History of Tapeley Park
Long before the Norman Conquest, a thousand years ago, the occupiers of Tapeley (or Tapelia, as it was called in the Domesday Book) have, from their elevated plateau, been able to look down on the tidal River Torridge, across to the pretty and one-time important port of Bideford (which during the 1600's was the second largest port in Britain handling more tonnage than Liverpool, Bristol, Southampton and Plymouth put together), and across to the high rising village of Northam.
Thus beyond to the ancient village of Appledore, and to the distant Island of Lundy, owned for a while by the Christie Family - a truly staggering panoramic view, fading into the horizon over the Atlantic. The "Clevland reign" began in 1702 when Commodore William Clevland sailed his fine vessel up the River Torridge, and on a closer inspection of Tapeley through his telescope, is alleged to have said "That is the place for me".
Tapeley was in those days a seven bayed white stuccoed farmhouse. He married Miss Anna Davie of Orleigh Manor, Bideford, and their son John Clevland became the sole Secretary to the Admiralty from 1751 until his death in 1763. John Clevland's son, also called John Clevland, took over Tapeley and sat for seven successive Parliaments as Member for Barnstaple. During this time he added the dining room and adjoining Dairy lawn where he entertained his constituents. One of the second John Clevland's brothers called Augustus (born 1754, died 1784), joined the East India Company and went out to India where he became Governor of the Province of Bengal.
Whilst there, `without bloodshed or terror of authority, employing only the means of conciliation, confidence and benevolence (and the gift of his daughter's home baked cakes),' attempted and accomplished the entire subjection of the lawless and savage inhabitants of the Jungleterry hill tribes of Rajamahall. John Clevland was succeeded by his nephew, Augustus Saltren Willet Clevland who married Margaret Chichester of Arlington Court. They had a son, Archibald, and two daughters, Agnes and Caroline. Archibald joined the 17th Lancers aged 17 and was one of only three Officers to survive the Charge of the Light Brigade. His plight and bravery can best be seen in a letter he wrote to his uncle after Balaclava in 1854:-
THE LIGHT BRIGAGE
Ten days after the Charge of the Light Brigade, Archibald was killed at the Battle of Inkermann. The New York Times gave the following account of the Battle of Inkermann:- "And now commenced the bloodiest struggle ever witnessed since war cursed the earth. It has been doubted by military historians if any enemy have ever stood a charge with the bayonet; but here the bayonet was often the only weapon employed in conflicts of the most obstinate and deadly character. We have been prone to believe that no foe could ever withstand the British soldier wielding his favourite weapon, and that at Maida alone did the enemy ever cross bayonets with him; but, at the battle of Inkermann, not only did we charge in vain - not only were desperate encounters between masses of men maintained with the bayonet alone - but we were obliged to resist bayonet to bayonet the Russian infantry again and again, as they charged us with incredible fury and determination." The account also mentioned Archibald Clevland by name ... "One Officer Cornet Clevland, was struck by a piece of shell in the side, and has since expired ...." In 1856 a monument was erected to Archibald in the field on the seaward side of the house with a 50ft obelisk rising from it. The obelisk was destroyed by lightening in 1933 during a freak thunderstorm when, according to a local newspaper, blocks of granite were thrown 100 feet into the air and the iron rails twisted.
Archibald's head gear with the skull and crossbones and emblem of the monarchy depicting `The Death and Glory boys', with silver breast pyouch showing one of 3 lance wounds he received during the battle. In the amazing glass dome there is also a lock of his hair and a ring he sent back to his Mum - it was as if he knew he'd used up his nine lives ... .
The New York Times account of the Battle of Inkerman at the time gave it the following grizzly appraisal:
"And now commenced the bloodiest struggle ever witnessed since war cursed the earth. It has been doubted by military historians if any enemy have ever stood a charge with the bayonet; but here the bayonet was often the only weapon employed in conflicts of the most obstinate and deadly character. We have been prone to believe that no foe could ever withstand the British soldier wielding his favourite weapon, and that at Maida alone did the enemy ever cross bayonets with him; but, at the battle of Inkerman, not only did we charge in vain - not only were desperate encounters between masses of men maintained with the bayonet alone - but we were obliged to resist bayonet to bayonet the Russian infantry again and again, as they charged us with incredible fury and determination." The battle raged for 3 days and nights. There was also a mention in the same account of Archibald's demise: "Our own cavalry, the remnant of the light brigade, were moved into a position where it was hoped they might be of service; but they were too few to attempt anything, and while they were drawn up they lost several horses and some men. One Officer, Cornet Clevland, was struck by a piece of shell in the side, and has since expired. They are now only two Officers left with the fragment of the 17th Lancers - Captain GODFREY MORGAN and Cornet GEORGE WOMBWELL."
The Monument with lumps of granite "some of which ended up in the woods 300 yards away" according to Charlie Gorvin who started work at Tapeley in 1922. Charlie was Head Gardener for many decades and died in an Estate cottage in 1999. He told me of the almighty crack he heard whilst working in the kitchen garden, along the above facts, 6 months before he died.
|The statue by the lake with inscription to A. Clevland. The poem, to me, comprises the most comforting, magical words of any inscription of its type I've come across: Forgive blest shade the tributory tear That mourns they exit from a world like this. Forgive the wish that would have kept thee here, and stayed thy progress to the realms of Bliss.||
Archibald's Funeral at Westleigh Church
The front of Tapeley before it was neo-classicised
After the Crimean war, the Government found itself in a similar financial predicament as to what we are in now ('world domination' comes at a price - surprise surprise .... ).
The Government imposed a `window tax', so, true to Tapeley form, Agnes Clevland (Archibald's sister) set about bricking up the majority of the windows at Tapeley.
View of Tapeley before Italian gardens dug out
A view of Tapeley before Lady Rosamond had the Italian Gardens dug out. At this time the drive used to run across where the Permaculture garden is now and over the bridge below - where the Highland cattle group when they want to avoid being corralled, past the great oak, through the wicker gate and over to Westleigh.
In addition to the above, we now have 4 more display boards on show documenting the other phases of Tapeley’s extraordinary history:
1. 'Lady Rosamond Christie' and her association with William Morris as well as other leading lights of the arts and crafts movment - plus her neo-classification of the house and establishment of the Itallian gardens.
2. The ‘Wilderness Years’ when Tapeley was home to evacuee children and the wonderful input of my extraordinary Anty Rosamond.
3. 'The History of Glyndebourne' complete with classic pictures of some of the epic operas.
4. What I’ve been up to since taking Tapeley over….. Why not come and visit to learn more about Tapeleys history…