The Chichester family was historically one of the leading ancient gentry families of Devon, having been established in 1384 at the manor of Raleigh, in the parish of Pilton near Barnstaple, upon the marriage of John Chichester of Somerset to Thomasine de Ralegh, daughter and heiress of Sir John de Ralegh. The site of the great manor house of Raleigh, which was sold by Sir Arthur Chichester, 3rd Baronet (c.1662-1718) to Arthur Champneys, MP, a Barnstaple merchant, is now occupied by a disused 1960's concrete building. The present Georgian mansion called Raleigh House was built by Nicholas Hooper, whose father Sir Nicholas Hooper, MP, had purchased the manor from Champneys in 1703. According to the hearth tax returns of 1664, which showed Raleigh still to have been owned by Sir John Chichester, 1st Baronet, of Raleigh (1623-1667) it had 24 hearths, making it one of the largest houses in North Devon, possibly second largest after Tawstock Court. The manor of Arlington was also inherited from the de Ralegh family, and was thus one of the family's most ancient Devon possessions. It was later given by the Chichesters to a younger son from a second marriage, Amyas Chichester (d.1577), who married Jane Giffard, daughter of Sir Roger Giffard of Brightley in the parish of Chittlehampton, and by her produced a family of nineteen sons and four daughters, thus establishing there his own branch of the family. The large family of Amyas is referred to by Charles Kingsley in Westward Ho!
Hall in the parish of Bishops Tawton was inherited in 1461 by Richard Chichester on his marriage to Thomasine de Halle, daughter and heiress of Simon de Halle. The manor of Shirwell, in which is situated Youlston House, was inherited by the Chichester family by marriage to Margaret Beaumont, daughter and co-heiress of Sir Thomas Beaumont, whose family had resided at Youlston since the reign of Henry I (1100-1135). Shirwell is adjacent to the south of Arlington. Margaret Beaumont's sister and co-heiress Joan Beaumont married into the Basset family of Whitechapel and Tehidy, to which family she brought the other Beaumont lands of Umberleigh and Heanton Punchardon. The pioneering yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester (1901-1972) was the son of Rev. Charles Chichester, appointed by the family as parson of Shirwell, seventh son of Sir Arthur Chichester, 8th Baronet (1822-1898), of Youlston. He was buried at Shirwell Church, where two monuments to him exist. His younger son is Giles Chichester (b. 1946), Conservative Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar, who thus retains his family's ancient connection to Devon.
Rosalie Chichester (1866-1949) was a strong-willed woman and a talented artist with a particular love of flora and fauna. Although her father had kept his own pack of hounds at Arlington, known as "Sir Bruce Chichester's Foxhounds", she developed a strong aversion to hunting. The Arlington Estate lay in the centre of the territory hunted by The Barnstaple Staghounds and other packs, and stags at the end of hunts frequently stood at bay in the ornamental lake in front of Arlington House. After an occasion in 1897 when such an event had occurred and the stag had been dispatched in the lake, 31-year-old Miss Chichester's coachman delivered a sealed letter to Mr R. Sanders, Master of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, at a meet of the Staghounds. The letter stated that "the Loxhore covers on the Arlington Estate were not to be hunted". Not only was that day's hunting ruined, but this action caused much consternation in the high society of North Devon, who were then overwhelmingly supporters of hunting, and caused great interruption to several local hunts. Although her wishes were complied with as far as possible, there were several incidents of hounds entering the forbidden areas.
The Carriage Museum in the stables has a vehicle for every occasion from cradle to grave. The working horses keep the story alive. In the past carriages were as varied as cars are today: designed for long journeys, a trip to town, a day off-roading or simply a drive in the park. Having the right type of carriage was a sign of good taste and wealth. At the museum there are over 40 different carriages on display, all were privately owned by people from middle-class families to earls and lords, and even Queen Victoria. There are adapted toilets next to the tea-room and in the carriage museum. There is a wheelchair available for loan at the house. There is a Braille guide. There is a Large print guide. There is a virtual tour and Induction loop. There are loose gravel paths and slopes making partly accessible grounds. Map available of an accessible route around grounds. Lift to first floor of the carriage museum. Free mobility buggy to carry passengers from the house to the carriage museum, runs most days. Tramper Mobility Scooter available for hire to explore old lake walk and wilderness. Must be pre-booked on 01271 850296, conditions apply.
Location : Arlington, near Barnstaple, Devon EX31 4LP
Transport: Barnstaple (National Rail) then bus - 8 miles. Bus Routes : 309 and 310 from Barnstaple stop nearby.
Opening Times : Daily 11:00 to 19:00.
Tickets : Adults £10.00; Child £5.00
Tel: 01271 850296