South Allington House - 4

Documentary evidence has disclosed that there was a jointure contained in the pre-nuptial contract, or marriage settlement, between Elizabeth Prettejohn Harris (Pitts) and Nicholas Pitts. This marriage settlement was drafted some time before their marriage in 1833. Later, in the draft of his will (1862), Nicholas refers to his financial commitment arising from that settlement. This mechanism was designed to provide some security for Elizabeth in the event of the death of her husband Nicholas. The security took the form of some fairly substantial cash settlements, some personal property, and an annuity or annuities. The jointure reflected the considerable amount of property brought into the marriage by Elizabeth, and, no doubt the expectation of the future property acquisitions she subsequently inherited. The various testamentary dispositions and other events both before and after the marriage made Elizabeth a very wealthy woman in her own right. In the will of Elizabeth's uncle, Walter Lamble Prettejohn, the property bequeathed to Elizabeth was placed into trust and administered by Browse Prettejohn and John Harris. Walter Lamble Prettejohn's great- grandfather (Nicholas Prettejohn - born 1665) was the great-great-grandfather of one of those trustees, Browse Prettejohn. We can, at this point, only speculate that John Harris, the other trustee, was related in some way to Elizabeth's father, Thomas Harris. In the will of Walter Lamble Prettejohn's father, Walter Prettejohn, there was more property bequeathed to Elizabeth Prettejohn Pitts through her mother Elizabeth Prettejohn (who died in 1839). No doubt, this testamentary disposition was also protected by the creation of a trust deed. I

t would therefore seem likely that South Allington House was built by the Prettejohn family, or acquired by them, some time after 1800. In order to trace the origins of the house, I think some of the answers may lie in the Prettejohn family papers (if any) and in the marriage settlement of 1833 (held in the Devon Records Office and not accessible other than "in person" since the staff are unable to assist with copies of such documents). The alterations and extensions to the house did not occur until after the property became part of the Pitts landholdings in the late 1830’s – and it seems that, on the present evidence, the South Allington House in its original single-bay form became part of the Pitts family property holdings about 1833.

It is still not yet clear when the simpler single-bay form of South Allington House came into existence. All that is certain is that it was built prior to 1813. A drawing of the house and surrounding roads, dated 1813 , show the mansion as a much smaller single-bay country house, about half the size of the present structure. A number of drawings executed in 1839 by Thomas Ponsford of Totnes together with another drawing by Lionel Ponsford, also of Totnes, show proposed extensions in the form of additional single-bay wings at each end of the existing building and also cladding to the walls, work on the chimneys and a new portico. The extensions, additions and modifications were undertaken by Thomas Ponsford, an architect and builder of Upper Main Street, Totnes in 1840. The additions when completed had three bays comprising a pedimented centre, two single-bay wings and a Doric porch with arched windows above.

The 18th or early 19th century house was probably built on the site of an earlier house known as South Allington Manor, which may have originated in the fifteenth century, but there are other references to an even earlier manor house. There are also links to a property known as Cornish’s and mentioned in the context of the South Allington property in the will of Nicholas Pitts. It is not clear whether Cornish's is the earlier structure, or was located elsewhere in South Allington. The foundations of an earlier original structure can still be seen in the basement of South Allington House.

South Allington House passed to Nicholas Pitts’s second son Thomas Harris Pitts in 1870 and then in turn to his son Charles Hugh Harris Pitts in 1910, then to William Nicholas Charles Harris Pitts in 1945 when 500 acres of the land surrounding the house were sold. The mansion might have passed to his son, Peter Harris Pitts, when William Pitts died in 1991; however, instead, in 1964 William Pitts sold the remaining land and South Allington House itself to the tenants of the three remaining farms of the estate. South Allington House was sold to the tenant of the largest farm, who opened up the house as a bed and breakfast establishment. This business was not a success and the house became very “run down” until, on the death of the owner, it was purchased by the present proprietors Edward and Barbara Baker, who have renovated it to a very high standard. The mansion is now a reception centre and also offers both self-catering and in-house accommodation to the large number of tourists who come to that area. Link to the South Allington House Reception Centre.

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