A Short History of the Otterhead Estate

 

It has been suggested that the history of the Estate is shrouded in mystery with little known about its development or the identities of its occupants; although this is untrue, there are rather disconcerting gaps in the known history. Items subject to doubt include when the estate had its origins; when Otterhead House was built and whether it incorporated part of an earlier residence; the origins of the walled gardens and the transfer of ownership in 1893. 

 

It is believed that the estate originated in 1817 when William Oliver of Hope Corner, Kingston St Mary, purchased Weeke (Week, Wick or Wyke) and Martins Farms. By 1844 William Oliver's widow, Mary, owned considerably more land and William Beadon, who had married their daughter Ann, was developing the estate. Beadon was a Taunton surgeon, inventor and radical politician. 

 

The estate was sold after Beadon's death in 1864. The town house in The Crescent, Taunton and the Estate lime kilns and quarries at Bishopswood were sold separately from the main part extending to 1,200 acres with Otterhead House and its pleasure grounds. Beadon has been recorded as living at Otterhead from 1851. The mansion was built close to the yards of Week Farm and Week farmhouse may have been incorporated into the mansion which was designed in the Early English architectural style. There is evidence that the new mansion was initially named after the farm. It is suggested that Hestercombe provided the inspiration for the development of the water features as the Beadons had lived at Gotton House, West Monkton, close to Hestercombe.

 

Beadon had enlarged the estate by acquiring newly enclosed land mainly by what is now the B3170 road and also Otterford Church Farm. The next owner was Sir John Mellor, a justice of the Queen's Bench. He also purchased the neighbouring Royston House Estate. The Mellor family enlarged Beadon's two lakes and added another five (the Otterhead Lakes) as well as enlarging Otterhead House and creating a series of terraced walks. Prior to litigation in the early 1890's, Alfred Mellor moved to Otterford Church Farm and Otterhead House became the residence of Philip Savile Grey Reid, an Army officer and ornithologist.

 

The Estate was sold in August 1893 for £32,425 to members of the Lewis Lloyd family who were forced to leave their home in Radnorshire by the Birmingham Corporation's Elan and Clairwen valleys reservoirs project. The submerging of the site of Nantgwyllt House, the home of the Lewis Lloyds for centuries, in or after 1905 (depicted as standing with the reservoir dam under construction on the OS map of that year) may have provided the inspiration for The House Under the Water, a popular novel by Francis Brett Young published in 1932 (see Useful Links on this website for remains of house and walled garden walls visible due to low level of reservoir in 2003). Robert Lewis Lloyd was a barrister and also a long serving umpire of the University Boat Race.

 

The Estate reached its greatest extent with the purchase of Trents Farm and Yalham Farm in 1894. Nearly all the estate land was in either the parish of Churchstanton or the parish of Otterford. Otterhead House was in Churchstanton, a Devon parish until county boundary changes in 1897. 

 

Seven years later, following an unsuccessful attempt to sell the estate, Otterhead House together with 235 acres was let successively for five years to Arthur Reginald Bovill and then to William Neil Black who publicly offered the lease in 1915. The property was leased for 21 years to Sir William Goschen, a son-in-law of Sir John Mellor, after Black moved to Ozleworth (Ozelworth) Park, Gloucestershire.

 

Following the death in 1918 of Robert Evan Lewis Lloyd, the grandson of Robert Lewis Lloyd, the estate was managed by the Public Trustee.

 

Otterhead House from south east

Otterhead House 1919 (there are other Otterhead Estate heritage photographs on this website - please see Photo Album)

 

 

The estate farms were sold, mainly to the tenants, in 1919 but Otterhead House and extensive grounds, with Sir William Goschen as tenant, failed to reach reserve at auction. Following the end of that tenancy, the property was offered for sale and was purchased by Taunton Corporation in 1939 for use as a water catchment; it has been owned by successive water undertakings (Taunton Corporation Waterworks Department; West Somerset Water Board; Wessex Water Authority; Wessex Water plc) since then.

 

Otterhead House was used for storage purposes until 1947 and was demolished in 1951-1952, the first of several demolitions. Even surviving structures were no longer maintained and this also applied to the grounds; the trees, including specimen ornamental species, had been sold for timber in the 1940's and by the mid 1970's only two of the Otterhead Lakes remained. The higher parts of the property were leased to The Forestry Commission and the lower part to the Somerset Trust for Nature Conservation (later renamed Somerset Wildlife Trust).

 

The Otterhead Estate Trust since 2008 is leasing much of the land leased to Somerset Wildlife Trust until 2004. The Estate Trust is attempting to conserve surviving heritage features, such as walls and flights of steps and even garden plants, as well as improving wildlife habitats.

 

Copyright The Otterhead Estate Trust Company Ltd. 2011-2017 


 

 

 

 

 

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