High Grange nestled into the Devon countryside is the beloved childhood home of Lady Bathurst. Built in 1826 it has a wealth of original features and enjoys stunning views over the surrounding countryside, even through to the south coast and sea beyond the hills.
High Grange was originally named Rose Farm, a 200 acre farm on the edge of the Blackdown Hills an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Lady Bathurst’s grandfather, a professor of science and mathematics, bought the property in 1951 when he retired from the headmastership of Newton Abbot school, and it was then the family gave the house its current name. Her father, the youngest in the family, moved with his parents after returning from active service in the Sumatra as an officer in the Royal Artillery at the end, and just after, the Second World War.
Christopher set about running the family farm, keeping pigs in the ‘Shippen’,
(the outside building that has now been developed as a games room, providing the perfect escape for teenagers), and becoming a highly regarded poulterer, as well as growing crops and vegetables until his marriage in 1960, when he moved away to start his own family. It was at this point the farm became too much for Lady Bathurst’s grandfather and much of the land was sold. Her aunt, who remained a spinster and at home to help look after her parents and her uncle, after his retirement as a schoolmaster, continued living in this beautiful house after their parents died and it was here that Lady Bathurst spent holidays and any spare time she could throughout her childhood, running free, in true Enid Blyton Famous Five style, from breakfast ‘til supper, exploring the woodland, climbing trees, biking at breakneck speeds around the Devon lanes and making camps with her brother. It was an idyllic time.
Lady Bathurst’s aunt continued to live at the family home taking care of the entire family as they came and went. During the Second World War she had been in the WAAF and her original WAAF bicycle is still at High Grange. She would cycle into Axminster on that same Raleigh bike in the early days, with eggs and potatoes from the farm to sell at the weekly market in Axminster – through rain, sunshine or snow.
High Grange was the ‘Family HQ’ for decades, where laughter and fun were always the priority. Christmas at High Grange was incredibly special where festivities were taken very seriously.
Drinks would be served in the drawing room, followed by a stonking great roast turkey, carved with great ceremony in the dining room. After lunch, Lady Bathurst’s uncle would invariably fall asleep, and the children would hide under the table attempting to avoid washing up duties, waiting with tingling excitement for the traditional 3pm slot, when the TV would be switched on and the entire family would gather to watch the Queen’s Speech. It was only after what seemed to be the interminable 10 minutes that the family would FINALLY be allowed to open their presents and to this day, Lady Bathurst has still followed the tradition, thinking those who rush to open gifts at Breakfast are rather spoilt!
As you can see there was much to do to renovate this wonderful house. Let’s start with the Engine Room, originally the vital part of the house, pumping water and electricity round the home. In fact, until 1989, water was still being pumped from the Victorian built well, (which you can see to this day), so it was an integral part of the family’s existence. The engine room itself was built in the original farm stables where the working horses were kept, before the arrival of the first agricultural tractors and machinery.
No longer needed for its original purpose, Lady Bathurst converted the Engine Room into a huge new family kitchen, incorporating it with the original much smaller family den she remembers as a child. Just off the new kitchen, you will find the Breakfast Room, a long thin room, with an exposed Devon flint wall which was converted from the Egg Room. Not many houses can boast an Egg Room but High Grange had just that, specifically for packing and sorting the eggs before they went to market.
You may wonder where the working kitchen used to be, I did – and was quite surprised to learn that a room known as the Scullery was where all the work was done, in true 50’s and 60’s style, formica ruling the waves.
I was even more surprised to learn the Scullery is now the elegant new entrance hall, with it’s fabulous rust red panelling and beautiful lighting.
The cosy TV Den, where you can relax and enjoy watching a Sunday afternoon film, was once Lady Bathurst’s aunt’s workroom and study.
Here she sat at her desk, writing letters on her 1950s typewriter (both of which are still in this very room) with her boxes of papers and books piled high around her. Somehow she always knew where everything was and would be furious if anyone moved anything!
The house is full of family history, from Lady Bathurst’s grandfather’s framed Mention in Despatches during The Great War – 1917 in Ypres – to the family furniture in every room, to the knick-knacks and books in all corners, to the old ‘Eggs for Sale’ sign in the barn. Just next to the stairs you’ll find what Lady Bathurst refers to as ‘the jangle bells’ still hanging high on the wall and rung to call everyone to lunch or high tea, where the table would be laden with bread and butter, homemade raspberry jam, scones with cream, cold meat and copious amounts of freshly brewed tea.
Amongst the delicious plates would always be a family favourite, the delicious treat her aunt would make called ‘Tasmanian Devil’ – a shortbread base with thick ginger icing on top, quite unusual but totally delicious.
If walls could talk the elegantly furnished dining room would have lots to say. At one time the house was lived in by a doctor and this sunny room was used as his surgery, the patients would come and sit in the waiting room (the TV den) for their appointment, listening to the tick tock of the grandfather clock in the silence, and waiting for their names to be called through the sliding hatch that still exists between the two rooms.
The downstairs ladies cloakroom was once the only bathroom in the house, and Lady Bathurst carefully kept the original bath, reusing it upstairs after many years in the King’s room’s en-suite.
Being a bit of a dab hand at recycling, she also reused the wooden ceiling of the scullery as the panelling in the cloakroom, very effective and on trend!
Upstairs, with its gorgeous original bannisters, the bedrooms are magnificent, with elegant Lewis & Wood papers and fabrics. At one end of the house lies the Barn Room, as it is now known, with its beautiful high vaulted ceilings.
Originally two small rooms, Lady Bathurst decided to take out the partition wall and turn them into one gloriously huge bedroom. There’s even a secret door that leads into the barn, now kept locked for safety, and during the summer the top part of the barn doors are kept open for the swallows who return every year, as they have done for decades, to nest and swoop around the yard – a wonderful sight.
Each room has been carefully designed to reflect the characters of cherished members of the family. For example, the Owl Room, now with wonderful bunk beds, was Lady Bathurst’s Aunty Elsa’s room, and it reflects her love of owls. It overlooks the woods, where a number of owl boxes have been installed, and Lady Bathurst’s favourite pictures as a child have been hung on the walls. The Rose Room belonged to Aunty Dora, a delicate lady who loved flowers and in particular to grow hyacinths every Christmas. The Butterfly Room belonged to Uncle Geoffrey, and reflects his love of flora and fauna, while The King’s Room belonged to Grandfather Chapman, a grand room for a grand man. Finally, The Chinese Room was Lady Bathurst’s bedroom as a child, and remains one of her favourites to this day.
Outside the garden, enjoyed by Lady Bathurst’s family for generations, has even more space, as the woods have been cleared of many overgrown trees and the original rides she remembers as a child have been rejuvenated. Spring bulbs and flowerbeds are replanted, and a very grand set of sweeping steps lead down to the croquet lawn, originally a tennis court. Finally, Lady Bathurst has installed a dreamy full sized Wendy House, where children will enjoy endless hours of play, surrounded by primroses and primulas during Spring.
The surrounding countryside is stunning and High Grange’s location – 20 minutes’ drive from Jurassic Coast – may just be enough to tempt you away from this really very special family home, where the loving and tranquil atmosphere embraces all who visit.
High Grange, Nr Axminster, Devon
Sleeps 12+1 | Bedrooms: 6 | From £2,720
High Grange is available to book through Mulberry Cottages, just click on the link here to see more and find out about availability. If you would like to talk to one of our team, please call 01227 464958, we’re on hand 7 days a week.