Revitalising the Fowlescombe estate
The story of our hidden valley starts in 1537 with the building of the Fowlescombe mansion. In the centuries that followed the farm grew into a thriving estate, in its heyday encompassing several farmsteads and employing large numbers of people.
With the decline of many traditional rural industries in the 19th century, the mansion house, its out-buildings and the sweeping landscape gardens were abandoned and fell into disrepair. Today our animals roam its meadows and streams, ancient woodlands and historic bridges, set against the backdrop of the ruined mansion.
Since taking over the farm in 2019, we’ve been working to revitalise the estate, developing buildings, skills and activities on the farm. We’re introducing a number of new rare breed animals to the farm, raising them using regenerative and organic farming methods.
One of the businesses we are establishing on the farm is Fowlescombe Rare & Pasture, an organic Charcuterie making award-winning smoked and cured meat products using the amazing meat from the farm. More about Rare & Pasture The farm is managed by Rosie Ball and owned by the Owens family.
A long and distinguished history
Fowlescombe is most famous for its mansion, built in 1537 by Sir Thomas Fowell.
The Fowell family had lived at Fowlescombe since the 12th century and enjoyed periods of great wealth, still evident today in the extensive walled gardens, historic bridges and ruined kennels. The Fowell family remained at Fowlescombe until 1758, when they sold in favour of a move to Dartington.
The mansion then changed hands several times before it was eventually deserted. Our understanding is that the owner, John King, unable to afford its upkeep, simply closed the door on the mansion and walked away, probably around 1865.
The mansion has not been inhabited since.
A ruined mansion
The mansion at Fowlescombe was deserted in the late 19th century and has not been inhabited since.
Today, the whole mansion is heavily overgrown with ivy, and is now a Grade 2 listed ruin as defined by Historic England. The roof and some of the walls have collapsed, but the long front elevation is still standing, with 4 towers and moulded battements.
The ivy now needs careful management. A regular maintenance programme is in place to control the leaf area (and to ensure that the ivy doesn’t become too heavy for the fragile building structure) while retaining the larger stems which support the structure and hold loose stones in place.
The shape of the building can still be clearly seen. It was orginally built in the style of a traditional hall house, with a central hall and two symmetrical wings, and was later remodelled in gothic style with extensions on both sides.
The legend of the hounds
The mansion at Fowlescombe may well be the inspiration for "Baskerville Hall" in Conran Doyle’s novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.
There are strong reasons to suggest such a link.
A pack of hounds was kept at kennels at Fowelscombe for many years, and some parts of the kennels still stand today. It is said that a kennel-master used sometimes to keep the hounds hungry so that they would hunt well the following day, but that one night, when visiting his hounds which were making a noise, he failed to wear his usual jacket, and was eaten by the hounds, with only his boots being found the next morning.
Get in Touch
We would love to hear from others interested in growing the future of sustainable food produce in the UK.
Mobile signal is limited in the valley and we are often out tending to our animals, so if you can't get through please leave us a message or drop us an email and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Keep up to date with what we and our animals are up to by following us on Instagram