Book review. Moorstone Barton: A Mediaeval Manor

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Author(s): Bhanji. Sadru; Year published: 2010; Origin: DA Transactions; Pages: 434–435
Topic(s): architecture and history; Location(s): Cullompton

Charles Scott-Fox, Moorstone Barton: A Mediaeval Manor (Charles Scott-Fox for John Maunder Esq., Halberton, 2009), viii + 57 pages, 45 mainly colour illustrations, including maps and plans. Softback. ISBN 9870954701369. £10.00 plus £2.00 p & p, direct from the publisher.

This attractively produced book follows the format of the author’s work on Ayshford, reviewed in volume 141 of the Transactions. The history of a building is presented, with particular emphasis on its owners and occupiers, followed by a detailed well-illustrated account of its past and present state. Moorstone Barton is a Grade I listed manor house situated some two miles from Cullompton. Although it has been much modified over the centuries, evidence of fourteenth-century origins survives.

Current thinking is that the manor house was built by Thomas Gambon (c. 1295–1360) and replaced a Saxon/Norman cob and timber building. The Gambon family had held the land as tenants since the early years of the thirteenth century, acquiring ownership during the lifetime of Thomas’s father, Walter (1265–1325). The complex history of the Gambons of Moorstone is admirably set out. Although not always in residence; the Gambons held Moorstone Barton until 1528 when the manor and other holdings passed by marriage to John Wyndham of Orchard Wyndham in Somerset. Whereas the Gambons were well respected in Devon, the Wyndhams achieved national eminence. Perhaps reflecting this, Moorstone Barton was inhabited mainly by tenants, some of whom appear to have cared little for its upkeep. Fortunately, Percy Charles Wyndham intervened and during his occupancy carried out much refurbishment and improvement in the early years of the nineteenth century. The Wyndham era came to an end in May 1915 when the property was sold at auction. Moorstone changed hands again in 1932, and came to the Maunder family in 1941. The second part of the book concentrates on the efforts of the Maunders to restore Moorstone Barton to its former glory.

Scott-Fox not only clearly and concisely sets out the history of a building, but also skilfully intertwines this with that of its various owners and occupiers. The author draws on a number of published and primary sources, some of the latter in private hands. This book should be of interest to all concerned about Devon’s older buildings and the efforts being made to preserve them.

Sadru Bhanji
(First published in Transactions 2010)