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Hartland Abbey

Hartland Abbey

The Ancestral home of the Stucley family


Hartland Abbey is situated near Hartland Point in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty in the north-west corner of Devon. It lies in a wooded valley only one field wide, which runs inland from the wild and precipitous Atlantic coast - a coast which was both revered and feared by generations of seafarers and where the local wreckers plied their deadly trade.

The Abbey was built in the twelth century and consecrated by Bishop Bartholemew of Exeter in A.D. 1160 as a monastery of the regular canons of the order of St. Augustine of Hippo to serve St. Nectan's Church, Stoke, which is the parish church of Hartland. The foundation of the Abbey originated through a gift of Lord Dynham, lord of the manor of Hartland and a representative of the Norman family, who took over this area after the Norman Conquest.

The Abbey was a monastery from 1160 until 1539 when it was finally dissolved, having survived longer than any other monastery in the country. The Abbey was built across the valley just as it stands today and part of the present building is constructed upon the foundations and basement wall of the original house, whilst on the west side part of the old house remains. As a monastery, it covered a much greater area. The Great Hall went out at right angles to the main house in an easterly direction and the Abbey Chapel extended from the north at right angles, forming three sides of a square with a courtyard in the middle.


The Servants Hall of 1705
The Servants Hall of 1705, built in the cloisters.

Hartland Abbey in 1769

The front of Hartland Abbey in 1769. The cloisters and the chapel were still remaining. St. Nectan's Stoke can be seen in the background to the left of the picture.

Henry VIII made a gift of the Abbey to the sergeant of his wine cellar, William Abbott. In 1600, the first of three heiresses, Catherine Abbott, married Nicholas Luttrell of Dunster Castle in Somerset and the Abbey remained in that family for some 100 years.

In 1704, the second heiress, Mary Luttrell, married Paul Orchard, a son of Charles Orchard of Aldercombe, Kilkhampton. Up to that time the character of the Abbey remained virtually unaltered. The new owner carried out the first reconstruction immediately after his marriage during the reign of Queen Anne. He commemorated its completion with a stone set in the south wall, inscribed 'P.O. & M' 1705'. His son, also called Paul, carried out major alterations fifty years later. He levelled the Great Hall to the ground, pulled down the Abbey Chapel and reduced the east side of the main building to the level of the cloisters. He built over this area three reception rooms, and bedrooms

Hartland Abbey survey 1702

Hartland Abbey and grounds from the west, from a survey after the marriage of Mary Luttrell and Paul Orchard in 1702.

above them in the Georgian Gothic-style, illustrating the influence of the Strawberry Hill design of Lord Walpole, which was so fashionable at that time. Paul Orchard finally completed this scheme in 1779, giving to the Abbey the appearance it has today.

Superimposed on all these architectural alterations is the influence of Sir George Stucley whose great-grandmother was the third heiress, Anne Orchard, and who moved into the house in 1845. During his lifetime, Sir George carried out a great deal of decoration typical of the Victorian period, which can be seen throughout the house. In 1862 he employed the eminent architect, Sir George Gilbert-Scott to design the new front hall and entrance.

It is in this manner that the house has descended through a series of marriages without sale to the present day. Its characteristics are medieval, Queen Anne, and Georgian; its decoration is largely Victorian; and the Abbey retains documents dating from A.D. 1160 and contains pictures, furniture and porcelain collected over many generations.

The Inner Hall

The Silver-mounted wheelbarrow and spade was presented in 1864 to Florence, Lady Poltimore, on the opening of the Devon and Somerset Railway which ran from Taunton to Barnstaple. Hanging above the panelling are a pair of extensive river landscapes bt Adriaen van Diest. The panelling was taken from the Great Hall when it was demolished in 1769 and was painted later in 1862 under the direction of Sir George Stucley. A large picture below the stairs painted by Davis in 1835, shows a group of six matching strawberry roan coach horses owned by Lord Poltimore, Sheila, Lady Stucley's forebear. Next to this is a painting by G.F. Watts of a little boy with his dog, painted in Florence. The little boy eventually became the second Lord Poltimore. On the left hand side of the Billiard-Room door there is a painting of Sheila, Lady Stucley by Barraclough which was painted in 1939, and on the right hand side of the door there is a picture of the late Sir Dennis Stucley when he was High Sheriff of Devon, painted by Morse-Brown in 1956.

The Drawing-Room

The Drawing-Room is the first of the three reception rooms completed in 1779 by the second Paul Orchard, who was for many years M.P. for Callington in Cornwall. The panelling was erected by Sir George Stucley in 1845. It is linenfold panelling copied from the House of Lords. The murals above the panelling were painted in 1852 by a local artist, Alfred Beer, from Exeter. They depict events in history in which members of the Stucley family took part. The Admirals are painted by the three well known West Country painters, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Northcote and Beechey. The oak seat furniture was made for the room and embroidered by Sir George Stucley's first wife Lady Elizabeth O'Bryen, daughter and co-heiress of the Marquis of Thomond.

The Drawing-Room

The Billiard-Room

The Billiard-Room is the second of the three reception rooms built in 1779. It was originally the hall, with a central flight of stone steps leading up to the front door. In 1862, Sir George Stucley made the hall into the Billiard-Room and commissioned Sir George Gilbert-Scott to build the existing outer hall on the north end of the house.

There is a full length picture of Lewis William Buck by Grant which was presented by the people of North Devon after he had served twenty-eight years as their member of parliament. His electioneering posters can be seen on either side of the picture. He also served as High Sheriff of Devon in 1862. The picture of Louisa Granville is by Graves, a fashionable Victorian artist. Louisa Granville ws the second wife of Sir George Stucley and was a descendant of Sir Richard Grenville the renowned Elizabethan seafarer.

The fireplace is made from Maltese stone, brought from Malta in Sir George Stucley's yacht, landed at Hartland Quay and carved on the site. A baronet's hand is inscribed with the date 1859 commemorating the year in which Sir George was created a baronet. It also depicts the arms of the Stucley family whose motto is 'Beautifully and Well'.

Displayed on the Welsh dresser in the south-west coner of the room is a set of blue, hand-painted Meissen china which was made for Queen Marie Antoinette of France. The French mouse set above was exhibited in the Paris Exhibition of 1861.

The Dining-Room

The Dining-Room


The Alhambra Corridor

Alhambra Corridor

Visit the Official Hartland Abbey website

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