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As with many old estates we have unearthed a few old tales that we believe to be true and are certainly fun to relate.


Spreacombe early history - 1250 Secular Chantry

Spreacombe, meaning "brushwood valley" is mentioned in the doomsday books. 

We have very little information about the early days, save from the fact that a chapel, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist was built in the grounds of the Manor.  This would have been a Catholic chapel and provided living quarters for the priest (2 small rooms) as well as the formal area for the congregation. 

The sign, photographed, is positioned alongside the chapel ruins, just a short walk from our cottages. 

The sign to Spreacombe Chapel, a short walk from Spreacombe Gardens


We visited the records office in Cornwall and were very excited to find a (very) tenuous link to royalty. 

A 19th-century note states that 'The manors of Sprecombe and Gratton were afterwards (10th July 1525) settled on Sir Thomas Arundell, 2nd son of Sir John Arundell, upon his marriage with Margaret Howard, daughter of Sir Edmund Howard, sister of Queen Katherine Howard. Vide no. 145; Inq.p.m. [Inquisitions post mortem] Sir John Arundell'.

Another ancient deed of the "feoffment in trust for jointure, Elizabeth Arundell" rather romanticallly states the following 

     Lease for term of lessor's wife's life (feoffment in trust, for jointure)

     Rent: a red rose at Nativity of St John Baptist, for all services and demands.


We believe that the current Manor House was built in the early 1800's,  with it's predecessor being nearer to the Chapel.  The “New” owners, the family of which built the current house, were reputed to have won the Estate on a card game.

Easy come, easy go;   Over the next generations the hedges were apparently all ripped out of the valley to enable horse racing from one end to the other but unfortunately one bet too many allegedly forced a swift transfer of property to a luckier recipient. 

The photo on the right shows the valley right through to Middle and then Higher Spreacombe. Once these farms woud have belonged to The Estate. 

Spreacombe Manor


In the 1900's the Estate was owned by Lady Cecil and Arthur Leigh Barker.  Lady Cecil, for some time, would take tea with Lady Chichester of Arlington Court. 

On the death of Lady Cecil, Arthur Barker scattered her ashes in Spreacombe Chapel and donated Chapel Wood to the RSPB in her name. There is a memorial plaque to them in the chapel. 

World War Two and Spreacombe

Hidden in our woods we have some Amercian made World War Two training trenches. They are largely undisturbed, save from leaves dropping into the trenches and moss growing on the mounds. 

The American soldiers were staying nearby at Saunton. They took the local quarry over, at that time owned by James Dennis, to aquire stone to build the army road outside Braunton. To facilitate transportation of their lorries along the narrow road to Spreacomnbe they pushed several passing places into the nearby field one night. Apparantly the farmer was somewhat asurprised the next morning when he saw his diminished field. 

Spreacombe Manor at the time was owned by Lady Cecil, herself of German descent but she was said to be not at all amused when a roving plane gunned Knowle and her house, Spreacombe Manor, one night. 

The population of the area changed. The register of Knowle Chapel shows that at one time there were 80 refugees .

There is a local story about an American Deserter that found refuge in Spreacombe Mines. The story goes that he also found love in the the form of a local girl who befriended him. 

My father-in-law also remembers having 2 German POW soldiers to Christams lunch at his house towards the end of the war. 

The holiday cottages were built by Norman Dennis on the site of the old vegetable garden to the Manor - hence the name, Spreacombe Gardens.  

Visitors to Spreacombe frequently comment on how peaceful it is here and how time seems to stand still.

Spreacombe Gardens site, near Woolacombe
entrance to Spreacome Estate in the snow

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