Miss Rosalie Chichester

Miss Rosalie Chichester, last heiress of Arlington Court

Rosalie Caroline Chichester was born in 1865, the daughter of Sir Bruce Chichester and Rosalie Chamberlayne. Her father died in 1881 leaving the sixteen-year-old Rosalie and her widowed mother with substantial debts which took until 1928 to pay off.

A range of hobbies

Possibly because of the huge burden of debt and her geographical isolation, but also undoubtedly because of her deep and abiding love of her home, Miss Chichester never married but instead remained at Arlington Court.  Hers was not the life of a lonely recluse, though: she had a lively interest in many fields including art, music, inventions, astronomy and politics. She won prizes for photographs that she developed and printed herself and, along with many unpublished romantic novels, wrote regularly for the Daily Sketch. She also personified the archetypal inquisitive Victorian, amassing huge collections of shells, model ships, pewter, stuffed animals, greeting cards and objets d’art in a private museum.

Grand ambitions

Miss Chichester loved to travel and as her debts decreased she began to venture further afield with her paid companion, Chrissie Peters.  The National Parks she visited on her two world cruises and particularly a 1921 visit to Australia and New Zealand inspired her to start opening her own estate to the public.
She was, unusually for her time, vehemently opposed to hunting and had a fence built around the estate to preserve the deer. She became a successful breeder of Jacob’s sheep and Exmoor ponies, but some of her interest in preserving the freedom of flora and fauna was perhaps less beneficial as trees were forbidden to be cut down, Polly - her late father’s parrot - flew freely about the house and peacocks were permitted to walk unhindered indoors.   

A legacy for the nation

In 1908, following the death of her mother, Miss Chichester passed to the National Trust most of the land that she owned at Woolacombe and Mortehoe.  As time went on, ill health and advancing years began to take their toll so she began to consider the future of the estate that had been the family home for many centuries. In 1948, the year before her death, she made arrangements in her will to hand over Arlington and all remaining land to the National Trust. 

A peaceful ending

Rosalie Chichester died in 1949, aged eighty-five.  She had spent her final days at her other property, Parade House at Woolacombe, but her memorial urn stands overlooking the lake, one of her favourite places, in tribute to a remarkable woman and great friend of the National Trust.