George Hunt Clapp Esq. of Bovey Tracey
Lega-Weekes, Ethel. Hunt Family in Devonshire, Devon and Cornwall Notes & Queries.
Vol. IX, (January 1916 to October 1917). p. 19-25.
Transcribed by by Michael Steer
The present mansion house known as Parke House, a grade II listed building situated 1/2 mile west of the centre of the town of Bovey Tracey and on the opposite side of the River Bovey, was rebuilt in 1826/8 by William Hole (1799-1859) and is today the headquarters of the Dartmoor National Park Authority. It was the seat of George Hunt Clapp (1756-1824), a barrister and a bencher of the Middle Temple, and in 1798 a governor for life of the Magdalen Hospital in London. His inscribed mural monument survives in Bovey Tracey Church. His origins are revealed by the will of his grandfather George Hunt (d.1768) of Northwick, signed 31 October 1766. The extract, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from Google Books, with a search by either author or title, and also from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.
In 1726, Sept. 29, Christopher Gale, of Bovey Tracy Parke, Esq., sold to George Hunt, of North Weeke, gent., all that capital messuage, barton, etc., called Parke alias Bovey Tracy Park, and all those enclosed lands called " The Park," being parcel of the possessions and lands hitherto called Richmond's Lands,| late in the possession of Sir Roper Lethbridge.
The brothers Lysons state that Margaret, Countess of Richmond, had a grant of the manor of Bovey Tracy in 1487, and that more latterly it belonged to John Langdon, Esq., who resided at Parke in this parish. Sir John Stowell, Kt., is described as "of Parke in Bovey Tracy" in Exchequer Depositions of 1666. (See my paper on Freemans of Ashburton, Buckfastleigh, Bovey Tracy and Heathfield, etc., in Trans. Dcv. Assn., 1913.) Christopher Gale, and other Closes, etc. (Close Rolls,
14 Geo. I., 4th Part, No. 21.)
George Hunt, wlio styles himself "of Northwick, Esq.,'' in his will signed 31 Oct., 1766 (proved 19 Jan., 1768), leaves all his freehold lands and tenem" in the parishes of North Bovey and Throwleigh, immediately upon his own decease, to " my grandson George Luxton, son of Thomas Luxton and
Elizabeth his wife, my daughter, of Winkleigh, Esq.," with remainders to " my granddaughter Elizabeth Luxton, sister of the said G. L.,"and my granddaughter Mary Luxton, younger sister of the said G. L."He leaves Tarr Mill in S. T., immediately after his decease, to my grandson George Hunt Clapp, son of Robert Clapp and Mary his wife, my youngest daughter, of Ottery St. Mary, gent.," with remainders to " my grandson Francis Hunt Clapp," and others.
All the rest of his messuages, lands, etc., including North Wyke (though not named) he leaves to "my daughter Elizabeth Luxton" and " my daughter Mary Clapp," stipulating that they are to yield up their respective moieties to the sd. George Luxton and the sd. George Hunt when they shall have attained the age of 24 years.
In a "case for counsel," dated 27 Apr., 1774, it is stated that " Northweek " had been mortgaged by Hunt to one Mr. Marwood and leased to Robert Clapp for a term of 14 years. It is further stated that Hunt's son-in-law, Thomas Luxton, " died about six months ago," and complaint is made that though George Luxton has attained the age of 24, and has been allowed by his mother Elizabeth to live
in part of Northweek House and to receive part of the rents, she has made no surrender to him of the estate.
Besides the daughters Elizabeth and Mary, George Hunt would seem to have had a son, named after himself, who predeceased him ; for in one of the Manor-Court Books of Bovey Tracy (preserved in a safe at the Rectory) I note under the date Oct. 22, 1748, the item: - "Wee p'sent the death of the Rev. Mr. George Hunt; and his two brothers- in-law to be taken tenants in his room " ; and in a Court
of 1749, "Tenants presented to be admitted: . . . Mr. Clapp and Mr. Luxon for Park and Five Weeches (Wey) late Rev. Mr. Hunt's." Again, in a Court of 1751 : - Among tenants presented now and at former Courts, and not yet admitted : Mr. Robert Clapp for Park and Five Weeches," who has
not had proper notice from the Reeves to attend at this Court.
In deeds dated 1781 and later George Hunt Clapp is described as "of the Middle Temple, London, Esq."
One of 1785 yields the information that by that date Elizabeth and Mary (the co-heiresses of G. H.) had both - and in that order - died, widows ; and that North Week and its accompanying tenements had been " lately " parted and divided between George Luxton and George Hunt Clapp, who now combine with Robert Lydston Newcombe, of St. David's parish, Exeter, in leasing both moieties for a year to William Branscombe, of Exeter, gentleman, "to the intent that he may be enabled to take a grant & release for certain uses."
By another deed, dated 27 Sept., 1786, the sd. G. H. C. sells his moiety (The Western, " Lot H.") to " Andrew Arnold, of North Tawton, gentleman," who in 1781, under the description " yeoman," had become his tenant of that moiety, in succession to one Thomas Lethbridge, the former tenant of both moieties.
George Hunt Clapp (styled "Councillor Clapp," and “Barrister at Law” in some of the later documents) by his will, dated 11 June, i8ig, left Tarr Mill to his niece Frances Clapp, the daughter of his brother Francis, who is referred to in an Indenture of 1824 as " the late Rev. Francis Hunt Clapp," and was Vicar of Ottery St. Mary ; but by a codicil added 21 Sept., 1820, he revoked the above bequest and disposed of Tarr Mill to his wife in trust - first for the repayment to Dr. Malachi Blake, m.d., of Taunton, Somerset, of the mortgage money due on it, and after that, on trust, for the use of his "dearest niece Catherine Little " [of Bovey Tracy.]
The brothers Lysons tell us that "Park is now (? 1822) the property of Charles Clapp, Esq., Barrister of Law."
In the parish church of Bovey Tracy, on the south wall immediately above the chancel screen, is a tablet - " Sacred to the memory of George Hunt Clapp, Esq., of Park, in this parish. Barrister, a Member of the Honble. Middle Temple Society, who departed this life the 23d of Jany., 1824, aged 63 ..."
A long eulogistic epitaph closes with the words: - " This humble memorial is a tribute of affection
and respect from his bereaved widow, who died Sep. 22, 185 [? I or 4] , aged 89, and was buried at Hammersmith."
In the lower part of the same monument is a medallion on which are painted — Ermine, three battle axes sable (the arms of Wykes of North Wyke).
Burke, among several different Hunt armorial bearings, gives: — "Hunt, per cross, or and sable, a cross lozengy counter- changed."
In Bovey Tracy Church there is a leger-stone near the pulpit cut with a cross of lozenges which might perhaps suggest this Hunt coat, but it is, in fact, a tomb of a Stawell, to which family other heraldic memorials appear on some carved and tinctured medallions that once formed part of an elaborate Stawell monument which used to stand at the east end of the south aisle.
The George Hunts of Bovey may perhaps have been descendants of the George Hunt of Exeter, to whom I have referred ante.
Burke gives: - Hunt of Exeter and Chudleigh, co. Devon, traced in the Visitation of 1620 to the year 1500, Azure, on a bend between two water bougets or, three leopards' faces gules; crest, on a mount vert, against a halbert erect in pale gu. headed az., a Talbot sejant or, collared and tied to the halbert of the second.
I desire to express my sincere thanks to the Rev. H. Goldney-Baker, who in 1908, while Curate-in-charge of Bovey Tracy, sent me full particulars of the Hunt monument and other memorials* in the church ; to H. E. Bentinck, Esq., of Indiho, Bovey Tracy (who informs me that his father bought the manor from the Earls of Devon about 1856), for permission to examine the manorial records in the care of the Vicar; and finally to the Vicar himself, the Rev. H. B. Hyde, M.A., who has very kindly shewn me these and other parochial and local documents of interest.
I am indebted to Mrs. Hole, now of " Parke View," for the information that early in the nineteenth century the estate of " Parke " in Bovey Tracy was acquired by purchase by Mr. Robert Hole, of Stickweek (born 1742), whose son, Mr. William Hole (born 1799) had resided but a short time in the old house when it was suddenly discovered to be unsafe, and he therefore pulled it down and built the present house in or shortly before 1825, and lived and died there. He was succeeded by his son, Mr. William Robert Hole (the late husband of my informant), whose son, Mr. William Gerard Hole, is the present owner.
The modern building stands a little farther back than its predecessor, but is approached through the same fine avenue of beeches. The oak flooring of its hall was brought from Crownley, another old family place. It would seem probable that the Hole family of Parke were connected with that of Hole of North Tawton (into which the sister-in-law of George Hunt of Parke married).
From sketches made by a sister of Mr. William Hole of the old mansion of Parke (supposed to have been built in the fourteenth century) shortly before its demolition, it appears to have been a large, irregular place, comprising a two and a half story gabled main block, with three or more wings, having one large entrance-door reached by a flight of half-a-dozen stone steps in the outer court, and
another entrance in an inner court divided off from the other by high walls, with a tall narrow gate-house in one corner. This gate-house had an arched and mullioned window above a very wide, oak, nail-studded door pierced by a wicket, stone seats running along the internal side- walls and the date 1620 cut in its pavement. All the doors referred to were "like church-doors," and had pointed heads
of the form known as a chevron in heraldry.
•These medallions, after the "restoration" of the church, were thrown into the churchyard, whence they were rescued and set up in their present position (over a tablet with a Stawell epitaph), on the
south wall, by Mr, Bentinck, father of the present owner of Indiho in this parish.