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The History of Some
Bluett Family Mansions in Somerset, Devon & Cornwall
by Michael Ford
BLUETT
FAMILY SEATS
in the West Country

 

Holcombe Court
(at Holcombe Rogus north east of Tiverton in Devon)

The best remaining Tudor House in Devon

In the early part of the 16th century Sir Roger Bluett rebuilt the Medieval manor house here in the style of the age making it one of the grandest Tudor houses in Devon. What we see today is the finest house of that period to have survived in the county.

A good view of the main south front can be had from the gateway. The four storeyed Tudor entrance porch with its higher side tower and the two large six-light transomed windows of the great hall can be seen. To the right in front of the house is a fine circular dovecote with a conical roof.

The house is built around a courtyard. The south and east ranges are original while the north and west wings were rebuilt around 1860. The Long Gallery runs the full width of the south range above the Great Hall, 65ft in all. Inside there is some good plasterwork in the form of ceilings, friezes and glorious overmantels and some fine panelling and good fireplaces. To one side of the gallery there are nine very small rooms or cells. Legend has it that they were used to imprison Spaniards captured from the Armada in 1588. The Judge’s room is said to have been used by Judge Jeffries during his notorious visit to the West Country.

The gardens are landscaped and include a fine walled garden.

Sir Roger’s son Richard carried out some alterations after 1585 on inheriting the property. He married Mary Chichester from another well-known Devon family.

In 1810 the cutting of the Grand Western Canal was started on Bluett land just to the north east of Holcombe Rogus towards Greenham.

The Bluett family moved from Holcombe Court when Peter Bluett sold it to William Rayer in 1850. William carried out a superb restoration of the great hall. Ninety years later a Reverend William Rayer sold the estate to Mr Fleetwood-Hesketh, grandson of the founder of the town of Fleetwood in Lancashire in 1833.

Bluett family monuments can be found in All Saints church next to the house. These include an excellent example of the art to Richard Bluett of Holcombe Court, who died in 1614 and his wife Mary. The Bluett family pew in the church is Jacobean and is one of the best of the period in the country.

Holcombe Court is a private house and is not open to the public. It can however be seen from the road, which passes the gateway.

There is a small house at Holcombe Rogus between Holcombe Court and All Saints church known as The Priest’s House. It was built around 1500 and was originally the church house.

It was rescued by The Landmark Trust who have restored it and maintain it for holiday letting.

Details of The Priest’s House for holiday accommodation can be obtained from:

The Landmark Trust, Shottesbrooke, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 3SW.

 

Cothay
(between Greenham and Thorne St Margaret, west of Wellington in Somerset)

A Perfectly preserved Medieval Manor House

Cothay is just a fantastic place for it gives the feeling of stepping back in time. For anyone visiting this area of the Devon/Somerset border and who is interested in Medieval times, this is a ‘must’ not to be missed as it can be considered to be the best small Medieval manor house remaining in England. Unfortunately the house is not open generally to the public but the gardens are. This allows the visitor to wander amongst the wonderful ancient buildings, enter as well as pass through the creeper-clad gatehouse and enjoy the beautiful gardens beside the River Tone.

The name of the Manor comes from the Cothay family who owned an earlier house on the site. The Bluett family, believed to be from Kittisford, married into the Cothay family in the early 14th century and it was the younger son, Richard who inherited it. Richard married Agnes, the daughter of John Verney of Fairfield at Stogursey. Although the Bluett family owned the manor from this time it was not until 1457 that they decided to live there.

In 1481 a Walter Bluett became the owner of Cothay and it is he who had the manor house and its gatehouse built as it is seen today. The property passed to William Every during the reign of Elizabeth I and he carried out a few alterations around 1600.

The main front of the house faces east and is immediately behind the gatehouse with only a forecourt garden in between. This entrance front has two gabled ends with a two storyed porch to one side of the recessed centre. Both mullioned and transomed windows and buttresses abound. The garden front to the west shows a considerable complication of architectural change, most of which was caused by 17th century additions, but it is still a delight to behold. There is a lovely circular window with pretty tracery in the gable of the north wing. Here also is a spiral stair turret.

Inside the Great Hall is open to its roof timbers and has its screen and gallery still in place. The Solar is also open to the roof. The Parlour below, part of the undercroft and the Dining Room both have early 17th century panelling from the Every family time. The latter has an elaborate fireplace and overmantel. The room above the Parlour and the Library runs the full length of this wing and it is here that the other side of the rose window is found. In two of the bedrooms in the south wing there are some late 15th century wall paintings which are among the oldest still existing in English domestic buildings. Other rooms of note are the Gold Room and the Green Room. A 15th century oratory is above the 14th century porch. The entrance door still retains its original features with a substantial oak locking-bar, which slides into slots in the walls either side, a one foot long key for the lock, a peep-hole and plug.

The two-storeyed gatehouse with buttresses and battlements displays the coat of arms of Walter Bluett above the gate. There is a chapel adjacent, which has been added and this may be entered by the visitor. The gatehouse was restored in 1926 by Colonel R Cooper.

The 12 acres of gardens are a delight with a long yew tree walk linking seven separate garden ‘rooms’ in different styles. There is a further small garden through the gatehouse in the forecourt. In front of the gatehouse is a large pond inhabited by wildfowl and there are lovely riverside walks to the rear of the main gardens.

The gardens are open to the public from May to September on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2:00pm to 6:00pm. The house is only open to groups of 17 or more by appointment throughout the year.

 

Greenham Barton
(at Greenham west of Wellington in Somerset)

A Beautifully restored Medieval Manor House

This ancient manor house came to the Bluett family around 1300 when Sir Walter Bluett married the daughter of the then owner Simon de Grindeham. Later in the early 14th century John Bluett the elder son of the union of the Bluett family with the Cothay family and owners of Cothay Manor, inherited Greenham Barton with the younger son Richard inheriting Cothay.

The house was originally built around three sides of a courtyard with only an entrance archway to it on the south side. This archway still exists but the east wing has been demolished. The main living quarters are in the west range as is the original two-storeyed porch dating from about 1400. The Great Hall has two large five-light transomed windows from the 16th century. The courtyard side of this block displays the Great Hall chimney with a short spiral stair turret adjacent to it. The north range houses a very large old fireplace. The battlementing is from this century as are the Jacobean style ceilings inside.

It is believed that Lady Jane Grey stayed here in 1548 while attempting to gain support from her relatives for her claim to the throne. Thomas Grey, 1st Marquis of Dorset was overlord of these manors and an ancestor of Lady Jane and stepson of Edward IV.

In 1603 Sir John Bluett owned the property. When he died in 1634 a fine monument was erected to him and his wife in the Bluett Chapel of the church of All Saints at Holcombe Rogus. The figures of their eight daughters line the front of the tomb.

During the 1st World War the house fell into ruin. It was bought by a Mr Fry in 1920 and he set about its renovation. Mr ER Willis continued the restoration from 1968. The house now appears to be in a beautiful condition and looks superb.

In the garden besides the archway to the original courtyard there is an old ash house for storing the ashes from the fire for later use as fertiliser.

The house is a private residence and is not open to the public. However a very satisfying view of the main front can be had from the gate to the front door from the roadside.

 

Kittisford Manor
(at Kittisford north west of Wellington in Somerset)

An ancient Manor House which is no more

It is believed that the original Bluett owners of Cothay came from Kittisford Manor and that some of the Bluett family continued to live there for some time after that.

There is a brass memorial to a Richard Bluett and his wife, dated 1524, in the church of St. Nicholas at Kittisford, which is just above Greenham and Cothay.

 

Little Colan Manor
(at Colan east of Newquay in Cornwall)

Another ancient Manor House which has disappeared

In the church of St. Colanus at Colan is a brass memorial to the Bluett family showing twenty-two children and it is believed to be from about 1580.

A memorial in the church of All Saints at Holcombe Rogus reads ‘Robert Bluett Esqr formerly of Little Colan in Cornwall, afterwards of Holcombe Court’ and goes on to remember six descendants back ‘Francis Bluett (brother of Sir Roger Bluett of Holcombe Court) who married Elizabeth the daughter of Tristam Colan Esqr of Little Colan in Cornwall and by her had thirteen sons and nine daughters. This monument was erected in 1783 by Buckland Nutcombe Bluett the surviving son of Robert Bluett.




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