Local Places of Interest
Golsoncott, a “Lutyens-style” Edwardian house in West Somerset, was bought by the author, Penelope Lively’s grandparents, in 1923 and sold a little more than 70 years later after the death of their daughter, the artist Rachel Reckitt.
The property was built in the very early 1900s by Count Hochburg for his land agent on the Croydon Hall estate. The architect was WJ Parker of South Molton Street, London. The unique butterfly shape of the house and materials are typical of the Lutyens influence on the domestic architecture of the times.
The gardens are outstanding and were created by Beatrice Reckitt, a dedicated gardener and her daughter Rachel. The rill garden is believed to have been inspired by Gertrude Jeykll who had corresponded with the original owners about its design.
Mentioned in Julian Orbach’s Pevsner Architectural Guide, the renowned author Penelope Lively also recalls her memories of Golsoncott, the country house owned by her grandparents Beatrice and Frank Reckitt, in her book “A House Unlocked”.
The house was the author’s home for most of her adolescence: in a previous memoir, Oleander, Jacaranda (1994), Lively described her arrival in England in 1945, aged 12, after a childhood spent mainly in Egypt. A philistine English boarding school and the gentry rites of Golsoncott became, for a time, the author’s world.
Penelope refers to an original treasure: a stained tartan picnic rug, the “veteran of many a moorland lunch or tea”. Exmoor was put on the tourist map by the Romantics who laid the trail in the last years of the 18th century, but it was the coming of the Great Western Railway a hundred years later which made a poor man’s Scotland of the area. Lively’s prosperous great-grandparents were in the habit of travelling west with their six children for long summer holidays at the turn of the century.
Of the six siblings, four eventually settled in West Somerset. A neat reminder, this, that families go to places as well as come from them and that there is nothing new in the English countryside being populated by metropolitan holidaymakers returning to put down roots.
A sampler of Golsoncott, sewn by the grandmother, Beatrice Reckitt, in 1946 and subsequently turned into a fire-screen, features a row of stylised children. These turn out not to be grandchildren but a group of ‘nit-ridden’ evacuees despatched to Golsoncott from the East End by the dashing artist aunt, who spent the war doing relief work in Whitechapel.
Chapel Cleeve Manor
Chapel Cleeve Manor started life in the 1450s as a hostel for pilgrims attending the chapel of St Mary, which was built by the monks of Cleeve Abbey in the mid-15th century. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries the house was leased, by Henry VIII to Anthony Busted, however this was revoked and the estate given to Thomas Radcliffe, 1st Earl of Sussex for his services to the king.
A new house, incorporating at its north-east corner the remains of the medieval inn formerly serving St. Mary’s chapel at Chapel Cleeve, was designed by Richard Carver and built between 1818 and 1823. It is in the Tudor style and had a symmetrical front of five bays with a central octagonal entrance hall flanked by reception rooms leading to a top-lit staircase. There was an octagonal tower to the west. (fn. 116) In 1913–14 the house was extended westwards in a similar style. The new interiors were fitted with oak panelling, richly decorated ceilings by Bankart, and an old overmantel from a house in Taunton. The grounds were planted with yew hedges and walks.
In World War I the house was occupied by the Lysaght family who added the current main entrance and a ballroom, which is now used as the dining room.
It was enlarged in the 19th and 20th centuries when it was a private house. After the death of G. S. Lysaght in 1951, the farmhouse was handed over with the abbey ruins to the Ministry of Works and it was then occupied by a succession of tenant farmers.
Parts of the grounds were sold for building sites and the mansion itself later became an hotel. It is a Grade II* listed building.
The above is an adapted version taken from British History Online –