• Guided tour of the Nursery and Arboretum at Thornhayes, near Cullompton. Friday 20th October 2017. See Events section for information.
Devon Gardens Trust is devoted to the preservation and enhancement of gardens in the UK county of Devon

Combe Royal & Lower Combe Royal

Statutory Designation: 

House and garden wall listed Grade II.

District: 
South Hams
Parish: 
West Alvington
Grid ref: 
SX 729 458
Map no: 
Landranger 202
Type of site: 
Victorian garden with citrus wall.
Description: 

Combe Royal is a Victorian house, listed grade II, with a notable garden in a deep Devon combe, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, near Kingsbridge in the South Hams . The lower garden, which was largely planted with giant rhododendrons, still exists, but little remains of the elaborate Victorian layout around the house. The 1906 and 1907 OS show extensive woodland with a series of walks south east of Coombe Royal and a long drive from the lodge above Lower Combe Royal. The garden was featured in the Journal of Horticulture in 1871, when its orangery was described as growing varieties of orange, lemons, limes and shaddocks, unprotected except for reed mats in severe weather. This ‘orangery’ is actually a large free standing south facing wall with an arcade of chamfered 4-centred arches of dressed slate; inside the arches there are alternative courses of red brick stretchers and brick-on-edge. At the west end there is a blind ninth bay. This listed wall has survived, although it is now bare of plants.  It is, as far as is known, the only one surviving in Britain, though there may have been one similar in Barnstaple. The garden was renowned for the early study of citrus fruit. Combe Royal oranges were sent to Queen Victoria in the 1860s ‘ who afterwards sent her head gardener from Osborne for the purpose of enquiring on the spot as to the mode of culture.’ (Fox. I 864) By 1999 the woodland walks were overgrown and the citrus wall was buried under brambles and undergrowth.  Devon Gardens Trust arranged for the  British Trust for Conservation Volunteers to clear away the undergrowth.   The property was owned by Devon County Council for some years and was used as an office by the Social Services Department.

Devon County Council sold the property in 2010 and the new owners have renovated the house.  They have employed a young enthusiastic gardener to work on the garden.  He was brought up on the adjoining farm, and has memories of how the site looked before nature was left uncontrolled to take over the former designed landscape. Large areas of undergrowth have been removed from both sides of the valley revealing Citrus Wall in its former glory. The owner’s intention is to restore the wall in its original garden setting, more or less as it was in the early photographs of the site.

Combe Royal citrus wall in its landscape setting.
Combe Royal citrus wall.
Conservation Area: 
No
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty: 
Yes
Area of Great Landscape Value: 
No
Nature Conservation Zone: 
No
Coastal Preservation Area: 
No
National Park: 
No
Scheduled: 
No
Evidence: 
MapView plan, scale 1:4500 Ordnance Survey 2nd edition, 1907, scale 6” (WCSL sheet 132 SW) Ordnance Survey 2nd edition, 1906, scale 1:2500 (WCSL sheet 132/14 & 15) Getmapping aerial photograph 1:2500 Historic Maps c1880
References: 
Cherry & Pevsner: The Buildings of England - Devon, 1989: 898 T.Gray: The Garden History of Devon, 1995: 78-9 ,78 J.Hort. Cottage Gardener v.46, 1871: 162-64 Gardeners’ Chronicle i. 1904: 1-3
Status: 
on Devon Gazetteer