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Home > > LEWTRENCHARD, near Okehampton, Devon

LEWTRENCHARD, near Okehampton, Devon

At-a-Glance Guide

14 bedrooms inc 2 suites, 1 disabled-friendly room
restaurant, private dining
lounge, gallery
extensive gardens & parkland, croquet, falconry, fishing, clay-pigeon shooting

LEWTRENCHARD, near Okehampton, Devon


The original manor is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, at which time it belonged to one Roger de Moles. Much later, in the reign of Henry III, there is a reference to it being in the possession of the Trenchard family. The estate then passed, by marriage, to the Monk family of nearby Potheridge. In the early 1600s, Sir Thomas Monk had financial problems, and was sent to the debtor's prison in Exeter. To help him out, Henry Gould bought the manor in 1626 - as commemorated by the fireplace overmantel in the front hall. One of Henry Gould’s brothers, James, was Mayor of Exeter. Portraits painted by Carlo Maratti of his sons, James and Edward, hang in the front hall. The Gould family were wealthy merchants, and probably undertook repairs to the Manor in the 1660s.

In 1736, the then owner, William Drake Gould, inherited other Dartmoor estates, and went to live at one – pulling down a portion of Lewtrenchard, and coming back only to collect his rents. His son Edward was a compulsive gambler who, after losing heavily one night, dressed as a highwayman, held up his successful opponent, and shot him dead. Charged with murder, Edward was defended by an unscrupulous lawyer called John Dunning, who succeeded in getting him acquitted. Edward paid Dunning's very large bill in land – which left him penniless.

When he died, a few years later, his mother Margaret came to live at Lewtrenchard and, through astute management, saved it. By the time she died in 1794, she had also substantially increased and improved the property. There are several portraits of Margaret in the house; the main one is above the fireplace in the dining room. Her daughter Margaret married Charles Baring, whose brother Francis founded the now infamous Baring's Bank, in Exeter.

Charles and Margaret had a son, William, to whom the older Margaret left Lewtrenchard. In 1795, he changed his name to Baring Gould at her request. Always short of money, and with no great love for the house, William tried various commercial enterprises to keep solvent. His son Edward, whose portrait hangs in the back hall, totally neglected Lewtrenchard. Spending as little time as possible in Devon, he submitted his long-suffering wife and family - including a son called Sabine - to a nomadic existence around Europe. Young Sabine revered anything that was old, and was horrified to witness his grandfather, William, tearing out the oak pews and screen from the church. As a boy, he hid some of them in an old attic room at Lewtrenchard and, when he inherited the property, he reinstated all that could be saved.

Sabine Baring Gould inherited Lewtrenchard in 1872. Although he did not live here for another nine years, he started work on the house immediately. When his uncle, who was the vicar, died in 1881, Sabine then returned to take up his position as squire and parson, calling himself the Squarson of Lewtrenchard. He lived here until his death, in his 90th year, in 1924. For a great number of those years, he worked unceasingly to beautify the house, and the church at its gate. Best-known for the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers - written at a desk that still stands in the library - he also wrote novels, guidebooks and songs. In 1870, Sabine met and fell in love with a Yorkshire mill girl called Grace, who could neither read nor write. He sent her away for two years to be educated, and then he married her. George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion is said to be based on Sabine and Grace. She made him a wonderful wife and produced 15 children, 14 of whom grew up at Lew. The house blossomed under his tender, loving care, and it is thanks to him that it is in such good shape today. His portrait hangs in the front hall, and Grace’s is in the back hall.

Sadly, after Sabine’s death, the family only went on living here for another six or seven years. The house went through another unhappy period in the 1930s and 1940s until, in 1949, the Painter family opened it as a hotel. After that, Sue and James Murray continued to run Lewtrenchard as a successful hotel for 15 years, then sold on in 2003.


As a comfortable and characterful country house hotel, this imposing Jacobean manor, tucked away in its own secret valley beneath the wild expanse of Dartmoor, exudes an air of tranquillity at odds with its often-turbulent past.


Surrounded by peaceful parkland, it’s the perfect choice for those who want an away-from-it-all break in a beautiful house that breathes history at every turn.

Lewtrenchard is licensed to perform civil wedding ceremonies.


The comfortable lounge and gallery have impressive period features, including stone mullioned windows and plasterwork ceilings – plus an inviting open fire in the lounge.

Award-winning Chef Patron Jason Hornbuckle’s imaginative menus have been influenced by his travels in Thailand, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and in the restaurant, food is meticulously prepared and beautifully presented.

Jason also devised the innovative private dining experience: Purple Carrot at Lewtrenchard Manor. Staged in a former staff room, adjoining the kitchen, now fitted with plasma screens so diners can see what’s happening in the kitchen, and hear (if they wish) a running commentary from Jason and his team, the event consists of pre-dinner champagne at the Chef’s Spice Bar and a specially created eight-course menu. There’s also the chance to participate in cooking one dish.

As for the name, it reflects the fact that until the 16th century, carrots weren’t orange, but purple (or red, or white) and emphasises Jason’s wish to take his menus back to nature. Hence, 80% of the produce used at Lewtrenchard – which includes purple carrots – is grown in the manor’s walled garden.

Each historic bedroom has features that give it unique character - oak panelling, ornamental plasterwork, rich fabrics, antique furniture or superb views over the garden and parkland. All have the same welcoming touches – freshly cut flowers from the gardens, luxuriously soft towelling robes, bowls of fresh fruit and irresistible plates of home-made shortbreads, peanut cookies and white-chocolate biscuits. As much private living rooms as bedrooms, they provide the perfect setting in which to unwind totally, enjoy a lengthy bath or savour a leisurely breakfast.
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Of particular note is the large four-poster bed in Melton, which originally belonged to Charles I's wife, Henrietta Maria. Merrial, situated in the Tower House, is Lewtrenchard’s romantic Bridal Suite. Accessed by a beautiful, hand-carved oak front door, it features a large ground-floor bathroom, and a four-poster bed in the upstairs bedroom area.
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The glorious gardens, extending over several acres, feature streams and ponds, fountains and statuary, sunken lawns and a profusion of shrubs, plus a huge rustic dovecote and a recently restored walled vegetable garden. The parkland includes Madam’s Walk, a splendid beech avenue, as well as walks around the heavily wooded lake and along the banks of the River Lew.

Trout fishing and clay-pigeon shooting are available on the estate, and there’s a croquet lawn. The Falconry has eagles, hawks, falcons and owls, and guests can watch a display, or gain first-hand experience in the ancient art of falconry through hawk walking.

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