Edge, Branscombe

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Edge Barton, south front
Edge Barton, viewed from south-east
Edge Barton, viewed from east. The top of the circular staircase tower is visible in the corner of the north and west wings (right)
Edge Barton, setting
Ancient graffiti featuring sailing boats, inscribed on stone window splay in an upper floor room, Edge Barton[1]
Remains of late C13-early C14 rose window, Edge Barton. In upper gable wall between two rooms in south wing. The tracery contains 4 cusped trefoils. The wall is thought to have formed the west wall of a late C13-early C14 chapel[2]

Edge, (originally, Egge[3]), is an ancient and historic house in the parish of Branscombe, Devon.

Today called Edge Barton Manor, the surviving house is grade II* listed[4] and sits on the steep south-facing side of a wooded valley, or combe.

Never in origin a manor house, Edge was one of the first stone-built houses in ‘Branescombe’, on a villein holding called La Regge.[5]

Constructed from the local Beer stone, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited houses in England.


Edge Barton, Branscombe, view from south-west; right: 1888 drawing

The existing building is U-shaped, and may originally have been built around the courtyard. Only a short section survives of the original dry moat.[6]

An early circular stone staircase tower is contained within the angle of the north wing so as to give access to a second floor, newly created by the addition of a raised ceiling to the great hall.

The stone splay of an upstairs window shows ancient graffiti-incised drawings of sailing ships, thought to represent those of the Spanish Armada, becalmed offshore near Branscombe in 1588.


A Chapel, attached to the house, dates from the end of the thirteenth or early fourteenth century.[7] Much of the rest of the house architecturally is fifteenth and sixteenth century.

Perhaps built by Walter Branscombe, Bishop of Exeter from 1258 to 1280, the chapel occupied the present south wing, where a large rose window containing four cusped trefoils originally set within the outer gable of the west wall survives on what is now an internal wall, hidden behind a later chimney stack in the attic.[8]

Samuel Lysons in 1822, described the chapel as being in a poor state of repair, and desecrated. An ancient stone piscina has also survived, reset into a wall in the hall.

Descent of the manor[edit]


Arms of Wadham: Gules, a chevron between three roses argent[9]

Historically, the manor of Branscombe belonged to the See of Exeter, but during the reign of King Edward III (1327–1377), the estate of Edge was acquired by the de Wadham family who took their name from the manor of Wadham, Knowstone in north Devon, and who held Edge for eight generations.

In 1618, on the death of Dorothy Wadham, widow of Nicholas Wadham, co-founders of Wadham College, Oxford, it passed with Nicholas's other possessions to the heirs general of his father, his nieces and their descendants.[10]

The descent of the Wadham family of Edge given by Sir William Pole (1561-1635) is as follows:[11]

John I Wadham[edit]

John I Wadham who, according to both Pole and John Prince (1643-1723), was living at Edge before the end of the reign of King Edward III (1327–1377).[12]

John II Wadham (c. 1344 – 1412)[edit]

Another, Sir John Wadham, was a Justice of the Common Pleas, from 1389 to 1398, in the reign of King Richard II (1377-1399), MP for Exeter in 1379 and for Devon in 1401, as a Knight of the Shire with Sir Philip Courtenay of Powderham.

Although Pole and Prince both stated him to be the son of John I Wadham of Edge, his modern History of Parliament biographer suggests he may have been the son, rather than the nephew perhaps, of Gilbert Wadham (c.1320-1383) of Wadham who, in 1383, quitclaimed to him a rent in the manor of Wadham.[13]

John Wadham held extensive lands in Devon, Somerset and Dorset and in about 1400 built a moated and fortified manor house at Merryfield, Ilton near Ilminster in Somerset, on land he purchased from Cecily de Beauchamp (c.1321-1394) of Hatch and which became his principal home.

He also acquired over 300 acres of land in Branscombe, Devon, raising the possibility that during the periods assigned to John I and John II Wadham, Edge was actually held by a single John Wadham who built Edge and held it from before 1377 to 1412.

William Wadham (c. 1386 – 1452)[edit]

Sir William Wadham, son and heir of Merryfield and Edge, was Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset in 1438 [14], and Sheriff of Devon in 1442.[15]

He married Margaret Chiseldon, a daughter and co-heiress of John Chiseldon of Holcombe Rogus, Devon, Sheriff of Devon in 1406. On her death, he married Katherine Payne, the widow of his cousin John ‘Jenkyn’ Stourton (died) 1438.

William and Margaret Wadham had eight children: John III Wadham, their heir, was born in 1405.

John III Wadham (1405–1476)[edit]

Sir John Wadham of Merifield and Edge, the eldest son and heir, added to the family possessions when he married Elizabeth Popham early in the fifteenth century, daughter and co-heiress of Sir Stephen Popham (c. 1386 – 1444) of Popham, Hampshire, five times MP, Sheriff of Hampshire in 1427, and Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1434.

John Wadham made his will, dated 6 August 1473.[16] He had three sons and four daughters.

John IV Wadham (died 1502)[edit]

Sir[17] John Wadham, the eldest son and heir of Merifield and Edge from 1476, first married a daughter of John I Cheyne of 'Pine' or Pinhoe, Sheriff of Devon in 1444.[18]

Secondly, he married Elizabeth Stucley, a daughter of Sir Hugh Stucley of Affeton Castle, Sheriff of Devon in 1449, and his wife Katherine de Affeton (died 1467),[19] by whom he had two sons.

He died some time after 20 March 1501, the date of his will.

Nicholas I Wadham (c. 1475 – 1542)[edit]

Sir Nicholas Wadham of Merryfield and Edge was Member of parliament for Somerset, as a knight of the shire, in the Reformation Parliament of 1529,[20] Sheriff of Devon in 1502 and 1515, Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset in 1498 and 1534, and Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1516.

In 1503 he was Esquire of the Body to King Henry VII (1485–1509), and Knighted in 1504. He was Captain of the Isle of Wight at Carisbrooke Castle from 1509 to 1520.[21]

In 1520, with his uncle Sir Edward Wadham, Sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1525, 1531, and 1541, he attended the Field of the Cloth of Gold with King Henry VIII.

Nicholas Wadham married four times:

His first wife, Joan Hill, was a daughter of Robert Hill (1421-1493) of Halsway, Bridport and Houndstone [22] and Alice Stourton, widow of Sir William Daubeney of Barrington Court. Nicholas and Joan Wadham had four sons and two daughters.[23] Their eldest surviving son and heir was John V Wadham.

His second wife Margaret Seymour, a kinswoman, was a sister of Sir John Seymour of Wulfhall (1474–1536) and aunt of Queen Jane Seymour. Margaret had three children by Sir Nicholas Wadham.

Thirdly, he was married to Isabel Baynham, widow of Giles Brugge, 6th Baron Chandos and daughter of Thomas Baynham and Alice Walwyn of Clearwell, Gloucestershire.

He married lastly, Joan Lyte (d.1557) of Lytes Cary, widow of William Walton of Barton St. David. There were apparently no children by his third and fourth marriages.

John V Wadham (before 1510 – 1578)[edit]

Mural monument to Joan Tregarthin (died 1583) widow successively of John Kelloway and John V Wadham (died 1578) of Merifield, Ilton, Somerset and Edge, Branscombe. North transept, Branscombe Church, Devon

John Wadham (died 1578), son to Sir Nicholas by his first marriage, studied civil law at Oxford,[24] and became heir to Merifield and Edge on the death of his elder brother, Laurence Wadham of Merifield. He was Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset in 1556 and in 1561.

His wife, Joan Tregarthen, was a daughter and co-heiress of John Tregarthen of Cornwall, and widow of John Kelloway of Cullompton. John Wadham died in 1578,[25] and was buried in the Church of St Mary, Ilminster.

His widow retired to Edge, which seems to have become the dower house of the family, where she died in 1583. She was buried in Saint Winifred’s Church, Branscombe.

Nicholas II Wadham (1531–1609)[edit]

Nicholas Wadham, their only surviving son, and heir of Merifield and Edge, was co-founder with his wife Dorothy Wadham of the college that bears their name, and was the last male descendant in direct succession of the senior line of the Wadhams.

He was born in 1531, and according to all accounts was educated at Oxford,[26] in most likelihood at Corpus Christi. He is probably the same 'Nicholas Wadham, of Brimpton, Somerset,' who entered himself at the Inner Temple on March 9, 1552.

In 1555, at the age of twenty-three at St Botolph's, Aldersgate, Nicholas married Dorothy, daughter of Sir William Petre (1505-1572), of Ingatestone Hall and Writtle in Essex.[27] Nicholas Wadham "entered the courtly life for a moderately long time", but he and Dorothy seem to have retired early on to lead a country life at Merifield where they lived with Nicholas's father. He served as a Commissioner of the peace, and in 1585 Nicholas Wadham was Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset. Nicholas and Dorothy were to die without progeny. After the death of her husband, Dorothy Wadham retired to Edge where she died in 1618.

Edge, with Nicholas Wadham's other possessions, passed to the heirs of his father, that is to his three sisters and their descendants,[28] of which Joan Wadham (1533-1603) first married Sir Giles Strangways (1528–1562) of Melbury five times MP for Dorset[29] and then Sir John Young (died 1589) of the Great House in Bristol, Margaret Wadham married Nicholas Martin or Martyn (c. 1550 – 1595) of Athelhampton, Dorset, and Florence Wadham (1538-1596) married Sir John Wyndham (1516-1572) of Orchard Wyndham in Somerset.


Arms of Wyndham: Azure, a chevron between three lion's heads erased or

Following the death of Dorothy Wadham in 1618, Edge passed into the families of the sisters and co-heiresses (at least in their issue) of Nicholas Wadham; namely, the Martyns of Athelhampton, Dorset, the Wyndhams of Orchard Wyndham, Somerset, later Earls of Egremont at Petworth House in Sussex, and the Fox-Strangways of Melbury House, Dorset, later Earls of Ilchester, who retained ownership until 1933 and in the interval let Edge to a series of tenant farmers.[30]


Edge was at one point occupied as tenants by the Langdons, of Chard in Somerset, and was described in the eighteenth century as 'derelict in appearance'.


Early in the twentieth century it was tenanted by a Mr. Richards, of Sidmouth, who was born in Branscombe.


Edge was finally purchased in 1933 by Captain Frank Masters, an architect, in a decayed state and with the former chapel being used as a dairy. He began extensive renovations in 1935, but did not live to complete the work.


The renovations begun by Captain Masters were completed by Robert Blackburn, an aeronautical engineer.


Who owned the property for a short time to try and run it as an outward bound school.


Did extensive modernisation and decorations


Lived at Edge with their family, Who built the current conservatory for which there was placed a 15th century french gargoyle, did extensive landscape work to the gardens, restoration to the reception room on the ground floor, rethatched the barn. Yvonne (Neuman) was honored as guest of honour at the Dorthy Wadham dinner Oxford University. Both boys Aravinda Neuman and Arjuna Neuman who grew up at Edge attended Winchester College. Mithra Neuman did over 200 building renovations in the Devon area. Many of them listed buildings. Some: Trews Weir Mill Exeter, Kings Wharf Exeter, Whirligig Taunton, Harry Hems Buildings Exeter. Yvonne Neuman founded the Charity Vital for Children, did famous Ted Talk, 'Why Do you Care'


Dorothy Wadham's bedroom, Edge Barton, in which the Warden of Wadham College stayed overnight in June 2010

In 1996 Edge was acquired by retired businessman (Michael) Silvan(us) Robinson CBE and his wife June,[31] (née Wood), a former Conservative mayor of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.

Before 1988 Silvan Robinson was President of the Shell International Trading Company,[32] a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell,[33] and was awarded a CBE in the 1988 New Year Honours.

The Robinsons established a link with Wadham College and in June 2010, to mark the 400th anniversary of the College's foundation, they entertained Sir Neil Chalmers, Warden of Wadham College and a number of the Fellows at Edge.

The Warden and his wife stayed the night in Dorothy Wadham's bedroom. "Dorothy is quite a cult figure at the College" stated Mr Robinson "and our visitors were delighted to see where she'd come from".[34]

Further reading[edit]



  1. ^ See
  2. ^ See listed building text
  3. ^ Sir William Pole, Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon, p. 141
  4. ^ http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-88678-edge-barton-manor-branscombe-devon
  5. ^ http://www.branscombeproject.org.uk
  6. ^ Listed building text
  7. ^ A fine chapel at Edge in 1290 is mentioned in The Three Edwards, Prestwich, p.20. Transactions of the Devonshire Association; quoted by Ronald Branscombe <http://www.branscombe.net/genealogy/timelines/1200.HTM>. Also, see <http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-88678-edge-barton-manor-branscombe-devon> Finally, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner dates the rose window from the early fourteenth century
  8. ^ Listed building text; www.branscombe.net
  9. ^ Devon heraldry
  10. ^ T.G. Jackson, Wadham College Oxford
  11. ^ Pole, p. 141
  12. ^ William Pole, p. 141; T.G. Jackson, Wadham College Oxford, p. 4, & Wadham Pedigree, p. 26; and John Prince, Worthies of Devon, p. 748; William Wyndham in The Wadhams and Merrifield, (1934), hazards a guess at 1377. Nicklaus Pevsner in his Buildings of Devon (1952) suggests a Wadham presence at Edge from 1317 but gives no reference.
  13. ^ Roger Virgoe, historyofparliamentonline, Sir John Wadham (died 1412).[1]
  14. ^ According to John Hutchins (antiquary) History and Antiquities of Dorset; 1st pub. 2 vols. 1774, 4 vols 1861-1873.
  15. ^ Pole, Sir William (died 1635), Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon, Sir John-William de la Pole (ed.), London, 1791, List of Sheriffs, regnal date 20 Henry VI; Rogers, William Henry Hamilton, Memorials of the West, Historical and Descriptive, Collected on the Borderland of Somerset, Dorset and Devon, Exeter, 1888, pp. 147–173, The Founder and Foundress of Wadham, p. 156;
  16. ^ Somerset Wills; pp. 225, 6
  17. ^ see biography of his son Sir Nicholas Wadham MP by Roger Virgoe at historyofparliamentonline
  18. ^ Wadham pedigree in T.G. Jackson's Wadham College, Oxford; p. 28.
  19. ^ From http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/wadham-sir-nicholas-1472-1542
  20. ^ Roger Virgoe, historyofparliamentonline - Sir Nicholas Wadham (died 1542)
  21. ^ A tour to the Isle of Wight: illustrated with eighty views..; Charles Tomkins, 1796.
  22. ^ [The Visitations of the County of Somerset, In the Years 1531 and 1573, together with additional pedigrees, chiefly from the visitation of 1591] ed. F.W. Weaver, pub. Exeter, 1885; and, Pedigree of Champernowne:<www.tudorplace.com.ar>
  23. ^ The Visitations of the County of Somerset, p. 6., Berkley of Stoke Gifford, Glos.
  24. ^ Referred to at the historyofparliamentonline biography of his cousin the MP; WADHAM, John (by 1520-1584) of Catherston Lewestone, Dorset.
  25. ^ His will (Gen. Prob. Reg., 14, Langley) is proved in Prerogative. Court of Cant., 15 March 1577/8.
  26. ^ T.G.Jackson, Wadham College Oxford
  27. ^ T.G.Jackson, Wadham College Oxford; p. 7
  28. ^ T.G.Jackson, Wadham College Oxford; p. 9
  29. ^ Strangways, Sir Giles II (1528–62), of Melbury House, Melbury Sampford, Dorset.
  30. ^ Listed building text: "It was occupied by tenant farmers 1618–1933"
  31. ^ Sidmouth Herald Newspaper, 12 June 2010,[2] erroneously stating Mrs Robinson's name as "Dawn"
  32. ^ See 1988 New Year Honours list
  33. ^ See
  34. ^ Sidmouth Herald Newspaper, 12 June 2010 & 1 July 2010