FUIDGE and Riders Beer

Spreyton Village

Fuidge c.1950

Various spellings have been used over the years for Fuidge. In 1289, according to Place-Names of Devon, the property was described in a case before the Assize Court as La Fowych. Other spellings include Fuge, Fuydge and Fewidge. The name may be a compound of the Old English feoh “cattle” and wic “farm or dwelling”.

Fuidge is in the south of Spreyton parish, some two miles from the village, with a very long drive, and its occupants may often have lived a somewhat isolated life, although it is close to the farm of South Beer. The land attached to Fuidge was probably always fairly extensive. In 1842, it consisted of 223 acres (although some of this may have been taken from the neighbouring farm of South Beer, which the Canns also owned). Later in the century, the acreage seems to have been around 200 acres.

Although the property is often referred to as “Fuidge Manor”, there is no evidence that it was ever a manor on its own; rather, it was part of the Manor of Spreyton. Apart from the 1289 Assize Court reference, the earliest mention of Fuidge is in the Spreyton parish registers, which record that William, son of John Can (an early spelling if Cann) of Fewidge, was baptised in 1592. The Cann family were to remain connected with Fuidge until the 1820s. Indeed, they were probably there for many years or even centuries before that (the 1289 Assize Court record in the National Archives might throw some light on early occupants, but it is in difficult-to-read medieval Latin). Fuidge is the only farm in Spreyton (apart possibly from Barton) to be connected with a single family for such a long period.

On a list of Spreyton tax-payers in 1525, John Canne was recorded as paying tax on goods worth £2, indicating only moderate wealth (it does not mention his place of residence, but it was almost certainly Fuidge). It seems likely that the Canns were at that time standard yeoman farmers, and Fuidge was an unremarkable Devon long-house of cob and thatch, built by an early member of the Cann family. However, the Canns quickly became wealthier. By 1544, John Canne was paying tax on £10 of goods, the biggest amount in the parish apart from two people who were big landowners. The Canns appear also to have owned or rented part of Falkedon, and possibly other nearby farms.

By the early 18th century, the Canns were grand enough to be calling themselves “gentlemen” rather than yeomen. During the 18th century they acquired lime kilns and quarries in Drewsteignton. Burnt lime was at the time the only artificial fertilizer, and the quarries made the Canns very rich indeed.They used their money inter alia to extend and embellish their farmhouse at Fuidge, adding an elegant double-bowed front to the house, and building a fine red-brick serpentine wall in the garden, making it the most imposing residence in the parish. There was even a fish-pond or lake. The Canns by this time were, with the Battishills, the main landowners in Spreyton and also owned farms in Hittisleigh and Drewsteignton. There are a number of memorials to the Cann family in Spreyton church. They always farmed the land attached to Fuidge as their “home farm”, but most of their other farms were let for income.

The eldest son was always traditionally given the name John. The John Cann who inherited the property in 1807 was a man of considerable enterprise and ambition. In 1798, fired with patriotic enthusiasm, he raised a company of volunteers (a sort of Home Guard) to defend the neighbourhood against a possible French invasion. From then on, he was often referred to as Captain Cann.

Captain Cann’s next exploit, in about 1816, was to open a bank in Exeter with two partners, called the ‘Devonshire Bank’. When Captain Cann died in 1819, he left everything to his widow Rebecca, who took his place in the partnership. Unfortunately, there could scarcely have been a worse time for starting a bank, as the boom brought about by the Napoleonic wars was coming to an abrupt end. On 20 December 1820, the bank was forced to suspend payment ‘in consequence of a severe and unexpected run’, and the partners were declared officially bankrupt. Although the partners were jointly and severally liable for all the debts of the bank and Rebecca must have struggled, she managed to retain Fuidge, at any rate for a while, probably because she was responsible only for the debts incurred in the short period when she was a partner. But she no doubt had to mortgage it heavily, and it was finally sold in 1838. Local people could not understand how the Cann fortune could have disappeared so rapidly. Rumour had it that Captain Cann had buried his money under the serpentine wall in the kitchen garden.

After the departure of the Canns, Fuidge (along with South Beer and Riders Beer) was acquired by a farmer called John Norrish, who had come from Zeal Monachorum and whose family remained at Fuidge until the 1870s. The Norrishes were probably quite rich, as in 1861 the head of the family described himself as a “landed proprietor”, and they have left an impressive chest tomb in Spreyton churchyard. It was probably the Norrishes who modernised and further extended the house in the 19th century. Even after they moved away, the Norrishes seem to have continued nourishing an affection for Spreyton, as they continued to be buried in the family tomb for many years afterwards. The names on the tomb are:

  • John Norrish of Fuidge who died in 1862 age 80;
  • his wife Mary who died in 1843;
  • their son John who died in 1871 aged 56;
  • their son Samuel who died at Horwell on Colebrooke in 1888 age 56;
  • Frances Christine Norrish, wife of Samuel who died in 1912 at Horwell aged 84.
John Norrish of Fuidge who died in 1862 age 80;

The Norrish chest-tomb in Spreyton churchyard

After John Norrish the younger (son of the original purchaser) died in 1871, Fuidge was let to various farmers, and seems to have become no more than a working farm with a very grand farm-house. It seems that it was not easy to sell. When the whole Fuidge estate was first put up for sale in 1921, the house and farm failed to attract a bid meeting the reserve. They were described in the sale catalogue as follows:

Lot 1: the picturesque medium-sized country residence known as FUIDGE MANOR. Contains lounge hall, 3 reception rooms, 7 principal bed and dressing rooms, 3 servants’ bedrooms, servants’ hall, well arranged domestic offices. Splendid water supply. Modern drainage. The outbuildings include stabling, coach-house, garage, workshop, cow-house, forage-house, cottage chamber, piggeries, poultry-house, etc. Expansive PLEASURE GROUNDS with tennis and croquet lawns, and very productive walled fruit and vegetable garden. Large picturesque lake and two cottages. Orcharding, meadow and pasture land and valuable woods, the whole extending to about 83 acres.

Lot 2: HOME FARM with ample outbuildings and productive and well-watered meadows, pasture, orchards and arable land, in all about 102 acres. Let on a yearly Lady Day tenancy.

During the Second World War, the then owner, Harrison Ainsworth, operated it as a “Hotel and Country Club”, with 17 bedrooms.

A sketch of Fuidge when it was a hotel

A sketch of Fuidge when it was a hotel

A sketch of Fuidge when it was a hotel

Fuidge in the 1990s.

The house at Fuidge was given a Grade II listing in 1988, described as follows:

Large house, former manor house. Of core, much rebuilt in the 18th-early 19th century, then modernised and enlarged in the late 19th century. Plastered stone rubble, maybe with brick; stone rubble or brick stacks with brick chimneyshafts; slate roof.

Plan and development: large house built down a gentle slope facing east-south-east, say east. The main rooms are in the centre which has a 2-room plan, one either side of the entrance hall and main stair. These rooms have outer axial stacks backing onto the rooms either side. In the late 19th century the entrance hall and right main room were. [sic] To right (north) is the long dining room with a small unheated service room beyond. A service corridor on both floors runs along the back behind the dining room and main rooms. To rear of the main rooms a service block under twin parallel roofs project at right angles. The left (southern) room here is the kitchen and has a large gable-end stack. The main block continues left (south) of the main rooms
with a further 2 rooms. There is one 17th century window in the main block. Otherwise it seems all the main block was built in the late 18th-early 19th century and although it seems likely that the left (south) end was also built at that time it seems to have been radically altered in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The kitchen is probably 17th century. House is 2 storeys throughout.

Exterior: the central section of the main block breaks forward slightly from the rest and it has stucco quoins, a plat band at first floor level, a bracketted eaves cornice and plain parapet. It has an attractive and symmetrical 3:1:3 window front. The 3-window sections are in full height projecting curving bays and have tall original sash windows, 15-pane (6/9) sashes on the ground floor and 12-pane sashes on the first floor. Between these bays is the front doorway in an elliptical arch which contains the original 6-panel door flanked by side lights and under a fanlight containing an ornate radial pattern of glazing bars. The gabled Doric porch in front has been partly rebuilt in the 20th century. Above it is another 12-pane sash. The 4 window section to right contains mostly original 16-pane sashes and also contains a secondary 6-panel door with overlight panelled reveals and timber door-case. The 5-
window section to left contains mostly 20th century replacement sashes although a couple of the ground floor ones are probably 19th century. The main block roof is continuous and hipped each end. The rear includes a variety of 19th century casements and 16-pane sashes and at first floor level towards the north end of the main block there is a 17th century oak
4-light window with ovolo-moulded mullions.

Interior contains a good deal of 19th century joinery and other detail, the best found in the main rooms. 19th century stair is open string with shaped stair brackets, square newel posts and spat balusters. Open arcade of Doric posts into the right room which has a marble chimneypiece. The only evidence of 17th cenrtury work is from the kitchen where there is a large stone fireplace with a soffit-chamfered and step-stopped oak lintel. The massive oven and copper boiler alongside are 19th century. The axial ceiling beams have
double-ovolo mouldings and although they are 17th century they may be reset. Roof not inspected.

Fuidge Linhay

The linhay at Fuidge was also listed, described as follows:

Linhay, now converted to a calf house. Of 17th or 18th century, reroofed in 19th century. Plastered cob on stone rubble footings; corrugated iron roof, formerly thatch. Plan and exterior description: originally an open fronted 8-bay linhay facing south- west. Now the ground floor/cow byre section has been infilled with plastered concrete blocks and the tallet/hayloft is weatherboarded. Nevertheless the original structure (as renovated in the C19) is intact. The front ends of the crossbeams are tenoned into full height posts, (Alcock's linhay type T1). The posts stand on tall granite pads which were put there in the 19th century. The posts also carry the outer ends of 19th century replacement king post trusses. The roof is hipped both ends.

Fuidge cottage

There is a cottage near the main house, converted from what is said to have been a granary. This also was listed Grade II at the same time as the main house. The description is as follows:

Cottage, former granary. 19th century, converted circa 1900. Plastered walls, probably stone rubble, many with cob; brick stack and chimneyshaft; thatch roof. Plan: 2-room plan cottage facing north-east with central lobby entrance. A central axial stack serves the right room. No obvious evidence of its alleged former use as a granary. Cottage is 2 storeys. Exterior: symmetrical 3-window front of circa 1900 casements with glazing bars, the first floor ones are half dormers. Central doorway contains a plank door. Roof is gable-ended. Interior has circa 1900 joinery detail. No carpentry details shows except the A- frame truss roof which is thought earlier than circa 1900.

Walled kitchen garden

The Canns, at the height of their prosperity in the late 18th and early 19th century established a large and elaborate kitchen garden near Riders Beer (over an acre). In particular, they built a long serpentine back wall, facing south-west and thus creating a warm micro-climate, along which beds were laid out (clearly visible in an estate map of Fuidge in the Devon Heritage Centre). The 1921 sale documents refer to the “Excellent and Productive Walled Fruit and Vegetable Garden”. The land slopes down to a valley between the garden and the house. The serpentine wall is parallel with the valley bottom, and originally at either end of it there were side walls leading down to the bottom. These have now almost completely disappeared, although they were apparently still there in 1988, when all the walls were given a Grade II listing. Only the serpentine wall now remains. It is of red brick with stone topping and a slate covering, an unusual and beautiful structure. The description in the listing is as follows:

Approximately 150 metres north-east of Fuidge. Kitchen garden walls. Late 18th-early 19th century. English bond brick with slate coping. The large former kitchen garden of Fuidge Manor occupies a south-west facing slope facing towards the house and is connected to it by an avenue of lime trees. The garden is enclosed by a tall brick wall on 3 sides; the garden of the valley bottom is open. The walls either side rise up the slope with a series of ramps. The back wall, across the slope is a serpentine wall, a rare south-western example.

The serpentine wall at Fuidge

The serpentine wall at Fuidge

Riders Beer

A short distance from the main house there are the remains of a row of three attached workmen’s cottages known as Riders or Ryders Beer. It is not known where the name comes from. “Beer” means wood, and it seems possible that there was a smallholding here held by someone called Rider (although nobody of that name figures on the various lists of early inhabitants of Spreyton). The theory of a smallholding may be supported by the fact that in 19th century documents (for instance the tithe apportionment), although the area was clearly part of the Fuidge estate, it was still listed separately, with the fields immediately in front of and behind the cottages (amounting to some 18 acres) being apportioned to Riders Beer rather than to Fuidge. According to the tithe 1843 tithe apportionment map, there was also a large building, to the south-east of Riders Beer, maybe a relic of the time when it was a smallholding – it is described in the 1853 estate map as “barn, court, etc”), court being the usual word for a farmyard. In the 19th century and probably for some time before, however, it was in the same ownership as Fuidge and the cottages were almost certainly used to house farm labourers working at Fuidge or possibly South Beer. There used to be a path from the main house to Riders Beer and then on to South Beer.

Today, only two of the three tiny cob and thatch cottages remain.Originally they would each have had a single downstairs room with inglenook fireplace and probably two small bedrooms above). They have been converted to a single dwelling. Riders Beer is listed Grade II, and is described in the listing as follows:

Cottage, originally 2 cottages. Mid-late 17th century, modernised and enlarged as a single house circa 1970. Plastered cob on stone rubble footings; cob or stone rubble stacks topped with 20th century brick; thatch roof, concrete tile to circa 1970 extension. Plan: originally two 1-room plan cottages facing south-west. The left former cottage has a gable-end stack and the right former cottage has a rear diagonal corner stack against the party wall with the left cottage. Now the 2 cottages have been knocked together to make a single house. The circa 1970 single storey extension on the right end was built on the site of a third cottage. Main house is 2 storeys. Exterior: main house has an irregular 2-window front of 20th century casements with glazing bars, the first floor ones rising a short distance into the eaves. The 2 former cottage doorways, one each end of the main block, now contain 20th century glazed doors and the left one is behind a 20th century porch. The extension is set back from the main front and has a 3-window front of 20th century casements. Main roof and extension are gable-ended. Interior of the main block has 17th century carpentry detail. The left room has a roughly soffit-chamfered crossbeam, the same finish as the oak lintel of the fireplace (which is now lined with brick). The right room has a soffit-chamfered and step- stopped axial beam and the oak lintel of the fireplace has a plain soffit chamfer. The roof-space is inaccessible but the bases of straight principals show, their scantling large enough to suggest that they belong to 17th century A-frame roof trusses. The proximity of these cottages to the kitchen garden walls of Fuidge Manor suggests that these were labourer's cottages serving the big house.



1841 census

William Bisset, horse-breaker, aged 50

Rosamond Bisset, aged 32

Mary Bisset, aged 11

Ann Bisset, aged 8

The Bisset family were probably being lodged temporarily in the house pending the arrival of the Norrishes. Note that Rosamond Bisset was later a servant of the Norrish family.

At Riders Beer:

(1) William Delve, mason, with his wife and four children plus a 12-year-old apprentice, William Taylor.

(2) William Aggett, agricultural labourer, with his wife and five children.

(3) William Manby, agricultural labourer, with his wife and three children.

1851 census

John Norrish, widower aged 69, farmer of 111 acres employing 4 labourers

John Norrish, aged 35

Dinah Collihole, aged 33, house-servant

Mary Lias, aged 17, house-servant

Samuel Marks, aged 30, house servant

William Bissett with his wife and young son are still listed, possibly living in a cottage on the estate.

At Riders Beer

(1)James Martin, agricultural labourer, with his wife and elderly mother (described as “ pauper”).

(2)Samuel Powlesland, agricultural labourer, with his wife Grace and three children (Samuel’s descendants believe he was a farrier – perhaps he looked after the horses on the estate).

(3)George Josland, carpenter, with his wife, two children, brother and a visitor.

1861 census

John Norrish, aged 79, landed proprietor

John Norrish (unmarried son), aged 45, farmer of 178 acres, employing 2 labourers

Dinah Collihole, aged 46, housekeeper

Rosamond Bisset, widow aged 53, general servant

Sarah Bisset, aged 14, servant

Ann Olden, aged 14, house-servant

Samuel Marks, carter, widower aged 41

At Riders Beer

(1)James Martin, agricultural labourer, and his wife plus George Long, a 7-year-old “boarder”.

(2)Richard Joslin, carpenter, with his wife and four children.

There is no mention of a third cottage, so the census-taker probably missed out the one inhabited by the Powleslands by mistake.

1871 census

John Norrish, aged 55, unmarried farmer of 200 acres employing 4 labourers (he died shortly after).

Dinah Collihole, aged 54, housekeeper

Elizabeth Powlesland, dairy-maid (indoors)

Samuel Marks, aged 52, farm servant (indoors)

At Riders Beer

(1)James Martin, hind aged 61, and his wife. A Hind is a farm bailiff, so he had presumably been promoted to this position by John Norrish.

(2)Samuel Powlesland, agricultural labourer aged 58, with his wife and daughter Emma, plus grandchild William (who was the illegitimate child of another of his daughters, allegedly by George Lambert-Gorwyn of Coffins; William’s mother gave the child to her parents and ran away to London).

(3)William Potter, agricultural labourer aged 59 and his wife.

1881 census

James Rattenbury, aged 50 (born Crediton), farmer of 200 acres employing 3 labourers

Caroline Rattenbury, aged 47

James Rattenbury, aged 20

Elizabeth Brown, aged 18, dairymaid

At Riders Beer

James Moore, agricultural labourer aged 27 and his daughter (he is described as married rather than widowed, so his wife was probably away). The other two cottages are recorded as unoccupied.

1891 census

Thomas Drake, aged 54, farmer

Mary Drake, aged 53

Elizabeth Richards (daughter), aged 31

Anne Drake, aged 19

Henry Drake, aged 15

Eliza Drake, aged 12

William Yeo, aged 25, farm servant

At Riders Beer

(1) Henry Balamy, agricultural labourer aged 26 with his wife and son.

(2) Robert Yeo, agricultural labourer aged 59, with his wife and two daughters.

(3) Unoccupied.

1901 census

Frank Hamlyn, aged 58, farmer

Mary A Hamlyn, aged 22

Mary M. Hamlyn, 8 months.

The property is described as “Fuidge Farm”.

At Riders Beer

(1) William Cursons, carter on farm aged 50, with his wife and nine children. The three eldest sons are of working age. One is a lime quarryman (there were lime quarries nearby at Drewsteignton); another is an apprentice wheelwright; and the third (aged 15) is a cattleman on the farm.

(2) Elzabeth ?Oades, an unmarried woman of 68 with her 45-year-old agricultural labourer son.

(3) Unoccupied.

1911 census

Thomas Hill, aged 71, farmer

Mary Hill, aged 58

Emily Hill, aged 26

Leonard Hill, aged 20

The property is described as “Fuidge Farm”.

At Riders Beer

James Tremlett, agricultural labourer aged 36 with his wife and three children, plus two teenage boarders, Robert and James Cann, waggoners on the farm. Only this one household is mentioned at Riders Beer.



Because Fuidge remained in the hands of the Cann family over so many centuries, without being either rented or sold, there are almost no old deeds which mention the property. There is, however, a 1767 document in the National Archives that records an exchange of lands between the Battishills of Barton and the Canns of Fuidge, presumably to tidy up the boundary between their two estates. It includes the transfer of some land belonging to Fuidge that was in the hands of the Battishills.

National Archives ref: IND 1/17199

A deed dating from 1808 that records that in that year George Lambert Gorwyn of Falkedon conveyed to John Cann of Fuidge the right to certain old manorial rents (the right to these rents was often bought and sold and John Cann was effectively buying out his obligation to pay the rents for the properties he owned). The rents included 4s 9d payable annually by the occupant of Fuidge. This rent must have dated back to the time when Fuidge was still owned by the lord of the manor of Spreyton.

Devon Heritage Centre ref: Z3 Box 14

An estate map of Fuidge drawn in 1853 for John Norrish.

Devon Heritage Centre ref: 4966Z/E1

An 1822 decree in a Court of Chancery enquiry into John Cann’s estates for settling debts.

Devon Heritage Centre ref: Z3 Box 14.

Sources: Early tax lists, parish registers, census returns, tithe apportionment list, family stories from descendants of the Canns and Powleslands, press reports, documents in the Devon Heritage Centre

August 2010

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