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Highlights of the History of Escot Estate

Escot House, as built circa 1684

by Sir Walter Yonge, 3rd Baronet (1653–1731). 1715 illustration in Vitruvius Britannicus. This is the building painted by Swete in 1794, which burned down in 1808. Pevsner deemed this building "much more interesting" than the surviving replacement.

Escot in 1794

when about to be sold by Sir George Yonge, 5th Baronet (1731–1812), grandson of the builder. Watercolour by Rev. John Swete. It was destroyed by fire in 1808.

Escot House

as rebuilt in 1837 by Sir John Kennaway, 2nd Baronet (1797–1873)

Arms of Kennaway

Argent, a fess azure between two eagles displayed in chief gules and in base through an annulet of the third a slip of olive and another of palm in saltire proper.

  • The name Escot derives from ‘cot’ meaning ‘small house or farm’, and ‘Es’, to the east. The name was first recorded in 1227.
  • Dame Lucia di Estcote inherited the Estate from her husband in 1249; when she died her son Baldwin de Leche became Lord. He in turn left it to his son Thomas Beauchamp of Ryme.
  • The first manor house was finished in 1688 by Sir Walter Yonge and the Estate remained in this family for the next 100 years or so. During this period, Capability Brown was involved in the design of the grounds, particularly in the creation of lakes, known as Lower, Middle and Higher Pond.
  • In 1789, King George III, Queen Charlotte and three of their daughters stopped off on their way from Weymouth to Exeter to visit Escot Park and view the gardens and grounds.
  • The Kennaway family purchased the house and Estate in 1794 for the grand sum of £26,000.
  • In 1808 the original manor house was destroyed after a fire started in a bedroom – despite the fact that Escot had its own fire engine. The house was uninsured and it wasn’t until 1835 that designs for a new building were commissioned by Sir John Kennaway. His son approved the plans in 1837 and building commenced. The house, built from Flemish bond brick, was designated Grade II listed in 1988.
  • In the 1800s, author William Makepiece Thackeray stayed locally at Larkbeare. He met the first Baronet and became friendly with his children. Twenty years later in 1852 he used his memories of Escot as a setting for his novel Pendennis.
  • During World War II Escot became a home for evacuee children while the Kennaway family moved temporarily to an estate house in nearby Fairmile.
  • In 1984 John-Michael Kennaway was invited by the wider family to take the Estate on. John-Michael married Lucy Bradshaw-Smith in 1988 and they set up home in Escot House. Escot Gardens opened to the public in 1989 and became a popular destination for local families and tourists alike.
  • Escot was granted a Civil Marriage Licence in 1996, becoming one of the very first private venues in Devon to take advantage of this opportunity.
  • Escot hit national headlines in 1997 when environmental protestor ‘Swampy’ dug in against the building of the new A30 dual-carriageway. The road cut through the park, separating the house from Escot Church.
  • The first Beautiful Days festival was held in Escot Park in 2003 with a weekend ticket costing £55. The award-winning festival takes place every August and has a built a reputation as a family-friendly festival.
  • In 2015, Escot Gardens became part of Wildwood Trust, one of the leading British animal conservation charities in the UK, dedicated to saving Britain’s most threatened wildlife.

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