All on Devon Gazetteer
  • Parkland
  • Walled Kitchen Garden
Local Authority:
South Hams
OS Grid Ref:
SX 674 536
Map no.:
Landranger 202

Shilstone was owned by the Hill family from the late fourteenth century until c.1614 when it was acquired by the Savery family, a well known and prosperous gentry family who were involved in both farming and trade.Thomas Savery (1650- 1715), a cousin to the Savery who owned Shilstone in the late c17, was a leading water engineer and in 1714 was appointed Surveyor to the Royal Waterworks at Hampton Court. There were branches of the family who were equally prominent in Totnes, Dartmouth and Exeter. Shilstone remained the family seat until about 1784 when John Savery moved to Butcombe Court in Somerset.  The present house, a large farmhouse, is a courtyard mansion which includes elements of the c.1813 rebuild that replaced the medieval manr. It was built in c.1813 and replaced a large manor house.  A cursory glance at the landscape could suggest that there is little of any interest to the garden historian. There is a lack of established planting and ornamental trees with exception of one Veteran Chestnut and several Evergreen Oaks of c 1800. However, the ornamental landscape at Shilstone is extremely intriguing because of four surviving features. First, there is a series of terraces to the north, east and south west of the current house which link with the medieval building. Second, a stone built rectangular kitchen garden has an ornamental tower and, more interestingly, an unusual raised walk along the length of the back south-west facing wall. The tower appears to have been built in the early nineteenth century but the walkway would have been a curious feature to build at that date. But the main area of interest lies with the series of five rectangular stone-sided ponds descending the valley. The obvious question to ask is whether these are also vestiges from the medieval house as utilitarian fishponds, such as those which survive locally at Haccombe near Teignmouth, and are known to have existed at many other sites across the West Country. The history of these ponds is all the more interesting because of the survival of the fourth principal garden feature: this is a three vaulted water chamber built into the hillside between the site of the medieval house and the first of thethe ponds. The chamber is extremely well built and must have been expensive to build in both its design and execution.  Behind it is an older chamber built deeper into the hillside.  The C17 water theatre is concealed by the c18 triple arched grotto. Excavated by the late Christopher Currie, only a small section survives and includes the lower half of a pair of legs from on e of the many dancing figurines that would have adorned the facade.

Listed Buildings

Shilston Barton, walled garden and gazebo west of Shilston Barton all listed Grade II.


T Gray: Report on Shilston Barton 1999 Abigail Gray, Devon Rural Archive: Shilstone Archaeological Notes 2010

50.3681178, -3.8654924