Holnicote Estate

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Holnicote House
Approach to Holnicote House, Holnicote - geograph.org.uk - 821368.jpg
Holnicote House
Location Exmoor, England
Coordinates 51°12′21″N 3°33′43″W / 51.20583°N 3.56194°W / 51.20583; -3.56194Coordinates: 51°12′21″N 3°33′43″W / 51.20583°N 3.56194°W / 51.20583; -3.56194
Holnicote Estate is located in Somerset
Holnicote Estate
Location of Holnicote House in Somerset

Holnicote /ˈhʌnɪˌkʌt/ (pronounced "Hunnicutt") in the parish of Selworthy, West Somerset, England, is an historic estate consisting of 12,420 acres (5,026 hectares) of land, much situated within the Exmoor National Park. It is renowned for its picturesque and unspoiled landscapes and for its historic role, together with the Acland family's other Exmoor estate of Pixton, as a spiritual home of Westcountry staghunting in the 18th century.[1] It was donated to the National Trust in 1944 by Sir Richard Thomas Dyke Acland, 15th Baronet (1906–1990) of Killerton in Devon, whose ancestors had owned it since 1745.[2] The National Trust caused much local and national controversy when it banned staghunting on the estate in the early 21st century.

House and outbuildings[edit]

There have been at least four successive mansion houses at Holnicote. Limited information is available about the early buildings. One is known to have been built between 1493 and 1521, based on dendrochronology from surviving timbers. The gatehouse was built together with a new house in the early 17th century. Following the purchase of the estate by the Blackford family in 1705, a new mansion house was built on the site of the previous structure.[3] Only the stable block from that building survives.[4] The house was destroyed by fire in 1779. The Acland family re-built it as a thatched hunting lodge, which was also destroyed by fire in 1851,[5] and replaced in 1861. A kitchen extension was added in 1874.[3] The lodge was built in the 19th century.[6] The estate includes several cottages including Rose Bower [7] and the 17th century Butlers Cottage.[8] An 18th-century Flemish bond red brick granary also exists on the estate.[9]

In 1941 another fire seriously damaged the building.[10] It was being used as a hotel since the granting of a licence to sell alcohol in 1936.[11] During the early 1940s the property was used by the Somerset County Council as a children's home where many children born from liaisons between African American service men and local women were housed, after being given up for adoption.[12] The house is now operated as a hotel.[13]


Domesday Book[edit]

Domesday Book entry for HONECOTE

The Domesday Book of 1086 records HONECOTE as held in-chief from King William the Conqueror by two nuns, by the feudal tenure of frankalmoinage:

Due nonne(s) ten(ant) de rege in elemosina...in HONECOTE ("Two nuns hold from the king in frankalmoin...(extent of land)...in Holnicote").

de Holne[edit]

William de Holne held the manor in the reign of King Edward I (1272-1307), and in the same reign, according to "Savage",[14] Walter Barun (or Bidun) held a portion of it. Ten acres of arable and two acres of meadow land were held from the king in chief by the serjeanty "of hanging on a certain forked piece of wood the red deer that died of the murrain in the forest of Exmoor, and also of lodging and entertaining at the tenant's expense such poor or decrepit persons as came to him, for the souls of the ancestors of King Edward I".[15] The canting arms of de Holne, Argent, a chevron sable between three holly leaves erect proper, are visible in the second quarter of the arms of Charles Steyning (d.1592) which survive in a 16th century stained glass window fragment in the stable block at Holnicote.[16]


The memorial to Charles Staynings in the Church of All Saints, Selworthy

A mural monument to Charles Staynings (1622-1700) of Holnicote survives in Selworthy Church inscribed thus:[17]

"Sacred to the memory of Charles Staynings Esqre. of Holnicote in this parish of yt ancient family and of Susanna his wife Daughter to Sir Nicolas Martyn of Oxton in the County of Devon. She departed this lyfe the 8th day of May 1685; He the 4th day of December 1700 aged 78 haveing made and ordered the following verses to be written on his monument:
Here lyes Charles Staynings by his wife,
Who loved him as she did her lyfe,
As hee did her their loves increased,
Till that sad day his wife deceased.
To whom her husband now is gone,
Both lived together thirty years and one.

This was erected by Willm. Martyn, Esqre. his heir and sole executor in testimony of his profound respect and gratitude. Anno 1701"

Above the inscription are emblazoned the arms of Steynings (Argent, a bat displayed sable) impaling Martyn (Argent, two bars gules). Susannah Martyn (d.1685) was a daughter of Sir Nicholas Martyn (1593-1654) of Oxton, Kenton, MP for Devon (1646-1654) and Sheriff of Devon in 1640, whose monument survives in Kenton Church.


  • William Martyn (1680-1710) of Oxton in the parish of Kenton, Devon, was Susannah Martyn's great-nephew, the eldest son of her nephew Nicholas Martyn (1652-1717) of Netherexe and Oxton by his wife Gertrude St Aubyn, daughter of John St Aubyn of Clowance, Cornwall.[18] The ancient Norman family of Martyn had been feudal barons of Barnstaple. In 1705 William Martyn married a certain Susannah (d.1749).
  • William Clifford Martyn (1706-1770), of Oxton, eldest son and heir, who married Elizabeth Langton (d.1753). The marriage was without progeny and on the death of William in 1770 his heir became his first cousin Nicholas Tripe (1711-1790) of Ashburton, son of his sister Susannah Martyn.[19] His eldest son and heir was Rev John Swete (1752-1821), of Oxton, born John Tripe, the authority on landscaping and topographer of Devon.[20]


Arms of Blackford of Dunster and Holnicote, Somerset: Gules, a chevron between three estoiles or

Holnicote was then purchased by the Blackford family, whose descent was as follows:[21]

  • William I Blackford (d.1728)[22] of Dunster, a Master in Chancery, purchased the estate of Holnicote from "William Martyn". He then purchased the manor of Bossington and later in 1699 purchased from Anthony Stocker and Sarah his wife the manor of Avill (which extended from the ridge of Grabbist nearly to the sea-shore[23]) with land in the parishes of Dunster, Carhampton, Crowcombe, Stogumber, Timberscombe and St. Decumans.[24] He married Elizabeth Dyke, a daughter of John Dyke of Pixton, Somerset.[25] He died in 1728 and was buried at Selworthy.[26]
  • William II Blackford (1693-1730), of Holnicote, married Henrietta Collet (1704-1727), daughter and co-heir of Joseph Collet of Hertford Castle in Hertfordshire, an officer of the East India Company and President of Fort St George in Calcutta.[27] His mural monument survives in Selworthy Church inscribed as follows:[28]

"Near this place is deposited the Body of William Blackford late of Holnicote in this parish Esq. and also ye Body of Henrietta his wife. He was the eldest son and heir of William Blackford of the same place Esqre by Elizabeth the daughter of John Dyke of Pixton in the parish of Dulverton in this county Esqre. He died the ..th of March 1730 in the 37th year of his age. She was one of the daughters and coheirs of Joseph Collet late of Hertford Castle in the county of Hertford Esqre and sometime President of Fort St George in East India. She died the 13th day of September 1727 in the 23 year of her age. Henrietta Blackford their only daughter and heir died the 6th day of December 1733 in the seventh year of her age".

The following arms are shown on the monument: Gules a chevron argent between three etoiles or (Blackford) with escutcheon of pretence: sable, on a chevron argent between three horses passant of the second, three orles of the first (Collet). Crest A negro's head (Blackford).
  • Henrietta Blackford (1726-1733), only daughter and sole heiress, who died as an infant aged 7. Her heiress was her cousin Elizabeth Blackford (d.1736), widow of Edward I Dyke of Pixton in Somerset.


Arms of Dyke of Somerset: Or, three cinquefoils sable. As seen in east window of Lynch Chapel,[29] Bossington, Somerset, erected in 1884-5 by Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 11th Baronet (1809–1898).[30] These are also the arms of the Dyke Baronets of Horeham, Sussex[31]
  • John Dyke (d.1732), son, of Holnicote.
  • Edward II Dyke (d.1746), of Pixton, brother and heir. He married Margaret Trevelyan, a daughter of Sir John Trevelyan, 2nd Baronet (1670–1755), of Nettlecombe in Somerset, and widow of Alexander Luttrell (1705-1737) of Dunster Castle. Edward inherited Holnicote and estates in Bampton from his brother John Dyke (d.1732), who died without progeny. Edward died without progeny and bequeathed Pixton to his niece Elizabeth Dyke (d.1753), whom he appointed his sole executor, daughter and sole heiress of his brother Thomas Dyke (d.1745) of Tetton, Kingston St Mary, Somerset. The bequest stipulated that Elizabeth and her husband Sir Thomas Acland, 7th Baronet (1722-1785) of Killerton in Devon and Petherton Park in Somerset, should adopt the additional surname of Dyke.


Holnicote House in 1785, as rebuilt after the fire of 1779,[32] viewed from the south-west. In the foreground is Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 9th Baronet (1752–1794), with staghounds. 1785 Oil painting by Francis Towne (1739/40–1816), collection of National Trust, Killerton House

The estate was acquired by Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 7th Baronet (1722-1785) of Killerton in Devon and Petherton Park in Somerset, by marriage into the family of Dyke. He built kennels for the North Devon Staghounds. The estate passed down through the Acland family[33] until 1944. In February 1944 when Sir Richard Acland signed over the Holnicote and Killerton Estates to the National Trust the area covered 16,000 acres (6,500 ha), and was the largest donation every made to the National Trust.[34]


The Dovecot At Blackford Farm is part of the estate. It was built in the 11th century. It is a Grade II* listed building,[35] and scheduled monument.[36][37] It was attached to a mansion house which burnt down in 1875.[38]

Holnicote Estate contains more than 240 kilometres (150 mi) of footpaths and bridleways.[39] It includes Dunkery and Selworthy Beacons, and the villages and hamlets of Selworthy, Allerford, Bossington, Horner and Luccombe as well as the Horner and Dunkery National Nature Reserve. The estate also plays host to a point to point course on which many Exmoor hunts hold their meetings throughout the spring.[40]

Since 2009 the estate has been one of three Multi-Objective Flood Management Demonstration Scheme, funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to examine how changes in the management of river catchment areas can influence the incidence and severity of flooding in the area.[41][42][43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Under the 7th and 9th baronets, see Acland, Anne, A Devon Family: The Story of the Aclands, London and Chichester, 1981, pp.15-28
  2. ^ "National Trust, Holnicote Estate". BBC. Retrieved 11 January 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "MEM22093 - Holnicote House". Exmoor National Park. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "Stable block to Holnicote House". National Heritage List for England. English Heritage. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "Holnicote fire". Salisbury and Winchester Journal. 6 September 1851. Retrieved 19 October 2014 – via British Newspaper Archive. (subscription required (help)). 
  6. ^ "Higher Lodge". English Heritage. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "Rose Bower and No 53". English Heritage. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "Butlers Cottage". English Heritage. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "Granary". English Heritage. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  10. ^ "Holnicote House: Hotel Gutted Near Minehead". Western Times. 10 January 1941. Retrieved 19 October 2014 – via British Newspaper Archive. (subscription required (help)). 
  11. ^ "Hotel licence granted to Mr Richard Acland, M.P.". Exeter and Plymouth Gazette. 13 March 1936. Retrieved 19 October 2014 – via British Newspaper Archive. (subscription required (help)). 
  12. ^ "The babies they left behind". Life 25 (8): 41. 23 August 1948. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  13. ^ "Holnicote House". HF holidays. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  14. ^ As quoted by Hancock, 1897, p.29
  15. ^ Hancock, 1897, p.29
  16. ^ Per information notice attached to window, 2014. The 1st quarter is Steyning, the 3rd is Huish: Argent, on a bend sable three fishes, 4th is Sprye: Azure, a fess in chief a chevron argent (Robert Steyning (d.1483) married Love Sprye of Devon). All impaling Pollard Argent, a chevron azure between three mullets gules, for his wife Margaret Pollard (1561-1631) (see her monumental brass in Selworthy Church) of Kilve (same arms as quartered by Sir Lewis Pollard (c. 1465–1526) of Bishop's Nympton, Devon)
  17. ^ Hancock, Frederick, The Parish of Selworthy in the County of Somerset, Taunton, 1897, p.55[1]
  18. ^ Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.) The Visitation of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895, p.554, pedigree of Martyn
  19. ^ Vivian, 1895, pp.554-5
  20. ^ Vivian, 1895, pp.554-5
  21. ^ See also wills at the National Archives, Kew: Will of William Blackford of Holnicote Court , Somerset 03 March 1732 PROB 11/650; Will of Elizabeth Blackford, Widow of Dunster, Somerset 23 May 1699 PROB 11/450; Will of Richard Blackford, One of the Kings Majesty's Masters extraordinary of His High and Honorable Court of Chancery of Dunster, Somerset 04 April 1689 PROB 11/395
  22. ^ Maxwell Lyte, Sir H.C., A History of Dunster and of the Mohun and Luttrell Families, Part II, London, 1909, p.422[2]
  23. ^ Maxwell Lyte, 1909, p.422
  24. ^ Maxwell Lyte, 1909, p.422
  25. ^ Hancock, p.57
  26. ^ Maxwell Lyte, 1909, p.422
  27. ^ Hancock, pp.171-5
  28. ^ Hancock, p.56
  29. ^ [3]
  30. ^ [4]
  31. ^ Montague-Smith, P.W. (ed.), Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage, Kelly's Directories Ltd, Kingston-upon-Thames, 1968, p.268)
  32. ^ Acland, 1981, p.25
  33. ^ Richardson, I.J. "The Acland Family and Exmoor". Exmoor national Park. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  34. ^ "Killerton and Holnicote Handed Over to National Trust". Western Times. 4 February 1944. Retrieved 19 October 2014 – via British Newspaper Archive. (subscription required (help)). 
  35. ^ "Dovecot at Blackford Farm". National Heritage List for England. English Heritage. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  36. ^ "Dovecote at Little Blackford". Somerset Historic Environment Record. Somerset County Council. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  37. ^ "Dovecote at Little Blackford". National Heritage List for England. English Heritage. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  38. ^ "Dovecote, Blackford Farm". Exmoor Historic Environment Record. Exmoor National Park. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  39. ^ "Holnicote Estate". National Trust. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  40. ^ "Holnicote Point-to-Point". The Best of Exmoor. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  41. ^ "Holnicote". Catchment Change Management Hub. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  42. ^ "The National Trust Holnicote Project". DEFRA. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  43. ^ "Holnicote Project". Ecosystems Knowledge Network. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 

External links[edit]