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The history of Castle Hill house and family

Castle Hill his steeped in a rich history. Who better than Lady Arran to detail its long and fascinating past.

The history of the Fortescue family – explained by Lady Arran

“Together with my husband, we are the 14th generation of Fortescue family custodians to live at Castle Hill.

Our family arrived in England in 1066 with William the Conqueror.  Legend has it that our ancestor Sir Richard le Fort saved William’s life by shielding him from his enemies.  Thus the family motto “Forte Scutum Salus Ducum”, a strong shield saves the kingdom.  Castle Hill came into the family when Martin Fortescue, son of Sir John Fortescue, Lord Chief Justice and Chancellor to Henry VI, married Elizabeth Denzell, a local heiress, bringing her Estates, including the Estate at Filleigh, into the Fortescue family.

In 1684 Arthur Fortescue started remodelling the Mansion and his grandson Hugh was responsible for the building of Castle Hill between 1729 and 1740, very similar to what we see today.  He also began creating the magnificent landscape.  He inherited the Barony of Clinton through his mother and was created Earl Clinton and 1st Baron Fortescue in 1749.  He died in 1752 childless, so the Fortescue Barony passed to his half-brother Matthew and the Clinton Earldom became extinct and the Clinton Barony went into abeyance.  He married Anne Campbell.

Matthew was succeeded by his son Hugh as 3rd Baron Fortescue and he was created the 1st Earl Fortescue in 1789.

The 2nd Earl succeeded his father in 1841.  He was a considerable philanthropist and amongst many things helped found West Buckland School.  He had a long political career terminating in the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland in 1841.  He married Lady Susan Ryder.  He also engaged Edward Blore to enlarge Castle Hill by raising its roof to accommodate another floor ready for his son, Hugh the 3rd Earl, who was to succeed in 1861 and was the father of 14 children!   His wife the Hon. Georgiana Dawson-Damer died aged 40.  He was also very politically motivated.

Hugh the 4th Earl succeeded in 1905 and married the Hon. Emily Ormsby-Gore.  He was Lord Lieutenant of Devon, very involved with the Territorial Army and bought a large acreage of Exmoor for farming and hunting.

Hugh the 5th Earl, my Grandfather, succeeded in 1932 and was married to The Hon. Margaret Beaumont.  He was Lord Lieutenant of Devon and a distinguished soldier and politician, and became a Knight of the Garter.  At the Queen’s Coronation he held the canopy over her.

In 1934 Castle Hill was burnt down with the loss of life of two staff.  However, my grandparents immediately decided to rebuild the house and engaged Lord Gerald Wellesley and Trenwith Wills to put the house back to its original Palladian proportions.  During the Second World War their only son, Viscount Ebrington, was killed at the Battle of El Alamain, so on my grandfather’s death his title went to his brother Denzil, whose grandson is now the 8th Earl Fortescue.  The House and Estates were left to my mother, Lady Margaret Fortescue, in 1958, the elder daughter of the 5th Earl and we were brought up here.  My mother now lives nearby in her own house, having given Castle Hill to us in 1989.

 

I married the 9th Earl of Arran in 1974 and we have two daughters, Lady Laura and Lady Lucy.  The Earldom of Arran was created in 1762, their family name is Gore.  Sir Arthur Gore was the first Baronet and was created a Baronet of Ireland in 1662.  They had three houses in Ireland, Lissadell, Castle Gore and Ravensdale.

Following the Irish troubles, the Arran family settled in England and now Castle Hill is shared by two noble families.  The Arran family consisted of many interesting and diverse characters.  The first ever Wimbledon championship winner in 1877, a famous impressionist painter, two Lord Mayors of London, the federalist Governor of Massachusetts, the first female Member of Parliament, and one Earl who fathered 23 legitimate and 23 illegitimate children.  Our elder daughter, Lady Laura is married to James Duckworth-Chad and they have three daughters, Molly Lettice born in 2006, Minna Evie born in June 2008 and Viola Cecily born in 2010. Lady Lucy, our younger daughter, is a professional dog walker in London.

In addition to the traditional activities on the Estate, we have a responsibility to conserve and preserve our beautiful home for future generations.  We are now thrilled to open the gardens for visitors, host your fairy tale wedding and corporate events, enabling you, our visitors, to enjoy this small corner of paradise.”