Combe Barton
Subject:Combe Barton, Bigbury

NGR:SX 6755 4865

Combe was first noted in 1330 as a place within the Manor of Bigbury.  It appears not to have been a manor in its own right, though its buildings were clearly of manorial status by the late C15.  So far, the reasons for its late medieval development are not known, although it is assumed that an advantageous marriage, as at nearby Leigh Barton, may have been responsible for lifting its status from that of yeoman farmer's house to one with manorial pretensions.
Its later history seems to have been uneventful until the early C19, ensuring the survival of much medieval fabric.  In 1819 however, it was acquired by Josiah Nisbet, Admiral Horatio Nelson's stepson.  The Nisbet family owned the house for two generations and built a large Italianate extension to the north-west front of the house in 1875.  The farm was let to the local Lauzon family, who eventually took on the house also.

Description:

A partially complete late medieval courtyard mansion, facing north-west across a terrace cut into the foot of a valley slope.
The main part of the house contains substantial remains of a C14-C15 open hall and storeyed cross-wing.  Behind it is a long service range with well-preserved late C15 – early C16 kitchen & lodgings range with associated stable.  This is well-built, of slate ashlar blocks with arched door and shouldered windows with iron bars.  This building is one of a small but important group, found only in the Kingsbridge area.
The house lies within an area of mature gardens, while to the south is a large quadrangle of C19 stone farm buildings.  These were not visited, having been converted to dwellings.

Dating:

1C14-C15.  Rear door of hall/cross-passage and stair turret from hall to cross-wing.  Door has mouldings common from c.1370-1420.

2Later C15.  Parts of a large granite mullioned and transomed window with cusped lights may be from the open hall.

3Late C15-early C16.  Parts of rear wall of hall with tall chamfered windows; primary build of service range.  Shouldered windows and semi-circular arched door are common features of this period in the area.

4Mid-late C17.  West end of service range added, with granary over possible stable.

5c.1819-30?  Period 3 service range rebuilt as shippon with hayloft over.  C17 western part re-roofed and grain bins inserted into first floor.  Eastern part of hall range demolished.  Large quadrangle of agricultural buildings constructed to south.

61875.  Present house frontage built in Italianate style and lawns laid out to its north and east.

Conclusions:

Despite the C19 alterations, the house retains well-preserved remains of a medieval courtyard mansion.  This is a rare example, in an area where most such layouts have been lost.  The retention of the medieval frontage of the service range seems to be an unusually early example of 'facading', perhaps because its quality and age was appreciated enough to preserve it.