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Downes House is situated about one mile east of Crediton in Devon. The house is an 18th-century Palladian re-modelling of an earlier house. It was classed Grade II* listed on 20 May 1985. Nearby is the site of a Roman villa, revealed by crop-marks as a rectangular enclosure containing a winged-corridor structure.
The estate of Downes was purchased in 1692 by Moses Gould (1668-1703), eldest son and heir of William Gould (1640-1671) of Hayes and Dunscombe, MP for Dartmouth in 1671. The Gould family was descended from a certain John Gold, a crusader present at the siege of Damietta in 1217 who for his valour was granted in 1220 by Ralph de Vallibus an estate at Seaborough in Somerset. Moses married twice, firstly in 1690 to Anne Prust (d.1691), daughter and heiress of Mr Prust of Rawley. Without issue. Secondly to Susanna Kelland, daughter and co-heiress of John Kelland of Painsford, MP for Totnes. His eldest son and heir was William Gould (1697-1726), of Downes, who married Elizabeth Quicke, daughter of Andrew Quicke of Newton St Cyres. William and Elizabeth left no male progeny, only two daughters as co-heiresses (a third daughter Frances I Gould (1720-1720) having died an infant):
- Elizabeth Gould (1718-1742), who married James Buller (1717-1765), of Morval, Cornwall, and of Shillingham, MP for East Looe in Cornwall in 1741 and for Cornwall 1748-1765.
- Frances II Gould (b.1722), who married in 1741 John Tuckfield (1719-1767) of Little Fulford, MP for Exeter 1747-1767 The marriage was without issue, leaving the Buller family sole heirs of the Gould estates.
The ancient family of Buller is descended from Ralph Buller of Word in Somerset, sixth in descent from whom was Richard Buller who settled in Cornwall and married the heiress of Tregarrick. The estate of Morval was inherited by John Buller (1632-1716), MP, of Shillingham near Saltash, in Cornwall, from his wife Anne Coode daughter and sole heiress of John Coode of Morval. The descent of Downes in the Buller family was as follows:
- James Buller (1717-1765) who married as his first wife Elizabeth Gould, daughter and eventual sole heiress of William Gould (1697-1726), of Downes. He married secondly in 1744 to Hon. Jane Bathurst (d.1794), second daughter of Allen Bathurst, 1st Earl Bathurst, of Cirencester Park, and sister of Henry Bathurst, 2nd Earl Bathurst (1714–1794), Lord Chancellor 1771–1778. It appears she did not wish to live at Downes, the house of her husband's first wife, or else had a liking for the new Palladian fashion in architecture, as James built for her a new house at King's Nympton. He demolished the previous mediaeval manor house at King's Nympton and built in its place between 1746–9 the fine Palladian mansion which was then known as "New Place", which survives today known as "King's Nympton Park". His architect was Francis Cartwright of Blandford in Dorset and the design was based on Marble Hill in Twickenham, one of the earliest Palladian houses in England built between 1724–9. The Bullers eventually withdrew to Downes in about 1839 and in 1842 sold the King's Nympton estate to James Tanner.
- James II Buller (1740-1772), son and heir of James I Buller by Elizabeth Gould. He married Husey Gould, daughter of Thomas Gould of Frome.
- James III Buller (1766-1827) MP, son and heir, who married in 1791 his cousin Anne Buller (d.1851) daughter of William Buller (1735-1796), Bishop of Exeter (1792-1796), who was a brother of his grandfather James I Buller.
- James Wentworth Buller (1798-1865) (son), MP for Exeter (1830-1835) and for North Devon (1857-1865). He sold King's Nympton Park in 1842 to the Tanner family. In 1831 he married Charlotte Juliana Jane Howard-Molyneux-Howard, daughter of Lord Henry Thomas Howard-Molyneux-Howard and Elizabeth Long.
- James Howard Buller (1835-1874), eldest son and heir, died unmarried.
- General Rt. Hon. Sir Redvers Henry Buller (1839-1908), VC, (brother and heir). He married in 1882 Audrey Townshend, daughter of John Townshend, 4th Marquess Townshend, but had no male progeny, only a daughter Dame Audrey Charlotte Georgiana (b.1883), DBE.
- Arthur Tremayne Buller (1850-1917) (brother). He married Elinor Louisa Leyborne-Popham, daughter of Francis Leyborne-Popham. His younger son was the cricketer Eric Tremayne Buller (d. 1973).
- Mowbray Louis Buller (b.1892), MC, (eldest son) Major, King's Royal Rifle Corps, lord of the manor of Crediton. He married Silvia Katharine Watney, daughter of Vernon James Watney of Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire.
Visit by Swete
The Devon topographer Rev. John Swete (1752-1821) visited Downes in 1797 and made a watercolour painting of the house with the following record in his diary:
"The next morning I quitted Crediton, not without the thanks of the very civil people who kept the White Hart, and travelling on a good road soon came to the gate of Downes, the seat of James Buller Esq., lying a little on the left of the road at one mile distance from the town. The family of Buller is from Cornwall and transplanted hither or rather engrafted (for it is a branch of the original stock) into that of Gould, whose possession Downes was, as well as several other estates now the Buller property in this neighborhood. The heiress of the Goulds was the grandmother of the present proprietor who married the eldest daughter of his uncle the late Bishop of Exeter. The house is of modern structure having two wings annex'd to it & is seated on ground which is of the richest nature gently rising from the Rivers Creedy and Fordton that wind their streams to its great refreshment and benefit through the estate. Passing a bridge over the latter I took the following sketch of Downes which is perhaps as favorable a station to view it from as may be obtained. The scenery is of a pleasing nature including the gradually declining hill on the side of which the house is placed and a winding valley water'd by the Creedy which descends thro' an expanse of most fertile pastures from Little Fulford which is distinguishable in the remoter parts. The whole of this however would in itself have been tame and naked as a landscape but the contrast which it received and the relief given to it by the fine foreground of oaks added beauties to the prospect below which though not its own served to render those which it had more pleasing and to give them a zest which they seem'd to stand in need of".
He then proceeded to Dunscombe House, also a former property of the Goulds, purchased by them from the Bodley family, which had been inherited by the Bullers.
- Burke's Landed Gentry, 1937, Buller of Downes, pp. 277–279
- Risdon, Tristram, Survey of Devon, 1810 edition, p.373
- Pevsner & Cherry, Buildings of England: Devon, London, 2004, pp.339-40
- Pevsner, p.339
- Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.) The Visitation of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895, pedigree of Gould, pp.418-432, p.418
- Vivian, p.422
- Burke's, p.277
- Vivian, p.422
- Burke's Landed Gentry, 1937, p.279, Buller of Downes
- Burke's Landed Gentry, 1937, p.277, Buller of Downes
- Pevsner & Cherry, Buildings of England: Devon, London, 2004, p.522
- Pevsner, p.523
- Pevsner, p.523
- Burke's, p.277
- Gray, Todd & Rowe, Margery (Eds.), Travels in Georgian Devon: The Illustrated Journals of The Reverend John Swete, 1789-1800, Vol.3, Tiverton, 1999, p.125