Established by an Andrew Vowler as a farm during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Parnacott evolved over successive generations to become a country gentleman's estate. (That of my great-great grandfather, John Vowler J.P.)
The name -
Parnacott, or Parny's dwelling, may well be derived from the name 'Pearn' - Peter in English. In Greek Peter is Petros. Petros takes us back to 'petra' , Greek/Armenian, which means rock or stone.
The word Cot or Cott means a small cottage or homestead. Over time Cot or Cott became associated with a farm, usually a larger one.
The place name 'Parnycot' dates back to at least 1306. Family records suggest this was the first version of what would become Parnacott. From this I get Peter's Cottage.
Parnacott or Peter's Cottage dates back to 1580 and is built of cob which uses stone as its foundation. Throughout the centuries the house and grounds were upgraded and expanded . the 17th Century central farmhouse was also constructed from cob on its traditional foundation of stone. Parnacott sits on raised ground with ample amounts of stone beneath its feet so sourcing and mining the rock was straight forward. An old quarry can still be found on the property.
The family likes the idea of Parnacott finding its name with all these elements coming together in harmony.
Parnacott started as a small cob-walled cottage, one up, one down, soundly roofed in Delabole rag slate, which, as the family prospered, about half way through the 17th century, was added to in the shape of a quite large, very solid Devon cob farmhouse. (Recently, I have been told that the Cottage may well originally have been thatched.)
Cottage just to the right in the drawing.
It is likely, given its quite prominent position on the upper reaches of a low hill and plentiful supply of well water and wood, that Parnacott was the site of a dwelling that predates the cottage we now retreat to when letting the 'big' house. (A Parnycot existed in 1306.)
I suspect, being relatively close to Thorne Manor, which was listed in the Doomsday (Domesday) Book that there was a dwelling here back in the 11th Century.
The Old Cottage
Towards the end of the 18th Century, John Vowler, my great great great grandfather, began the process of what's now known as 'gentrification' as Parnacott grew from its farming roots into a gentleman's residence.
His eldest son, also known as John Vowler, completed this transition working with his father to create Parnacott as we now know it. John Vowler J P was also a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Devonshire. He was apparently the last J P in England to sentence anyone to sit in the stocks.
The late 19th Century and early 19th Century saw Parnacott prosper; further land was acquired and wealth accumulated. In 1818 the rather handsome Georgian front was started, reaching completion in 1820. Additional rooms were added at the back of the central building. My 3 and 2 times great-grandfathers were responsible for all these improvements. In Parnacott's heyday it comprised 3 farms with about 1000 acres, plus additional properties in Chilsworthy and the surrounding area.
On the right hand side of this drawing the flat roofed Victorian section can be seen, marking the arrival of bathrooms! This section, known to us now as Creed Wing, completed the family expansion of Parnacott House.
The 1840 Tithe map depicts many additional farm and garden buildings - now all gone.
By 1800 John Vowler had his own Coat of Arms. The Vowler lion is holding a cross; the family motto was 'Labore et Virtute' - Work and Virtue.
The shield depicts the quartering of the Vowler and Simcoe arms.
"Non Sibi Sed Patriae" is a Latin phrase meaning
"Not For self but For Country".
John Graves Simcoe
John Graves Simcoe, the First Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, was the founding father of Ontario. He chose Fort York as its capitol, now Toronto.
One of his most noted achievements was to institute English Common Law and Trial by Jury. In 1793 the Law Against Slavery was passed - ground-breaking legislation. Simcoe's term of office was a ma marked success.
Simcoe - Wearing the new Green Queens Rangers uniform
In action during the American War of Independence, Simcoe had proved himself as one of the two or three most consistently successful of British regimental commanders and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the Queens Rangers, a 'light' unit combining horse and foot. This was due to his emphasis on physical fitness, rapid movement and discipline in the field. (His portrayal in 'Turn' is factually incorrect.)
He chose a green uniform for his men, which later would become the uniform of The Rifles. He wrote a new training manual and I have no doubt that his innovations, especially in the use of light infantry, helped pave the way for future military success during the Napoleonic wars.
He was later promoted to the rank of General.
Simcoe - John Vowler 1964 Parnacott
Meet the Ancestors - Inside The House
John Dryden, was the first Poet Laureate by Royal appointment. Charles II created this position in 1666, during the period known as the Restoration.
Dryden was a very successful poet and playwright. He wrote almost 30 tragedies, comedies, and dramatic operas.
Dryden is rightly considered as “the father of English Criticism”. He was the first to teach the English people to determine the merit of composition upon principles.
He was also a Roman Catholic which eventually led to him losing his position as Poet Laureate.
1st Earl of Sandwich
Edward Montagu was a successful military commander in Cromwell's New Model Army. A loyal supporter of Cromwell, he was appointed a General at Sea in the Navy.
When in 1658 Cromwell died, he allied himself with a powerful pro Royalist group who in 1660 succeeded in bringing Charles II back to England and the throne-The Restoration. He was rewarded by Charles who created him the 1st Earl of Sandwich.
Fun fact: He was a keen gambler and card player, in order to keep playing one night he ordered two bits of bread with some meat in the middle, thus creating the sandwich.
John Creed worked at the Navy Board with his cousin Samuel Pepys. Following the destruction of the Royal Navy in the Medway in 1667 by the Dutch fleet, Creed and Pepys organised the rebuilding of the Navy. Their work helped ensure Britain's naval supremacy over the following two hundred and fifty years.
An intelligent and resourceful man, he married the niece of Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, Elizabeth Pickering.
Their portraits hang opposite one another in the drawing room.
wife of John Creed, nee Pickering
Elizabeth Creed was a philanthropist, portrait artist and a noted painter of murals. (Cannons Ashby, Northamptonshire.)
We have recently been informed she painted the two portraits of Elizabeth, her daughter, and that of her son-in-law, Elmes Steward.
She and John had 11 children in all, including John, Richard and Elizabeth.
Samuel Pepys was a distant cousin of hers.
John Vowler GP -
Ironically known in the family as The Old Horror,
John Vowler was a Justice of the Peace for Cornwall and Devon and a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Devon. Under his stewardship Parnacott grew to an Estate of the three farms and 1000 acres already mentioned.
(His portrait, and that of his 'long suffering' wife, Harriet, adorns a wall in the dining room.
John Vowler was a local philanthropist and did a great deal for both Chilsworthy and Holsworthy!(2 miles from Parnacott)
(Fun fact: He was reputed to be the last JP to sentence someone to the stocks in England)
Parnacott is steeped in history. The information above is but a taste, as there's more to discover in and around the house.