Membland and Lord Baring

Early Membland

Membland lies about one mile east of Newton and Noss above the valley running east from Bridgend ( see map 2 ). It is recorded in the Domesday Book as Mimidlande named we think after the stream which was called Mimid, which enters the creek at Bridgend. The stream was later called Mill Stream, and a leat from up the valley fed the mill which was used to operate at Post office Farm.

There has been a manor at Membland since before Norman times. Lyson’s “History of Devonshire” tells us that :

“Membland gave name to a family who possessed it for several generations ( from Henry VI to mid -seventeenth century  ). It was afterwards, for a considerable time, in the the Hillesdons. From then it passed to Champernowne, who, about the year 1723 sold it to Stert. About 1757 it was purchased of May, who had inherited it from Stert, by Mr Bulteel of Fleet. It is now the property of Sir John Perring, Bart, whose uncle purchased it off the Bulteels. The House at Membland was rebuilt by his uncle”.

In the 1830’s, Membland was owned by Robert Robertson Esq, who had returned from Australia having made his fortune in sheep farming. He sold it to J.D. Lewis Esq, who sold it to Edward Charles Baring in 1871. The estate by then comprised the entire parish of Revelstoke, including all of Noss Mayo and extended east almost as far as Holbeton.

Golden Years at Membland with the Barings

Edward Baring ( known to all as Ned ) was a senior partner of Barings bank and a director of the Bank of England. His brother-in-law, Henry Bingham Mildmay of Flete estate, was also a Barings partner. They were both married to daughters of John Crocker Bulteel of Pamflete.

Between them they owned virtually all the land between the Erme and Yealm estuaries. The two bankers decide to rebuild their respective Manors in a lavish way. Ned Baring appointed George Devey as his architect, and the following 15 years saw an incredible transformation to the estate. The new Membland Hall was described by some as being “rambling, disjointed and architecturally unpretentious. Despite this it became a much-loved family country home. The Barings entertained on a grand scale with guests including the Prince of Wales and his family, politicians including Gladston and Baron Rothschild.

In 1890, investments in the Buenos Aries Water Supply and Drainage Company began causing Barings Bank problems, and in November that year they did not have the money due on account. In short, the Bank of England stepped in and prevented Barings bank from going bankrupt. In order to cover the cost both Lord Revelstoke and the Mildmays had to forfeit much of their wealth

As a result of his financial troubles the Estate and Hall were sold in 1899 to a property developer. A year later Membland was sold to ship builder William Cresswell Gray. The house became derelict after World War I and was demolished in 1927. Several of the estate’s service buildings survive, including the Bull and Bear gatekeeper’s lodge, stables, gasworks, forge and laundry.

Membland Villa, Eastern Lodge, Bull and Bear Lodge and many other buildings from the estate are Grade  II listed buildings



Pushlinch and the Yonges

Puslinch, which lies 3 miles north of Newton Ferrers has gone through various changes of spelling over the years. First recorded as “Posling” in the 1238 Assize Roll, it has also be known as  Puselynche, Posselinch, Pyselynche, Puselynghe, Poslinch, Pusnedge, Pustneged, Puzzlewitch, Puslidge. Puslinch House is a Grade 1 listed building.

The original Puslinch house, known as Puslinch Farm, still exists.  It was built around four sides of a courtyard in the 13th century and today all that remains in use is the small manor house, now Puslinch Farm, on one side of the former courtyard. The current Puslinch Farm is later than the 13th century but many of the windows and doors of the original range of buildings have been re-used and are clearly visible. Just across the farmyard is the remains of an old chapel with a Saxon scratch dial visible on one wall. The architecture suggests a manor house of the Devon type dating back to the revival of building activity at the close of the Wars of the Roses, which was at the time the Upton family succeeded to Puslinch.

The current house came into being following the marriage in 1718 of  James Yonge (1679-1745) to Mary Upton of Puslinch in 1718. James through his father Dr James Yonge had the cash and the Uptons the land. By this marriage it became possible to erect a fine new house at Puslinch. The house was symbolic of and a cause of the rise of the Yonge family in Devon.

It is not clear when construction started on the manor house but it was complete by the early 1720’s. it is a listed building as are the early 18th century garden walls, courtyard walls, entrance gate piers, outbuildings and granite gate piers.

It was built at a reputed cost of nearly ten thousand pounds, according to the Bank of England this sum equals over £900,000 in present day money. While such comparisons can be misleading, clearly Puslinch cost an enormous sum of money.

The estate now comprises just under 1000 acres and has remained largely unchanged over the years, although somewhat smaller than it used to be, some land being taken by the RAF at the beginning of World War 11.

The current house lies between the Puslinch Farm and Puslinch Bridge, about two hundred yards east of Puslinch Farm, on a rise. Unlike some other broadly similar houses such as Antony, Puslinch is largely brick built and makes little use of stone. Brick at the time was seen as a more homily domestic and modest material than stone. It is perfectly proportioned. It has stone dressings and mouldings finely and sparingly applied, and the stone box cornice that edges the walls on all four corners are well cut with wide overhangs.


Kitley and the Bastards

The Kitley estate lies 4 miles north of Newton Ferrers at the head of the Yealm estuary, Kitley House is a Grade 1 listed building.

Kitley house has Tudor origins and is thought to have been built during the reign of Henry VII between 1457 and 1509 by Thomas Polexfen (  reportedly pronounce Paulston ).

The Pollexfes lived at Kitley from it’s construction. The Bastard family connection came about when the Pollexfen heiress, Ann, married William Bastard of Gerston manor around 1692. In the ensuing decades the Bastard family’s principal seat moved progressively from Gerston to Kitley.

The Bastards have been an important family in Devon for centuries. In Lorna Doone, R.D Blackmore wrote ”But others were of high family, as any need be, in Devon – Carews, and Bouchers, and Bastards”.

Sarah Martin wrote the Mother Hubbard Rhymes (“The Comic Adventures of Old Mother Hubbard and Her Dog”) here in 1805. The character Mother Hubbard is believed to have been based on the housekeeper at Kitley.

It was almost totally rebuilt around 1710 and extensively renovated during 1820 -25 under the direction of George Repton one of Humphrey Repton’s sons.  Humphrey was, of course the last great English landscape designer of the 18th century who worked from the famous Regency architect John Nash. The grounds reflect late Georgian taste, including the dam across the tidal waters creating an ornamental freshwater lake using the Silverstream rivulet sometimes stocked with fish.

Thorn House

Thorn lies on the dawn-facing hills above the estuary of the Yealm, opposite Newton Ferrers

Sir John Hele, 1543 – 1608, purchased the agricultural remains of a previous monastic complex and built a magnificent residence “to be without equal in Devon”. He also constructed the tidal fish pond on the Yealm, a few hundred yards upstream from the quay. However, there is prevailing opinion amongst local historians that the tidal fish pond that trapped fish when the tide went out, had been created much earlier by the monks.

19th Century Thorn

The exact date of the present house is unknown; however, it is on the site of the earlier building as evidenced by the existence of tudor cellars. Thorn House (previously known as South Wembury House) was refurbished in the early 19th century by Thomas Lockyer; one time Mayor of Plymouth. From about 1806 it became the Lockyer’s permanent home and soon afterwards some 536 acres were transferred from the ‘Manor of Wembury’.

In 1876 Richard Cory, a wealthy London coal merchant, bought the South Wembury estate from the Lockyers. The Cory’s added a ballroom and billiard room which made an attractive venue for entertainment and shooting parties; guests included the Prince of Wales and his brother the Duke of Edinburgh.

Thorn Garden: Early Development

In 1920 the house was sold to William Arkwright, a descendant of Richard Arkwright who had made a fortune in cotton spinning. Having sold his property, Sutton Scarsdale Hall in Derbyshire, he moved to South Wembury House, which he renamed ‘Thorn’. Here he embarked upon a major programme of garden development, laying out terraces and formal grounds in imitation of those at Sutton Scarsdale. William brought some of the statuary and other items, including four enormous Italianate Carrara marble urns, with him from Derbyshire to Devon. These remain as important focal points in the garden today. The ram’s head handles have formed the current symbol of Thorn (see top of page). The gardens were developed to such an extent that they were reputed to be the richest in Devonshire.

These lasting contributions to Thorn, were further enhanced by the next owner, the Hon. Mrs Ida Marie Sebag-Montefiore. An enthusiastic horticulturalist she won an award at the 1934 Chelsea flower show.


Gnaton, approximately 3 miles north east of Newton Ferrers is a Grade 11* listed Country house in landscaped gardens on or near the site of an earlier house built by Walter Hele, son of Sir John Hele of Wembury House qv. Circa 1826. Probably by J Birch of London, for Henry H R Roe, Stuccoed, and with rusticated quoins.