Colwell Wood Cottage

In our previous HAFS Newsletter 55, February 2018, p46, we reprinted an article about Colwell Wood Cottage, County Devon, which was for sale (at the time). The property includes 75 acres of woodland, including Colwell Wood, Scrub Wood and part of Offwell Woods, and a restored cottage built about 1805. It is situated in an area designated East Area of Devon of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Colwell Wood Bluebells

During the 15th century, this estate or manor was owned successively by the de Courtenay, Hungerford and Hastings families, before coming into the possession of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who was became Richard III, King of England, in 1483.

Rev JE Jackson calls it a “barton”, being a farmyard, or enclosed piece of land.  “Manor” refers to an estate, from which fees can be raised by the king, or government of the day, and a court could be held. Colwell Wood was next to the manor of Sutton Lucy, in the parish of Widworthy, near Honiton.

The cottage was probably built in 1805, under the ownership of Admiral Thomas Graves, for his daughter Mary Graves. Admiral Graves died in 1814. He was Lord Nelson’s second in command. He purchased Colwell Wood (approx 69 acres) in 1793/4, as part of the Widworthy Estate. Its main value was in its woodland and timbers of fine oak trees, ash and sycamore. Though only 9 miles from the coast at Sidmouth, I doubt that one can catch a glimpse of the sea, due to the thick woodland, which faces north towards Honiton, County Devon, about 2 miles north-west.

Debrett’s Book Cover

Debrett Ancestry Research Ltd, in The History of Colwell Wood and Colwell Wood Cottage, 2016, details all the owners from pre 1066, though to the present day.

The name “Colwell” came from the grants of lands in the area made to William de Colewell between 1195 and 1243. In all, six generations of the de Colewell family lived and worked in this part of Devon. Following the de Colewell families interest, the lands and estates came into the de Courtenay family.

Sir Hugh de Courtenay, 2nd Earl of Devon (d 1377) held Colwell Wood in 1362/3. On his death in 1369, it was transferred to his sister Margaret, later wife of Thomas Peverell. When she died in 1422, her estates were transferred to her daughter Katherine, who become the wife of Sir Walter Hungerford (about 1399), and later to Sir Robert Hungerford, 2nd Lord Hungerford in 1449. By 1459, the tenant in chief was Thomas de Courtenay, Earl of Devon, and his subtenants included Robert, 3rd Lord Hungerford.  At this time, it was part of the manor of Okehampton. However all their lands were confiscated by Edward IV, and granted to Richard Duke of Gloucester in 1461.  In 1464, the Hungerford estates were restored to Sir Thomas Hungerford, son of Robert, 3rd Lord Hungerford.  Henry Courtenay and Sir Thomas Hungerford were both executed in 1469, and the Colwell lands now came into the possession of Mary Hungerford, daughter and heir of Sir Thomas Hungerford, married to Edward, Lord Hastings. Their son was George Hastings, created Earl of Huntingdon in 1529, and the manor of Colwell came into his ownership.

So though Richard, Duke of Gloucester had ownership of Colwell Wood in a period between 1459 and 1464, he had no interest there during the years 1483-1485, when he was Richard III, King of England. He may never have visited the wood, and there is no record of any building or dwelling on the land at that time.

The Earls of Huntingdon had sold the manor of Colwell by 1560.  Since then there have been many owners, using it as a source for timber for building houses, and for shipbuilding. Numerous owners also ran pheasants and other game birds, and planted orchards.  No record is held of any one living there, though there may have been woodsmen’s cottages.  Owners and workers possibly lived in the neighbouring villages of Offwell, and Honiton.

The current owner is WL Hutton, who purchased the Colwood Wood and Cottage in 1985, as a country retreat. Under his ownership, the Cottage was renovated to a modern three bedroom home.  The woodlands remain as a wild haven, with ponds, bluebell clearings, and a pheasantry.

Prepared by Lesley Abrahams [H.4a.1b.1c.1d/ E.6.5a.1b.1c.1d]



Belfield, Gervase, & Susan Morris, The History of Colwell Wood and Colwell Wood Cottage in Offwell, Devon. Researched and published by Debrett Ancestry Research Ltd, Winchester, U.K., 2016.

Humberts Honiton, Devon, [property consultants], online, cited 2018

Jackson, JE Rev, The Research Papers…Relating to the Hungerford Family 1885.  “Collections for their Personal History”, Vol 2; “A Register of Places”, Vols 1, 2 & 4.

Pole, William, Sir, Collections Towards a Description of County of Devon London, 1791. Google Books, cited May 2018.

British History Online, cited 15 May 2018

Lysons, Daniel, & Samuel Lysons, Magna Britannia; Vol 6, Devonshire.  London, 1822. British History online, accessed 15 May 2018.

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