With no time to waste, from Barrington Court I continued West into Devon….
My first stop was Knightshayes which is a Victorian Gothic Revival house built in the early 1870s for the Heathcoat-Amery family. Their fortune was made in Derbyshire by John Heathcoat (born 1783) who invented a lace-making machine. His factory in Loughborough was destroyed in a Luddite uprising in 1816. The local county offered him £10,000 to start up again, but he declined and moved production to Killerton, where he had already bought a disused woolen mill. Apparently many of his workers walked the 200 miles from Loughborough to work in his new factory and he built houses etc for them in Tiverton.
Knightshayes was designed by a famous artist, William Burges, who was known for his Over the Top medievally-themed designs and particularly for his interiors and furniture. Burges was sacked though in 1874, and none of the interior rooms were completed to his design. Another John Crace, took over and produced some much more toned-down designs, but it seems that even these were too much for the family; after moving in they covered over painted ceilings with plain plaster etc. Much of the earlier work has since been rediscovered and refurbished by the National Trust, so the inside of the house doesn’t now reflect the quite plain Georgian interior the family preferred. Photos show very pale walls and white ceilings, for example, in rooms whose interiors are now much darker / verging on gloomy.
There were some things here that Mark would have liked. A very nice billiard room:
One bedroom had been restored to the Burges design and used as a showcase for some Burges-designed furniture. Here’s Mark’s starter question for 10: Who currently lives in Burges’ London home and is a well-known collector or Burges furniture?
Update: P*ss Poor. Mark had no idea so I had to tell him. His response was that he knows all about the music of Led Zep. but not the furniture of Led Zep……
The only room where I thought the old designs were in any way attractive was the library. The ceiling had lots of gold in it, which looked good next to the heavy gold wallpaper and all that wood….
One more modern claim to fame of the Heathcoat-Amerys is that in 1936, Sir John Heathcoat-Amery married the most famous lady golfer of her generation, Joyce Wethered. They had no children, hence the house was left to the National Trust.
The handbook mentioned a “garden in a wood”.I didn’t know what to expect, but it was beautiful.
I managed to drag myself away from Knightshayes and drive a few miles south to Killerton.
Killerton’s claim to fame is that Sir Richard Acland gave it away to the National Trust in 1944 in accordance with his political beliefs, not because he had to (quite a lot of properties were handed over in lieu of death duties). He was from one of those families where every male heir was an MP (back in the times when the peasants couldn’t vote hence this was relatively easy to achieve). Sir Richard Acland was one of the founder members of the Common Wealth party in 1942, and as the name suggests, didn’t believe in huge chunks of wealth being sat on by families such as his own (apparently not all of his relatives were best pleased…). There was a copy of a book he published in 1940 called “Unser Kampf” setting out his views. It looked interesting (the first part was all about how we’d already had one “war to end all wars” and you couldn’t expect people to keep falling for this line unless you actually made some changes); I have ordered a copy.
We’re getting there…
Continuing South to the Devon Coast, I booked onto Hillhead Caravan club site for 2 nights (which was OK at this time of year but I’m told it’s horribly busy in the summer) and walked from there to Greenway, Agatha Christie’s holiday home. The parking at Greenway is apparently limited and you have to pre-book. Alternatives included getting a boat or getting a steam train (“arrive as Hercule Poirot did”) but when you actually looked at these, the parking at the other end also seemed like it could be difficult. So I decided to make a day’s walk/visit out of it.
The house was lovely; if money was no object and you could choose to “adopt” any National Trust house, this one would be right up there on my list.
The house was loaned to the Americans during WW2, who were apparently practicing locally for D-Day. One of them, a commercial artist by trade, painted a mural round the top of the library wall depicting their story from leaving the USA to arriving in Dartmouth. When the house was handed back, Agatha Christie was asked whether she’d like it painted over but said no, it was a piece of history so should stay. Luckily the chap seems to have been a good artist so it’s actually quite attractive, despite the subject matter.
The boat house is apparently the scene of a murder in Dead Man’s Folly, which I probably haven’t read as it features Hercule Poirot (this, one assumes, was his opportunity to arrive by steam train) and during my Agatha Christie phase in my youth, I recall being quite particular and only picking out Miss Marple books…. (I was quite partial to all that “ooooh, well I never…”)
The walk was nice; through some National Trust woods on the way there, along a coastal path (with a view of the passing steam train through the trees at one point), and good views of the estuary on the way back.
Finally, I visited nearby Coleton Fishacre, the summer home of the D’Oyly Carte family. It’s billed as an Art Deco house, but I’d describe it more as a “house of the 1930s”. This is not a monument to Art Deco. The inside is full of stuff I’d describe as “stuff my granny had” and “stuff my granny would’ve had if her house had been bigger”. The gardens, leading down towards the sea, were pretty though…
I was wondering what was so important that the National Trust had bought Coleton Fishacre (they weren’t given this one). All did become clear; it was the final piece in a chunk of coastline they otherwise owned, so buying this property “gave them the set” as it were and also enabled completion of the coastal path (which I guess is the same path I’d used to get to Greenway the previous day).
That’s all for now. From Coleton Fishacre I crossed into Cornwall. I am planning a bit of a rest from all these savings!