The main staicase with Family portraits.
The Yonge family covered by this website are known as the Yonge's of Puslinch to differentiate themselves from other unconnected Yonge families.
In 1794 a Government report on Devon stated "nowhere in England are there
a greater number of gentry in harmony with each other and the yeomanry with the attention to their dependents and the poor".
The Yonge owners of Puslinch were part of that local gemntry class. They were never rich or famous or large on the
national scene. They were country gentlemen, often combined with being the parish priest.
Puslinch house reflects this; it is solid and plain, well proprtioned and understated, built for comfort rather than show.
is just a few miles from the village of Newton Ferrers on the south Devon coast has gone through various changes of spelling over the years. Puselynche, Posselinch, Pyselynche, Puselynghe, Poslinch, Pusnedge, Pustneged, Puzzlewitch, Puslidge.
The current house came into being following the marriage in 1718 of James Yonge (1679-1745) to Mary Upton of Puslinch in 1718. James through his father Dr James Yonge had the cash and the Uptons the land. By this marriage it became possible
to erect a fine new house at Puslinch. The house was symbolic of and a cause of the rise of the Yonge family in Devon.
It is not clear when construction started on the manor house but it was complete by the early 1720's. it is a listed building
as are the early 18th century garden walls, courtyard walls, entrance gate piers, outbuildings and granite gate piers.
It was built at a reputed cost of nearly ten thousand pounds, According to the Bank of England this sum equals over
£900,000 in present day money. While such comparisons can be misleading, clearly Puslinch cost an enormous sum of money.
The original Puslinch house, known as Puslinch Farm, still exists. It was built around four sides of a courtyard
in the 13th century and today all that remains in use is the small manor house, now Puslinch Farm, on one side of the former courtyard. The current Puslinch Farm is later than the 13th century but many of the windows and doors of the original range of buildings
have been re-used and are clearly visible. Just across the farmyard is the remains of an old chapel with a Saxon scratch dial visible on one wall. The architecture suggests a manor house of the Devon type dating back to the revival of building activity at
the close of the Wars of the Roses, which was at the time the Upton family succeeded to Puslinch.
The estate now comprises just under 1000 acres and has remained largely unchanged over the years, although somewhat smaller than it used to be, some
land being taken by the RAF at the beginning of World War 11.
In times past Puslinch was famous for its cider. Apples were grown on the Estate and crushed in a circular press, in the yard of the Farm House, by a pony. However J.Y. Morshead in
his lecture to the Devon Association in 1916 quoted an anonymous comment “their syder is of an attractive apperance but tis said to be adulterated with turnip juice.”
The current house lies between the Puslinch
Farm and Puslinch Bridge, about two hundred yards east of Puslinch Farm, on a rise. Unlike some other broadly similar houses such as Antony, Puslinch is largely brick built and makes little use of stone. Brick at the time was seen as a more homily
domestic and modest material than stone. It is perfectly proportioned. It has stone dressings and mouldings finely and sparingly applied, and the stone box cornice that edges the walls on all four corners are well cut with wide overhangs.
house has seven bays and two storeys and an attic and basement and the main distinctive feature of the design, which only really stands out at a distance, is the slated mansard roof which with its four unusually large chimney stacks and four dormers, gives
the entire building an appearance of substance.
Inside there are sixteen well proportioned main rooms. The entrance hall, library, and drawing room are light, airy, comfortable with nothing ostentatious about them. There is a handsome double back
staircase, with oak treads, walnut stanchions and a mahogany hand rail, which lies to the right of the hall. . This is balanced on the opposite side by a staircase which rises from the basement right up to the attic rooms. The black and white pre war
picture shows the main staircase.
Almost everything that went into the construction came from the estate. The bricks were made on the site. The chestnut beams came from the estate woods as did the oak for the panelling and wainscotting, which
is especially evident in the dining room, and for the staircase treads. Only the white pine and mahogany which was used in the stair rail, had to be brought in.
During the First World War the house was used as a VoluntaryAidedHospital. At
that time it was common and fashionable to allow one’s country house to be used as a hospital for wounded officers. J.Y Morshead in his lecture in 1916 to the Devon Association wrote “and now evolving time had brought a greater epidemic
on the land and the old Doctor’s portrait frowns on a novel scene. Lancets have been superseded by thermometers and sick bay stewards by Red Cross nurses.”
The garden walls to the south were built at the same time as the house,
and suggest that it had a formal garden that was open to the park to the south. The largely informal garden is some four acres in extent and includes a fine walled kitchen garden. Most of the original garden features seem to have survived but they never seem
to have been as numerous or elaborate as at other similar properties. The house was of course built before the age of the great landscape artists such as Kent. In the garden is a myrtle bush, which is said to be a cutting from Queen Victoria’s wedding
Somewhere in the grounds of the estate, the actual locations have been lost, there was a 18th century folly in the shape of a sham pagoda, designed to break the skyline of Headon Wood and the burial site of Lord Seaton's horse, which
was killed at Waterloo.
Also in the grounds was a barn which, in the cholera outbreak of 1830 was used to house possible parish cases, and so the story also goes some sailors. A great jar of medicine was placed in one corner and gin and water
in another. The story is that supplied with liberal quantities of gin from Puslinch, that all survived.
If there was an architect behind Puslinch, the most likely candidate is Robert Hooke. The very eminent part that Hooke played in the scientific
world of the late seventeenth century has never been forgotten, but his architectural work has been completely neglected. This is to some extent due to the genius of Sir Christopher Wren, whose reputation dominated the period for subsequent architectural historians,
collecting to his name a number of buildings in which he probably had had no hand.
Hooke went to Oxford about 1650 and matriculated in 1658. It was at Oxford that he met Wren, probably about 1655 at the meetings of the 'Experimental
Philosophical Clubbe' which later became the Royal Society. Both were to be professors at GreshamCollege, and throughout the seventies Hooke’s Diary shows that the two men were meeting almost daily, working together on architecture and science. Houses
Hooke worked on or designed a number of houses in the west Country:
Much valuable information for architectural historians is contained in Hooke’s Diaries, but unfortunately the first and largest section, by far the most important,
has been published with a very ineffectual index. The entries in the Diary are telegraphic and almost devoid of punctuation, and to get the full value very careful study would be required.
The suspicion that Robert Hooke may have sketched the design
of a house for James Yonge is reinforced by his fathers Journal, in which he lists "Famous men and women I have seen in my travels" and in which Robert Hooke has the longest entry ending with "and is my good friend"
Furthermore, Robert Hooke's
style of design for houses was said to be strongly influenced by Dutch classical architecture. The windows at Puslinch and the general proportions of Puslinch, together with the brick walls and stone window frames are typical of the Anglo-Dutch
style popular at the time.
However against this, Puslinch seems to have been built well over a decade later than Hook's death. So we could be looking at someone influenced by Hooke. There was a John Moyle of Exeter was a master builder
of some note in the south-west who undertook the building of Antony, work at PowderhamCastle, and on Boconnoc House for Thomas Pitt. It could well be Moyle or a comparable master-builder to whom Yonge showed Hooke's sketch plans or who had simply
worked under Wren or Hooke.
Certainly the fine detail of the house and the coast suggests a craftsmen who had worked under or was very familiar with the works of one of the great architects. Possible he could also have worked on Devonport
Docks. The proximity of Devonport mean that Plymouth was no backwater but was subject to the latest metropolitan fashions including building design.
The following is extracted from Polewhele's History of Devonshire,
first published between 1793-1806. The notes set out below, which follow immediately follow the above text, come from Rev John Yonge who died in 1792.
Old Puslinch was inhabited by the family of Uptons or Uppetons, as sometimes spelt
for several centuries, till at the beginning of this century it fell into the joint possession of two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, the latter of whom in this century married James Yonge, surgeon of Plymouth by which means and purchase of the other sisters
moiety, he became possessed of the whole, and it has since continued in his family. The above mentioned James Yonge on his marriage to Mary Upton built the house, which is now called Puslinch. It is a large well built brick house, on which was expended 9000
to 10,000 ponds. It has been completed between 60 and 70 years. He purchased also the manor of Puslinch and the perpetuity of the rectory of Newton off the Duke of Leeds. Puslinch House stands on the northern boarder of the Parish, overlooking the river about
a 100 yards to the eastward of the old house, and on a rising ground, and seem about midway from the east and west extreme of the parish. A little detached from the old house stood a chapel of considerable size, as a private chapel: It had been time immemorial
been used as an out house for the farm, it is very indifferently built, and was much injured by a large tree falling across it, that it has lately been entirely removed. In all probability a field in the midst of the Puslinch estate and another in that of
Collaton containing about 20 acres, was appropriated to the maintenance of the service, one being called Parsons Headon and one being called Parsons Park. .
The house and estate is still owned by the Family. The house is not open to the public.
A good view of it however, nestling below in the valley of the river Yealm can be obtained from the road to Newton Ferrers.
Copyright R.I. Yonge 2003
Puslinch A Queen Anne House beside the River Yealm
Puslinch - article in Country Life November 1933
The Garden History of Devon
A History of Puslinch by J Morshead
Researches of Giles Davidson to who I am indebted for most of the architectural details and speculation