Killerton House and Gardens
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Lady Harriet Acland
In the drawing room is a portrait of a rather pleasant elderly lady dressed in green robes. Nothing remarkable in that, but then you see a small painting on a display easel nearby showing the same woman decades earlier, in a more dramatic pose, crossing a river in winter. The story behind this painting is a fascinating one that sounds like something out of a romantic novel, but for the fact that it is true.
Harriet Acland (1749-1815) was the daughter of the Earl of Ilchester. In 1770 she married Major John Acland. When Acland was sent to America in 1776 to command the 20th Foot Regiment, Lady Harriet accompanied him (according to one source she brought along her mother, a valet, a lady's maid, and a dog). Major Acland was gravely wounded and captured in the second Battle of Saratoga in 1777.
Lady Harriet never remarried, and her bravery made her a celebrity, and her journey to find her husband was commemorated in the dramatic painting by Robert Pollard. The painting overdoes the drama a bit, though, showing Lady Harriet heroically standing upright in the boat, a rather unlikely scenario. The painting was used to create an extremely popular edition of prints. The meticulous journal that she kept during her time in America was later published, enhancing he reputation as a heroine.
As fascinating as the story is, pride of place in the interior is the Killerton costume collection. The first floor of the house is given over to the collection, which displays a fresh set of 7000 items each year.
GARDENSAn 18 acre hillside garden within 4000 acres of woods, originally created at the time the house was built by Scotsman John Veitch. Veitch was an interesting character; the story goes that he walked from Edinburgh to London to look for work. He found employment as a nurseryman, and Sir Thomas Acland asked him to create a garden at Killerton, improving on the natural landscape.
Later the influential Victorian garden writer William Robinson had a hand in the design of the Killerton gardens. Killerton is famous for trees and shrubs. There are a series of terraced beds, with dwarf shrubs and copious rhododendrons. Circular walks through the woods provide for an enjoyable outing.
Above the house is a "clump" or hillfort dating to the Iron Age. The hill, also known as Dolbury, is reputed in folklore to be protected by the Killerton Dragon, which every night flies between Killerton and Cadbury Hill to keep safe a hidden treasure.
A short distance from the house is Killerton Chapel, erected as a private family chapel for Sir Thomas Acland and his wife Lydia in 1841 and now used for regular concerts in the summer months.The interiors are pure Victoriana, with rich materials and beatiful stained glass. The design is said to have been inspired by the Norman Lady Chapel at Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset.
The estate at Killerton, as well as that at Holnicote, was given to the National Trust by Sir Richard Acland, whose left-leaning political beliefs precluded his ownership of such a vast tract of land. There are three more National Trust properties on the Killerton Estate - Marker's Cottage, a 15th century cob and thatch dwelling, Clyston Mill, an 18th century restored water mill, and Budlake Old Post Office Room, the old village shop and post office for the area.
INSIDE THE HOUSE
Address: Broadclyst, Exeter, Devon, England, EX5 3LE
Attraction Type: Historic House
Location: 7 m NE Exeter, on B3181
Phone: 01392 881 345
National Trust - see also: National Trust memberships (official website link)
OS: SS977 001
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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18th century (Time Period) -
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Killerton Chapel - 0.2 miles (Historic Church)
Budlake Old Post Office Room - 0.3 miles (Historic Building)
Broadclyst, St John's Church - 1.8 miles (Historic Church)
Marker's Cottage - 1.9 miles (Historic Building)
Clyston Mill - 1.9 miles (Historic Building)
Upton Pyne, Church of Our Lady - 4.4 miles (Historic Church)
Fursdon - 4.4 miles (Historic House)
Plymtree, St John the Baptist Church - 5 miles (Historic Church)
Nearest Accommodation to Killerton :