- the family home of the Polloxfens and Bastards since the time of Elizabeth
I. It is believed that the original Tudor house was built by a Thomas Polloxfen
in the reign of the first of the Tudor Kings of England, Henry VII (1457 -
The Polloxfens do not appear to have been well known, though
one of them, Sir Henry Polloxfen, was Lord Chief Justice in William III's
reign and played an important part in the Revolution of 1688, when William
of Orange landed at Brixham. Descendants of Thomas Polloxfen continued to
live at Kitley until 1710 when the male of the family, Edmund Polloxfen, died.
In the same year Anne the heiress of Edmund Polloxfen married William Bastard
of Gerston Manor who thus acquired Kitley.
Gerston Manor, situated near Collapit Creek off the Kingsbridge
estuary was the home of the Bastard family for several centuries after the
Conquest - when William of Normandy gained the English Crown in 1066. At the
time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. Robert Bastard owned nine manors including
Hazard near Totnes and others in the Kingsbridge area.
The founder of the modem Bastard family was William Bastard, Recorder of Totnes and MP for Dartmouth in the reign of King James I of England (1566 - 1625) whose collateral descendants lived at Gerston and West Alvington.
Colonel Reginald Bastard DSO succeeded a cousin, William Edmund
Polloxfen Bastard, as heir of the entail in 1924. He was Deputy Lieutenant
of Devon in 1930 and Sheriff of the County four years later. Colonel Reginald
Bastard died in 1960 and was succeeded by his son, the late Captain John Rodney
Bastard. The family still reside in the Yealmpton area.
In the summer of 1779 when the French fleet appeared off Plymouth,
French prisoners at the naval base threatened to get out of hand being insufficiently
guarded. Colonel William Bastard raised a force of some 500 'fencibles' (Soldiers
only liable for home service) in 4 days - local men - gentry
and tenants - sent half of his force to Plymouth and with the other half marched
the prisoners from Ply mouth to Exeter.
Colonel William Bastard was gazetted to a baronetcy, but no
further steps were taken towards passing the patent and in consequence the
title has not been used.
Lt Colonel Edmund Bastard. the second son of Colonel William Bastard, married Jane Pownoll who inherited the Pownoll prize money's fortune, after eloping to Gretna Green. The couple is said to have hired every post - chaise in Devon so that they could not be followed. Captain Pownoll RN captured 'La Hermoina' a Spanish Frigate of war and treasure ship in 1763. The total value of the 'prize money' was over £500,000. The Captain's share was £65,000 and an ordinary seaman received several hundred pounds, which in those days was a lot of money. Captain Pownoll's ship was HMS Apollo.
Another ancestor was Edmund Polloxfen Bastard, MP for Tomes
from 1787 to 1816, who lived at Kitley when Sarah Catherine Martin wrote her
famous and well - loved nursery rhyme, 'The Comic Adventures of Old Mother
Hubbard and her Dog', in1804.
Edmund's second marriage was to Judith Ann Martin, sister
of Sarah Catherine Martin. When Sarah wrote the Old Mother Hubbard nursery
rhyme she was staying with Judith and wrote the rhyme for her nieces and nephews.
The servants' quarters as in all big houses were downstairs.
It was in the basement that the Kitley housekeeper, on whom the central character
of the rhyme is based, had her sitting room and where the cupboard referred
to in the rhyme is situated. The Kitley children would have met the various
local tradespeople when on their walks with their aunt. Sarah Catherine Martin
sent her manuscript to John Harris, a London publisher of children's books.
He produced the single presentation copy, which Sarah gave to her brother-in-law
on his birthday, June 1st, 1805. In 1806 John Harris asked permission to publish
an edition of 10,000 copies and since then hardly a year has passed without
a new issue being made.
Sarah Catherine Martin was one of the early loves of the Prince William Henry, afterwards King William IV. Had she accepted his proposal of marriage in 1785 when she was 17 years old she might have become Queen of England and if she had had children Victoria would not have come to the throne and the course of history would have been changed.
THE HOUSE, like so many country mansions has changed
in design a number of times. The foundations are 16th Century - evidence for
this is in the narrow, deep area between the terrace and the south front of
the house where the lower basement windows are of the transomed Elizabethan
pattern. Expert's judge from the thickness of the interior walls that the
original Tudor house was H-shaped with recessed forecourts facing east and
west, the present staircase hall forming the centre.
The 18th century staircase rises from the ground level - the
16th century features are all below it. It is suggested that the 16th century
ground floor level was converted onto a basement and a new entrance formed
at first - floor level (the door through which you enter the house) - on the
north side of the house where the ground level rises. The central space was
filled with the oak staircase and the ground raised on the east and south
sides so as to be flush with the present ground floor. The dining room was
probably formed by filling in the east forecourt.
The house was re-modelled in 1820. The work was undertaken by C.S.Repton, son of Humphry Repton and pupil of John Nash (1752-1835), the English architect who designed the Marble Arch and Brighton Pavilion and laid out Regent's Park, London. C.S.Repton had just left Nash's office and eloped with Lady Elizabeth Scott, the Lord Chancellor's daughter. He was able to apply the experience he had learned from his father, and his employer, Nash in carrying out this work at Kitley. In doing this he incorporated what was a Georgianised Elizabethan house. The work was finished in about 1825.
Nikolaus Pevsner in his book 'The Buildings of England -
South Devon' says that Kitley is one of the earliest in England showing
a sympathetic approach to the Tudor style. 'The House is not specially imaginative
or fanciful in its details but exquisitely set off by the freshwater lake
in front separated by a dam from the creek.'
Another writer says 'It was the construction of the dam that
set Kitley at the head of a great freshwater lake instead of command ing a
succession of mudflats that may have influenced Edmund Polloxfen Bastard to
consider re-modelling what was then a rectangular early Georgian House.'
Material for re-facing the house was the silvery grey Devonshire
marble resembling finer and warmer granite, which is found at the top (Yealmpton
end) of the park. This quarry has not been worked for years but evidence can
still be seen in the strip of woodland bordering the main road. Kitley supplied
the lovely green marble used in the restoration of St Bartholomew's Church,
Yealmpton, work supervised by Butterfield. Kitley green marble is to be found
in a number of important buildings including the staircase of the Natural
History Museum, South Kensington, London, and the nave of Brompton Oratory.
The House stands in beautiful parkiand setting on a promontory of land facing the estuary of the river Yealm. A westerly branching creek from the estuary is fed at its head by the Silverbridge stream, which crosses the main Plymouth to Modbury road between Brixton and Yealmpton, and on its bank stands Kitley. At one time the lake was well stocked with brown trout, rainbow trout and other fish. The lake and nearby estuary is a bird watchers paradise.
The entrance hall is spacious and welcoming. The collection
of heraldic shields round the walls each representing the personal arms of
a member of the family or of families linked by marriage. Heraldry developed
in the 13th and 14th centuries because it was of practical use to distinguish
individuals especially in war or at the tournament. Personal arms are borne
by right of grant or inheritance. In mediaeval times when armour was worn
the device was embroidered upon the garment that partially covered the armour,
hence 'coats of arms'. The devices were displayed on shields and armorial
banners. The name of the holder of the personal arms is written on the edge
of the shield at the bottom.
The family motto is:
PAX POTIOR BELLO
PEACE is more powerful than WAR.
The family crest is an armoured arm with sword pointing down
wards. Both features are to be seen in stained glass over the door by which
you enter the house.
Another feature of the house is the magnificent staircase. The 18th century oak carpentry - the diverging flights - the hanging balusters, three to each step, two of them spiral and one fluted. On the landing itself is a glass case containing a model of HMS Apollo, already mentioned as being the ship commanded by Captain Pownoll.
This short history has been produced by the Holbeton Yealmpton Brixton Society, based on an earlier publication compiled by Kenneth Sparrow for a visit to the House by members of the Society.