Fowlescombe History

Most of the historical information about Fowlescombe, near Ugborough, relates to the old estate of the Fowell family. Thomas Fowell built a medieval hall house in the centre of the valley in 1537, possibly on the site of an earlier house.

The Fowlescombe mansion as it was in 1890 And today - photograph taken a dawn from a balloon
For over two centuries this estate, known as Fowelscombe or Vowelscombe, remained in the hands of the Fowell family. It was originally much larger, and included a number of neighbouring farmsteads.

The last Fowell to live here was Margaret Champernowne who returned here for her final years as a widow, but her son preferred his father's inheritance of Dartington Hall and sold the property.

Click here for gallery of old photographs of the Fowlescombe mansion and bridge

We added a Fowel family tree , along with the Ellen family for which it was produced.

At the turn of the eighteenth/nineteenth century a new owner extended it greatly into what some people consider a fine and grand country house (and others regard as a monstrosity). John King was a keen hunting man and kept a pack of deerhounds at the kennels. The gravestones for some of his favourite hounds were stolen from the property in living memory. Click here for more details and to hear about one of the ghost stories about Fowlescombe and to hear a song composed to tell the tale. After a few years John King moved to a preferred home on Dartmoor itself - perhaps the hunting was better.

Summer party outside the ruined mansion - early 20th century

The magnificent oak entrance

View along the causeway to the Mansion

The west elevation

You can see the inner roof clearly from this picture - and make out the walled garden terraces to the left, slightly up the hill. Two walled gardens were used for vegetables and apples

Other views

Postcard of the mansion by T R Gray - date not know but approx. 1900 to 1910

From the center of the valley a wide angle view of lawn 1 with the ruins on the left

The mansion in 2000

The left wing in 2000 - the room here must have had the best views down the valley

The nineteenth century saw more changes of ownership, some involving legal action, and the mansion fell into disrepair. The current farmhouse was still known by its original name of Bolterscombe when the remains of the estate were sold in 1919. The land with the mansion ruins, gate lodges and hunting kennel ruins were sold with Bolterscombe Farm, so the farm name was eventually also changed. The present day spelling Fowlescombe may even have been made in error, but is now on the title deeds. Tracing the history of Fowlescombe has proved frustrating. Perhaps because of its changes of ownership, documents and historical information are scattered and much has probably been lost or become untraceable. The current owners have not yet researched this thoroughly, but have already found many contradictions between different authors on the subject. Fowelscombe is mentioned in several well-known texts such as Pevsner's The Buildings of England: Devon and Hoskin's Devon, and covered in more detail in more recent books such as Rosemary Lauder's Vanished Houses of South Devon.

The current name of the estate differs from some previous spellings, but is what was on the deeds when the property was bought.
Click to view the Fowell family tree Click to view the Will of Sir John Fowell



Buildings of England: Devon by Niklaus Pevsner

Vanished Houses by Rosemary Launder

Elinor with the Pleading Eyes by Estelle Holloway

Useful Web Links

Local village of Ugborough

Mention of the mansion other sites - 1

Mention of the mansion other sites - 2

Scroll down this to see the Fowell entries

Archive details and more

Yet more