by kind permission of Teign Heritage-Teignmouth and Shaldon Museum with extracts from The Nicholas Pearson Report 2006
An Exeter Flying Post advertisement stated that:...
Likewise to be SOLD, The FEE of a small FARM, known by the name of ROWDEN’s, in the Parish of East Teignmouth, consisting, by Estimation, of two Acres of Pasture and Tillage Land, with a good Barn and Linhay belonging to the same...
For further Particulars apply to Mr Robert Carter...
Rowdens was reputedly the home of the Babbage family whose son Charles Babbage was the renowned inventor .
Four years later, an Exeter Flying Post advertisement offered a more detailed description of a new house at Rowdens:
To be SOLD, or LET for a term of 7, 14, or 21 Years, the Fee-simple of all that DWELLING-HOUSE, Barn, Stable, and other convenient Offices, thereto belonging, known by the name of ROWDEN, in the Parish of East Teignmouth; together with one Acre of Garden, an Acre and Half of Orchard Ground, and six other Closes of Land
adjoining, making altogether, by Estimation, about twenty Acres.
The House and Grounds are delightfully situated within a quarter of a mile of Bathing Machines, and command a most beautiful View of the Rivers Teign and Exe; and Sea Coast from Torbay to Portland. The House (which was built but only two Years ago) may be purchased or let with the Garden, Stable, etc, separate, or altogether with the other Ground......For further Particulars, enquire of Mr Carter, at the above House at Rowden.
In 1808, the Babbage family moved into the old Rowdens house in East Teignmouth. Around the age of eight, Charles Babbage was sent to a country school in Alphington near Exeter to recover from a life-threatening fever. For a short time he attended King Edward VI Grammar School in Totnes, South Devon, but his health forced him back to private tutors for a time. Charles Babbage along with Ada Lovelace, is credited with inventing the first mechanical computer. Charles was born in 1791 and married Georgiana Whitmore at St. Michael's Church in Teignmouth on 25 July 1814.
Photo by Unknown staff artist for The Illustrated London News -Public Domain, commons.wikimedia.org
Cliffden House was built with 35 acres of grounds for Sir John Strachan Bt. (d.1844).
The house was possibly a re-modelling of a former mid eighteenth century house which was believed to be part of the Devon Estate and that a family called Bellairs lived there. Henry Bellairs fought in the battle of Trafalgar as a 12yr old.
An aquatint of Cliffden House by J. Shury after W. B. Noble shows the bowed south front approached by a sweeping smooth pathway. The Regency- style gardens included smooth lawns, shrubberies, with trelliswork and wall-plants against the lower storey of the house.
A view of Teignmouth by William Daniell is the first view of Eastcliff, showing grazed pasture descending to a densely wooded valley bottom. Cliffden house is a key feature in
the view, and part of the walled garden in the grounds of The Rowdens is also visible.
Two conifers and a smooth lawn adjacent to the walled garden may also relate to The Rowdens.
A map of Teignmouth by Roger Hopkins showed Rowdens and Cliffden House surrounded by fields and orchards. Rowdens House was set in a large area of lawn with a curving shrubbery border and the walled garden enclosure in the south east corner.
An orchard was shown to the south with further enclosures beyond, bordering the Dawlish Road.
Cliffden House was depicted as occupying a thin plot, running parallel to the road. An orchard to the east bordered a line of long narrow fields, probably the fossilisation of a strip farming, open field system. These were surrounded by further hedged fields, extending to the edge of Teignmouth and the cliff edge. As in the 1809 map, the lane from the beach lead up to the open clifftop pastures or downland.
The tithe map showed three substantial houses and grounds along the Dawlish Road, namely Eastcliff House and Courtilage, Cliffden House and Courtilage and Rowdens House and Courtilage.
The tithe map field boundaries largely reflected those on the 1828 map. Rowdens had the same area of surrounding garden or lawn – described as shrubbery and pasture, and a similar enclosure in the southeast corner recorded as garden. Similarly there was an orchard to the south, although by 1839 this area included a small rickyard. Rowdens was owned by Lady Nugent, although the wider orchards, pastures, (market) garden, arable fields and clifftop were tenanted. By way of a modest contrast, Sir John Strachan owned and occupied Cliffden and a little more of the surrounding land, including Babbages Field rented off his neighbour, Lady Nugent. Sir John also owned and let out the pasture called Lareys, formed by the enclosure of the five earlier strip fields after 1828. This explains the s-shaped arrangement of the northern border, which religiously followed the field boundary of the strips. One of the alcoves formed by this boundary was listed as Garden and leased to Henry Dale, along with the adjacent pasture, and therefore was probably an area of garden crops or market garden. Another novel feature of Strachan’s land was plot 240,a fir plantation, alongside the cliff top track, presumably pines planted as a wind break.
After his death in 1844 his only son and heir, another John Strachan, claimed the Baronetcy and became the 10th Baronet. He was married to Mary Anne Elton and they lived at Cliffden where he died 10yrs later on 28th January 1854.
His widow one year later in 1855 married John Chappell Tozer of Teignmouth and she died in 1857.
Florian was built, reputedly on the site of Rowdens, southwest of a new villa named Rowdens, built at about this time. A lithograph by W. Spreat after G.W. Cumming depicts the View from Rowdens in about 1850 and shows a dramatic view of Shaldon and the coastline beyond. This is framed by a sweeping lawn and mature beech and cedar trees.
The Exeter Flying Post advertised, for sale:
The Rowdens and other Freehold Estates comprising Two Marine Residences, several eligible pieces of Freehold Building Ground, and Five Enclosures of very fertile Arable Land, by the direction of the Executor of the late G.S. Curtis, Esq.
Delightfully situate and known as Rowdens, commanding most charming and extensive views of the coast scenery ...
The house is substantially built of stone, presenting a neat modern, architectural
elevation, and is surrounded by six acres of pleasure grounds, which are tastefully laid out in lawn and plantations, and studded with some fine trees of remarkable size and luxuriant growth, being approached by a drive, with lodge entrance, capital stabling, coach-houses, and outbuildings including conservatory, etc. Also several Freehold Building Sites, most eligibly situated for the erection of villa and other residents. Also Five Enclosures of very fertile Arable Land, situate on the Dawlish road, sloping to the south west, commanding fine prospects of the port and bay of Teignmouth; and delightful Freehold Residence, known as Florian.
An Exeter Flying Post advertisement offered:
To be LET...the Marine Residence known as ‘CLIFFDEN’, beautifully situated, with a Southern aspect, in a spacious Lawn and Pleasure Grounds, with Gardens and Pasture Fields adjoining...
...Also, coach house, stables, and capacious out-offices; an excellent walled garden well stocked with fruit trees, greenhouse, about one acre of young orchard, four acres of lawn and pleasure grounds, and six and half acres of superior pasture land; and a further quantity of six acres can be added if required...
The lease of Cliffden was once again advertised in the Exeter Flying Post with a summarised description of the previous advertisement.
The Ordnance Survey 1:500 for Teignmouth showed the southern half of Rowdens, Florian, Cliffden and some of the adjacent fields. The Rowdens pleasure grounds principally consisted of a perimeter walk, an open lawn dotted with individual trees, all edged with shrubberies. Garden features included an octagonal summerhouse, a rock garden (rockery), and a lean-to glasshouse along the western wall. The circular walled garden had been extended with a further triangular enclosure with two glasshouses as well as a boiler room or bothy. The circular garden itself was shown with a perimeter walk and divided into two halves by another path, planted with bush fruit. The bisecting path led to a semi-circular alcove in the wall. There continues to be a substantial orchard to the south of Rowdens, through which runs a stream and footpath. Another branch of this stream ran south, either side of which was now mapped as open parkland The majority of the Cliffden grounds were recorded as open ground, planted with a number of shrubs and mature trees. A footpath in the northern half led to a garden building, adjacent to the walled garden and stable block. In the southern half a rectangular enclosure is marked, adjacent to the stream that probably denoted a tennis or croquet lawn. A footbridge connected this area with the neighbouring field and the East Cliff Walk beyond.
The Ordnance Survey first edition 25 inch map presented a similar picture to the 1887 map but depicted a larger area of Rowdens, including a levelled area for tennis or croquet. The pleasure grounds of the Rowdens were linked to the East Cliff Walk by a elm tree-lined track, and to the north a shrubbery separating the property from new suburban villa development.
An enlarged version of the first edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch map created by S. Dobell Architect highlighted Rowdens and its adjoining fields. The circumstances surrounding the plan’s creation are unclear, however accession details accompanying the document reveal that it was deposited in the Teignmouth Museum by Tozer Solicitors, referenced Development Plan for the Rowdens and was by S. Dobell who practiced in Queen Street Chambers, Exeter. The evidence suggests that there were plans to alter Rowdens around this period
An aerial photo (2021) showing where the tennis court once was.There are some paved areas next to it for benches but the seats are now gone. The following 1905 map does not show this court but the 1926 map shows two tennis courts. The other being lower down where the (2021) childrens play area is. Both courts were used for croquet as well as tennis. In the 1960's the top court was used for tennis and the lower one for croquet.
By the time of the Ordnance Survey second edition 25 inch map, a paisley-shaped pool had been constructed in the southern half of the pleasure grounds, at Rowdens, incorporating a fountain, and a second glasshouse had been added to the walled garden extension. A building had been erected adjacent to the stream, in the middle of the orchard south of the Rowdens. The linking route from the Rowdens to the East Cliff Walk was labelled as a footpath, and the field around which this path navigates was now shown as containing further tennis courts. Rowdens had an additional drive to the Dawlish Road via the field to the north.
Mardon commissioned Messrs. Treseder & Co to design and lay out his garden at Cliffden. A note in a 1920s Treseder catalogue stated:
Mr Heber Mardon has much pleasure in giving his testimony as to the way Messrs. Treseder and Co. laid out his garden, transforming a piece of pasture land into a place of delight, where Nature can be enjoyed in the varied seasons of the year. It was commenced in 1914 and additions have been made during each year since with wonderful results. Treseder and Co. were a leading southwest nursery firm of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Ira Treseder was in France during the First World War and so it is believed that his father, John Garland Treseder, would have been overseeing this contract. Features included a small stream, seven artificial ponds, conifers,
A second letter in 1917 to Mr H. Mardon at Hailey Wood, Ship Lake,Henley-on-Thames advises him that they are well-stocked with Australian Tree Ferns, Fan leaved Palms (Trachycarpus) and dracaenas (Cordylines).
Heber Mardon reputedly employed the services of Belgian refugees to lay out the gardens.
Rowdens was described as:
...the property and residence of Colonel Reginald Morrison...a comparatively modern building, pleasantly situated in its well wooded grounds, and commanding extensive views of sea and land
Sales particulars for Cliffden, The Rowdens and the Teignmouth Golf Links, described Cliffden as having: Well-timbered grounds Fine old sweeping lawn Asphalted well designed paths A running stream with a chain of ornamental fishponds with miniature waterfalls. In the higher portion of the stream fishponds and waterlily pools have been constructed and along almost its entire length of nearly a quarter of a mile....pretty terraced paths have been formed...
In the kitchen garden are the following glasshouses:
Lean-to heated 22ft, Ditto18ft, Cold Span 20ft, Heated Vinery and Peach House 30ft, Four cucumber pits and boiler house, Well fitted fruit store and shed.
Adjoining the Pleasure Grounds are four closes of productive pasture land. The grounds were laid out under the supervision and advice of a landscape gardener, they are profusely planted with choice flowering shrubs, roses, bulbs and herbaceous plants and were the particular hobby of the late owner, who spared no trouble or expense in bringing them to their present perfect state. Plots 3,4,5 and 6 on the plan were let to Mr S. Blunt.
Lot 2: The Rowdens – the grounds are described as follows:
The well matured pleasure grounds are particularly charming, commanding, as they do, a wonderful view through a miniature valley to the sea and coastline from the estuary of the Teign to Hope’s Nose.They are of a delightfully diversified park like character, studded with some very old timber and ornamental flowering and other shrubs, and comprise sloping lawns, croquet lawn, rockeries, a handsome fountain and summer houses. On the outskirts of the property, with a frontage to the Cliff Walk, is a Tennis Court with pavilion. Well removed from the residence is an early and productive Large Walled kitchen garden, situated in a sheltered position, containing a fine lot of wall and other fruit trees. Two adjacent closes of rich pasture land add to the amenities and attractions of the estate, and ensure the privacy of the gardens and grounds.The residence, lodge, gardens and grounds (plot 7) were let to Mrs M. M. L. Barklie from 1920. The two pasture fields (plots 8 and 9) were let to Mr. T. J. Nicholls. Garden and tennis court (plot 10) let to Mr S. Blunt.
The accompanying plan of the auctioned lots provides further information. Handwritten labels confirm that the fields to the east of Cliffden were grazed, and that plot 2 was known as the Garden which also included a small garden building on the northern boundary with Rowdens. The area adjacent to the Top Garden was labelled as Farm Land with gated access to the Dawlish Road. The building depicted in 1905 had been demolished. Four plots have been delineated along the road and marked For Sale and, being uncoloured and not labelled with a lot number. This area was apparently no longer part of Rowdens or Cliffden. The stream was dammed to form four large oval ponds and a blue dashed line indicates its source to the north of Rowdens. A path led from the main Cliffden gardens up the west side of the ponds before curving round to return down the east side. This path was also connected to the walk that went around the pond in the Top Garden. Two photographs of Rowdens are included in the sales details.
Articles published by the Teignmouth Post and the Western Morning News reveal a controversial debate that surrounded Eastcliff in the 1920s. The late Heber Mardon had desired to sell Cliffden to Teignmouth Urban District Council for £7,500 for use as a public park, pleasure grounds, and Town Hall and offices. Public objection to this expenditure with headlines such as Can the Town Afford It? resulted in the solicitors of Heber Mardon’s son announcing that they wished to withdraw their offer in January 1927.
A photograph accompanied one of the articles showing one of the ornamental ponds with an oriental crane statue and a pair of classical figures. The surrounding planting has an unkempt appearance that may suggest a decline in maintenance after Mardon’s death, or may simply be due to the time of year.
Cliffden was purchased by the Mules family in 1927 for use as a retreat for women suffering from psychiatric disorders.
The Mules hosted an annual fete for the King George V’s Sailors Fund in the grounds.
An undated book of photographs taken before 1933 entitled Cliffden, Teignmouth shows various views of the garden and house. Views of pond D show statues either end of the dam wall on cube plinths adjacent to a narrow bed of a low growing shrub and the gravel path. In both images the paths are edged in a line of irregularly shaped light coloured stones, possibly pieces of quartzite. An artificial crane stood at the top end of the pond and the surrounding beds are abundantly planted with exotic species.The two ponds further downstream, those divided by a dam wall, were also photographed. Again, the landscape is characterised by exotic planting and still, reflective pools.
A Teignmouth guide book highlights the following popular walk: Walk along the sea wall to Smuggler’s Lane, cross the main road to Holcombe village, turn left which leads to Lover’s Lane on to Cliff Walk to the Promenade.
Other twentieth century guidebooks also mention East Cliff Walk as a link to Holcombe and mark the walk on accompanying town plans of Teignmouth, suggesting its popularity as a tourist attraction.
The Ordnance Survey third edition 25 inch map recorded a number of changes peripheral to the site. Four detached houses had been built on the land between Rowdens and Cliffden, while The Lareys had been divided into four paddocks. A further glasshouse had been added in the walled garden.
Photographs of The Dell taken during the mid 1930s reveal thriving exotic planting. A view of pond D included the following note: ...a bit of shrub garden which contains many choice specimens of shrubs. The statue on the right is backed by a fine specimen of Pittosporum eugenioides variegata.
Rowdens was sold by the Mardon family to the Mules family as a further extension of their hospital. They continued to develop the gardens, planting further exotic species in The Dell and continued to cultivate the walled garden as a kitchen garden.
A photograph labelled Rowdens 1938 shows a mature Monterey pine, cypress and a Silver fir, beech trees and lawn. A similar undated view reveals part of the walled garden interior showing a glasshouse.
A photograph labelled View from the Rowdens c.1940 presents a similar view to that in the 1926 sales particulars. The same Monterey pine, central shrubbery and isolated deciduous tree can be seen in a maturer state, as can the vegetation beyond, lower in the valley.
1940-5 Lawns were grown for hay and the grass tennis courts were planted with potatoes. The US Navy attempted to requisition Rowdens and Cliffden but was unsuccessful.
The gardens were restored after the decline in their upkeep during the Second World War although the number of gardeners had decreased from seven to four by this stage.
The Cliffden Souvenir Guide issued by Dr. B. Mules describes the gardens in detail. There was a great scheme of enlargement towards the end of World War One under the expert supervision of well-known Cornish landscape gardeners. Features include small stream, succession of seven artificial ponds, conifers and flowers, three acre lawn and superb views. Two principal entrances are described, one near the house from the Dawlish Road, and one opening off the eastern end of the sea front at Teignmouth with access to a large car park.The recommended circuit involved ascending the hill by side-walks through the shrubberies or by the main pathway to a summer house and rose walk from which there were views of the gardens looking northeast. Crossing the main drive to the vegetable garden and herbaceous border of Cassia corymbosa, Calceolaria violacea, Lonicera hildebrandiana, Abutilon megaponticum,
Acacia baileyana, Romneya coulteri, Eriobotrya, and then reaching a summer house followed by shady walks of The Dell, containing many spring flowers. Next, one should follow the...winding path beside the ponds, some fine specimens of Gunnera, Retinospera, Benthamia, Crinodendrons, Ozothamnus, Acacia and various Dracena are encountered and at the end of this path, you cross to the upper garden, in which a large collection of flowering shrubs flourish. Some of these will be found in bloom whatever the month of the year may be when you visit Cliffden. There is a fine Australian tree fern near the summerhouse as well as several noteworthy specimens of Gunnera, Eucalyptus, Berberis, Buddleia, Pittosporum, Feijoa, Acacia, Drimys, Hydrangea petiolaris, Ginkgo, Bamboos etc. On returning once again to the Dell tree lovers will appreciate the spectacle of the fine large Robinia standing on a knoll in the park. It is well over 100 years old and still flowers in its season.Following the side path on the left by the park railing the best general views of the gardens and lawns can be found, as well as the water lily pond. At the end of the croquet lawn, away under the beech trees, a side path leads to the seaside summerhouse which has views of the coastline.
Drs. Bertha and Annie Mules transferred the ownership of Cliffden to their nephew Dr. Roger Mules.
animals consisted of chickens and pigs and all their cows had names beginning
with 'M'. Mildred, Masie, Margaret, Molly, and Melanie after me. The milk from
the cows was used for drinking, but was also left to stand in bowls and then
the top skimmed off and made into butter and the remaining skimmed milk was
used for drinking and cooking.(photo - Leslie feeding the pigs)
would make their own pig food in the farm from food scraps, vegetables and pig
mix all cooked in a couple of big cauldrons on legs in a room next to the cows
milking room. Calf's were always born on a regular basis, like any farm and I
used to help wean them off their mum to drinking milk through a floating teat
in a bucket of mums milk. There was always a cockerel in with the chickens who
was very feisty. They used to slaughter their own chickens and pluck them on
site and also the pigs used to be slaughtered and prepared on site. (photo - dad feeding the pigs)
The kitchen garden and vegetable plots were used to grow food for the main house and also to start plants for the gardens. When the fruit in the orchard was ripe for picking everybody pitched in to collect it all together in one go.
The fields used to be home to all the cows, but also to sheep which belonged to another farmer who he allowed to graze on there. The cows used to walk from the farm across the lower field and through a wide grassed passage between the lower dell and the higher dell to get to the top fields.
The higher dell was always left to be wild with a large amount of Bluebells in the spring. The pond was large with the stone heron in the middle and two stone ladies at the end. There was 2 metal gates either side of the grass passage way into the lower and higher dells. The lower dell boundary was beside where the wooden bridge is situated and you would walk over that to go back down towards the seafront again.
The big main pond in front of the house would be drained every year for cleaning and would always have a large amount of frogs and newts in it and very often ducks would come and swim on there.
Further down from that pond was another croquet lawn with a massive weeping willow tree with seats positioned around it.
Seesaws, swings etc, for children were situated on the lawn in front of the summer house.
The gardens and lawns were prepared to a high level before this event.
Dr Roger provided a real Christmas tree for us ever year, and always had real trees in the main house"
A local boys preparatory school called The Beacon School moved into Rowdens. It is believed it was named “The Beacon” by Mr Daunt, the owner and headmaster who had previously been a master at Christ College, Brecon, at the foot of the Brecon Beacons, and that the name was chosen in memory of the Beacons.
Teignmouth Urban District Council became Teignbridge District Council. Rowdens grounds are maintained as public open space with part of the pasture as meadow.
The Teignmouth and Shaldon Local Plan proposed to use the land at Cliffden as public open space.
Dr. Roger Mules retired and moved into Trafalgar House.
Cliffden was sold and was converted into a hotel associated with Guide Dogs for the Blind.
The Eastcliff fields were given to Teignmouth in memory of Bertha and Roderick Mules.
Cliffden hotel was put up for sale inviting offers in the region of £1,350,000 for the freehold interest in
the hotel which was to be sold as a going concern asset and business sale.
Sales particulars noted that it was a -
An attractive part Grade II listed two storey period property that
currently operates as a three star full service hotel, which has been
extended in recent years to provide further accommodation space and
Situated in an elevated position above the attractive tourist town of Teignmouth overlooking approximately seven acres of attractive manicured gardens, and the beautiful views over the mouth of the River Teign. The hotel is a mere 200 yards from one of the best sandy beaches in South Devon, also known as 'the English Riviera'. Today, its port still operates and the town remains a popular seaside holiday location.
Located to the south of the hotel is a 15m indoor heated swimming pool, with reception, gents and ladies changing facilities, WCs and plant room, situated
at a lower level that allows for the roof to form a terrace from the main bar/restaurant.
Ancillary Areas• Commercial catering kitchen• Wash up area• Storage area comprising cold store,dry store • Staff room and changing rooms• 2nd floor shower room • Dog grooming room & storage area• Upland cellar• Laundry room
There are a total of 47 en-suite well furnished letting bedrooms situated on the ground, first and second floors. The bedrooms can be accessed via stairs to
all floors, whilst a passenger lift provides access to the ground, first and second floors. All bedrooms are equipped with colour TV together with tea and coffee making facilities, hair dryer, direct dial telephone and WiFi facilities for guests.
The hotel is situated on a site of approximately 2.4 hectares (5.9 acres) which comprises formal gardens and grounds, including an ornamental pond and terrace seating areas. Hard surface parking is provided on two levels. An area outside the main entrance for circa 20 vehicles, with an under croft for approximately 10 vehicles being underneath part of the main parking area.
Teignmouth District Council, Rateable Value of £45,900 2016/17 UBR 0.484p in the £ with an additional small business rate supplement of 0.0130p in the £.
Actual rates payable £22,812.30 Draft 2017 rateable value of £78,000 *2017/18 UBR 0.467p in the £ with an additional small business rate supplement of 0.0130p in the £. Actual rates payable £37,440
The property is held on a freehold title.
Management accounts for the 12 month period to 31st March 2016 show a net turnover in excess of £930,000.
The business is currently operated under management and benefits from a solid trading history and a good range of income streams.
Fixtures & Fittings
All fixtures, fittings and other items associated with the running of the business are owned outright and other than any items badged or specifically linked to Action for Blind People, will be included within the disposal.
The property has a premises Licence
Stock In Trade
Stock in trade is to be purchased at cost in addition to the sale price on the day of completion.
If applicable, VAT will be in addition to the purchase price.
Vision Hotels also own:
The Coach House, 19 Dawlish Road. A freehold four bedroom self-catering cottage, providing the following accommodation:• Lounge/Dining Room• Kitchen• 1 x double en-suite bedroom• 1 x twin bedroom • 2 x single bedrooms• Family bathroom
The cottage has direct vehicle access from Dawlish Road, with numerous outbuildings and a lawned garden. This may be available by way of separate negotiations.
The inscription surrounding reads "BRIGHT STAR WOULD I WERE STEDFAST AS THOU ART"
This is the first line of a love sonnet by John Keats.
The Lookout Point was redesigned with disabled access slope, new steps and handrails added and new carved seat and barrel shaped Table.