cards on the terrace of Oldway. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

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From The Illustrated War News. January 1917. Oldway, at Paignton in Devon, was being used as the American War Hospital. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Following many different functions during the later 20th century, it was used as council offices from 1946 until 2007 when the council announced its intention to sell the building as it had become too expensive to maintain. This proved controversial with residents who wished it to continue being a public space. In 2012, plans for the building to be converted into a luxury hotel and sheltered retirement flats were approved by the council, but works never started. In 2016 there emerged a legal dispute between the developers and the council over the leases, which developers claimed had caused the delay on the redevelopment. This heated legal dispute ultimately brought an end to the planned development, leaving the council once again with the issue of how to proceed with the empty listed building.