Heritage Category:
Park and Garden
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North Devon (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SS 58712 37274


An C18 park, with an early C19 carriage drive and pleasure grounds.


In 1086 land in the parish of Shirwell was held by Gilbert and Robert of Beaumont. By the early C12, Roceline de Beaumont had his chief dwelling at Youlston (Risdon 1640), and by the early C15 there was a substantial dwelling on the site of the present house. Youlston passed by marriage to John Chichester of Ralegh, Devon in 1490, and during the C16 and C17 the Chichesters consolidated their position as one of the leading families in Devon, serving as Members of Parliament and supporting the Crown in the Civil War. Another branch of the family was established at neighbouring Arlington Court (qv) in the early C16. Sir John Chichester of Youlston (d 1680) was created a baronet in 1641. Youlston remained a secondary estate until Sir Arthur Chichester, third baronet, sold Ralegh in 1690. Sir Arthur (d 1718) rebuilt much of the house at Youlston (Cherry and Pevsner 1989). Donn's Map of Devon (1765) shows that the present park around the house was established by the mid C18, perhaps as part of Sir Arthur's early C18 improvements. Sir John, fifth baronet, who succeeded in 1740, made further improvements. From his succession in 1784 the sixth baronet, a man of literary tastes, spent much time in London (CL 1961). At his death in 1808 the property passed to a cousin, and changes were made to both the house and pleasure grounds in the early C19. The park remained stocked with deer in 1822 (Lysons), and in the early C19 a picturesque carriage drive was developed through a valley to the south-west of the house. This feature is similar to the contemporary Woolley Drive at Arlington Court which joins the A39 Lynton road c 2km north of Youlston Park. Sir Arthur, the eighth baronet, succeeded in 1842 but suffered financial difficulties which led to his bankruptcy c 1870. As a result much of the park was let from 1879. Sir Arthur married Lady Rosalie Chichester, widow of his distant cousin Sir Bruce Chichester of Arlington Court, in 1883. Admiral Sir Edward Chichester succeeded as ninth baronet in 1898, and was followed in 1907 by his son, Captain Sir Edward Chichester. The property was sold in 1920 to J C Fanshawe-Royle, and subsequently in 1953 to Major Cavan. Youlston has passed through several hands in the mid C20, and today (1999) remains in private occupation.


LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING Youlston is situated 0.5km north-west of Shirwell Cross and c 1km west of the village of Shirwell, to the west of the A39 road which leads north-east from Barnstaple to Lynton. The c 60ha site comprises some 53ha of parkland, and some 7ha of pleasure grounds and walled gardens around the house. The site is bounded to the south and east by the A39 Lynton road, and to the north by a minor road leading west from Toll Bar Cross towards Muddiford. To the south-west and west the site adjoins agricultural land and is enclosed by traditional banks and hedges, and by fences. The house stands towards the east end of a west-facing combe, from which the park rises north, east and south towards the site boundaries. There are predominantly westerly views across agricultural land and woodland outside the site from the pleasure grounds, and higher points in the park to the north, east and south of the house.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES Youlston Park is approached from the A39 to the east. A pair of late C18 lodges (listed grade II*) stand c 500m east of the house. Of square plan, the lodges are constructed in ashlar with pediments on each face, and niches on the east and west faces containing oval urns set on pedestals. The lodges support C20 simple iron railings and gates with spear finials. To north and south the lodges are flanked by low concave stone walls, while C20 metal estate fencing on the east side of the A39 allows views from the entrance across farmland towards Shirwell. The tarmac drive passes c 320m west-north-west across the park, partly running through an avenue of limes, before turning south-west for c 160m to approach the carriage court to the south of the house. The east drive is shown on Donn's Map of Devon (1765). A further drive, now a grass track, entered the site from the A39 Lynton road at a point c 530m south-east of the house, passing north across the park for c 500m to join the east drive c 240m east of the house. This drive is shown on the 1804 OS Drawing, but appears to have been abandoned by 1838 (Tithe map). A pair of stone gate piers surmounted by ball finials which formerly supported cast-iron Chichester heraldic herons mark the entrance to the former south drive, which is closed by an early C19 metal gate. The gate piers are flanked by concave stone walls which terminate in square piers surmounted by pyramid caps. A service drive approaches the kitchen garden and late C18 stables (listed grade II) to the north of the house from the minor road forming the northern site boundary. A carriage drive c 3km in length (now, 1999, a track) approached the house from the south-west, passing north along a wooded valley with views to the north and west for c 1.5km, before turning east to follow a stream for c 1.5km to reach the south side of the house. This drive is first shown on the 1838 Tithe map, and formed part of the early C19 improvements to the estate.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING Youlston Park (listed grade I) incorporates a medieval courtyard house with a hall, from which an important timber roof of c 1400 survives above the present hall (Cherry and Pevsner 1989). The medieval house was remodelled by Sir Arthur Chichester, who added the west wing in the late C17. Further extensive alterations in the mid C18 gave the house its present Georgian external details, including sash windows, lunettes in the hall gables, and a Palladian window lighting the staircase. There were further changes c 1800. Constructed to a courtyard plan, with a projecting west wing, the two-storey house is built in random coursed ashlar and rubble stone with slate roofs. The rendered service quarters lie to the north. The house contains important interior elements dating from the late C17 and mid C18, including rare Chinese wallpaper, which indicate the importance of the family and estate in the C18.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS Lying principally to the north and west of the house, the pleasure grounds are separated from the park by metal estate fencing (sale particulars), and comprise mixed ornamental planting and lawns around two lakes which lie c 300m north-west of the house. Nothing is know about the gardens associated with the medieval house, or Sir Arthur Chichester's late C17 remodelling. The lakes are of artificial construction, being retained by dams to the west, and appear to have lain at the head of a series of at least three further ponds in the valley to the west of the site. These further ponds would have been overlooked by the early C19 west carriage drive. Pleasure grounds conforming approximately to those which survive today are shown on the 1804 OS Drawing, but the Tithe map (1838) suggests that the mid C19 pleasure grounds extended further south to include Park Plantation c 150m south-west of the house. The mid C19 pleasure grounds also included a greenhouse east of the house, and kennels to the north of the house in an area of dense shrubbery. An early C19 square, timber-framed game larder (listed grade II) survives c 10m north of the house, adjacent to the site of the early C19 kennels. By the late C19 the greenhouse had been removed, and new kennels constructed c 400m north-west of the house at the edge of the pleasure grounds. The pleasure grounds today have a late C18 or early C19 character with mixed deciduous trees and C19 conifers, and areas of shrubbery to the north and north-west of the house which relate to those shown on the Tithe map (1838).

PARK Lying to the east and south of the house and pleasure grounds, the park today (1999) remains pasture with scattered deciduous trees. Boundary plantations on high ground to the south and south-east screen the hamlet of Shirwell Cross. The park is shown on Donn's Map of Devon (1765) with boundaries approximating to those which survive today (1999). The 1804 OS Drawing and 1st edition 1" map (1809) show more extensive parkland planting, with plantations screening the Lynton road on the east boundary. By 1838 the Tithe map shows fenced boundary plantations to the north, east and south of the park. These were considerably reduced by 1889 (OS 1st edition 6"), with the north and north-east boundary plantations and Park Plantation south of the pleasure grounds being felled. This process may have been connected with Sir Arthur Chichester's bankruptcy c 1870. The parkland and plantations remain today (1999) substantially as shown on the late C19 OS maps.

The present park appears to have replaced a detached deer park, now known as Youlston Old Park, which is situated c 2km south-east of the house, and c 0.5km south of Shirwell, beyond the site boundary. Occupying high ground to the west of the River Yeo, the Old Park was divided, with the Little Park forming a smaller, northern compartment. It is uncertain when the Old Park was disparked, but it appears as agricultural land on the Tithe map (1838). The Old Park is not included within the area here registered.

KITCHEN GARDEN Lying c 190m north-north-west of the house, the walled kitchen gardens were established in their present form by 1838 (Tithe map). Surrounded by rubble-stone walls c 3m high, the kitchen gardens are divided into two compartments, with a smaller area lying to the east, and a larger garden to the west with a late C19 glasshouse against the inner face of its north wall. A further area of garden or orchard lay to the west of the kitchen gardens in the late C19, but areas of garden shown to the south of the walled gardens in 1838 (Tithe map) do not survive.


T Risdon, Survey of the County of Devon (1640, 1811 edn) D and S Lysons, Topographical and Historical Account of Devonshire II, (1822) Country Life, 129 (11 May 1961), pp 1084-7 E R Delderfield, West Country Houses (1968), pp 150-3 B Cherry and N Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Devon (1989), pp 925-7 T Gray, The Garden History of Devon An Illustrated Guide to Sources (1995), p 244 Youlston Park Historic Survey, (Nicholas Pearson Associates 1998)

Maps C Saxton, Map of Devon, 1575 B Donn, Map of the County of Devon, 1765 Tithe map for Shirwell parish, 1838 (Devon Record Office)

OS Surveyor's drawing, 1804 OS Old Series 1" to 1 mile, published 1809 OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1885-6, published 1890 2nd edition revised 1903, published 1905 OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1887, published 1889 2nd edition revised 1903, published 1904

Archival items Papers relating to Sir Arthur Chichester's bankruptcy, 1870-9 (1478M/76), (Devon Record Office) Family papers, including estate papers (1308Z), (North Devon Record Office) Chichester family letters, vouchers, accounts C17 to C19 (DD/SF 2997), (Somerset Record Office) Sale particulars, 1987 (3372M/84), (Devon Record Office)

Description written: May 1999 Amended: July 1999 Register Inspector: JML Edited: July 2000


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:
Parks and Gardens


This garden or other land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by Historic England for its special historic interest.

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