W.H. Smith – first Lord Hambleden and owner of a national chain of station bookstalls, bought 5,200 acres of the Earl of Devon’s East Dartmoor estate in 1890 for £103,000. It consisted of the lordship of several large ancient manors including Manaton, Moretonhampstead and North Bovey; property in Moretonhampstead and most of the village of North Bovey; almost 30 farms, extensive woodland and fishing rights on the rivers Bovey and Teign. The centre piece of the estate became the Manor House (now Bovey Castle Hotel) built in 1907 by Frederick Smith, the son of W H Smith, Viscount Lord Hambleden. The estimated cost for building it in granite in a lavish neo-Elizabethan style was £100,000. An old farmhouse and adjacent cottages had been demolished, the woods were planted, a lake was made and formal and kitchen gardens laid out.

After it was built, however, the Hambleden family made only occasional visits to the Manor House, spending most of their time in London or at one their other family estates, Greenlands on the Thames at Hambleden in Buckinghamshire or at their Suffolk estate. Only a skeleton staff was kept in the house for the rest of the time. They maintained four gardeners and a few house servants. But they did employ a substantial local work force to maintain the estate, the farms, woodlands, saw mill and other properties.

Locally Viscount Hambleden had a reputation of being a considerate and fair employer and landlord. Lord Hambleden died in June 1928. To pay for a death duty of £1,000,000, the East Dartmoor estate was put on the market to pay the death duty. The sale covered the Manor House, the farms, almost the whole of North Bovey village, considerable stretches of woodland including five miles of woods with fishing rights on the river Teign. The Manor House was eventually sold to the Great Western Railway for conversion to a golfing hotel for reputedly only £15,000. The rest of the estate was sold mainly to the tenants for very modest prices.

AddiscottD WrayfordW.E. White146
AllerJohn HeywardT Vallance261
Bearland & E. CoombeW W NosworthyW E & H Nosworthy249
BlackallerE J CumingW Addems181
BowdenA HeywardH B Woodley78
BudleighS DolbearP Triggs176
CliffordW EllisG H Knapman166
Deal ManatonR HernGeo Dunning136
EllacombeM G BowdenM G Bowden41
GreenawellA HeywardF Heyward204
Hill & CoombeH HuttonJ Hutton199
Laapa (Moorgate)G HooperR Osborne159
LinscottC CumingW R Parr292
LowtonG MortimoreCharles Wills137
NarramoreE HooperE & G Hooper114
NorthmoorT HamlynS Hill Jnr221
PinmoorD WrayfordE Wrayford212
SanduckJ W AmeryW H Parr178
ShapleyJ ColdridgeS Coldridge132
StewardS ElliotW J & W H Jervis154
Town Barton ManatonEd CumingE J Cuming119
UppacottA NosworthyA R J Jackman334
WeekR HeywardDemolished for Manor House 
WillingstoneT HamlynT Hamlyn223
WoostonD WrayfordD G Harvey352
WormhillJ J CumingR J Cuming128
YardE CumingL W Hamlyn207
YouldenR HeywardT H Pollard172

Based on the 1890 and 1928 Sale Catalogues (Acreage in 1928) Moreton Archives

Wooston Farm
Wooston farm with it's hambleden crest (

(Wooston farm with the Hambleden crest (“Rely on God, not Fortune’) above the doorway. Photo by Peter Collier.)

The farmhouses and farm buildings built or restored by Lord Hambleden for his tenants are still known locally as ‘Hambleden farms’: they have a distinctive architecture of granite blocks, slate roofs and the windows and doorways have red brick surrounds A number of them bear the Hambleden family motto ‘Deo Non Fortuna Fretus’ – ‘Relying on God, not on Fortune’.