Sunday 4 October 2015

(187) Arnold of Nethercott House, Iddesleigh

In 1825 it was claimed that William Arnold of Nethercott was the 18th successive owner of the property to have that name, and whatever degree of exaggeration there may be in this claim, there is no doubt that the Arnold family were substantial yeomen in Iddesleigh parish for many generations.  They can be traced back in the records of the village to Thomas Arnolde, mentioned in the Lay Subsidy rolls of 1524-27, and in this part of Devon for over 800 years. By the beginning of the 19th century they owned or rented the Nethercott, Henacroft and Fursedon estates at Iddesleigh, and part of North Week, where both the house and the lands were divided into two in the 18th century. The western half was sold to Andrew Arnold in 1785 as Westpark Farm, and sometime after 1844 his descendants began renting the eastern part as well. In 1892, John Arnold bought the freehold of Eastpark.

The Arnolds made the transition to the landed gentry in the 19th century.  William Arnold (1782-1869), described himself as a farmer in the 1851 census but as landowner in 1861. His son, Lt-Col. William Arnold (1836-1901) certainly styled himself gentleman, and his acceptance as a senior officer of the militia and later as a JP and Deputy Lieutenant shows that he was regarded as such by his peers. In 1871 he built a new house at Nethercott as sign and symbol of gentry status, but he was destined to be the only generation of the family to live in it. When he died it passed for life to his widow, and when she died in 1916 to their son, who let it in 1920 and sold it ten years later. He was also the last William Arnold of Nethercott in another sense, for he married late and produced only three daughters. Nethercott has since changed hands several times, and was bought in 1976 by the charity Farms for City Children.

Nethercott House, Iddesleigh, Devon

Nethercott, Iddesleigh.
A typical small country house of its date, built to the designs of an unknown but reputedly local architect for Lt-Col. William Arnold in 1871 at a cost of £5,000, and consisting of a tall, squarish gabled main block and a recessed lower service wing to the west. The house is built of rusticated rubble stone, with dressed stone for the windows, doorways and chimney copings. The main front faces south over the lawns, and has two full storeys and another in the tall gabled and dormered attic. 

Although there is a central entrance on the south front, the main entrance is on the east side, through a heavily decorated Jacobean-style porch, which leads into a hall with the three main reception rooms on the left and a study and staircase on the right. Two of the reception rooms have been knocked into one since the house was built, creating a single very large living room. The dog-leg timber staircase, which opens directly from the hall, is again in a Jacobean style, and is lit by a large window filled with pale tinted glass that illuminates the centre of the house. The most striking feature of the interior is the carved dado panelling throughout the ground floor rooms, which has a fanciful miscellany of birds, dragons and floral patterns to fill the rail and panels. It was carved in 1903 by William Arnold's sister, whilst confined to a wheelchair, and was installed by a local joiner. By comparison, the original timber chimneypieces, panelled doors and plaster ceiling cornices appear very plain.

The exterior and the ground floor rooms have preserved their Victorian character remarkably well considering that the house has been owned and used since 1976 by Michael Morpurgo's charity, Farms for City Children. The upper floors have been converted into dormitories and a classroom.

Descent: William Arnold (1782-1869); to son, Lt-Col. William Arnold (1836-1901), who rebuilt the house; to son, Maj. William Reginald Arnold (1865-1935), who sold 1931 to Capt. A.W.M. Budgett; sold to James Rothwell (fl. 1964); sold to Mr. & Mrs. Taylor; who sold 1976 to Farms for City Children.

Arnold family of Nethercott

Arnold, William (1782-1869). Eldest son of William Arnold (b. 1741) and his wife Christian Dunning of Honichurch (Devon), baptised 2 February 1782. Farmer (retired in 1850s). He married 1st, 21 May 1825, Elizabeth (d. 1836), daughter of T. Webber of Cudworthy, and 2nd, 5 March 1839, his cousin Jane (1797-1870), youngest daughter of John Arnold of Westpark, Iddesleigh, and had issue:
(1.1) Mary Bridget Arnold (1828-1901), baptised 20 March 1828; married, 5 May 1846 at Iddesleigh, Thomas Owen Arnold (1816-82) of Park and later of Cove Hill House, Sidmouth (Devon) and had issue one son and five daughters; died 3 November 1901; her will proved 19 December 1901 (estate £2,924);
(1.2) Lt-Col. William Arnold (1836-1901) (q.v.).
He inherited the Nethercott estate from his father; in 1851 he was described as a farmer of 200 acres but by 1861 he had handed the property over to his son and described himself as landowner.
He died 7 July 1869; his will was proved 17 July 1869 (effects under £2,000). His first wife died 26 May 1836. His widow died 2 April 1870; her will was proved 21 May 1870 (effects under £1,000).

Arnold, Lt-Col. William (1836-1901). Only son of William Arnold (1782-1869) of Nethercott and his first wife Elizabeth Webber, baptised 11 April 1836. Gentleman farmer and officer in North Devon militia (Lt., 1853; Capt., 1855; Maj. and Lt-Col by 1875); JP 1875, DL 1895 and County Alderman for Devon. He married, 13 October 1864 at St James, Taunton, Georgina Elizabeth (1844-1916), only daughter of John Christopher Easton of The Priory, Taunton (Somerset) and had issue:
(1) Maj. William Reginald Arnold (1865-1935) (q.v.);
(2) Margaret Mary Arnold (1867-1911), born 2 June 1867; amateur woodcarver, who made the carvings for the panelling at Nethercott House; disabled and wheelchair-bound; died unmarried, 16 May 1911; administration of goods granted 12 June 1911 (estate £279);
(3) George Ernest Arnold (1875-82), born 21 September 1875; died young, 21 September 1882.
He took over management of the 300 acre Nethercott estate from his father in the 1850s and inherited it in 1869. He built the present house there in 1871. At his death he left the house to his widow for life and then to his son.
He died 28 February 1901 and was buried at Iddesleigh, 4 March 1901; his will was proved 1901 (estate £11,214). His widow died 18 September 1916; her will was proved 8 August 1918 (estate £231).

Arnold, Maj. William Reginald (1865-1935). Eldest and only surviving son of Lt-Col. William Arnold (1836-1901) of Nethercott and his wife Georgina Elizabeth, only daughter of J.C. Easton of The Priory, Taunton (Somerset), born 28 August 1865. An officer in the 2nd Dorset Regt. (2nd Lt., 1888; Lt., 1890; Capt., 1897; Maj., 1898), he served on the NW Frontier of India, 1897-98 and in South Africa, 1900-02. JP and County Councillor for Devon, 1915. He married, 25 August 1915 at Talaton (Devon), Charlotte Jessie Mary (1890-1976), daughter of Rev. John Rawle Paramore of Iddesleigh, and had issue:
(1) Margaret Arnold (1916-2010?), born 13 June 1916; married, 1955 at Wells (Somerset), Lt-Cmdr John Paramore Charley (1891-1960) but had no issue; perhaps the person of this name who died 11 August 2010;
(2) Nancy Elizabeth Charlotte Arnold (1918-86), born 28 April 1918; died unmarried, 3 March 1986; will proved 7 July 1986 (estate £92,061);
(3) Ruth Mary Arnold (1921-2005), born 29 June 1921; married, 12 October 1955, Cecil John Dowding (1905-88) and had issue three sons; died 23 September 2005; will proved 10 November 2005.
He inherited Nethercott House on the death of his mother in 1916, but let it from 1920 and sold it in 1931.
He died 16/18 December 1935; his will was proved 25 April 1936 (estate £4,445). His widow died 17/18 December 1976; her will was proved 10 February 1977 (estate £6,163).


Burke's Landed Gentry, 1898, p.32; H. Meller, The country houses of Devon, 2015, pp. 698-99;

Location of archives

No significant archive is known to survive.

Coat of arms

None recorded, although Burke's General Armory mentions for Arnold of Devon "Sable, a chevron between three dolphins embowed argent".

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 4 October 2015 and updated 29 October 2021.


  1. I'm running Nethercott House as a Farm for City Children and eagerly looking for information about its' past. Have some already through friends and family who worked there in 40s and 50s. Looking to restore the walled kitchen garden and want contacts and photos if there's anyone out there who has a connection with Nethercott House. Catherine Knight

  2. My family came from Iddeslegh and my particular branch moved to North Wyke where my grandfather Thomas Arnold (1883-1960) was born. I currently live in Sidmouth where Thomas Owen Arnold and his wife Bridget Arnold moved and their family are in the churchyard.

  3. The house you publish north Wyke - is not in Iddesleigh. The Arnold’s lived at North Week in iddesleigh, another farm - not to do with the Wykes

    1. Thank you for pointing out this error. I have corrected the main text above.


Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.