Tag Archives: Country Mansion

RIPPLE HALL

Parts of Grade II listed Ripple Hall date back from the 1400s with a front elevation added in the 18th century and later Victorian additions.

Riplle House - 2018 - Andrew Gant (1)
Ripple Hall, Ripple, Worcestershire. The house is situated in a conservation area next to the Grade I listed, 12th Century St Mary’s Church. Image: Andrew Grant.

The house appears to have been rebuilt about 1780-1790 for Fleetwood Parkhurst, who died in 1801, and whose widow, Anne, stayed on until 1818. Parkhust was descended from Bishop Parkhurst, the celebrated author of the Hebrew and English Lexicon.

His son, also named Fleetwood, was a Rugby and Oxford contemporary of Walter Savage Landor, the writer, poet and activist, a regular visitor to the house during his parent’s time. It appears that while affection grew between Landor and the old squire, he did not always hit it off with the son.

The son, Fleetwood Parkhurst, was a clergyman and became Rector of Epsom as well as a man of property. He retired to Ripple Hall but died in 1844 while walking in Cheltenham after ‘a visitation from God’. In a letter from Landor, his opinion of his old companion was not altogether favourable. “I am shocked and grieved at his death. A happier one, however, there could not be.”

Ripple Hall - Gloucestershire Chronicle - 22 Mar 1845 -BNA
From the Gloucestershire Chronicle in March 1845. The sale of the first portion of valuable effects belonging to the Rev Fleetwood Parkhurst. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
Riplle House - 2018 - Andrew Gant (14)
Ripple Hall, Ripple, Worcestershire. The property is of such significance that it is noted in Pevsner’s ‘The Buildings of England’. Image: Andrew Grant.

In 1847, the house was occupied by John Christopher Dowdeswell, a barrister-at-law, the second son of John Edmund Dowdeswell, a Senior Master of the High Court of Chancery. It is possible that Dowdeswell had tenanted Ripple Hall. He died three years later, in 1850, but the house had been in the hands of John William Empson since 1848.

Empson, also of Yokefleet Hall, Howden, was a large landowner in the East Riding of Yorkshire and a Justice of the Peace. He died in 1893 but had spent considerably more time in Yorkshire than in Worcestershire. In 1887, the house appears to have been tenanted by another Dowdeswell, this time Arthur Christopher Dowdeswell. Empson’s wife, Ellen Georgina, long since removed from Ripple Hall, died at Kiltermain In Ireland in 1908.

At the turn of the 20th century, Ripple Hall was in the hands of his widow, Ellen Georgina Empson, but she appears to have been living at Kiltermain in Ireland. The house was briefly occupied by Captain Freeman and afterwards by John Ripley. It was sold in 1907, a year before Ellen Empson died.

The new owner of Ripple Hall was Miss A. J. Behrens, who remained until 1931. It passed to Edward F. Gray, the son of the Reverend Edward Gray of Wembley Park, Middlesex, and Donnington Hall at Ledbury. He had been educated at Haileybury and Oriel College, Oxford, and was in the Consular service for thirty years before retiring to Ripple Hall.

Ripple Hall - The Tewkesbury Register and Agricultural Gazette - 30 Aug 1930 - BNA
In 1930, Miss Behrens decided to part with Ripple Hall. This advertisement appeared in The Tewkesbury Register and Agricultural Gazette. She moved out the following year. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

In World War One he had been in Consul in Oslo and Bergen in Norway. From 1922 up until his retirement he served in America, being Consul-General at Boston for the states of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island.

Gray died in 1960 and Ripple Hall was bought by Mr and Mrs Hugo Baldwin Huntington-Whiteley.

Riplle House - 2018 - Andrew Gant (3)
There are many examples of beautiful 18th century decorative fittings and architecture still present including fine ceilings and cornicing, sash windows and shutters, an original staircase to the first floor, wooden parquet flooring and original fireplaces which are all in working order. Image: Andrew Grant.

The house has similar characteristics to Ham Court and several houses in nearby Upton-upon-Severn. It has a five-window range with full-height curved bows to the east and west end walls. At one time the house had been covered in ivy, thoughtfully removed by Miss Behrens during her tenure.

Ripple Hall is on the market at Andrew Grant with a guide price of £2.25 million.

Riplle House - 2018 - Andrew Gant (6)
Ripple Hall, Ripple, Worcestershire. Image: Andrew Grant.
Riplle House - 2018 - Andrew Gant (8)
Ripple Hall, Ripple, Worcestershire. Image: Andrew Grant.
Riplle House - 2018 - Andrew Gant (10)
Ripple Hall, Ripple, Worcestershire. Image: Andrew Grant.
Riplle House - 2018 - Andrew Gant (19)
Ripple Hall, Ripple, Worcestershire. Image: Andrew Grant.
Riplle House - 2018 - Andrew Gant (21)
The house is next to the Grade I listed, 12th Century St Mary’s Church. Image: Andrew Grant.

WOODCOTE HOUSE

The former headquarters of Warwickshire Police at Leek Wootton is to be marketed for sale, ending seventy years of police occupation.

Woodcote House - GVA 1
Woodcote House, Leek Wootton, Warwickshire. Image: GVA.

In August, 1947, the Leamington Spa Courier announced that the executors of the late Sir Wathen Waller had instructed a Birmingham firm of auctioneers to offer for sale the remainder of the Woodcote estate situated at Leek Wootton, between Kenilworth and Warwick. The estate comprised a stone-fronted mansion, surrounded by charming grounds, the Home Farm, woodlands, and a number of cottages extending in all to about 253 acres.

Grade II listed Woodcote House was built in Elizabethan-style in 1861 and extended in 1869 on the site of an earlier house. Designed by John Gibson, it was built in Jacobean style for Henry Christopher Wise. The Wise family once owned Warwick Priory, which was dismantled and removed to America. A member of the Wise family was head gardener to Charles I, a position of some importance.

Woodcote House - GVA 4
Woodcote House, Leek Wootton, Warwickshire. Image: GVA.

In 1864, All Saints’ Church, Leek Wootton, was thoroughly repaired and an open roof, the gift of the late Henry Christopher Wise, was erected; there was also a memorial to his three sons. In 1897, carved choir stalls were installed by Lady Waller as a memorial to her husband, the late General Sir George Waller, 3rd Baronet, and a chancel screen was erected in 1930 in memory of Captain Sir Francis Waller, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, killed in action in 1914.

The Wallers came of fighting stock. One of their ancestors captured the Duke of Orleans, at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, when Henry V conferred honours upon him.

In 1947, the executors of Sir Wathen Waller sold Woodcote House to Warwick Rural District Council for £25,654 to be used as a police headquarters. Following a conversion costing £60,000 Woodcote became the headquarters of the Warwickshire Constabulary in 1949. The house is linked to the east to significant 1960s/70s buildings developed as part of the Warwickshire Police headquarters.

Woodcote House - Archiseek
The new house of 1861 was built in practically the same position as an older house with stables, farm buildings and a kitchen garden in much the same place. The gardens and pleasure grounds were re-arranged, a reservoir built and five acres of the park were taken to enlarge the garden. Constructed with locally quarried stone, which like most Warwickshire sandstone, it is soft and crumbly. Image: Archiseek.
Woodcote House - Our Warwickshire 1
Woodcote House, Warwickshire, in the 1900s. Image: Our Warwickshire.
Woodcote House - GVA 2
Woodcote House, Leek Wootton, Warwickshire. Image: GVA.

SCARCROFT LODGE

The fact that this mansion has been the subject of a recent planning application for retirement accommodation has put the former country house back into the spotlight after being ‘lost’ for over 70 years.

Scarcroft Lodge - Leeds Mercury - 19 June 1907 - BNA
Scarcroft Lodge, Leeds, West Yorkshire. This image is from the Leeds Mercury in June 1907. It was the residence of Lady Mary Savile, who was acting as hostess to the Spanish Princess, the Infanta Eulalie, aunt of the King of Spain. The Princess had visited Leeds and had gone about the country in a quiet, unostentatious way that had won the respect of all with whom she had come into contact. She was fond of cycling and had been seen regularly along the nearby lanes. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

To explain the story behind this, we must go back to April 1945, when newspapers reported that the Yorkshire Electricity Power Company had bought the Scarcroft Lodge estate for between £30,000 and £40,000. It became their headquarters, later belonging to the Yorkshire Electricity Board and subsequently the offices of Npower.

Because this Grade II listed house was lost to commerce meant that there were relatively few old images available. However, two black and white images have emerged from June 1907, showing Scarcroft Lodge still in rural bliss.

Scarcroft Lodge - Leeds Mercury - 19 June 1907 - BNA 1
The grounds of Scarcroft Lodge, Leeds, West Yorkshire, were photographed for the Leeds Mercury in June 1907. The view of the gardens from the terrace were described as ‘pleasing’. A few years before this picture was taken there had been talk of the grounds being purchased for the making of a racecourse. In the event, the grounds were eventually built over to accommodate the Yorkshire Electricity Board. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Scarcroft Lodge was built in 1830 by Quaker wool merchant Newman Cash. He came to Leeds from Coventry in 1815, and his business flourished as he expanded trade with America. By 1826 he was so successful that he was able to buy an extensive estate around Scarcroft, and he then built his grand country house.

The house and estate were bought in 1852 by Robert Tennant, a successful Leeds solicitor, who increased the size of the estate, added an ornamental lake, and expanded the house. In 1888 the estate and house were bought by the Earl of Mexborough who carried out refurbishments and installed his daughter, Lady Mary Savile. In the 1920s she moved to Essex and the house was bought by Albert Braithwaite, a former Mayor of Leeds, who sold the house in 1938.

Scarcroft Lodge - BNP Paribas Real Estate
Scarcroft Lodge, Leeds, West Yorkshire. Image: BNP Paribas.

Wartime followed and the lodge was used as a convalescent hospital, helping Second World War soldiers who were recovering from injuries on the battlefields of Europe and North Africa.

The home’s last private owner, businessman Oliphant Philipson, sold it to the Yorkshire Electricity Power Company in 1945.

Scarcroft Lodge - Yorkshire Evening Post
Scarcroft Lodge, Leeds, West Yorkshire. Image: BNP Paribas.
Scarcroft Lodge - BNP Paribas Real Estate 1
An aerial view of Scarcroft Lodge, Leeds, in West Yorkshire. The mansion and its former gardens and parkland were most recently used as offices for Npower. The site has been sold and a planning application has been made to convert the site into retirement accommodation. Image: BNP Paribas.

FOREST FARM

Forest Farm - Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News - 11 Jun 1910 - BNA
Forest Farm at Winkfield. This image is from The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in June 1910. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

From The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in June 1910. This was Forest Farm in Windsor Forest, Winkfield, in Berkshire, belonging to Henry Pelham-Clinton, 7th Duke of Newcastle (1864-1928). He had abandoned Clumber House in Nottinghamshire for the comforts of Forest Farm in 1908, although it appears to have been under his ownership from 1906.

Soon after moving in it suffered a fire that damaged the upper parts of the building. Presumably it had been restored at the time of this photograph. Following his death in 1928, the Dowager Duchess of Newcastle remained at Forest Farm until her own death in 1955, and the house appears to have been demolished in 1956. Consigned to history and virtually forgotten.

800px-Duke_of_Newcastle_LCCN2014686546
Henry Pelham-Clinton, 7th Duke of Newcastle. He had poor health and played only a small part in public life. As a staunch Anglo-Catholic he spoke on ecclesiastical issues in the House of Lords. One of his achievements was the restoration of the fortunes of his family estate. In 1879 a serious fire destroyed much of Clumber House in Nottinghamshire, he had it magnificently rebuilt to designs by the younger Charles Barry. His Thames Valley estate was at Forest Farm in Winkfield which he eventually moved to.
Forest Farm - Country Houses of the UK and Ireland
Forest Farm was more convenient for the Duke of Newcastle. It was close to London and Eton and suitably positioned for Ascot Races. Sadly, it was demolished, presumably surplus to requirement.

COWORTH PARK

The home of the Earl of Derby appeared in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in June 1910, highlighted for its close proximity to Ascot Racecourse.

Coworth Park - The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News - June 1910 - BNA
Coworth Park at Winkfield. From The Illustrated and Sporting Dramatic News in June 1910. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Coworth Park appears to have been built in 1776 for William Shepheard, an East India merchant. His son sold it before 1836 to Colonel George Arbuthnot, a Scottish Colonel who served in Madras. It passed to his nephew John Alves Arbuthnot , a director of the London Assurance Company and of the London and Colonial Bank, and later a founder of Arbuthnot Latham & Co.

In 1883, his son, William Arbuthnot sold Coworth Park to William Farmer (afterwards Sir William Farmer), chairman of Farmer & Co Ltd, Australia merchants and later Sheriff of London in 1890-91. About 1899 he sold the estate to Edward George Villers Stanley (1865-1948), Lord Stanley, who in 1908 succeeded his father as 17th Earl of Derby. His widow died in 1957 and the house became a Roman Catholic convent school and was later converted into offices by Harold Bamberg, a director of the travel agency Henry Simpson Lunn (later to become Lunn Poly) and also chairman of British Eagle Airways.

Coworth Park - The Sketch - Wed Jun 19 1901 - BNA
Royal visitors were no stranger to Coworth Park, a trend that still exists. This article appeared in The Sketch in June 1901. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
33871332_10211900030923266_2992734762335993856_o
The land that Coworth Park now stands on was granted in 1066 by Edward the Confessor to Westminster Abbey. William the Conqueror regained possession of it from the Abbey in exchange for lands in Essex. Theoretically, the manor of Old Windsor still remains with the Crown. In 1606 it was leased by James I to Richard Powney, whose great grandson, Penyston Powney, was administering it in 1737. After his death in 1757, his son and heir, Penyston Porlock Powney, became the Crown lessee, and was still appearing as such in records when Coworth House was constructed in 1776. The land was conveyed in 1770 by William Hatch and Elizabeth his wife, who were presumably Powney’s agents or sub-tenants, to one William Shepheard.

In the mid-1980s, Coworth Park was acquired by Galen Weston, owner of Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason, who developed the property’s first polo field. These days Coworth Park is owned by the Dorchester Collection, owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, and is a luxury hotel and resort, altered significantly inside and enlarged between 2005 and 2011.

Coworth Park - HLN Group
This Georgian manor house is the only hotel in the UK to have polo fields, an equestrian centre and stabling. A fitting spot then for Prince Harry and his best man Prince William to have spent the night before the royal wedding. Image: HLN Group.

HIGHHEAD CASTLE

If stones could speak, Highhead Castle, at Ivegill, Cumbria, would have a tale to tell, one in which romance and pathos, were blended in a chronicle of a man’s bitter disappointment.

Highhead Castle - Lost Heritage 1
Henry Richmond Brougham, had a new facade built in 1744-48. It is eleven bays long, with a pedimented three-bay centre, and a walled front garden with coupled Ionic columns. Image: Lost Heritage.

Today, the remains of the real castle, built more than six centuries ago are almost non-existent. The Castle was here when the Richmond family became owners in Tudor times and added a West Wing to the old fortified mansion.

A century later a fortunate marriage brought Catterlen Hall to the Richmonds and here, too, they left a memorial of themselves in the fine 17th century wing of that fascinating house.

By 1716 both properties were ruled over by the widow of Christopher Richmond. Ruled was the right word for Isabella Miller – she took a second husband – was a matriarch who ruled with a rod of iron and gave no quarter.

Of her family of eleven, only the daughters married. The one son who grew to manhood died at the age of 26 in 1716, and his mother – who mourned him deeply – was faced with the problem of the disposal of the two estates after her death. She had many descendants from whom to choose, and eventually the lot fell upon her grandson, Henry Richmond Brougham, whom she hoped to make head of a new line at Highhead.

Her will was framed to this end, but its provisions spelt ruin to Highhead Castle in the end.

Highhead Castle - Lost Heritage
Highhead Castle was originally occupied by the Kings Castle in the Forest of Inglewood, the earliest written record of the original castle is from 1272. Image: Lost Heritage.

At the time, Henry Richmond Brougham was 17, and the old lady disposed of Highhead in this way. One half was to be enjoyed by her unmarried daughter, Susanna Richmond, for her life, and the other half Susanna was to have until Henry Richmond Brougham came of age. In the event of his dying unmarried his half was to revert to Susanna.

Isabella Miller died in 1739, the year before her grandson came of age. If she had had dreams for him, so had Susanna Richmond, his aunt, who found that the boy’s uncle, John Brougham, of Scales Hall, Skelton, was equally anxious that Henry Richmond Brougham should reign happy and glorious at Highhead. Nothing but a complete rebuilding of the old castle would do.

Down came the two 14th century towers, leaving only the Tudor wing standing. To this was added an 18th century house, at a cost of £10,000 – a very large sum in the days of its construction when masons were paid 10d a day. ¹

Highhead Castle - Country Life 1
The north front of Highhead Castle. The house was largely destroyed by fire in 1956. Image: Country Life.
Highhead Castle - Country Life 2
Looking across the valley towards Highhead Castle. Image: Country Life.

It is said that John Brougham had spent some time in Italy and acquired a passion for Italian designs and workmanship. It is certain that he brought over Italian craftsmen to carry out ceilings, cornices, and other plasterwork. In a tantalising reference, William Jackson, writing in 1874, spoke of the “traditional gossip” about the foreign craftsmen, which still lingered in the district. As the work neared completion, Henry Richmond Brougham, by now 30, was chosen as High Sheriff of Cumberland. To support him in this dignity, his uncle made over to him four estates – no doubt with a hint that they were to be handed back when the year of office was over.

Fate stepped in at this point and death claimed Henry Richmond Brougham before the year was ended. The work at Highhead was suspended, and the building operations never resumed.

The four estates passed to the young man’s legal heir, who, to quote Mr Jackson, “did not recognise the property of returning them” to John Brougham.

Highhead and Catterlen now became the property of Susanna Richmond for life. While she lived all was yet well. She lived in state at Highhead and enjoyed the good things in life. In the 1870’s there still remained at Greystoke Castle some of the ale brewed at Highhead and given by Susanna to the then Duke of Norfolk. It was said to have been a drink fit for kings.

Highhead Castle - Country Life 3
The corridor at Highhead Castle looking east. Originally a medieval tower, the castle which was enlarged in 1550 and remodelled in 1748. Image: Country Life.
Highhead Castle - Country Life 6
A Venetian window in the upper corridor at Highhead Castle. Image: Country LIfe.
Highhead Castle - Country Life 4
The drawing room at Highhead Castle. Image: Country Life.

Miss Susanna lived on until 1774, when she died at the age of 87. She had the power of disposing of Catterlen and left it to her niece. Mrs Curwen, of Workington Hall.

Highhead, on the contrary, now passed under complicated terms of her mother’s will and the trouble began. The old lady had never envisaged the untimely end of her grandson. He was to have shared one half of the house with his aunt, on whose death he would be entitled to the other half.

Now, however, the ownership of the Castle was divided into two halves and each half into fourths. In the end, none of the owners occupied the Castle, and from 1774 it was deserted except that estate tenants could use some of the rooms as store rooms and granaries.

Writing in 1794, William Hutchinson said “the swallows and jackdaws have now been its only tenants for many years, and it is doubtful the whole fabric will be suffered to go to wreck.”

The divided ownership was the curse of the Castle. Legal squabbles were kept up until the owners of one half at length decided to pull down that portion and sell the materials. The work of destruction had indeed begun but was stayed by the sale of that half about 1820 to Henry Brougham, later to be Lord Chancellor, who eventually bought the other half and so became owner of the whole.

Whellan, writing in 1860, said: “There was formerly a good deal of carved woodwork about the building, but this has been removed to Brougham Hall.” About this time the house was repaired and was let as a farmhouse. ²

The second Lord Brougham carried out more repairs between 1868 and 1874. His son and successor sold Highhead Castle – still used as a farmhouse – in November 1902, to Judge Herbert Augustus Hills for £18,000. From the judge it passed to the Right Hon John Waller Hills, became tenanted, and he sold it to Colonel Alan Dower, MP, on whose instructions it was offered for sale in June 1950.

Highhead Castle - Country Life 5
Looking towards the gates of the forecourt at Highhead Castle. Image: Country Life.
Highhead Castle - Country Life 7
Looking over the terraces towards Highhead Castle from the north-east. Image: Country Life.
Highhead Castle - Country Life 8
Looking through the trees towards Highhead Castle. Image: Country Life.

In August 1950, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning announced that Highhead Castle had been scheduled as a building of special architectural and historic interest.

On Tuesday, December 12, 1956, Highhead Castle, now owned by Mr Gordon Robinson, a Penrith butcher, had been away with his wife on business. On their return they found the 30-roomed Georgian mansion on fire, their three small children having been rescued and taken to safety in a neighbouring farmhouse.

The alarm had been raised after farmers saw smoke billowing from a bedroom window.  When firemen arrived only the small wing where the family lived was burning. A Cumberland News reporter said: “In no time at all the wind had driven the flames to another room, then there was no stopping the raging inferno as flames and smoke swirled in the rain. It was a terrible sight as scores of villagers and helpers were told to keep back out of danger, while firemen risked their necks to fight the blaze from inside the castle.”

A split-second saved one fireman as he ran down the main staircase to the main hall. A heavy red-hot beam dropped inches behind him, setting the staircase alight. Other firemen and helpers ran from the house.

The roof began to break in with dull, monotonous cracks, and turntables were brought out to fight the fire from above. Flames were swirling all around the firemen as they carried hoses to the top of the turntables. “They stood out like ghosts in the glare, against the charred black background of the castle walls.” Glass splintered in all directions, bursting with intense heat, as firemen continued to pump water 400 yards from the River Ive all through the night.

Penrith Observer - 18 Dec 1956 - BNA
A rare photograph of the fire at Highhead Castle in 1956. This picture appeared in the Penrith Observer. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Jim Templeton was a firefighter on that December night in 1956 and said the conditions were terrible. It was so windy that one of his colleagues was blown off a ladder. The fire was well alight when they arrived and there was little they could do to save the house. Jim had a lucky escape himself, he said that a heavy iron bath fell through the house as the timbers became sodden with water and almost landed on him. ³

Now only the outer walls and cellars remain. The magnificent terraced gardens are also in need of a lot of work, but the facade of the house is pretty much intact.

Highhead Castle - 2018 - Savills (17)
Highhead Castle survived demolition and has been on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk Register. A unique opportunity now exists to carry on with the good work that has already commenced in the preservation of the property. Image: Savills.

An application was made in 1985 to demolish the remains which was defeated after a public inquiry. Christopher Terry (1938-2016), who also owned Brougham Hall near Penrith, bought Highhead Castle just as it was about to be demolished. In fact, he said, he was given an hour’s notice and shot up to the house just in time to save it.

In November 2018, Highhead Castle is on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk Register, classified ‘A’, being the highest priority. With support from Historic England and the Country Houses Foundation, emergency stabilisation works have been completed and an options appraisal has been produced to help secure a viable and sustainable long-term use. It is currently on the market at Savills with offers wanted over £250,000.

Highhead Castle - 2018 - Savills (1)
Image: Savills.
Highhead Castle - 2018 - Savills (10)
Image: Savills.
Highhead Castle - 2018 - Savills (11)
Image: Savills.
Highhead Castle - 2018 - Savills (19)
Image: Savills.

Notes:-
¹ The Classical House was built for the Brougham family between 1744-49, from the same red Lazonby sandstone as the gorge below it and is thought to have been designed by renowned architect James Gibbs.

² What happened to the woodwork which Lord Chancellor Brougham took from Highhead to Brougham Hall? Presumably it was among the 5000 square feet of linen fold and Jacobean oak panelling which was sold at Brougham Hall on July 18, 1934, before the house was abandoned. On that day, 730 square feet of oak linen fold panelling in the dining room were sold to a London buyer for £130, and a screen of Italian workmanship from the Armoury was sold for £30 to Mr Eugene Andrews. This screen was relocated to St John’s Church in Girvan. It may have come from Highhead Castle or have been bought from the Continent by Lord Chancellor Brougham, who bought many treasures during his frequent trips abroad.

³ BBC Radio Cumbria. May 20, 2006.

⁴ The Classical House, northern garden wall and Tudor West Wing are all separately listed Grade II* and the servants wing and piers to the end of the drive are both listed Grade II.

Highhead Castle - 2018 - Savills (20)
Image: Savills.
Highhead Castle - 2018 - Savills (21)
Image: Savills.
Highhead Castle - 2018 - Savills (12)
Image: Savills.
Highhead Castle - 2018 - Savills (9)
Image: Savills.

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.