Lord Hambleden (1868-1928) and the Smith family

Lord Hambleden was born William Frederick Danvers Smith, only surviving son of the W.H. Smith who with his father, also W.H. Smith, founded the famous firm of newsagents.  The second W.H.Smith bought the Manor of North Bovey and Moretonhampstead from the Courtenay Earl of Devon in 1890, and died shortly after, so his son was Lord of the Manor from 1891.

W.H. Smith (II) was important as a business man, as a philanthropist with a particular interest in hospitals, and as a highly respected politician. When he died he was First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Commons.  As a tribute to him, Queen Victoria created his widow Viscountess Hambleden, and this title passed to her son on her death in 1913.  When he first became Lord of the Manor, however, he was just the Honourable W.F.D. Smith, although we remember him as Lord Hambleden.

His principal contributions to Moretonhampstead were:

  • the building and endowment of the Cottage Hospital (1900)
  • the building of Mardon House as a rectory, replacing an older rectory on the same site (1902)
  • the restoration and enlarging of St Andrews Church (1904-5)
  • the building of the Manor House at North Bovey (1907) as his home (before then he lived at Hayne).
  • the building of new houses for his estate workers (Jubilee Cottages, Pound Street, and cottages on the farms)
  • the improvement of many farm buildings on his property.

He also owned extensive woodland in the Teign Valley, and the sawmill at the top of Court Street (later Gale’s) was used to process the timber.  His estate manager was Mr Fred East, who lived at Court House and was responsible for the large number of men responsible for the maintenance work on the estate, even though the family did not spend very much time here.

When Lord Hambleden died in 1928, from complications following an operation for appendicitis, he was a very rich man, and owned the whole of W.H. Smith’s, but his successor had to sell part of his land in order to pay the very large death duties, as he could not take money out of the business.  He decided to sell the Moretonhampstead and North Bovey property, and this was auctioned at the end of 1928, many tenants buying the farms that they had previously leased.  In 1929 the Manor House was sold to the GWR who turned it into a hotel.