“One of the Loveliest Places Possible – Endsleigh” : an introduction

House closer

Today the original Endsleigh Cottage is a 16 bedroom luxury hotel.

“We saw yesterday one of the loveliest places possible – Endsleigh – the Duke of Bedford’s, about twenty miles from here”. Thus wrote Queen Victoria in her diary on 14 August 1856.

The result of the work of Humphry Repton and Jeffry Wyattville this truly beautiful estate on Devon’s border with Cornwall is still lovely today. It’s a private and secluded place which has been remarkably well-documented in the estate accounts still kept at Woburn Abbey home the Dukes of Bedford the original developers of Endsleigh.

The  Picturesque taste was popular in England between 1790 and 1840 and Endsleigh is one of its prime examples.

Repton first visited Endsleigh in 1809 and he encouraged the development of a more ‘natural landscape’ than the formality of Capability Brown. Repton proposed the buildings and Wyattville designed them. The main ‘cottage’ dates from 1810 and the subsidiary buildings 1812-1816.  Endsleigh was his first large scale work which was a collaboration with Georgina second wife of the 6th Duke of Bedford.

Whilst at Endsleigh I read her fascinating story in the book “Mistress of the Arts: The Passionate Life of Georgina, Duchess of Bedford” by Rachel Trethewey (Headline Review, 2003).

Endsleigh map

Within limits as a guest I could walk within the estate, down to the Tamar River and in the formal gardens close to the house. I also took tea one afternoon and enjoyed inspecting the various manmade features of the landscape which include a Swiss Chalet, a Shell Grotto and a Dairy. More about the Chalet and the Dairy in future posts.

Endsleigh map close-up

Stepping down the track from the house to the river a stream and muddy path made it impossible to go beyond the former swimming pool so I headed to the river bank and followed it downstream as far as possible. Eventually a notice on a gate prevents you going any further.

Former swimming pool

 The Former Swimming Pool

River Tamar

The peaceful River Tamar


Tamar path

River Tamar and Path heading downstream

I returned along the path until I found a track leading up, up, up the valley side to a footpath which I hoped might lead to the Swiss Cottage. It didn’t; but I did find the memorial stone commemorating the spot where the 12th Duke was found dead in 1953.

Memorial to 12th Duke of B

Memorial wording

I’d read about this tragedy in another book “Endsleigh: the memoirs of a riverkeeper” by Horace Adams and edited by Clive Murphy [Braunton : Merlin Books, 1994]. I had the impression that Adams spoke or answered questions about his long life working first for various Dukes of Bedford and later for the Fshing Syndicate that took over the ‘cottage’ when the Bedfords needed to raise Death Duties. Murphy just transliterated Adams’s words to the page.

Fishery Cottage

Fishery Cottage overlooking the Tamar Valley

I didn’t manage to get more than a glimpse of the Swiss Cottage but nearby is Fishery Cottage at one time the estate home of Horace Adams. It’s now up for sale. Horace would be staggered – by the price and by the elegance!

From the main drive it’s possible to go into the formal gardens that surround the Hotel. They are now still beautifully maintained by about half a dozen full- and part-time staff. I didn’t make a note of the numbers of gardeners during the Bedfords’ tenure but there were probably around 5o.

Shell Grotto

A rough path leads to The Shell Grotto set on a cliff high above the river.

The grotto

The Shell Grotto

House view

View of Endsleigh from Shell Grotto

With the rise of the Romantic Movement in the 18th century and the return of the great explorers, building grottoes became increasingly fashionable … Some took the form of artificial underground caves;  others were built above ground in some picturesque spot deep in the woods or overlooking a beautiful view. The chief ingredients remained the same. They must be dark, have water, preferably a cascade or spring and be decorated with shells and minerals. … The grotto at Endsleigh is a rather late example … It is believed that the original intention was for it to be decorated with shells and minerals from Devon and Cornwall. … Obviously this scheme was not carried out as the grotto is full of tropical shells and corals. … It has been lately carefully restored and other shells and minerals have filled the gaps where the originals had crumbled away.” Patricia, Viscountess Boyd, October 1984 [Adapted from the description in the grotto]

Garden bower

Tamar Valley from the Grotto

From the Grotto and formal gardens I returned to the main drive and behind the house are the former stables.


There’s a plaque in the stables commemorating the laying of the foundation stone by her four eldest sons.

Foundation stone

The Foundation Stone above the arch is nearly covered with ivy

Foundation stone words

There is an arboretum with little bridges crossing streams and which contains unusual trees from around the world. But after further garden exploration in the damp weather and on slippery footpaths with the light beginning to fade even in the early October afternoon it was a relief to take tea in the library at Endsleigh Hotel.

Time for tea

Time for Afternoon Tea

Debby Mason : Marine Life Etchings in Devon

Every year, around this time, we visit Devon for a week. Whilst there we never fail to fit in a visit to some galleries and one of our regular haunts is The Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey.

devon guild

This year my favourite display was a small, one-room exhibition of Debby Mason‘s work. Her exhibition features just a few fantastically intricate fossil fish mezzotints. I also enjoyed the interesting assortment of additional information and artefacts.


Debby’s Coelacanth Mezzotint

Visit our Members showcase gallery and follow the story of the elusive fossil fish told through Debby’s beautiful mezzotints. The Coelacanth has become a very familiar and favourite subject for Debby’s work. This showcase concentrates on this fascination and gives visitors an insight into the artist’s journey – from idea to final piece.

There was a digital slideshow demonstrating the sequence of production of a mezzotint and the many inspirations that lead Debby into her chosen field of artwork.

In addition there were two shelves of influential books; some related to her earliest interests like Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki expedition, the underwater world of Jacques Cousteau and a visit to the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco :


There was also a display case of photos, shells, flotsam and jetsam.

Photos and Flotsam

I suppose also the idea of the Coelacanth intrigued me and reminded me of trips to Lyme Regis to visit the Museum and  to try my luck at fossil-hunting.

Gone Fossiling

In 1938 a live Coelacanth was caught off the coast of South Africa. This caused a sensation because it was thought that these fish had died out 85 million years ago.” [Devon Guild poster]

Debby’s show is on at the Bovey Tracey Gallery until 2nd December.

Old Fourlegs

Old Fourlegs by J. L. B. Smith

An Invitation to View : Lukesland

In addition to a shared love of reading  Lynne (alias Dovegreyreader) and I have a love of houses and a nosey poke around in other people’s – especially the grander sort – when we get an opportunity. The chance arose when I was wondering how to belatedly celebrate her big birthday on our annual Devonshire Day Out.

dgr can't wait

Dovegreyreader can’t wait to get inside Lukesland

Then I remembered “Invitation to View” an organisation that brings together house owners and those inquisitive members of the public prepared to pay to have a private guided to tour of their homes followed by tea and cake or a light lunch by the fire or in the garden depending on the time of year. A small number of houses in Norfolk and Suffolk were included in the early years. This number has increased quite significantly and a few years ago The Southwest joined the group and there are now 23 houses in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset included in the scheme.

So,  a couple of weeks ago I extended An Invitation to View to Lynne who accepted right away and we made our arrangements to meet last Thursday. Meeting at 11.30 in a favourite cafe of ours in Ashburton – Moorish – we allowed ourselves an hour and a half to catch up on each other’s families and reading and what-not, to drink tea, eat soup and, oh dear, have the first cake of the day. (Well, we were celebrating a birthday – any old excuse will do when the Moorish Tunisian Orange Cake is winking at you!).

Comfortably sustained by soup and cake Lynne drove us to Ivybridge and up out of town onto the edge of Dartmoor to Lukesland; the house  we were booked to visit. From about 1.30pm the gardens were opened to us and the house tour began at 2.30pm.


Lukesland House and Garden

The gardens at Lukesland are generally open to the public in the spring and in the autumn. We thought there would be more autumn colour in early November than there was but nevertheless we enjoyed a chatty wander and took some photos as photography inside the house is not permitted.

Kitchen Garden

The Kitchen Garden

The Kitchen Garden was the main garden of the original Tudor estate. It was much reduced in size by the Victorian owners in order to build a drive between the house and the stables (under the clock in the photo). The garden produced vegetables for the family, the domestic staff and for the farm workers on the estate until the 1940s. Since 2005 parts of it have been let as allotments to local Ivybridge residents.

Lukeland sfrom garden


Milady and Doevgreyreader

Milady and Dovegreyreader at Lukesland

By 2.30 about 14 of us were assembled in Rosemary Howell’s sitting room waiting for the talk and tour to begin. Rosemary and her daughter-in-law Lorna welcomed us to the house and told us the brief history of the place.

The Place Names of Devon lists “Lukesland” as being derived from the family of John Lucas in the 1330 Lay Subsidy Rolls.”  There is evidence – written and in carved stonework – of settlement at Lukesland during and ever since Tudor times.  The Tudor house was called Lukesland Grove. In 1863 a new (the current) house was built of Dartmoor granite and Portland stone on a new site and in the popular Victorian Gothic style for William Edwin Matthews, as a base for hunting on the moor. “Around 1875, Matthews was obliged to sell Lukesland and it was bought by James and Barbara MacAndrew, who came from the family of the London-Liverpool shipping line of that name.”

Howard Howell, a Canadian who came to Britain with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War, worked locally in forestry and married a Welsh woman, Muriel Neale and they settled in Exeter later buying Lukesland. The estate was in its heyday before the Second World War.

A second phase of landscaping of the garden took place. A pond was dug (‘The Lower Pond’ as it is now), many waterfalls installed and three stone-arch bridges built (one, just below Rh. smithii, collapsed after a flood undermined the foundations in the early 1970s). A bathing pool was built on the island in front of the house, and a much bigger range of rhododendrons was planted, along with other shrubs and trees. Although the Victorians had planted some newly introduced exotic trees in the Cleave, including some Wellingtonias, this was the first time that the garden was really diversified. Many more flowering shrubs were available by the 1930s, and Howard was a forester who took a keen interest in them.”

Bridge and stream

Despite all the social changes in Britain since the War the Howell’s have lived on at Lukesland making changes and adapting the house and garden. Rosemary and her husband Brian moved in in 1975. Brian’s background was also in forestry. A lot of work needed to be done on the house. Brian died in 2003 and his son John and wife Lorna moved in in 2004. Adaptations include opening the gardens and tea room and letting holiday accommodation in out-buildings and in a wing of the house itself. [Adapted from Source]

Rosemary’s sitting room was in a separate wing of the house created by the insertion of a gothic-style but fully glazed door which separates it physically from the main body of the house. But done in this way I’m sure she still feels very much a part of the family.

We were then shown a larger sitting room and the big family kitchen created from a butler’s pantry and other servants’ quarters. It seems as if nothing is thrown away at Lukesland. Lorna joked as we moved from one scullery or dairy to the next that after the national collection of wallpapers we moved on to the national collection of flower vases. I kept making mental notes to self – get that loft and cellar cleared out!

Upstairs there seemed to be a multitude of bedrooms and bathrooms created from bedrooms all of which seem to be in use. There is also a separate apartment which is let a long-term holiday let. The house has a sheltered courtyard behind and here as well is the old billiard room and former nursery converted to a tea room and in use when the gardens are open.

Finally we returned to Rosemary’s sitting room where DGR remarked that the shabby, but not threadbare, rugs seem to be a feature of these old properties and I was able to tell her that the Landmark Trust would never use a new rug in an old property and that they have a huge store of suitably worn rugs ready to furnish future properties.

Tea and delicious home-baked cakes (yes, we carried on in the tea- and cake-tasting tradition established over the years) were served by the log fire and we discussed further what we had seen and how these lived-in houses are constantly evolving and adapting and how nice it was to see bookcases in every room, everyday objects and even imagining ourselves descending the stairs in Edwardian times as if we lived there!

Sky leaving Lukelands

Leaving Lukesland

Welcome to Lustleigh : A Short Tour of the Village – Wreyland back to Lustleigh

Continuation of  “A Walk Around Lustleigh

9. Brookfield also originally belonged to Bovey Tracey [3 miles down the A382]. The first houses here were built in the late 19th century for the men who worked at Kelly Mine.


10. Station House : The Newton Abbot to Moretonehampstead Railway opened in 1866 running for just under 100 years and being famed for its well-kept garden [presumably, The Station House]. The passenger service ended in 1959.

Former Station House

The Station House [private drive]

11. Bishop’s Stone : the indistinct coat-of-arms carved on the front may be that of the See of Exeter but little is known of the history surrounding the stone.

Bishop Stone

Bishop’s Stone

12 : Old Gatehouses: built for Coombe Hill but are now private dwellings.


One of the Gatehouses

13. War Memorial: dedicated to the memory of all who fell in the two World Wars.

War Memorial

14. Great Hall,  or Old Rectory: This historic building with its 14th century timber roof was once the home of the Lords of The Manor and later the Rectory. It was divided up into three private properties in the 20th century.

15. “Parson’s Loaf” : There is only speculation as to why this unusual rock came to be so called.

Parson's Loaf

“Parson’s Loaf”

16. School House. The Board School built following the Education Act of 1870 for Infants and Juniors also provided accommodation for the Head Teacher. It was closed in 1963 and is now a private dwelling.

[The Infants School on the rights is now holiday accommodation and that is where we stayed in Lustleigh]

School House

The School House

17. Town Orchard: The road between The Dairy and the Former Post Office leads past the recently-rebuilt Village Hall to The Town Orchard given to the people of Lustleigh by a resident, Mr W. Bennett. It is where the annual May Day festivities take place.

Village Hall

Village Hall

Town Orchard

Town Orchard

18. The Bridge over the leat taking water the the Old Corn Mill, now a private dwelling.

Bridge and Leat

The Bridge and Leat

19. The road leads to Rudge, one of the old farms of the Manor of Lustleigh, and from where a footpath continues past another old farm, Lower Hisley and on to Hisley Bridge in Lustleigh Cleave.

Road to Rudge

Road leads to Rudge

20. Baptist Chapel : built in 1853 and still in regular use as a place of worship.

Chapel 2

Chapel 1

Welcome to Lustleigh : A Short Tour of the Village – The Church, The Green and Wreyland

Walk Map

A Walk Around Lustleigh Map

Last week I was staying in deepest Devon in the lovely village of Lustleigh on the edge of Dartmoor but within the boundary of the Dartmoor National Park. In addition to everything listed on the walk leaflet there is an excellent community shop called The Dairy. It houses the Post Office (open 9-1 each weekday) and itself is open every day including Sunday. Come with me on a walk through Lustleigh …

Starting at the village centre, outside the Church.

Lustleigh Church

1. Church of St John the Baptist: built in the 12th century on a Celtic site. Inside see the raised Celtic stone and the beautiful rood screen.

The nave

The Nave with Rood Screen, Barrel Roof and Carved Pew Ends

Celtic stone

The Raised Celtic Stone

[This ancient stone was removed from the position in the paving below the inner doorway of the church porch in 1979 in order to preserve it from further wear. It belongs within a well-recognised series of commemorative stones erected in the post-Roman period between about AD450 and AD600. The inscription probably read ‘DATUIDOCI CONHINOCI FILIUS’ – the stone Datuidoci the son of Conhinoci’.]

Carved pew end

Carved Pew End

Rood screen

Rood Screen and Carved Pulpit

2. The Old Vestry: originally a school (see tablet on wall above the door). Now used for church choir rehearsals, parish council meetings and by the Lustleigh Society for the Community Archive.

Old Vestry

The Old Vestry


Tablet on The Old Vestry

3. Church House: built around the 14th century. It was once a centre for village social activities, later became a Poor House and then a Reading Room.

Church House

Church House

4. The Cleave Hotel: originally an old farm “Gatehouse” and became a public house in the 19th century.

The Cleave

The Cleave Public House

5. Tudor Cross on the village green. Made of stone with a Maltese Cross head and chamfered shaft on an octagonal base. Erected in memory of Rector Henry Tudor (1888-1904). Nearby was the site of the village pump. Only the granite trough remains.

Tudor Cross

Tudor Cross

6. Cottages around the green: In the mid 19th century many were shops and one a Post Office. Primrose Cottage [tea rooms] was built in 1940 on the site of a hardware shop.

Primrose Tea Rooms

Primrose Tea Rooms

7. Old Gospel Hall: formerly used for worship by the Plymouth Brethren.

Baptist Chapel

The Old Gospel Hall and Wrey Brook

8. Wreyland: Approached from under the railway bridge Wreyland (or Wrayland) is a small hamlet that was part of the parish of Bovey Tracey until 1957. The Wrey Brook being the boundary between Lustleigh and Bovey. The thatched cottage on the left, known as Wreyland Manor, was where early manorial courts were held. Cecil Torr’s family owned properties here, including Yonder Wreyland where “Small Talk at Wreyland” was written.

Wreyland Manor

Wreyland Manor

Yonder Wreyland

Yonder Wreyland

Small Talk at Wreyland

Small Talk at Wreyland

Watery North Devon Literary Connections

There are some watery literary connections in North Devon. Charles Kingsley author of The Water Babies lived in Clovelly as a child and returned many times as an adult and Henry Williamson lived for some time in Georgeham near Croyde and based his Tarka the Otter stories on local North Devon rivers.

Charles Kingsley was born at Holne Vicarage on Dartmoor. I visited the church, but the vicarage was inaccessible, a couple of years ago when staying in the area. Here is a brief resumé of his life and a picture of the stained glass window in the church of St Mary the Virgin at Holne.

life of Charles Kingsley

Church at Holne

St Mary the Virgin, Holne, Dartmoor

Stained glass window

Charles Kingsley Window, Holne

There is a Charles Kingsley Museum in Providence House (his former home) in Clovelly. The Kingsley family moved to Clovelly from Holne when Charles was 11 and they lived there for six years. Charles Kingsley visited the village frequently as an adult and wrote his novel “Westward Ho!” here.

Providence House Clovelly

Providence House, now The Charles Kingsley Museum, Clovelly

Step inside the Museum with me and see Charles Kingsley at work in his study and his chair and his Christening Shawl.

CK and his christening shawl

Charles Kingsley and his Christening Shawl

CK's chair

Charles Kingsley’s Chair (on loan from the parish of Eversley, Hampshire)

The leaflet supplied to visitors states that “the village also inspired him to write ‘The Water Babies’. I had always understood that Kingsley was inspired to write the book on his visits to Yorkshire whilst staying near Malham Tarn at a house called Bridge End in nearby Arncliffe in Littondale. Here is an article from The Yorkshire Post supporting this fact. Maybe he was also inspired by Clovelly on some aspect of the book?

Tarka the Otter

From a wet and windy Clovelly I headed to Braunton for fish and chips and then to the local museum. I expected to find some information about local writer Henry Williamson who wrote ‘Tarka the Otter’. There was a small display about the author who wrote many more books than this famous nature writing including :

The great work of his mature years, A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight, [which] stands as a true statement of the social history of this country in all its varied detail, through the life of the main character, Philip Maddison.”

In north Devon it’s Tarka, Tarka everything. The Tarka Line (railway), The Tarka Trail (walking/cycling path), Tarka Holiday Parks (caravans), Tarka Radio (hospital radio) the list is never-ending. But finding places relating to the otter’s author takes a bit more research. The Henry Williamson Society have managed to secure a couple of blue plaques on his two homes in nearby Georgeham and his writing hut still stands in a garden at nearby Ox’s Cross. Through pelting rain I managed to snap the two Georgeham homes and Williamson’s grave but I had to forego finding the shed.


Henry Williamson’s hut at Ox’s Cross

Williamson Skirr Cottage

Williamson’s first home in Georgeham : Skirr Cottage [named after the sound made by the wings of owls on the roof]

Skirr Cottage plaque

Crowberry Cottage

Crowberry Cottage – Williamson’s other home in Georgeham

Crowberry plaque

Read here about a journalist’s search for The Field and other Tarka and Williamson locations.

Williamson grave

Crowdless Clovelly

Clovelly info board

The famous and picturesque village of Clovelly on the North Devon coast is quite unique. Its streets are too steep for cars and in the past donkeys were used as the main form of transport. Donkeys are still kept at Clovelly but no longer used for heavy loads. Instead these days all goods are transported by sledge.

Clovelly Sledge transportation

Clovelly Sledge Transport

There is a huge car park at the top of the village and you enter Clovelly through the big visitor centre containing a ticket office  (yes, there’s a £6.50 charge to park and visit the village) and a shop selling everything from postcards and books of all kinds to sweets and souvenirs, a cafe and an audio-visual film show. The village is owned by one family – read more about the history of the village ownership here.

Looking up cobbled street Clovelly

The main street in Clovelly

Down the main street in Clovelly

I suppose the poor weather meant that the usual Clovelly crowds kept away and I had the village practically to myself. There was a small coach party of German tourists arriving at the same time as me but we soon spread out in the narrow streets and passages and shops and inns and around the harbour so my visit was not in any way spoiled by the famous crowds that I had heard of.

Clovelly Quay

The tide’s out at the quay

I decided to walk steadily down the main street and sit down for a while on the 14thC quay to study the map (so long as it stayed dry) and work my way slowly back to Hobby Drive and from there regain the car park.

The tide is out at Clovelly Harbour

Clovelly and Lifeboat Station

Down at the harbour the tide was out but it looked as if there is still some kind of fishing industry being carried out here. The map and leaflet list all the places to see and I managed see/visit them all.

Crazy Kate's Cottage Clovelly

Crazy Kate’s Cottage [The oldest cottage in Clovelly, named after a fisherman’s widow]

Temple Bar Cottage Clovelly

Temple Bar Cottage [here the street passes under the kitchen and dining room of a cottage]

Oberammergau Cottage Clovelly

Oberammergau Cottage [decorated with wood carvings from Germany]

Clovelly Museum and signs

Kingsley Museum and Shop [find out more about Charles Kingsley and his times in Clovelly]

Rex Whistler's Clovelly poster

Rex Whistler’s ‘Clovelly’ toile de jouy fabric in the museum

Toile de Jouy

Close-up of the fabric

Exterior 15th century fisherman's cottage

Fisherman’s Cottage [see how a fisherman lived in the 1930s]

Queen Victoria Fountain

Queen Victoria Fountain [a stone fountain built as a monument to Queen Victoria]

Mount Pleasant Clovelly

Mount Pleasant [a grassy picnic spot with war memorial and spectacular views]

Hobby Drive poster

Hobby Drive Poster

Hobby Drive Walk info

Hobby Drive Walk

Bay from Hobby drive

Bideford Bay from Hobby Drive

Rain was threatening on the morning of my visit but it held off until I’d JUST begun my Hobby Drive walk. Then the heavens opened and reluctantly I gave up the walk and headed off to Braunton and shelter and sustenance at Squires fish and chip restaurant.