Evolution of a family estate

A view of the house at Arlington Court across the lawn

The house currently visited at Arlington Court is the work of generations of the Chichester family. Here you can discover how each heir changed the structure of the house and use of the rooms.

Location, location, location

The house as we now see it was built in three phases: the first was the neo-classical block designed by Thomas Lee and built for Colonel John Chichester in the 1820s. It was designed to replace an earlier house, which was sited by the church. That house was a Tudor building which had been updated in the 1790s but which developed structural problems. The decision was made to site the new house further down the hill and to develop the garden and views around it. Colonel Chichester did not have the pleasure of living in his new house, he died in 1823 just as the building works were completed.

 

Choosing the decor

Spot the difference compared to the present house
Historic photo of Arlington showing a loggia in the mid-nineteenth century
Spot the difference compared to the present house

Colonel John’s eldest son, also called John, inherited the estate from his father. He was created a baronet in 1840 so was known as Sir John. He married Caroline Thistlethwayte in 1838 and they set about finishing the interior decoration of the house. London firm Crace and Sons were employed as the designers and they used Trollope and Co. to carry out the works. Some of these original interiors still survive intact in the Morning Room, Ante Room and Boudoir. In 1850 he commissioned an extension to the house, with the aim of moving the kitchen and servants areas from where they had originally been in the basement. 

 
 

The new generation

Sir Bruce Chichester on a day out shooting with his steward
A historic photograph of Sir Bruce Chichester in front of Arlington Court
Sir Bruce Chichester on a day out shooting with his steward

Sir John died in 1851 and his nine year old son, Alexander Bruce Chichester, inherited the house and title. Known as Sir Bruce, he married Rosalie Chamberlayne in 1865 and continued his father’s work on extending the house; building a further extension to the servants’ wing, rearranging the staircase hall and adding a new dining room. It is thought that his plan was to move the entrance of the house around to the Ante Room which is why the staircase seems to be in an unusual place. He died in 1881 before the work could be completed.

 

The final heiress 

How the dining room used to look
A historic photograph showing a dining room layout at Arlington
How the dining room used to look

Bruce and Rosalie’s only child, also called Rosalie, inherited the estate at the age of sixteen on her father’s death and building work stopped. She lived at Arlington until her death in 1949 and bequeathed the house and estate to the National Trust. When the Trust took over in the post war period the house was in a poor state, Sir Bruce’s dining room had to be demolished to stop dry rot spreading to the rest of the house. Since then the Trust has undertaken various repair works and on going conservation to present the house as it stands today to over 90,000 visitors each year.

 
View from Morte Point over Woolacombe

The Chichesters and the coast

Learn more about the Chichester family's legacy on the North Devon coast.