The Hughes of Bovey Tracey

Malcolm and Frances Billinge July 2017

Members of four higher-status families from East Devon moved into the parish of Bovey Tracey during Queen Victoria’s reign. The Divetts from Bystock, Withycombe Raleigh, the Bullers from Strete Raleigh, Whimple, the Hughes from Woodhayes, Whimple and the Fox-Strangways from Rewe. The Hughes and the Fox-Strangways were closely related to the Buller family via female lines.

This is one of four companion articles which give details of each family’s connections with Bovey Tracey, and each narrative includes examples of social events attended by different family members.  The reason for them coming to Bovey Tracey would appear to involve the Bovey Pottery and the Lignite Works and consequently each article will also make reference to those events and details  supporting this suggestion.

The companion article The Bullers of Bovey Tracey under ‘People’ on this web-site featured Capt. Thomas Wentworth Buller, co-owner of the Bovey Pottery, and his five children were also introduced. His daughter Katherine Buller became William Templer Hughes’ first wife and they had five children. William later married Georgiana Phillpotts and they had four children. This article is about William’s family, but his nine children will be described in more detail in a in a forthcoming article which will explore differences in the education and career paths of the sons and daughters from higher-ranking families.

William Templer Hughes (1822-97) and the start of his  military career in the British Empire

William’s family lived at Rewe, East Devon which is only a few miles from Whimple, the home of the branch of the Buller family which developed close ties to Bovey Tracey. William enlisted in the Bengal Presidency Army of the East India Company at the age of twenty and this began a long military service in India that saw him promoted to General (Indian Staff Corps) in 1884.1

William saw active service in the First Sikh War (the Sutledj Campaign of 1845/6) and the Second Sikh War (the Punjab Campaign of 1848/9). In 1852 he was given command of the 1st Punjab Cavalry which had been raised in 1849 by General Sir Henry Dermot Daly and was later known as ‘Daley’s Horse’. William was active during the Peshawar frontier expeditions (1851/2) and along the 100 mile Yusufzai frontier (1852).2

The local Devon newspaper reported on his success, ‘Amongst the gallant young men of Devon who signalized themselves on the Sutledj was Mr William Templer Hughes’,  and he was also mentioned in dispatches.3

William and his first wife Katherine Mary Buller (1829-72)

In 1855 the thirty – three year old William, Commandant of the 1st Punjab Cavalry was married to Katherine Mary Buller at Whimple.4 They returned to India, with their first child Henry being born in Dera Ismail Khan, Bengal in 1856.5 Henry later, by royal assent, affixed Buller to his surname on account of the familial tie with his great-uncle James Buller.6

The Indian Mutiny began the following year and the 1st Punjab Cavalry is known to have been involved at Delhi, Agra and the relief of Lucknow. William was specifically involved in the Trans-Gogra campaign (1857/8) and the Oudh campaign (1858/9) including fighting at Multan in Rohilkund. In 1859/60 William was given command of ‘Hodson’s Horse’ after Hodson’s death during the retaking of Lucknow in March 1858.7

William and Katherine’s second child, Edith was born at Peshawar in 1860 and Margaret Honywood Hughes was born at Dera Ghazee Khan in 1864.8 Honywood was William’s mother’s maiden name.

The family returned home in 1864 and Margaret was baptised in Paddington.9

Edward was born in Bovey Tracey in 1866 where Katherine’s two aunts, Henrietta Divett née Buller and Dame Elizabeth Lewin née Buller were living. Her uncle James Buller was living nearby in Newton Abbot.10 In April there was an auction, ‘in the residence of Colonel Hughes, Bovey Tracey, who is leaving the neighbourhood.’ For sale was drawing, dining and bedroom furniture, a handsome phaeton, a double gun by ‘Egg’ and a single gun by ‘Harvey’.’11 The location of this temporary residence is not known.

William and his family returned to India where he was with the Central Indian Horse in 1867-9 and was awarded a C.B., Commander of the Order of the Bath, in 1869.12 He served with the Punjab Frontier Force in 1869-70.13

The family was back in England in time for the 1871 census with William, now forty-nine, staying at Bridge House, Bovey Tracey with John, Harriett and Mary Divett. Katherine was staying with her mother, Ann Buller at the family home of Strete Raleigh, Whimple along with her children Edith, Margaret, Edward and two-month old Ralph who had recently been born in Whimple. There were seven servants. Fourteen year old Henry Wentworth was boarding at Wellington College, Sandhurst, Berkshire.14

In December 1872 Katherine died at Whimple, aged forty four.15

William and his second wife Georgiana Maria Phillpotts 1847-1937

William, now a Major-General, was living at Strete Raleigh in 1875.16 The following year he married Georgiana Maria Phillpotts in Falmouth.17 Georgiana’s mother was Louisa, a daughter of James Buller of Downes House, Crediton and aunt of Major-General Sir Redvers Buller V.C. This reaffirmed the Hughes-Buller family integration. Georgina’s father was William John Phillpotts, Archdeacon of Cornwall.

William and Georgina had three children born in quick succession at Awliscombe, not far from Rewe and Whimple. Louis in 1877, Gertrude in 1878 and Janet in 1879. William was a Lieutenant General by 1878 and he was elected a County Magistrate for Ottery St. Mary.18

By 1880 William, now fifty-eight, and his second wife Georgiana had returned to India and Guy was born later that year at St. Paul’s, Umballa in Bengal. In 1882 John Divett’s niece Adela Divett married Major Francis Beaufort Capt. Royal Artillery, also at St. Paul’s, Umballa and one witness was Lieut. Gen. William Templer Hughes.19

The move to Dunley House, Bovey Tracey in 1884

Lieutenant-General William Templer Hughes, C.B. was promoted to General in the Indian Staff Corps in 1884.20 That same year William and Katherine’s son Henry Hughes Buller died at Mhow, India aged twenty-eight.21

William and Georgina returned home with their family in 1884 and in December William was appointed as a County Magistrate for Teignbridge.22 They had moved into Dunley House, Bovey Tracey, the former home of James Buller, Katherine’s uncle who had died in 1882. James had left his house to his great-nephew Henry Wentworth Hughes but it passed to William on Henry’s untimely death in 1884.(Fig.I.)



Figure 1. Dunley House. Frances Billinge 2015

In September 1884 Georgiana was advertising for ‘a cook who understands a dairy.’23 In early 1886 she was seeking an experienced parlour-maid.24

ln March 1885 William and Georgiana attended the funeral of Walter Fox Strangways at Rewe25 and that same year William, involving himself in local affairs, attended the Bovey Tracey Vestry Meeting in April.26  Later that year William and Georgiana attended John Divett’s funeral. 27

William may have decided to move to Bovey Tracey following the death of his relative James Buller   and his subsequent inheritance of Dunley House; or as Wentworth William Buller, co-owner of the Bovey Pottery with John Divett died in 1884 William Hughes might have had a business reason connected to the Pottery for moving into the parish of Bovey Tracey.

William’s involvement in the Bovey Pottery is documented in an 1882 Conveyance concerning the Pottery’s assets which listed him along with thirteen others including William Phillpotts as having a formal/financial interest in the company.28  William Phillpotts was Georgiana’s brother, and hence William Templer Hughes’ brother-in-law (and, being married to Gertrude Buller, William Phillpotts was also brother-in-law to William Templer Hughes’ first wife Katherine and hence to William Templer Hughes, twice over). Furthermore an earlier press report stated that William Templer Hughes had been in partnership with Wentworth William Buller manufacturing ‘kiln furniture’, spurs and stilts, for use in the Pottery business at both Staffordshire and Bovey Tracey.29

William’s exact position vis a vis the Bovey Pottery remains unresolved to date. One of his daughters, probably Edith, gave a talk on ‘Lignite’ at the Bovey Tracey Social and Debating Society in 1895 which could suggest a family interest in the local pottery industry.30

William’s daughter Margaret was married at Bovey Tracey parish church in 1887, and later that year there was a fancy dress ball at the Dolphin Hotel attended by Georgiana, Miss Hughes (presumably Edith), Ralph, Gertrude, Janet, Louis and Guy.31

 At the Silverton wedding of Evelyn Fox-Strangways in 1890 William and Georgiana Hughes gave a present and one of their daughters attended the ceremony along with their relatives Violet, Mary and Arthur, children of Harriett Fox-Strangways of East Street, Bovey Tracey.32 There were numerous other examples of these two closely-related families mixing at local social events.

The 1891 census recorded a busy Dunley House with William aged sixty-nine, Georgiana aged forty-six, six of their eight surviving children and six servants.33

 That year William received the K.C.B. Knight Commander of the Bath, Indian Staff Corps.34  and there was an investiture at Osborne House with Queen Victoria – William was knighted and invested with the riband and badge of the second class of the order.35

A little later in 1891 Lady Georgiana attended the Exeter Annual County Ball at the Rougemont Hotel without William, but in the company of Violet Fox-Strangways and also a Mr R. Hughes who was probably their twenty year- old son Ralph who was staying at Dunley House that year.36

In 1894, ‘Sir William and Lady Hughes and party’ attended the ‘at home’ given by the officers of the Depot Devonshire Regiment at Higher Barracks, Exeter. Most of the local gentry were there including Harriett Fox-Strangways and her two daughters Violet and Mary, and also Miss Mary Divett.37 In September William and Georgiana attended the funeral of Rev. Henry Fox-Strangways at Silverton in 1894 along with many Buller extended family relatives.38

William died aged seventy-five in 1897 at Dunley House.39 Probate was to his children Edith Isabella Hughes and Edward Honywood Hughes and his estate was valued at £38,294.40

In 1900 Georgiana’s daughter Gertrude married at Bovey Tracey (Devon Marriages Transcription) but her step-son Edward died that year and was buried at Bovey Tracey.41

Georgiana, aged fifty-six, was still living at Dunley House at the time of the 1901 census along with her step-daughter Edith and four servants.42 In 1902 there was a further prestigious garden party held at the Exeter Barracks and this was attended by Georgiana and two of her daughters, most probably Edith and Janet.43  

Georgiana left Bovey Tracey and in 1911 she was living with her sister-in-law Gertrude Phillpotts (née Buller) at Strete Raleigh, Whimple. She later moved to Larkbeare, Talaton near Ottery Saint Mary. In 1923 she and her daughter Gertrude renounced shares in the Great Western Railway inherited from Sibylla Decima Phillpotts in favour of Georgiana’s nephew Ralegh Buller Phillpotts.44 Raleigh’s paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather were both Bullers, which once again illustrates the complexity of this extended family.

Georgiana died in 1937 aged ninety-three at Larkbeare House Talaton.45 Probate was to her daughter Gertrude and her son-in-law Russell Dunmore Gubbins, a retired colonel. Her effects were £6,635 (England and Wales National Probate Calendar).

 Postscript – towards the next generation

William and Katherine had three sons and two daughters, and William and Georgina had two sons and two daughters. Dunley House on the outskirts of Bovey Tracey became the family home in 1884 and as noted above the 1891 census records William and Georgiana living there with six of the children.

The boys mainly followed in their father’s footsteps with four joining the army, three of whom served in India, and the fifth becoming a career Indian Civil Servant. Only Edward, who had been born in Bovey Tracey, appears to have retained a strong link with the town giving Dunley House as his address and being buried in Bovey Tracey (Fig.2).46 The girls either married well or lived an active spinster life locally and the nine Hughes children and the five Fox-Strangways children will be discussed together in greater detail in a separate article.



Figure 2. Grave of Edward Honywood Hughes, Bovey Tracey Cemetery. Malcolm Billinge 2017.

By the turn of the century there was barely a trace of the Hughes / Hughes-Buller family remaining in Bovey Tracey. Edith and her Mother Georgina were living at Dunley House in 1901 but they had left by 1911. Edward was buried at Bovey Tracey in 1900 but his remaining siblings where elsewhere in the country or living abroad.

This is the story of a family which played a significant role in the British Empire and we will explore this further through the lives and careers of the Hughes and Fox-Strangways offspring.


  1. Homeward Mail from India, China and The East 22 September 1884, p.9
  2. British India Office Pensions registers, Military Funds Image with overlain life summary gives the details of William’s military career accessed 1 July 2017.
  3. The Western Times 11 April 1846, p. 5; Buckland, C .E., 1906. Dictionary of Indian Biography (London, Swan Sonnenschein and Co. Ltd) p.210.
  4. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 27 October 1855, p. 5.
  5. British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns 1856-1884, accessed 1 July 2017.
  6. Western Daily Mercury 8 December 1883, p.8.
  7. See note 2.
  8. British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns, see note 5.
  9. London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906 p.25, accessed 7 August 2917.
  10. accessed 1 July 2017; The National Archives 1861, 1871 Census.
  11. The Western Times 27 April 1866, p. 1.
  12. The Daily Telegraph & Courier (London) 2 June 1869, p. 5.
  13. See note 2.
  14. 1871 Census see note 10.
  15. The Western Times 7 January 1873, 5.
  16. Supplement to the London Gazette 27 February 1875, (London, H.M.S.O.) p. 889.
  17. ccessed 1 July 2017.
  18. The Western Times 27 December 1878, p7.
  19. British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns accessed 15 June 2017.
  20. Homeward Mail From India China and the East 22 September 1884, p. 9.
  21. British India Office Ecclesiastical Deaths and Burials 1884 accessed 8 August 2017.
  22. The Western Times 19 December 1884, p 6.
  23. Western Morning News 12 September 1884, p. 2
  24. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 12 February 1886, p. 4.
  25. Exeter Flying Post 4 March 1885, p. 8.
  26. Western Morning News 20 April 1885, p. 6.
  27. Western Morning News 25 September 1885, p. 3.
  28. 1882 John Divett and Company conveyance, private collection Bovey Tracey.
  29. Manchester Courier 13 February 1869, p. 12.
  30. Western Morning News 16 October 1895, p. 5.19
  31. Illustrated London News 24 September 1887, p.15, wedding; Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 29 December 1887, p. 6, ball.
  32. The Western Times 3 January 1890, p. 5.
  33. The National Archives 1891
  34. Supplement to The London Gazette 30 May 1891, (London, H.M.S.O.) p.2021.
  35. St James’ Gazette 19 August 1891, p. 1).
  36. The Western Times 16 October 1891, p. 8.
  37. The Western Times 15 June 1894, p.8.
  38. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 29 September 1894, p. 3.
  39. The Gloucester Citizen 5 April 1897, p. 4.
  40. National Probate Calendar William Templer Hughes 1897 accessed 1 July 2017.
  41. Devon Marriage Transcription and Devon Burial Transcription accessed 1 July 2017.
  42. The National Archives 1901 Census.
  43. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 23 August 1902, p. 5.
  44. The National Archives 1911 Census: GWR Registration of 1923 Probate accessed 17 July 2017.
  45. National Probate Calendar Georgiana Hughes 1937 accessed 1 July 2017; Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 29 January 1937, p. 15.
  46. Burial Transcription see note 41.


11 August 2017