The History of Strelna 1871 -1945
Frances and Malcolm Billinge 2020
Strelna is on Lower Down and was built on land which had previously been common land of the Manor and Borough of Bovey Tracey. The land was owned by the Earl of Devon at the time of the Tithe survey and map of 1841 (Devon Heritage Centre,DEX/4/a/TM/BoveyTracey1), but William Robert Hole of Parke had become responsible for the payment of the tithes for both Soldridge and Lower Down. Tenants had rights of common on this land so no buildings were erected on it.
The area where Strelna now lies was shown as the common land, below and to the west of field numbered 1110 on the 1841 Tithe Map (Fig. 1).
Figure 1. Tithe Map 1841 showing Soldridge, with adjacent fields and common land below and to the west. By kind permission of Devon Heritage Centre.
Common land was being enclosed throughout the country in the nineteenth century and Lower Down was acquired by six owners when it was enclosed between 1864-1868. They were (1) Alexander Adair of Colehayes, (2) Rev. Mr Marwood Tucker of Wilsworthy and Francis Baring Short of Bickham, (3) Susannah Hole widow and William Robert Hole of Parke, (4) Rev. William George Parks Smith of Torquay, (5) John Lethbridge Cowland of Launceston and (6) William Kitson of Torquay. These were all prominent landowning families in Bovey Tracey at that time (Devon Heritage Centre 312M/TH/913 Deed of Conveyance with Respect to the Division of Lower Down 1864 and map).
The map accompanying the conveyance outlined the extent of the common land. Understandably there were still no buildings on the land (Fig. 2). The next map of the same year showed Lower Down being divided between the six different landowners with Rev. Marwood and Francis Baring Short acquiring the land on which Strelna would be built (Fig. 3; Devon Heritage Centre 1864 Map of Lower Down Inclosure1311M/4/11ii). A section of map shows the triangle of land acquired by Tucker and Short east of the northbound track to Soldridge Farm and above the pink and orange road which is the current road on Lower Down. The red and white ‘road’ is the granite tramway, the thin blue line is Bovey Pottery Leat.
Figure 2. Map 1864 accompanying the conveyance of Lower Down. By kind permission of Devon Heritage Centre.
Figure 3. Map of Lower Down showing land acquired by Tucker and Short
Their seals were shown on the final conveyance (Fig. 4).
Figure 4. Seals of Marwood Tucker and Francis Baring Short on the 1864 conveyance. By kind permission of Devon Heritage Centre.
First Reference to Strelna
1871 The first reference to Strelna was in the 1871 Census so it was built some time between 1864 and 1871. By 1871 William Parkin, an agricultural labourer, was living there with his wife Jane (The National Archives, 1871 Census). He was forty-eight and had been born in Chittlehampton in 1833, his wife aged forty-five was born in Winkleigh in 1836. In the Census the residence was called Strelna House.
It was not unusual for labourers in Bovey Tracey to have originated from elsewhere in Devon. What might seem unusual is for an agricultural labourer to be living in what is now a large residence. Perhaps William Parkin and his wife Jane were acting as caretakers, or possibly the accommodation at that time was less grand. The only other houses nearby on the census enumeration were Soldridge which was north east of the property, and Moorside which was on the Haytor Road.
What more do we know of William Parkin? In 1869 he won first prize for spring onions at the Bovey Tracey Horticultural Society Flower Show (The Western Times 26 August, p.8). We do not know if he was living at Strelna at the time. In 1851 he had been a farmer of twenty acres in Chittlehampton with his wife Grace, his one-month old daughter Norah, and his mother Mary who was a widowed farmer’s wife. Unfortunately for William his wife Grace died in 1859. In 1861 William was still a farmer of twenty acres but then a widower with children aged ten, six and four. His mother still lived with him. Although he had remarried to Jane some time before he moved to Bovey Tracey by 1881 he was again a widower agricultural labourer then living in Atherington. By 1891 he was still a widowed agricultural labourer working in Warkleigh near South Molton. He died there aged 70 in 1897.
The Hounsell Family 1778- 1901
By 1778 Dr Henry Strangways Hounsell was listed as the owner of Strelna in White’s Directory (William White, 1878/9 History Gazetteer and Directory of Devon, William White, Sheffield, p.73). Henry Hounsell was a physician whose main house was in Tormohun (op.cit. p 809). This would suggest that Strelna was a holiday residence, and perhaps used as a hunting and shooting lodge. Not an unusual thing at that time as various houses in Bovey Tracey such as Yarner House, Stonelands and Indio were all used in this way by their owners. The Dartmoor setting of Strelna would have been ideal for the hunting and fishing pursuits which were popular at that time. Dr Hounsell may have owned Strelna since it was built but in 1871 his residence on that census was listed as The Laurels in Tormohun.
In June 1879 the marriage took place of Henry Hounsell’s daughter Beatrice to Harry Trelawney Eve (Fig. 5). This was reported in the local newspaper describing Dr Hounsell being of both The Larches, Warberry, Torquay and also of Strelna. As this was a summer wedding the setting of Strelna further supports its use as a holiday residence (The Western Times 27 June 1879 p. 5).
Figure 5. 1879 Marriage of Hounsell, and Eve. Bovey Tracey Parish Church Records.
The Census of 1881 took place in March and recorded Frederick Kellaway, a gardener, as the resident of Strelna. He was only twenty-two, born locally, and living there with his wife Emma. This again suggests that the residents were caretakers of the house.
1883 and 1884 newspaper reports showed Dr Hounsell continued to be of Strelna (East and South Devon Advertiser 7 July 1883, p.7; ibid. 6 September 1884, p.2)
In 1886 Dr Hounsell died.
1887 The Ordnance Survey map showed the property as Strelneo (Fig. 6).
Figure 6. 1887 Ordnance Survey Bovey Tracey
By 1889, following her husband’s death Mrs Hounsell lived at Woodlands, in Torquay (Kelly’s Directory of Devonshire, London, Kelly and Company, p. 576).
On the 1891 Census Dr Hounsell’s daughter and her husband Harry Trelwaney Eve and their children were the residents of Strelna. Harry Eve was a barrister who soon purchased extensive property in Bovey Tracey and on the southern edge of Dartmoor. By 1892 he also owned Pullabrook, and later he purchased Yarner. By 1902 he also held Holwell, Southsands and North, South, Middle and East Challacombe in Manaton parish. He had also purchased Knowle and by 1903 he also owned Forder, Shewte and Rock Vale Lustleigh to add to his Pullabrook and Yarner property porfolio. (Devon Heritage Centre, 5595 add3 Box 13082 Michelmore and Company, 1902, 1903). Eve became the liberal M.P. for Ashburton from 1904-1907 (Yarner on www.boveytraceyhistory.org.uk) and was knighted in 1907 (Fig. 7).
Figure 7. The Right Hon. Sir Harry Trelwaney Eve
Mrs Hounsell died in 1897 and her daughter and son-in-law inherited Strelna.
Henry Raymond Bennet 1901- 1909
The next inhabitant of Strelna was Henry Raymond Bennet as shown on the 1901 Census. We do not yet know if he owned or rented then property. Henry Bennett was a man of independent means. He was a widower living with his Indian tea-planter son and two daughters, a cook and a housemaid. Henry was a fellow of St John’s Cambridge and had been a Captain of the Dorset Royal Volunteers (Census and Cambridge Alumni records). He was a man of standing in the area and by 1905 sat on the Grand Jury of the Devon Quarter Sessions (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 28 June 1905, p. 4). That same year his daughter Constance married Rev. James Hawthorne, who was the curate of the Parish Church (The Western Times 6 October 1905, p. 11).
Henry’s son the tea-planter Henry Cecil Charlton Bennett did not stay in Bovey Tracey for long as by 1902 he was back on his plantation in Darjeeling (English Overseas Mail 24 April 1902, p. 13). He was one of many families in Bovey Tracey at the time who had links with trade in the British Empire.
In 1906 the next OS map of the area was published showing that there were still no other houses along that part of Lower Down (Fig. 8).
Figure 8. 1906 OS Map Lower Down Bovey Tracey
The Japp Family 1910-1914
By 1910 the Japp family were living at Strelna (Kelly’s Directory of Devonshire and Cormwall,1910, London, Kelly’s Directories Ltd Devonshire p.913; idid. 1914, p. 945) We learn from the Census of 1911 that the previous resident, Henry Bennett, had moved to Whitchurch. A descendant of the Japps has informed us that his understanding was the property was rented. David Japp was a land appraiser and valuer who moved frequently as part of his career (Figs 9 and 10). We know that from at least 1903 David Japp was the estate officer for Harry Trelawney Eve on the Pullabrook estate (The Western Times 11 December 1903, p.1). Japp renting Strelna from 1910 suggests that the property was still owned by Harry Trelawney Eve.
Figure 9. David Japp. Kindly provided by his descendant.
Figure 10. The Japp family at Strelna. Kindly provided by his descendant.
Sale of Strelna 1918
The Great War changed lives for so many people including The Right Hon. Sir Harry Trelwaney Eve who lost his son killed in action in 1917. Soon afterwards Eve advertised Strelna for let on a ninety-nine year lease and most of his other Devon properties for sale which included Pullabrook, Yarner, Shewte and land at Colehays (The Western Times 13 December 1918, p.1, Strelna for let; ibid. 20 December 1918, p.11 for sale Eve’s Devon properties.). Sale particulars in Devon Heritage Centre show that Strelna was sold and this marked the end of Eve’s links with Bovey Tracey (DHC, Yarner Estate, parishes of Bovey Tracey and Lustleigh, Devon, 1918, 547B/P/1783).
The Vicary Family 1930- 1945 The Vicary family of Dyrons Newton Abbot were prosperous merchants in the wool trade. Octavia Vicary, as a widow, left Dyrons and moved to Strelna from at least 1930 when she was advertising for staff (Western Morning News,11 June 1930, p. 2). She was recorded as living there on the 1939 National Register. Octavia died in March 1945 and in September of that year her family were selling a year-old cooker at Strelna (Western Morning News 24 September, p.4). Another branch of the Vicary family, the brother of Octavia’s husband Charles, had owned Stonelands in Bovey Tracey since at least 1903 and that was used as a holiday and entertaining residence (London Daily News 5 October 1903, p.1). William Vicary was the owner, he was a J.P., sat on many civic boards and was entertained by Lord Clifford at Ugbrooke (The Western Times 14 September 1906, p.10). Perhaps this family link was why Octavia moved to Strelna.
Currently no details are available for owners after the end of World War II. The land around Strelna now has many more houses than when it was built. It would seem that its early owners used it as a summer residence which was a common practice at the time for owners who mainly lived in Newton Abbot or Torquay. Its most illustrious owner so far was The Right Hon. Sir Harry Trelawney Eve.
I would like to thank David Japp’s descendant for kindly providing details about, and photographs of, the family.