The origins of the Acland family

King Charles I made Sir John a baronet for his loyalty in the Civil War © Sophia Farley

King Charles I made Sir John a baronet for his loyalty in the Civil War

Killerton house and its garden are a little over 200 years old, but the Acland family goes back much further to medieval times. Over the centuries they climbed the social ladder, eventually being granted a baronetcy. 

Hugh de Accalen - the first 'Acland'

Hugh de Accalen owned Acland Barton in north Devon in 1155. He probably took his name from the place he lived - Hugh of 'Acca's lane'. He may have been Flemish originally, as a common Acland name in the 12th and 13th centuries was the Flemish name Baldwin. 

Social climbing

By the end of the 12th century the Aclands held about 400 acres of land and a social rank just below that of knight. They were lucky in always having male heirs to inherit and consolidate their wealth, and in making good marriages that brought more land in dowry, improving their social position.

In the 15th century Acland Barton was re-built to a more impressive standard. It now had its own chapel so the Aclands did not have to walk elsewhere on a Sunday.

The English and Devon economies prospered through the 16th century, particularly in farming and the wool trade. The Aclands’ wealth increased and John Acland acquired his own heraldic arms.

Moving south

John Acland had two sons. His eldest, Hugh, inherited Acland Barton. The younger, another John, moved south to Columb John near Killerton in the late 16th century.

Columb John had once belonged to the Earls of Devon, and John himself became an important figure in the region. He served as a justice of the peace, sheriff and Member of Parliament, and was knighted. 

John had no children. In about 1620 Hugh's grandson, yet another John, inherited both Acland Barton and Columb John. This John decided to make Columb John the main family seat, settling permanently in the more pleasant climate of the south. He acquired the Acland baronetcy during the Civil War.