Haldon House (pronounced: "Hall-don") on the eastern side of the Haldon Hills in the parishes of Dunchideock and Kenn, near Exeter in Devon, England, was a large Georgian country house largely demolished in the 1920s. The surviving north wing of the house, comprising the entrance front of the stable block, consists of two cuboid lodges linked by a screen pierced by a Triumphal Arch, with later additions, and serves today as the "Lord Haldon Hotel". The house was originally flanked by two such paired pavilions, as is evident from 19th century engravings.
It was built in about 1723 (Polwhele) or 1735 (Pevsner) by Sir George Chudleigh, 4th Baronet (died 1738), and was influenced by Buckingham House in London, built in about 1715. As Polwhele (d.1838) stated in his History of Devonshire (1793): "About 70 years since Sir George Chudleigh began to build Haldon House. It is one of the best modern houses in Devonshire exectuted after the model of Buckingham House in St James's Park. Sir George Chudleigh died before the building was completed". Chudleigh's ancestral seat was at nearby Ashton House, on the west side of Haldon Hill, the residence of his family since about 1320, and which he abandoned to build Haldon House on the east side of the hill. In 1798 Ashton House was in ruins. He married Frances Davie (1697-1748), one of the four daughters and co-heiresses of Sir William Davie, 4th Baronet (1662-1706/7) of Creedy in the parish of Sandford, Devon. He died without male progeny, leaving four daughters and co-heiresses.
Like his father-in-law, Sir George Chudleigh, 4th Baronet himself died leaving four daughters and co-heiresses, the second of whom was Frances Chudleigh, whose share of her paternal inheritance was Haldon and Ashton, who married Sir John Chichester, 5th Baronet (1721-1784) of Youlston in the parish of Shirwell, Devon. Chichester, whose prominent family had been firmly established in North Devon for many centuries, already had a grand seat in North Devon, namely Youlston Park, built by his grandfather the 3rd Baronet (who sold the ancient family seat of Raleigh in the parish of Pilton), and thus had no use for Haldon. He sold Haldon House to Mrs Anne Basset.
"Mrs Anne Basset" (1718-1760), née Anne Prideaux (d.1760), daughter and co-heir of Sir Edmund Prideaux, 5th Baronet of Netherton, widow of John Pendarvis Basset (1713–1739) of Tehidy in the parish of Illogan in Cornwall, purchased Haldon from Sir John Chichester, 5th Baronet (1721-1784) and was resident there in 1758. Her only son John Prideaux Basset (1740 (posthumous)-1756) died in 1756 aged 16, when the Basset estates passed to his uncle, Francis Basset (died 1769). From that time therefore she may have lost her residence at Tehidy and required alternative housing, hence her purchase of Haldon. She died in 1760, and appointed as trustees of her will her cousin Thomas Hawkins of Trewithen, and Rev. Thomas Carlyon of St. Just-in-Roseland. Her legatees included her cousin Charles Evelyn of Totnes, who assigned his inheritance in settlement of a debt to Samuel Squire, Bishop of St. Davids. Her husband was a member of the junior branch of the prominent Basset family of Umberleigh and Heanton Punchardon in North Devon. She (or her trustees) sold Haldon to John Jones, Esq.
John Jones purchased Haldon from Mrs Anne Basset. Little is recorded about him, except that "John Jones of Haldon House" was the heir-at-law of the Sheppard family, of Heightly in the parish of Chudleigh, Devon, and owners of a fishery and the Barton of Lewell, Chudleigh. On 6 September 1722 Sir James Sheppard (c.1681-1730), of Watton Court, Honiton, and Lawell, Chudleigh, Devon, Serjeant-at-Law, MP, purchased the "Teign Fishery" at Chudleigh, Devon, "with the Manor of Heightly and the Barton of Lewell" from Nicholas Cove, Esq., and William Coombe, Esq., executors of James Eastchurch. On 17 June 1768 the reversion of the said premises determinable on the death of Frances Sheppard, relict of James Sheppard, Esq., grandson of the knight, was sold by John Jones, of Haldon House, Esq., the heir at law, to Hugh Clifford, 4th Baron Clifford of Chudleigh (1726–1783)Ugbrooke Park in Devon. John Jones sold Haldon to William Webber, Esq.
William Webber was resident at Haldon in 1769, as his manuscript notes in a book formerly in his library reveal. An entry in the 1840 catalogue of the Bristol bookseller William Strong lists a 1734 "Edition of Izacke's Remarkable Antiquities of the City of Exeter with manuscript additions by W. Webber of Haldon House, 1769". Webber who sold Haldon to Sir Robert Palk.
In about 1770 Haldon was purchased from William Webber by Sir Robert Palk, 1st Baronet (1717–1798), a former officer of the East India Company and Governor of Madras Province, who enlarged it. Palk had intended to build a mansion at Torwood in his manor of Tor Mohun, which he had purchased from Lord Donegal in about 1759, but where he had been unable to purchase various surrounding fields which interfered with the estate. The Torwood estate was later developed by his successors into half of the resort of Torquay.
Major-General Stringer Lawrence (1697–1775), the first Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in India, spent his retirement at Haldon House as an honoured guest of his friend from Indian days Sir Robert Palk, to whom he bequeathed the huge sum of £50,000 and in whose memory in 1788 Palk erected the "Lawrence Tower" (alias "Haldon Belvedere") on his estate. In 1789 Haldon House was viewed by Rev. John Swete (died 1821) of nearby Oxton House, a connoisseur of the picturesque, and a former protegé of Palk's, who in his journal criticised its design in having two wings which swept forward in curves, which although effective in built-up London for Buckingham House, here resulted in much of the spectacular view of the surrounding countryside being blocked off from the front of the house. Palk removed the formal gardens and replaced them with lawns and clumps of trees in the then fashionable style. The house was visited by several notable people, including King George III (1760–1820), whom Sir Robert Palk escorted to view the Lawrence Tower along a specially made carriage drive.
He was succeeded as follows:
- Sir Lawrence Palk, 2nd Baronet (c. 1766–1813)
- Sir Lawrence Vaughan Palk, 3rd Baronet (1793–1860), resident at Haldon in 1830 as an engraving of that date states.
- Sir Lawrence Palk, 4th Baronet (1818–1883) (created Baron Haldon in 1880)
James FitzGerald Bannatyne (1 May 1833 - 18 October 1915) of Summerville and Fanningstown Castle, Co. Limerick, Ireland, purchased Haldon House from the Palks in 1892. Mr Bannatyne was a Deputy Lieutenant and Justice of the Peace for Devon. He was a substantial flour merchant with premises in Dock Road in Limerick, Ireland. He was one of the nine original subscribers at the foundation in 1897 of the "Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company Ltd.", later "Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd.". Marconi performed some of his early experiments in radio transmission from nearby Haldon Hills.
Bannatyne married Emily Gertrude Wilson (15 October 1851 - 10 October 1928), of Collipriest Cottage, Tiverton. His daughter Mary Stuart Bannatyne married Major Ludovic Heathcoat-Amory, son of Sir John Heathcoat-Amory, 1st Baronet of Knightshayes Court, near Tiverton. He died on October 18, 1915 and on 14 May 1916 his only son Major James Fitzgerald Bannatyne (1884–1916), 11th (Prince Albert's Own) Hussars (attached to the 23rd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment) was killed in action at the age of 32 during World War I and was buried in the Merville Communal Cemetery in Northern France.
Mrs Bannatyne moved away in 1919 immediately after the War and put the estate up for sale. She had acquired the Palk Manuscripts, an important four-volume collection of the correspondence of Sir Robert Palk relating to Indian affairs. A single buyer was not forthcoming and the estate was split up and sold piecemeal. At the time of its demolition in 1925 the house had six reception rooms (sizes 30 by 20 feet, 22 by 30, 50 by 17½, 28½ by 18½, 22 by 22½ and one other), 38 bedrooms, a ballroom, theatre and chapel to seat 100. No buyer could be found and with the gardens and a 5-acre field it was withdrawn at £1,350. The final sale of the last of the estate was in 1925. The furnishings of the chapel were purchased by Clifton College for its own chapel.
Within the former Haldon estate on Pen Hill about a mile south-west of the house is situated Haldon Belvedere, in the parish of Dunchideock, built in 1788 by Sir Robert Palk, 1st Baronet. It was originally called the "Tower on Pen Hill" or "Lawrence Tower" in honour of his friend and patron General Stringer Lawrence (1697–1775), who spent much of his retirement at Haldon and was buried in Dunchideock Church, in which Sir Robert erected a monument to his memory, having received a bequest of £50,000 in his will. Stringer Lawrence's other monument is in Westminster Abbey, erected by the East India Company.
The tower, 26 metres high, is triangular with Gothic windows and full-height circular angle turrets, and was probably influenced by the triangular tower at nearby Powderham Castle, itself probably modelled on Shrubs Hill Tower (now Fort Belvedere) in Windsor Great Park, built 1750-1755 by Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721–1765), younger son of King George II. Inside is a life-size coade stone statue of Stringer Lawrence dressed as a Roman general, a copy of the marble statue of him by Peter Scheemakers (1691–1781) now in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, formerly the India Office. On the walls are three large framed tablets inscribed with details of his career.
Following the Bannatyne sale it was purchased in about 1925 by a syndicate for £300 and in 1933 was acquired by the Dale family. During World War II it served as an observation post. After the War the building deteriorated and was struck by lightning in 1960. In 1990 the windows were blown out in a storm. Following the death of Cyril Dale in 1990, his successor Edward Dale transferred in 1994 to the Stringer Lawrence Memorial Trust and in the same year it was restored by the Devon Historic Buildings Trust. It has been a grade II* listed building, under the name of "Lawrence Castle", since 1987.
1789 description by Swete
- "As we were now on our departure from Haldown on the descent of its northern extremity, we had before us a triangular tower raised by Sir Robert Palk and devoted to the memory of his friend General Lawrence. It had a round tower at each angle and rose three stories high. From its own elevation and that of the conical hill on which it was placed it became an object to the most distant parts of the county; it is hardly possible to conceive a spot better adapted to an edifice of this nature than this of Pen Hill, denominated so by the Britons on account of its eminence. I took the opposite sketch from the road from whence the pine-clad hill and the tower were seen in great perfection".
The previously "wild and bare" Haldon Hills had recently been planted with trees by Sir Robert Palk, which today surround the tower and cover the hill. Swete entered the tower and made transcripts of the three memorial tablets to Stringer Lawrence, and also transcribed the epitaph to him by Hannah More on his monument in nearby Dunchideock Church.
- Cherry & Pevsner, p.513
- Risdon, Tristram (died 1640), Survey of Devon, 1811 edition, London, 1811, with 1810 Additions, Names of the Noblemen and Principal Gentlemen in the County of Devon, their Seats and Parishes, at the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century, listed under "Palk"
- See image at
- Barber, Chips & Barber, Sally, Around & About the Haldon Hills - Revisited, Obelisk Publications, 1996, pp.34–36
- Pole, Sir William (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon, Sir John-William de la Pole (ed.), London, 1791, p.478
- Polwhele, History of Devonshire, Vol. II, published 1793, p.181, "About 70 years since", 1793-70=1723
- Pevsner, p.513
- Polwhele, II, p.181
- Gray & Rowe, Vol.1, p.11; Watercolour by Swete, Vol.2, p.33
- Risdon, p.397; Vivian, p.270
- Polwhele, Richard, History of Devonshire, 3 Vols., Vol.2, London, 1793, p.181
- Polwhele, p.181
- Gray, Todd & Rowe, Margery (Eds.), Travels in Georgian Devon: The Illustrated Journals of The Reverend John Swete, 1789-1800, 4 vols., Tiverton, 1999, Vol.2, p.32
- Prince, John, (1643–1723) The Worthies of Devon, 1810 edition, London
- Reed, Margaret A., Pilton, its Past and its People, Barnstaple, 1985, p.31
- Date of birth per Vivian, p.622, pedigree of Prideaux
- Cornwall Record Office, Ref:CN/152/1,2, "99 year lease (lives of lessee's w. Susanna, sons Thos. and Edw. B.) (also counterpart) Dated 29 Sep. 1758 
- Cornwall Record Office, Ref:CN/152/1,2: "Anne Basset of Haldon House, Devon"
- Cornwall Record Office, Ref: CN/2907, "Copy assignment of legacy: Chas. Evelyn of Totnes, Devon, esq., to Sam. Squire, bp. of St. Davids."
- History of Parliament biography 
- The History of Chudleigh, Devon, Chapter VIII
- Strong, William, A Catalogue of British History and Topography, Bristol, 1840, p.33, no.486 
- Granted in 1760 to "Robert Palk of Headborough in the county of Devon", per Polwhele, Richard, History of Devonshire, 3 Vols., Vol.2, London, 1793, p.181, footnote
- See 1863 painting by John Wallace Tucker Torwood Manor, collection of Torre Abbey Historic House and Gallery 
- Swete, Vol.1, p.165
- Gray & Rowe, Vol.1, p.8
- Pidsley, Rev. Christopher, The Tower on the Hill
- Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 29 Dec 1902, Mr. J. F. G. Bannatyne, of Haldon House, was among those present the funeral of the Rev. E. Ohatterton Orpen;
- Date of death
- Later the Sisters of Mercy Convent, Summerville Avenue, Limerick, Limerick City 
- Gray;[full citation needed] see Devon Record Office 3860M/E1, illustrated sale particulars 1892
- Moloney, Tadhy, Limerick Constitutional Nationalism 1898-1918, Newcastle-Upon_Tyne, 2010, p.9 
- GUGLIELMO MARCONI AND THE “INVENTION” OF WIRELESS
- War memorial in Doddiscombsleigh Church; Memorial tablet in Dunchideock Church
- Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, 15th Edition, ed. Pirie-Gordon, H., London, 1937, pp.2457-8, Wilson of Cliffe Hall; The Marquis of Ruvigny and Ranieval, The Plantagenet Roll of the Blood Royal: The Mortimer-Percy Volume, pp.171-172
- Obituary ; War memorial in Doddiscombsleigh Church 
- http://www.everymanremembered.org ; Lauder, Rosemary, The Devon Gardens Guide, 2004, p.98 
- Historical Manuscripts Commission: Report on the Palk manuscripts in the possession of Mrs Bannatyne of Haldon, Devon. (Historical Manuscripts Commission ; no. 74,1922)
- Winckworth, Archibald N. (1917–1997), (owner of Dunchideock House) Memories of Dunchideock
- Cherry & Pevsner, p.342
- Name used by Swete in his 1789 Journal. See Gray & Rowe, Vol.1, pp. 8–9
- Fraser, Iain, Haldon's Hidden Heritage
- For 1789 transcripts of tablets see: Gray & Rowe, Vol.1, pp. 9–10
- "LAWRENCE CASTLE". Historic England. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
- Gray & Rowe, Vol.1, pp. 8–9
- Gray & Rowe, Vol.1, p.11
- Cherry, Bridget & Pevsner, Nikolaus, The Buildings of England: Devon. Yale University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-300-09596-8.
- Fraser, Iain, The Palk Family of Haldon House & Torquay
- Gray, Todd & Rowe, Margery (Eds.), Travels in Georgian Devon: The Illustrated Journals of The Reverend John Swete, 1789–1800, 4 vols., Tiverton: Devon Books, 1999.
- Gray, Todd, The Garden History of Devon: An Illustrated Guide to Sources, Exeter, 1995, pp. 116–8, "Haldon House, Kenn"
- Pidsley, Rev. Christopher, The Tower on the Hill
- Lauder, Rosemary, Vanished Houses of South Devon