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In the late 15th century, Sir Lewis Pollard, one of Henry VII's justices of the King's Bench, purchased 'a considerable estate' at King's Nympton and 'built a good house on it, and inclosed a large park adjoining to the mansion' (Polwhele 1793). Saxton's Map of Devon (1575) shows a deer park at King's Nympton corresponding to that enclosed by Sir Lewis Pollard in the late 15th century. In the mid 16th century Sir Lewis' grandson, also Sir Lewis, was described as enjoying 'a fair demesne, with a park and manor; and was conspicuous for his sumptuous hospitality' (Polwhele 1793). By the late 16th century the estate had been sold to Sir Arthur Northcote of Upton Pyne, near Exeter, in whose family it remained until September 1740, when it was sold to James Buller for £4773 1s 9d (Cornwall Record Office (CRO): DD/BU120a).

James Buller of Morval, Cornwall had acquired property in Devon on his marriage in 1739 to Elizabeth Gould of Downes, Crediton in addition to his already extensive estates in Cornwall. This marriage produced one son, James, but in 1742 Elizabeth Buller died, and two years later, in 1744, James Buller married as his second wife Jane Bathurst, daughter of Allen, Lord Bathurst (1694-1775, created first Earl Bathurst, 1772). Under their marriage settlement, the property at King's Nympton was to be held in trust for Jane Buller, while she brought to the marriage a jointure of £5000 (CRO: DD/BU298). While Downes at Crediton remained Buller's principal residence in Devon, in March 1746 he commissioned the Dorset architect and builder Francis Cartwright (about 1695-1758) 'to Build a House at New place in ye County of Devon, according to ye plans given in & agreed on by Mr Buller' (CRO: DD/BU134). The design of Cartwright's Palladian villa was inspired by Roger Morris' Marble Hill House at Twickenham, Middlesex, which had been built about 1728. Significantly, Jane Buller's father, Lord Bathurst, had advised Henrietta Howard on the design of the gardens at Marble Hill in the early 18th century; he had also laid out his own grounds at Richings Park, Buckinghamshire and Cirencester Park, Gloucestershire, where he was himself advised by Alexander Pope (1688-1744). Correspondence shows that he also advised his son-in-law, James Buller, on the formation of the landscape at King's Nympton, and even supplied trees for the new plantations from his own woods at Cirencester (private collection). The main features of Buller's scheme appear to have been a 'Great Terras' walk commanding dramatic views of the River Mole, a 'lower Terras' corresponding to the surviving south-west drive, and various plantations in and around the park which serve to frame significant views. Further correspondence from the estate steward indicates that work continued on the park into the early 1760s (CRO: DD/BU130, 131), with areas being broken and planted with turnips to increase the quality of the grass for the deer, which were only with difficulty confined within the park.

 James Buller died in 1765, leaving King's Nympton Park to his eldest son by his second marriage, John Buller, who came of age in 1766; other properties were left to his younger son, Francis, who subsequently purchased Lupton Park, Devon. A plan of the King's Nympton estate was drawn in about 1766 (private collection), recording many features which survive today, and which formed part of James Buller's landscape setting for the new villa. John Buller continued to develop the landscape, constructing in 1769 a picturesque thatched barn, known as Snydles Barn, to be seen as an eyecatcher from the Great Terrace (CRO: DD/BU135). In 1776 John Buller was appointed Commissioner of Excise in London, and New Place or King's Nympton Barton was let; the terms of the lease reserved to Buller the 'great House, the Walled Gardens, the Whole [Home] Close, the park, the little new stable, the Coach House stable, the House & Garden at Jewells & Jewells Marsh', together with rights to the timber on the estate. The lease was renewed in 1795, and by 1818 the farm was let to Robert Tanner, whose son, James, purchased the estate from John Buller in October 1843. The disposition of the park and grounds in the early 19th century is recorded on the Ordnance Survey (OS) Surveyor's Drawing (1804-1805) and the 1" OS map (1809), showing that the park remained enclosed by paling; by 1843, however, the Tithe map records its disparking and conversion to agricultural use.

James Tanner (d about 1860) made various improvements to the estate, including constructing a new bridge, Head Bridge, adjacent to the south entrance; in 1857 he was said to have 'greatly improved both the mansion and grounds within the last few years' (Billing 1857). At James Tanner's death the estate was left equally to his sons John Vowler Tanner and James Tanner, who was agent to the Earl of Portsmouth's Eggesford estate. This arrangement led to disputes, and the estate was let until it was inherited by Charles Peile Tanner in 1903. Charles Tanner made few changes to the estate before his death in 1964, when it passed to his niece, Miss J M Stoddart. Miss Stoddart continued her late uncle's management regime into the late 20th century, and in 1974 made over part of the estate to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Today (2002), the site remains in divided ownership.

Site timeline

1974: Part of the estate was made over to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

People associated with this site

Architect: Francis Cartwright (born 1695 died 1758)


garden building

Feature created: 1769

A picturesque thatched barn, known as Snydles Barn, built to be seen as an eyecatcher from the Great Terrace.

ornamental bridge

Feature created: 1843 to 1860

Head Bridge, adjacent to the south entrance.