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HER Number:MDV21292
Name:Welltown Farmhouse, Walkhampton


Welltown is thought to have originated as an open hall house in the 12th century with a chapel or guesthouse added in the 14th or 15th century. The building underwent a major period of rebuilding and alteration in the late 16th, early 17th century with subsequent 19th and 20th century modifications. The house was associated with the Atwell family from the 16th to 19th centuries. The initials R.A and G.A (Robert and Grace Atwill) are carved over one of the fireplaces.


Grid Reference:SX 540 700
Map Sheet:SX57SW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishWalkhampton
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishWALKHAMPTON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX57SW/64
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II*)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • FARMHOUSE (Built, XII - 1101 AD to 1200 AD (Between))

Full description

Gover, J. E. B. + Mawer, A. + Stenton, F. M., 1931, The Place-Names of Devon: Part One, 245 (Monograph). SDV1312.

Probably the home of Geoffrey atta Welle in 1412.

Department of Environment, 1960, Tavistock RD (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV239444.

Hicks, C. E., 1982, Proceedings of the 120th Annual Meeting, xxviii (Article in Serial). SDV345203.

Important house of two major periods: 1) a probable medieval core, and 2) late 16th/early 17th century additions. It has a fine medieval doorway (similar to that at Cotehele) and post-medieval features include a decorated fireplace. Many 17th century granite window mullions and other fragments have been used in rebuilding. The house's exterior is disguised by later alterations.

Pidgeon, J. R., 2011, Welltown Farm, Walkhampton. A Preliminary Historical & Archaeological Assessment prior to Building Works consultation - Draft 3 (Report - Assessment). SDV350083.

Pidgeon suggests that the house originated as an open hall house in probably the 12th century with an inserted hooded fireplace and solar (phases I-IV) and that the smoke blackened roof truss does not belong to the earliest phase of the house but to an open (guest) hall added to the east in the ?15th century (phase V). Phase VI (1580-1620) is characterised by the ceiling of most of the house and by the fireplaces inserted on both ground and first floors with the carved initials of Richard and Grace Atwill and also the plant emblem over the hall fireplace. Further domestic refinements took place in the late 17th century (phase VII) including an extension to the parlour. Circa 1870-80 (Phase VIII) the front elevation was rebuilt and the dairy fittings installed. Pidgeon also suggests that the plant emblem carved on one of the granite fireplaces represents Hypericum androsaemum or Tutsan. The plant is also called Bible-leaf as it was used as a book mark. This, together with the derivation of the common name Tutsan from tout saine (all heal) or tout sainte (all saints), may indicate that the Atwills were Roman Catholics.

Ordnance Survey, 2012, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV348725.

English Heritage, 2012, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV348729.

Welltown Farmhouse. Circa 1500 with extensive 17th century alterations and additions. Granite rubble walls, gable ended slate and asbestos slate roof of differing ridge height and pitches. 3 stone stacks: one axial to left-hand range of granite ashlar with tapering granite cap which has moulded rim. Axial to right-hand range is partly rendered stack with drip courses. At right gable-end is late 20th century rebuilt stack.
Plan: Complex development of plan, open to various interpretations. At present the house is T-shaped: the stem of the 'T' consists of a shippon to the left with independent access and a large room to its right heated by a stack axial to the shippon, and with a staircase and entrance lobby to its right. The range at right angles is entered through this lobby and also has an external doorway in its front gable end. Both doors lead into a room heated by an axial fireplace and to the right of this room is a small dairy. Behind these 2 rooms is a large room extending the width of them both with a fireplace at its right-hand end. To the rear of this room is a small unheated room to the left and a staircase to the right. Judging from the evidence of a smoke-blackened truss above the principal room in the stem of the 'T' this range is the earliest and this room was an open hall with central hearth. The rear wall is continuous across the shippon suggesting this was the original lower end with a passage adjoining the hall by whose front door the shippon is now entered. It is uncertain, however, whether, this has always been a shippon since on its rear wall it has a granite mullion window, apparently in situ, and documentary evidence and the lack of an obvious kitchen in the house suggest there may have been a fireplace in this room. What, if anything, originally existed at the higher end of the hall is also unclear due to the substantial 17th century addition. The initials carved on the hall fireplace are of Robert and Grace Atwill who occupied the house from the late 16th to the early 17th century. This gives an approximate date to the flooring of the hall and remodelling of the house and - by inference from a similar style fireplace in the new range - at least part of the addition at the higher end. This addition took the form of a cross wing but whether it dates completely from the early 17th century or whether it developed in stages throughout that century is more conjectural. The 2 larger heated rooms, from their features would appear to be coeval but their purpose is unclear. The larger room to the rear has a higher quality fireplace but it has an early oven which the plain fireplace in the front room does not have possibly the rear room adopted the function of hall and the original hall became a parlour but there is still no obvious kitchen. Another puzzling factor is that the roof over these 2 rooms in the wing runs in opposite directions. The small service room and staircase at the rear of the larger room, if not contemporary, are not later than mid 17th century and the stairs are a transitional form from newel to framed staircase. Probably the most recent part of the house is the dairy adjoining the principal front room of the wing but this is unlikely to be later than late 17th century. On the 1st floor, until the earlier 20th century there was no access from one half of the house to the other suggesting that an early staircase must have existed in the original range when it was floored, but also raising questions of occupancy by a divided household. Modifications were made to the house in the 19th century when the lower end was probably partially rebuilt and converted to a shippon with the passage removed and access to the hall blocked. A new front door was inserted at the higher end of the hall and a small entrance lobby created with a framed staircase inserted at the rear. Otherwise the plan remains unaltered since the 17th century.
Exterior: 2 storeys. Asymmetrical 3 window front with shippon to left slightly recessed and projecting gabled wing to right. The central section has a later 19th century 4-pane sash on each floor with a small single light early 20th century casement to the right on the 1st floor and open fronted 19th century porch below with 19th century plank door behind. The shippon has a plank door at its right end with a loading door above and window to the left. The wing has 2 late 20th century casements with glazing bars on its inner face and one on the 1st floor of its gable end. Below is a 19th century gabled porch with 20th century plank and glazed door. At the right-hand side of the gable the roof extends in a catslide of over dairy which has a single light window with chamfered granite frame on its front wall. The rear elevation has 2 3-light circa early 17th century hollow-chamfered granite mullion windows with hoodmoulds on the ground floor. The right-hand one has been blocked. Small 19th century stair-light with small panes at left-hand end of on 1st floor. The 2-window inner face of the wing has late 20th century small paned 2-light casements except for the ground floor window to the right which is larger with early 20th century casement which has been inserted into a mullion window frame and still has hoodmould above. The window to its left also shows signs of granite framing. The opposite outer face of the wing, forming the right-hand end of the house has a gable to the right with catslide dairy roof to the left. The right-hand window, at an intermediate level for the stairs, has chamfered granite framing. Below to its left, is a single granite-framed light. At the centre on the ground floor is a 3- light granite mullion window whose central mullion has been removed. The window above it - a 2-light 20th century small-paned casement - also has granite framing. The dairy window to the left on the ground floor is probably 18th century 2-light with central square section mullion and no glass. This side of the house is built into the bank with its lower windows at ground level. Good interior with features from various periods, some of a high quality. The inserted fireplace in the hall is of granite with hollow and roll moulding to Jambs and lintel which is slightly cambered and has the roll moulding rising in a raised semi-circle with the initials 'R.A. G.A.' carved in high relief. An almost identical fireplace survives in the larger room of the wing but with a stylized plant instead of initials in the semi-circle. The room has 2 17th century square-headed wooden doorframes with ovolo-mould leading to the adjoining service room and staircase. The staircase has stone treads for the first flight, then wood, rising around a solid core, and with a cupboard below lit by a small granite-framed window. The front room of the wing has a square-headed hollow chamfered granite fireplace. Adjoining it to the left is a chamfered 4-centred granite doorway and the room is entered from the lobby by a 4-centred granite doorway with roll moulding and foliage carved spandrels rebated in a roll-moulded frame. The 3 principal 1st floor rooms all have a granite-framed 17th century fireplace, each different and the one at the rear of the wing has a similar carved lintel to the room below. There is a 17th century doorframe leading from the chamber above the hall into that above the shippon.
Roof: Over the original hall one smoke-blackened truss survives, of heavy scantling and well-finished, with curved morticed collar, diagonal ridge, morticed apex and trenched purlins. Over the larger rear room in the cross wing 2 17th century fairly rough trusses survive with mortices for threaded purlins and curved collars pegged a set slightly into the trusses. This building stands on an early site first mentioned in 1381 and continuously occupied by the Attwell Family (who took their name from the site) until about 1780. The Attwells rose to be gentry by the early 17th century and were an arms-bearing family of some importance in the locality, making their money through mining. No doubt the rise of the family is reflected by the rise in status of the house in the early 17th century and its high quality remodelling. The importance of this house lies in a combination of the survival of the medieval fabric (unusual in West Devon) and the remodelling of the building to small manor-house quality with a number of good 17th century features. Equally remarkable is the fact that the unusual plan-form has been virtually unaltered since the 17th century with no later additions

Chesher, V., 21/08/1998, Welltown Farmhouse, Walkhampton (Un-published). SDV350082.

Welltown originated as a farm on the estates of Buckland Abbey. John Atte Well, mentioned in a document of the early 1200s, was probably one of its early tenants. The Atwill family remained at Welltown until the 18th century and were involved with the local tin industry from the later 1400s. A smoke blackened roof truss suggests an open hall house of the late 1400s or early 1500s. There is also an ornamental stone arched doorway dated to the 1500s. In the late 1500s and early 1600s Richard Atwill became the principal tin producer in the Tavistock area. He acquired the freehold of Welltown and achieved gentry status and a coat of arms. This rise in prosperity and status is reflected in the improvements he made to the house. He enlarged the hall and added an impressive stone fireplace. A first floor was inserted and all the main bed chambers were given stone fireplaces. The fireplace in the hall and in the chamber over both have intriguing plant motifs. Over the new fireplace in the parlour Richard Atwill put his and his wife's initials. A dairy was added in the 17th century with grooved slate shelves where water from a leat in the orchard was channelled to cool the shelves. The last of the Atwills at Welltown died in 1797. During the 19th century the land was gradually sold off to the Maristow estate and the house became tenanted once more. It was given a Victorian front and one end of the parlour wing was turned into a shippon.

Department of Environment, 28/10/1987, Walkhampton, 67-68 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV350081.

Pidgeon, J. R., June 2011, Welltown Farm, Walkhampton. An Archaeological and Historical Report prior to proposed Building Works (Report - Survey). SDV352675.

Welltown Farm comprises a T-shaped building constructed of uncoursed limestone and granite rubble under gable-ended slate roofs with three masonry chimney stacks. The windows are modern or mullioned granite. The short arm of the 'T' now comprises a large kitchen with a fireplace in the wall opposite the porched entrance, a slate-benched dairy and a spacious hall with its own fireplace with bedrooms and bathroom above. The long arm contains dining and living rooms again with bedrooms and bathrooms above.
The north-east part of the building (the short arm of the 'T') contains the earliest fabric and is considered to have originated as an open-hall house in the 12th century (phase I) with a solar added in the late 12th or 13th century (phase II). A chapel was added against the south-west elevation in the 14th or 15th century (phase III). A single remnant smoke-blackened oak roof truss survives in the present roof space indicating that the space was originally open to the roof. Open fires are not uncommon in chapels of this period. The property underwent a major rebuilding in the period 1580-1620 (phase IV) including new granite mullioned windows throughout, a new internal stair turret and a new lodging block at the western end of the long arm of the 'T', the whole being ceiled throughout. The new granite fireplaces are carved with plants, possibly cress or tutsan, having a possibly family or religious connection respectively. The fireplace in the parlour occupying the space of the earlier chapel bears the initials R. A and G. A.; Richard and Grace Atwell are recorded as the principal occupants between 1580 and 1620. The south, front wall of the chapel/parlour was rebuilt in the period c1860-1880 (phase V) and the style of the softwood staircase in the hall and the sash windows in the front elevation can also be attributed to the Victorian period. Subsequent alterations include rebuilding the front wall of the back parlour, and reflooring and reroofing of the phase IV features in the late 19th, early 20th century (phase VI). Scribed knife marks on the face of one of the tie-beams identify the timber as softwood from the Baltic. 20th century alterations (phases VII-IX) include the addition of a single storey extension at the western end of the long range, new windows in the south of the hall and replacement hall and kitchen floors.
Historically Welltown was owned by the de Redvers or Buckland Abbey from the 12th-15th centuries, becoming the home of the Atwells in the 16th century. The link with the Atwells ended in 1862 when Abraham Giles, whose father had married Margret Atwell in 1746, sold the property to the Maristow estate.
Two trial trenches were excavated in February 2011 to ascertain the depth and archaeological profile of the soil build-up to the north and east of the hall. This was estimated to be about 2.0 metres and the cause of damp problems. In trench A, a collapsed rubble drain, dated by associated pottery to the 19th century, at a depth of about 1.0 metre. This together with the soil build up above was the source of the damp problems. In trench B the natural had been cut by a nearly vertical features parallel with the standing wall with fragments of slate in a backfill tip line. This was interpreted as either belonging to the phase I or II construction, reused in phase IV or a primary construction trench for phase IV. There were no finds.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV1312Monograph: Gover, J. E. B. + Mawer, A. + Stenton, F. M.. 1931. The Place-Names of Devon: Part One. The Place-Names of Devon: Part One. VIII. A5 Hardback. 245.
SDV239444List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1960. Tavistock RD. Historic Houses Register. Unknown.
SDV345203Article in Serial: Hicks, C. E.. 1982. Proceedings of the 120th Annual Meeting. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 114. A5 Hardback. xxviii.
SDV348725Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2012. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #83065 ]
SDV348729National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2012. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV350081List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 28/10/1987. Walkhampton. Historic Houses Register. A4 Bound. 67-68.
SDV350082Un-published: Chesher, V.. 21/08/1998. Welltown Farmhouse, Walkhampton. A4 Comb Bound.
SDV350083Report - Assessment: Pidgeon, J. R.. 2011. Welltown Farm, Walkhampton. A Preliminary Historical & Archaeological Assessment prior to Building Works consultation - Draft 3. 13/141. A4 Comb Bound.
SDV352675Report - Survey: Pidgeon, J. R.. June 2011. Welltown Farm, Walkhampton. An Archaeological and Historical Report prior to proposed Building Works. A4 Comb Bound.

Associated Monuments

MDV112072Part of: Welltown Farm, Walkhampton (Monument)
MDV77519Related to: Water meadow at Welltown Farm, Chagford (Monument)
MDV22297Related to: Welltown Meadow, Walkhampton (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV6297 - Historic Building Survey and Trial Excavation at Welltown, Walkhampton

Date Last Edited:Sep 21 2018 3:52PM