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Buckland Filleigh

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Buckland Filleigh is a village, civil parish and former manor in the Torridge district of North Devon, England, situated about 8 miles south of the town of Great Torrington. According to the 2001 census it had a population of 170. Within the parish is the manor house known as Buckland House, damaged by fire in 1798 and rebuilt in 1810 in the neo-classical style by John Inglett Fortescue (1758–1841) to the designs of the architect James Green.


Map of Buckland Filleigh, Beaworthy, UK

Domesday Book

The manor of Bocheland was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as the 13th of the 99 holdings of Geoffrey de Montbray (post 1049–1093), Bishop of Coutances. His tenant was Drogo, who held several other manors from him. It had been held before 1066 by Wulfeva. It was in the historic hundred of Shebbear.

de Filleigh

The manor became the inheritance of the de Filleigh family seated at Filleigh in North Devon, from which manor they took their name. They also held lands at the adjoining estate of Hartleigh during the reign of King Edward I (1272–1307) and within the neighbouring settlements to Filleigh of East Buckland, Bray and Charles.


On default of male heirs, the manor passed by marriage to the Denzell (or Densyll etc.) family. This family originated from Denzell manor in St Mawgan parish, near St Columb Major, near Newquay, Cornwall. The senior line became extinct in the male line on the death of John Denzel (died 1535), sergeant-at-law and Attorney-General to the Queen Consort, Elizabeth of York. He held large estates in Cornwall and left two daughters as his co-heiresses, Ann who married Sir William Holles (1509–1591), later Lord Mayor of London, and another daughter who married into the Roskymer family. It was a cadet branch of this family which had acquired the de Filleigh lands by marriage. The arms of Denzell were: Sable, a mullet in chief and a crescent in base argent. These arms can be seen sculpted on a bench-end, c. 1510, in Weare Giffard Church, where exist others adorned with Fortescue arms and those of other heiresses who brought possessions to the Fortescue family. The Denzell arms are also shown in the second quarter of the arms of Richard Fortescue (died 1570) on his monumental brasses in Filleigh Church.


In 1454 Sir Martin Fortescue (died 1472), second son of Sir John Fortescue (1395–1485), Chief Justice, of Ebrington Manor in Gloucestershire, married Elizabeth Densyll (died 1508), a daughter and co-heiress of Richard Densyll of Filleigh, and thereby the manor became a possession of the Fortescue family, together with substantial other Densyll manors including Filleigh, Weare Giffard, Combe and Tamerton. Elizabeth Denzell survived her first husband and remarried to Sir Richard de Pomeroy (1442–1496), KB, feudal baron of Berry Pomeroy, Devon, Sheriff of Devon in 1473. The Easter Sepulchre monument to Sir Richard Pomeroy and Elizabeth Denzell survives in Berry Pomeroy Church, with sculpted armorials, but is missing all its original monumental brasses, robbed before 1701, as described by the biographer Rev. John Prince (1643–1723), for many years vicar of Berry Pomeroy: "As for any monuments raised over the graves or sepulchres of the dead relating to this family there is only one remaining, now robbed of its former splendour. It is an altar-tomb under an arch in the north wall of the chancel raised near breast-high covered with a fair table of green marble which was sometime inlay'd with a coat of arms and a motto under of gilded brass or copper. On a rough marble stone about six-foot long and three deep fastened in the wall over the tomb and under the canopy were inlaid in like manner the effigies of four several persons in large proportion with labels proceeding out of their mouths. Also four smaller figures between as many escotcheons, (sic) all of gilded brass or copper. Which are long since become the prey of some greedy or childish hand. At the east end of this monument is Pomerai impailed with Denzil, at the west end single, which shew it was raised to the memory of Sir Richard Pomeroy and his lady, who was the daughter and heir of Denzil. The arch is finely fretted and flowered". The arms of Denzell A mullet in chief and a crescent in base impaled by Pomeroy, are sculpted in stone, but without any tinctures or colouring, under the east end of the arched alcove containing this monument and provide valuable confirmation of the form of the Denzell arms.

The manor of Buckland Filleigh was given to William Fortescue (died 1548), the 2nd son of Martin Fortescue (died 1472), who had married the heiress of Filleigh (later the site of the Palladian mansion Castle Hill, the seat of his descendant Earl Fortescue) and Weare Giffard. Martin was the son and heir of Sir John Fortescue (c. 1394 – c. 1480) of Ebrington in Gloucestershire, Chief Justice of the King's Bench of England and the author of De Laudibus Legum Angliæ and was the nephew of the latter's elder brother Sir Henry Fortescue (fl. 1426), Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in Ireland. The Fortescue family first settled in England in the parish of Modbury in South Devon before the early 12th century and were granted the manor of Whympston in Modbury by King John (1199–1216). The descent of Buckland Filleigh was as follows:

  • William Fortescue (died 1548), who married Matilda Atkyns, daughter and heiress of John Atkyns of Milton Abbot. He was predeceased by his eldest son and heir apparent John Fortescue (died 1520), who married Christiana Arscott, a daughter of John Arscott of Arscott, near Holsworthy, Devon.
  • William Fortescue (1503–1583) (grandson), son of John Fortescue (died 1520). He married Anne Giffard, a daughter of Sir Roger Giffard (died 1547) of Brightley in the parish of Chittlehampton.
  • John Fortescue (died 1604) (son), buried in the church of Weare Giffard, which manor was a seat of his senior Fortescue cousins. He married Anne Porter, daughter of Walter Porter of Thetford in Norfolk.
  • Roger Fortescue (died 1629) (son), married Mary Norleigh (died 1628), daughter of Richard Norleigh of Inwardleigh, Attorney-at-Law.
  • John Fortescue (1597–1655) (son), married Thomasine Prideaux, daughter of Humphrey Prideaux of Soldon, Holsworthy.
  • William Fortescue (1622–1680) (son), married Emlyn Trosse (died 1706), daughter of Henry Trosse.
  • Henry Fortescue (1659–1691) (son), whose monument survives in Buckland Filleigh Church, consisting of an inscription framed by putti and columns. He married Agnes Dennis, daughter of Edward Dennis of Barnstaple, North Devon.
  • Sir William Fortescue (1687–1749), KC, PC (son) a British judge and Master of the Rolls 1741–1749. He was probably responsible for the landscaping, including the serpentine lake, at Buckland Filleigh. He married his cousin, Mary Fortescue (died 1710), daughter of Edmund Fortescue (1660–1734) of East Allington, from a junior branch of the Fortescues of Fallapit in the parish of East Allington, Devon, descended from Sir Henry Fortescue (fl. 1426), Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in Ireland, who had married the heiress of Fallapit. Mary died an early death on 1 August 1710 and her monument exists in St Andrew's Church, East Allington. She bore him a daughter and sole heiress:
  • Spooner

  • Mary Fortescue (1710–1752), (daughter) who also inherited the Fortescue estate of Fallapit from her mother. Her monument survives in St Mary's Church, Buckland Filleigh, consisting of a tablet of white and veined buff marble. She married John Spooner and produced an only daughter Mary Spooner (died 1747) who died an infant. The Devon topographer Rev John Swete (died 1821) recorded in his Journal following his visit to Buckland Filleigh House in 1797 that "Mr Spooner" had been the previous occupant to his host John Inglett Fortescue (1758–1841), and had built three rustic wooden temples in the grounds, "nothing to be disapproved of" in his opinion. Due to the absence of a Spooner male heir, the estate reverted to a Fortescue male cousin.
  • Fortescue

  • John Fortescue (1700–1776) (2nd cousin) of Bampton. He was the grandson of Roger Fortescue (b.1666), younger brother of Henry Fortescue (died 1691) of Buckland Filleigh. He died unmarried.
  • Richard Inglett "Fortescue" (1731–1790)

    Richard Inglett "Fortescue" (1731–1790) (nephew), who on inheriting his uncle's estates including Buckland Filleigh assumed by royal licence in 1766 the surname Fortescue. He was a collector of customs. He was the eldest son of Caleb Inglett (died 1752) of Dawlish by his wife Rebecca Fortescue (1699–1764), sister of John Fortescue (1700–1776) of Buckland Filleigh. He married Elizabeth Weston, daughter of Lucy Weston.

    John Inglett Fortescue (1758–1841)

    Lt. Col. John Inglett Fortescue (1758–1841) (only son) of the North Devon Yeomanry Cavalry, JP and DL for Devon. He was appointed in 1792 a trustee of the large Devon and Cornwall estates of the 5-year-old Robert Trefusis, 18th Baron Clinton (1787–1832), of nearby Heanton Satchville, Petrockstowe, and in that connection served as MP for that family's pocket borough of Callington, Cornwall (1801–03). He was Receiver-General of the Land Tax for Devon from 1819 to 1841, a lucrative post. He rebuilt the mansion house in 1810 in the neo-classical style following a fire in 1798. He died and was buried on 14 December 1841 at Buckland Filleigh John Inglett Fortescue married firstly Anne Saunders (died 1815), (whose monument survives in St Mary's Church, Buckland Filleigh) daughter of Thomas Saunders, a merchant of Exeter, by whom he had children including his eldest sona nd heir, Rev. John Dicker Inglett-Fortescue (1785–1860).

    1797 visit by Swete

    The Devon topographer and connoisseur of landscape gardening Rev. John Swete (1752–1821) visited Buckland Filleigh in 1797, the year before it burnt down, and recorded in much detail his experience in his Journal. At the time of his arrival, in the absence of his host John Inglett Fortescue, he was greeted by his wife Anne Saunders and her cousin Miss Saunders, who was a guest. He was much entertained by inspecting some "charming drawings" made by the two ladies, after which they proposed showing him around the grounds and woods. On their return to the house the party was met by a white peacock, which impressed Swete with its display. He then "suffer'd the disgrace of having been beat a game at chess by Miss Sanders" after which in the evening his host Mr Fortescue returned home after a 30-mile ride, "compleatly wetted through", and later introduced Swete to his bed-chamber. Swete noticed a fine oil painting standing against the wall, which at sunrise the next morning he "contemplated with admiration for at least an hour". The scene was "the compulsion of Simon to bear the Cross", and Swete recognised it as a Rubens. At breakfast later that morning Mr Fortescue explained that in 1795 the nearby mansion of Heanton Satchville had burned down and its owner Robert Trefusis, 17th Baron Clinton (1764–1797) had himself rescued the painting from the fire and had sent it to the custody of Fortescue at Buckland Filleigh while he was still homeless. In the same fire Mr Fortescue had lost a much-valued family portrait of his illustrious ancestor Sir John Fortescue (c. 1394 – 1480), Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, which he had sent to Heanton Satchville to be restored by Lord Clinton's picture restorer. After breakfast Swete left Buckland Filleigh, accompanied by his host, and the pair rode through the grounds, discussing Mr Fortescue's plans for landscaping. After two miles they reached the ruined mansion of Heanton Satchville and its park, which appeared to Swete like a battleground with its ancient and noble trees lying cut-down and scattered. After riding on to nearby Huish, Fortescue left Swete to continue his journey alone.

    John Dicker Inglett-Fortescue (1785–1860)

    Rev. John Dicker Inglett-Fortescue (1785–1860), eldest son and heir, died unmarried. In 1843 he sold Buckland Filleigh to Alexander Baring, 1st Baron Ashburton (1774–1848).


  • Alexander Baring, 1st Baron Ashburton (1774–1848), who acquired Buckland Filleigh in 1834.
  • Browne

  • William James Browne (1815–1894). In the 1870s the manor of Buckland Filleigh was acquired by William James Browne, MRCS (1815–1894) a medical doctor and owner of large agricultural stations in South Australia. He was born in Marlborough in Wiltshire, a son of Benjamin Browne (1779–1821). He moved to Australia in 1835 where he changed his career from medicine to livestock rearing and was at one time that country's largest wool producer. He returned with his young family to England in 1866. In 1882 he presented an American organ to St Mary's Church. His 2nd son was William Byron Browne (1858–1885) a lieutenant in the 14th Lancers, who died from fever during the campaign for the relief of General Gordon at Khartoum in the Sudan. Three memorial windows to him were erected in St Mary's Church, Buckland Filleigh, one by his comrades of 16th Lancers, another by Captain Burn, 1st Royal Dragoons and 21st Hussars, and a third by the rector and his friends. As a further memorial his father resored the church in 1887 at a cost of £800.
  • Major (Arthur) Scott Browne (1867–1946) (4th son), of Buckland Filleigh. He was educated at Eton College and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and was a JP and DL for Devon. He was a lieutenant in the 16th Lancers and major in the Royal North Devon Yeomanry. On 5 June 1894 he married Mary Frances Rolle, one of the two daughters of Hon. Mark Rolle (1835–1907) of nearby Stevenstone, Devon, life tenant of the largest estate of land in Devon.
  • Captain Percy Browne, (nephew) formerly of Glebe Farm, an estate property. He sold the estate in 27 lots shortly after his newly wedded wife was killed in a fox-hunting accident in 1952.
  • Buckland House School

    The mansion became Buckland House School, which closed in 1984.

    1984 to present

    The owner of the school was Max Williams of Bideford in North Devon, who in 1984 sold the house and much reduced estate to Mr Synyard who lived there for six years until 1990. The estate was then bought by an adventure holiday company which became bankrupt following its involvement in the Lyme Bay boating disaster in Dorset in 1996. The owners in 2014 of the house and its estate of 280 acres are Ralph and Suzanne Nicholson, who live in the converted stables, coach houses and servants quarters, and who reconverted the house back into a residence with 17 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms, which they let-out for commercial and private functions and parties.


    Buckland Filleigh Wikipedia

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