World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0036502581
Reproduction Date:

Title: Stevenstone  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Otterton, Buckland Brewer, Great Torrington, Rolle (disambiguation), Châteauesque architecture
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Stevenstone House, built by Hon. Mark Rolle between 1868 and 1872 to design of Charles Barry junior (died 1900). Now a largely demolished ruin. Surviving today is the Palladian library outbuilding, visible to the left, built by Lord Rolle's grandfather John Rolle (died 1730). The contemporaneous orangery behind it also survives, both now the property of the Landmark Trust. Published in Morris, Rev. F.O. Picturesque Views of Seats of Noblemen & Gentlemen of Great Britain & Ireland, London, 1880
The ivy-covered ruins of Stevenstone House in 2012. Hoskins described it in 1954 as "A villainously ugly house whose present dereliction need bring no tears",[1] and "An ugly ruin in a naked and devastated park".[2] To the left is the Palladian Library Room and behind it the Orangery, built c. 1715-30

Stevenstone is a former manor within the parish of St Giles in the Wood, near Great Torrington, North Devon. It was the chief seat of the Rolle family, one of the most influential and wealthy of Devon families, from c. 1524 until 1907. The Rolle estates as disclosed by the Return of Owners of Land, 1873 (corrected by Bateman, 1883) comprised 55,592 acres producing an annual gross income of £47,170, and formed the largest estate in Devon, followed by the Duke of Bedford's estate centred on Tavistock comprising 22,607 with an annual gross value of nearly £46,000.[3]

From the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to the Reform Act of 1832 the county parliamentary representatives were chosen effectively from only ten great families, mostly territorial magnates. The three most dominant of these were the Bampfyldes of Poltimore House and North Molton, the Courtenays of Powderham Castle, and the Rolles of Stevenstone and Bicton.[4] The Rolles were not from the mediaeval aristocracy as were the Courtenays, but were descended from an able lawyer and administrator of the Tudor era, as were the Russells, later Earls and Dukes of Bedford. Both Russells and Rolles acquired much former monastic land in Devon following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Indeed the Rolles were in the opinion of Hoskins (1954) "second only to the Russells in the extent of their monastic and other lands and in time were to surpass them".[5]

In 1669 Sir John Rolle (died 1706), KB of Stevenstone had an annual income of £6,000 making him "one of the richest gentlemen in the country".[6] He died in 1706 seized of more than 40 manors in Devon.[7] The family built several different houses on the same site known as Stevenstone House, the last Victorian version of which was built between 1868 and 1872, but was demolished in two stages firstly by a reduction in size soon after 1912 and then after 1931 it was gradually demolished piecemeal for building materials.


  • Descent of the manor 1
    • Rolle 1.1
      • Descent in Rolle family 1.1.1
  • Forms of Stevenstone House 2
  • Victorian re-build 3
  • Sale and demolition 4
    • Trefusis, Baron Clinton 4.1
    • Clemson 4.2
    • Piecemeal disposal 4.3
  • Stevenstone today 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Sources 8
  • Further reading 9

Descent of the manor

Arms of Stefenston as given by crest, extended to a cubit arm vested, as can be seen on the Library Room at Stevenstone built by John Rolle Walter (died 1779). John Rolle, 1st Baron Rolle (died 1842) changed the stone into a canting roll of parchment, as is shown in the stained glass window on the grand staircase at Bicton House, and the monument of Samuel Rolle (1669–1735) of Hudscott in Chittlehampton Church shows a baton. The badge of the hunt class destroyer HMS Stevenstone named after the Rolle family's fox-hunt substituted in the hand a hunting horn

John Prince in his "Worthies of Devon" gives the descent of Stevenstone as follows, based on the work of the Devon topographer Tristram Risdon, himself born within the parish of St Giles, at Winscott House. The earliest recorded holder of the manor was Michael de Stephans, who granted it to Richard Basset, the father of Elias Basset, who granted it to Walter de la Lay, or Ley. His descendant John de Lay changed his name to John de Stephenston. The overlord who was then a later Elias Basset, lord of the manor of Beaupier in Wales, released all his interest in Stevenstone to John de Stevenstone. He was followed by another John, Walter and John de Stephenston. The latter left a daughter Elizabeth de Stephenston his sole heiress, who brought the manor by marriage to her husband Grant of Westlegh, near Bideford. Grant was himself also lacking in male progeny and left two daughters joint heiresses, one of whom married Monk of Potheridge, whilst the other married a member of the Moyle family, who received Stevenstone as his wife's share of the inheritance. He made it his chief residence, and Prince suggests, on the basis of Tristram Risdon's assertion, that his descendant Sir Walter Moyle, a Justice of the King's Bench in 1454, was born here.


Arms of Rolle: Or, on a fesse dancetté between three billets azure each charged with a lion rampant of the first three bezants
Various forms of the Rolle crest, the standard form of which is: A cubit arm erect vested or charged with a fess indented double cotised azure in the hand a flint-stone proper. Top left: Library Room, Stevenstone (with flint-stone); top right: Stained glass window, Bicton House (with roll of parchment); bottom left: Chittlehampton Church (with baton); bottom right: Barnstaple Guildhall (badge of HMS Stevenstone, with tinctures reversed, double cottised and with hunting horn). It was also used, grasping either a roll or a palm frond, as the badge of the Royal North Devon Hussars,[8] the predecessor regiment of which had been raised largely by Lord Rolle

  • The Manor of Stevenstone,
  • Listed Building text, Ruins of Stevenstone House
  • Listed Building text, The Library, Stevenstone
  • Listed Building text, The Orangery, Stevenstone

Further reading

  • Hoskins, W.G., A New Survey of England: Devon, London, 1959 (first published 1954)
  • Lauder, Rosemary, Vanished Houses of North Devon, Tiverton, 2005, Stevenstone House pp. 7–20
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus. & Cherry, Bridget, The Buildings of England: Devon, London, 1991
  • Prince, John, The Worthies of Devon, 1810 edition, pp. 706–708, biography of Denys Rolle (1614-1638)


  1. ^ Hoskins, p.278
  2. ^ Hoskins, p.296
  3. ^ Hoskins, p.88. 3rd was the Earl of Devon with 20,589 acres worth £31,000, 4th was the Fortescue family of Castle Hill with 20,171 acres, worth over £17,000 p/a, 5th was the Duchy of Cornwall with 48,457 acres, much of it moorland, with an annual value of under £5,000
  4. ^ Hoskins, p.183
  5. ^ Hoskins, p.84
  6. ^ Quoted from "Tour of the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1669", quoted in Hoskins, p.86
  7. ^ Hoskins, p.87, Quoting Lysons, Magna Britannia, 82,b
  8. ^ As seen on framed mural monument in Exford Church, Somerset, to Major Morland Greig (1864-1915), of Edgcott, Exford, Master of the Devon & Somerset Staghounds, killed in action at Gallipoli. The badge is also shown, but with the hand grasping a palm frond, sculpted on the mural monument in the Church of St Giles in the Wood, Devon, to Captain John Oliver Clemson (1882-1915) of Stevenstone, also killed fighting with the same regiment at Gallipoli.
  9. ^ a b c Hoskins, p.469
  10. ^ Hawkyard, A. D.K. "ROLLE, George (by 1486-1552), of Stevenstone, Devon and London.". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  11. ^ Will of Honor Speccot, wife of John Fortescue leaves a bequest to "My daughter the Lady Rolle" [3]
  12. ^ Prince, p.706
  13. ^ Hoskins, p.266
  14. ^ Library Room, term used in will of Baron Rolle (died 1842), referring to the bequest of his books
  15. ^ Pevsner, p.760
  16. ^ Quoted by Pevsner, p.760
  17. ^ White's Devonshire Directory of 1890, transcribed by Debbie Kennett
  18. ^ Stags Estate Agents: "A rare opportunity to acquire a detached Deer Shelter with full planning to convert into a 2 bedroom property subject to a holiday restriction. Sought after location enjoying far reaching countryside views and approx 5 acres"[4]
  19. ^ Lauder, pp.10–11
  20. ^ a b Cooke, William (2007). "Memorial to the Fallen Heroes of St Giles in the Wood". GENUKI/Devon. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  21. ^ "St Giles in the Wood Monumental Inscriptions". rootsweb. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  22. ^ a b "Dedicated to remembering person surname of Clemson of Altrincham that fought in WW1 for our freedom. Entry Number 181.". Trafford War Dead. Retrieved 30 October 2013.  Includes information from the 1911 census.
  23. ^ a b Malpass, Robert (2010). "Exeter College Oxford - Roll of Honour 1914–1918" (PDF). p. 38. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  24. ^ Western Times, 29 May 1931, quoted in Lauder, pp.12-13
  25. ^ The Millman family purchased the freehold of Winscott at the dispersal sale of the Rolle Estate


HMS Stevenstone (L16)

See also

Around the ruined house exists in 2012 a hamlet of settlement, comprising the terraced houses of the former stable block, several bungalows within the walled kitchen garden, other new houses and the Torrington Farmers Hunt Kennels, previously the Stevenstone Hunt in the days of Mark Rolle. The Palladian outbuildings of the Library Room and the Orangery were purchased in July 1978 by the Landmark Trust and were restored and converted into revenue-producing rental accommodation.

Stevenstone today

In 1970 the vestigial ruins of Stevenstone House were purchased by Mr Parnell, who had purchased the Deer Park in the 1931 sale and had built a bungalow next to the ruins. Although the adjacent detached Library Room and the Orangery were granted Grade II* Listing on 4 October 1960, the ruins of Stevenstone House received much later on 16 February 1989 a Grade II Listing, offering them protection from demolition, but they have continued to deteriorate from adverse weather and are as at 2012 totally covered in ivy.

The house was still habitable during World War II as troops were stationed there, namely the Warwickshire Regiment and later American troops. After the war Mr Millman finally sold the house to Mr Melville, who contrary to his stated intention at the time of purchase, proceeded to demolish it. He used much of the stone to convert the stable block into terraced housing and built several smaller houses and bungalows around it and in the former walled kitchen garden.

In the summer of 1931 the house and some of the parkland was purchased by Mr George Millman, the tenant of Winscott Barton (the ancient home of Tristram Risdon), by then part of the Stevenstone estate, within the parish of St Giles.[25] He immediately offered it for sale as building materials prior to complete demolition, split into 609 lots. Lot 609 was the residual shell of the house itself after all else had been sold in the previous lots. Mr Millman however changed his intention against selling, but by then the auction could not be stopped. He bought-in as many lots as he could, and the house continued for a few more years, reduced in size again by the demolition of the servants' wing which connected the house to the stable block.

On 26 September 1930 the estate of Stevenstone was offered for sale by auction, including 665 acres. The property was auctioned again in May 1931, but with only 17 acres and was then described as comprising four reception rooms, 27 bed and dressing rooms and eight bathrooms.[24] It failed to sell at £3,000. A further 300 acres were sold separately.

Piecemeal disposal

His widow Mary erected a bronze memorial tablet in the church naming the twelve men of the parish who had lost their lives in World War I, reported on in the local press thus: "Following the unveiling by Mrs. Clemson, and the dedication by the Vicar (Rev. C. Walker), the "Last Post" and Reveille were sounded on cornets, and the effect was grand in its solemnity. Special hymns and psalms were sung by the choir, and the Vicar based his address on the significance of the memorial". His grave is in the Lala Baba Cemetery in Turkey.[20] Mrs Clemson remarried to Col. B.C. James, 8th Devon Regiment, awarded the DSO on 1 January 1917, and remained at Stevenstone.

Captain Clemson was mobilised on 4 August 1914 and sailed for Gallipoli on 24 September 1914, as part of the South Western Mounted Brigade, during which campaign he died from wounds on 9 December 1915.[23] He is remembered by a monument in St Giles' Church inscribed as follows: "In Loving Memory of John Oliver Clemson, of Stevenstone, Captain Royal North Devon Hussars, who was killed in action in Gallipoli 9th December 1915, aged 33. A great and glorious thing it is to die for one's country". He is recorded on the Exeter College, Oxford Roll of Honour,[23] and also on the Altrincham & District Roll of Honour.[22]

In 1911, unmarried and aged 28, he was staying at Bydown House, Swimbridge, near Barnstaple, as a guest of Robert Jameson and his wife Margaret (née McKinnon), who was the brother-in-law of Mary McKinnon, also then residing in the house, aged 28 and born in Calcutta, Clemson's future wife.[22] In 1912 at Paddington, London, he married Mary McKinnon, 3rd daughter of the late John McKinnon of 10 Hyde Park Gardens, London. They had one daughter. The new owners demolished about half of the east front of the house including the main tower and one corner tower, to make it more manageable, presumably due to the war-time lack of domestic staff. He was Master of the Stevenstone Foxhounds.

In 1891 aged 8 he was living with his widowed mother at Brookfield House, Bury Old Road, Broughton, Salford. He attended Windermere College Preparatory School, in the parish of St Mary's Church Applethwaite, Windermere, in which church his name appears on a memorial tablet "Boys of the Old College who fell in the Great War". He later attended Sedbergh School between 1897 to July 1900. In the 1901 census he was residing at Red House, Windermere, as a boarder in a preparatory school with three other pupils. He matriculated at Exeter College, Oxford in 1901. He described himself in about 1909 as a "Gentleman farmer of Peagham (Barton), Torrington", which was one of the farms of the Stevenstone estate, about 3/4 mile north of Stevenstone House. On 10 July 1909 he applied for a commission in the Royal North Devon Hussars, and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant on 17 July 1909.

Lord Clinton sold Stevenstone by auction in 1912 to Captain John Oliver Clemson (1882-1915) and his wife Mary McKinnon, a wealthy heiress.[19] Clemson was born 30 May 1882 in Crumpsall, Manchester the elder son of John Henry Clemson (1856-1889) of Parkside, Altrincham, Cheshire by his wife Sara Jane Oliver (b. 1855).[20][21] He had one brother and four sisters.


Following the death of Mark Rolle in 1907, the Rolle estates, extending to about 55,000 acres, which had been held by him as life tenant under the will of his aunt's husband John Rolle, 1st Baron Rolle (1750-1842), descended to his heir male his nephew Charles John Robert Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis, 21st Baron Clinton (1863–1957), of Huish

Trefusis, Baron Clinton

Stable block, Stevenstone House, converted c. 1950 into terraced housing. The ivy-covered ruins of Stevenstone House are visible in the background
Deer shelter, stated by Pevsner to date from c. 1700, in the former deer park of Stevenstone House. It is visible across a valley from the terrace of the house. It was advertised for sale by a local estate agent in 2012[18]

Sale and demolition

The house was demolished in 1868 by Hon. Mark Rolle (died 1907) who erected in its place between 1868-1872 to the design of Charles Barry, Jr (died 1900) a Victorian mansion in the "French Chateau style" (or "Franco-Italian style" as it was termed by a contemporary issue of Building News,[16]) widely considered today to have been a building of little architectural merit. It may be compared, but in simpler form, to the Rothschild family's slightly later Waddesdon Manor, which was however designed by a French architect. It sat within a deer park of 370 acres containing a large quantity of large and valuable trees.[17] In the opinion of Hoskins writing in 1954: "Mark Rolle rebuilt the house again in the worst style of the time. The richest man in Devon built himself the ugliest house".[9]

Corridor in Stevenstone House, c. 1907-12, photo from auction catalogue published between 1907 (death of Hon. Mark Rolle) and 1912 (purchase by Capt. Clemson). The arrangement is as left by Mark Rolle. Visible in the right foreground is the portrait of John Rolle Walter (1712-1779) of Stevenstone, painted c. 1753 by Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787) & purchased in 2008 for £300,000 by Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter. A replica hangs in Great Torrington Town Hall
Stevenstone House in 1872. The high tower is clearly shown

Victorian re-build

Two Palladian outbuildings serving as Orangery and "Library Room" [14] were built next to the house by John Rolle (1679-1730), MP, and the Library shows above the keystone of its central arch the arms of Rolle impaling the arms of the Walter Baronets of Sarsden, Oxfordshire, the family of his wife Isabella Walter (died 1734). Hoskins states that the manor house itself was rebuilt or remodelled sometime in the 18th century, Pevsner states c. 1709,[15] perhaps therefore at the same time as the building of the outbuildings. An engraving of this Georgian house survives, by James Bingley, published in 1831.

The earliest record of the form of the manor house is that given by [9]

The Orangery, Stevenstone House, St Giles in the Wood, Devon. Built by John Rolle (1679-1730), MP, c. 1715-1730. Showing also remnant of pinetum
Left: Sculpted stone heraldic achievement c. 1715-1730 above central arch keystone on the surviving Palladian library (right) at Stevenstone, built by John Rolle (1679-1730), father of John Rolle Walter, showing on an escutcheon the arms of Rolle impaling Walter, the family of his wife Isabella Walter. The crest is a dexter cubit arm holding in the hand a flint. The crest of his elder brother Robert Rolle (1677-1710), MP, holds in its hand a roll of parchment, as can be seen above the portico of the Mercantile Exchange (or Queen Anne's Walk), Barnstaple, on which he erected the statue of Queen Anne in 1708. The crest in Chittlehampton Church, of Rolle of Hudscott, holds a baton
"Stevenstone, North Devon, the seat of the Right Honourable Lord Rolle". Drawn by G.B. Campion, engraved by James Bingley, published by R.Jennings & W. Chaplin, 62 Cheapside, London, 1831. The Library Room is visible to the left

Forms of Stevenstone House

  • George Rolle (died 1552), MP. Purchased Stevenstone pre-1524.
  • John I Rolle (1522-1570), eldest son, husband of Margaret Ford (died 1570) commemorated by monumental brass in St Giles Church.
  • Sir Henry Rolle (1545-1625), eldest son, married firstly Elizabeth Watts, secondly a Fortescue, daughter of John Fortescue (1525-1595) of Fallapit, East Allington by his wife Honor Speccot (died 1606), whose monumental brasses exist in East Allington Church.[11]
  • Denys I Rolle (1614-1638), grandson. Sheriff of Devon 1636, one of Prince's Worthies of Devon, in which he is described as "The darling of his country in his time, adorn'd with all the desirable qualities that make a compleat gentleman. He was, though young, of a ready wit, a generous mind, and a large soul."[12] Monument and effigy in the Rolle Mausoleum, Old Bicton Church. Son of Sir Henry Rolle (died 1617) (son of Elizabeth Watts and who predeceased his father), by his wife Anne Denys, heiress of Bicton.
  • John Rolle (1638-1642), only son by his wife Margaret Poulett. Died an infant.
  • Henry Rolle (1605-1647) of Beam House, Great Torrington. First cousin of Sir Henry Rolle (died 1617).
  • Robert Rolle (1677-1710), MP, grandson, son of John Rolle (died 1689) who predeceased his father.
  • John Rolle (1679-1730), MP, brother. Married Isabella Walter.
  • Henry Rolle, 1st Baron Rolle (1708-1750), eldest son.
  • John Rolle Walter (1712-1779), MP, brother.
  • Denys Rolle (1725-1797), MP, brother. Founded colonies in Palatka, Florida and Exuma, Bahamas. Inherited Hudscott from distant cousin Samuel Rolle (died 1747), descended from Henry Rolle of Heanton Satchville, Petrockstowe, 4th son of the patriarch George Rolle (died 1552).
  • John Rolle, 1st Baron Rolle (1750-1842), MP, son. Last of the male line, died without progeny.
    • Mark Rolle (1835-1907), adoptive heir, nephew of Lord Rolle's wife Louisa Trefusis.

Descent in Rolle family

The descendants of George Rolle the patriarch's eldest son John Rolle (died 1570) failed in the male line in 1642 on the death of the infant John Rolle (1638-1642). Stevenstone and several other manors which had by then been accumulated by purchase and inheritance from heiresses, passed eventually to Sir John Rolle (1626-1706), the grandson of George Rolle (died 1573) of Marrais. Some of the estates of the patriarch's fourth son Henry Rolle of Chittlehampton.

The male descendants up to 1842 of George Rolle included about twenty Week St Mary in Cornwall, which manor had been procured for him by his father who had obtained the wardship of Margaret of Marrais and bequeathed the same in his will to his son George, who became her husband.

[10] in 1542 and again in 1545.Barnstaple for MP (died 1542), whom he served as legal counsel until the latter's death. He served as Arthur Plantagenet, 1st Viscount Lisle He was probably born in Dorset, rose to prominence as a lawyer in London, and had as clients several monastic houses in Devon. One of his most prominent clients was [9]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.