THE very beautiful road from Barnstaple to Lynton passes the Arlington Court Estate, owned for centuries by a branch of the Chichester family. The last owner was Miss Rosalie Chichester, who, two years before her death in 1948, donated the extensive and lovely estate to the National Trust. Comprising well over 3,000 acres, it included the hamlets of Arlington and Loxhore, some 19 farms and 40 cottages. The whole area is heavily timbered.
A very talented lady, Miss Chichester followed a variety of hobbies including photography, plastic work, painting and gardening, and in addition, she was an enthusiastic traveller. Towards the end of her life her collections grew, and scores of cases of fossils, shells and ship models were accumulated. Some of these carved from bone by Napoleonic prisoners-of-war during their stay in England, were presented to the Buckland Abbey Collection by the National Trust in 1952. When experts entered Arlington Court to make an inventory after her death, they discovered among a pile of old papers on the top of a cupboard in the pantry a water-colour. Upon examination it was found to be a hitherto lost picture by William Blake, illustrating the Cycle of the Life of Man.
With her death in 1948, the Arlington branch of the family, which had remained unbroken since 1384, became extinct. Since the fourteenth century, when the 17 children of Amyas Chichester (founder of the branch) made their way into the world, the family had been identified with every phase of history. What a story, or series of stories, the history of the family would make! One is left wondering why Edward fought with a Barnstaple shipmaster - the duel in which he was killed in 1590; why, in 1766, Catherine Chichester took the veil at an early age and became a sepulchral nun at Liege; how did the family (of Royalist sympathies) survive the viciousness of the Parliamentary army in the Civil War; why were more arms and armour discovered at Arlington Court than anywhere else in the county (wounded King's men were discovered hiding there too).*note* Why did another son, who was an expert linguist, enter the Austrian Army in 1830 and behave with such gallentry at the head of his troop, that he received a pension nd came home from the wars to die in Arlington?
Members of the family fought in the Peninsular War, American War, in the Indian Mutiny, the Boxer Rebellion, Crimean War, South African War and the Great War.
Part of the house is now a museum. It was opened to the public by the National Trust in June, 1952, and may be visited daily throughout the summer.
There was much skirmishing around Arlington and a letter written by a puritan on 21st October, 1642, said, "There hath been more been more substantial armour found in Mr. Chichester's house at Arlington.....than in our whole country - gentry excepted. At the searching of these houses there were several wounded...". Bullet marks may still be seen on the walls of the neighbouring church at East Down, and in that church there is a monument to Edward Pyrie, Esq., "Lt. Colonel to Sir Hugh Pollard in the late unhappy wars", who died in 1663. This same Mr. Pyrie appears to have been been involved in the lease of a "south part of Mattocks Down" (near East Down) to a member of the Lerwill family in 1661.
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