MULTI-GENERATIONAL ESTATE-The Fursdons of Fursdon PDF Print E-mail
Covenantal Families




The Early Fursdons

Walter de Fursdon first took the land at Cadbury during the reign of King Henry III (1216-1272). He was a Freeman of the City of Exeter and died in 1301. There were Fursdons here when Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales; when Drake defeated the Spanish Armada and when Columbus discovered America. The name “Fursdon” is probably taken from the surrounding countryside - Furzey Down - meaning gorse covered hill.


Seven Centuries of Fursdons


The house at Fursdon has evolved over 750 years from humble beginnings as a cross passage dwelling made from cob with a thatched roof. There have been many changes and adaptations - a major rebuild in the 18th century - with the last major addition being the library wing in 1815.


In 2009, 750 years of stewardship were celebrated with a series of events starting with the symbolic planting of a sweet chestnut tree on the estate.


A tour of the house reflects these changes and the related fluctuating fortunes of a family steeped in the tradition of land ownership and farming. Many fine examples of clothes and artifacts remain from the 18th century family. These are displayed and illustrated by guided tours when the house is open to the public.


Present Day Fursdons


Fursdon is privately owned, and the responsibility for the preservation of the house and the estate lies with us. There are about 750 acres of mixed arable and woodlands including the home farm. It is hard work, and as a family we are indebted to many friends and part-time staff who help and support us so willingly. What you see is a home steeped in family history. Restoration, conservation and maintenance are everyday tasks that go hand in hand with family life at Fursdon.


Fursdon family celebrates 750 continuous years at Fursdon Estate, Devon

David Fursdon, wife Catriona and his children are part of a Devonshire family which has continued in an unbroken line for 23 generations over 750 years, a period of time that has seen 37 monarchs come and go.


Very few families in Britain, let alone the world, have enjoyed the Fursdon family’s long history. It is even more exceptional when you consider that Walter de Fursdon, who took his name from the hills of Mid Devon, settled at Fursdon in 1259 only a year after the Oxford Parliament, before the ravages of the Black Death and before Columbus’ discovery of America or Drake’s defeat of the Spanish Armada.


Of the celebrations, David Fursdon said, ‘We feel it is fitting that the Bishop of Exeter will launch the celebrations to mark 750 years of the Fursdon family residing at Fursdon. We are very proud of our ancestry and family history and will raise a glass to the generations who have lived on this lovely estate while, at the same time, looking forward to the role that we can play in an uncertain future.’


How has the family survived? Was it the Dragon of Cadbury Castle, mentioned in a survey of Devon in 1626 as guarding treasure on the Estate and known to protect the family at time of dire need, driving Cromwell’s troops away during the Civil War? Was it the influence of Grace Fursdon, widowed in the Civil War, who supposedly reappears annually on the anniversary of the execution of Charles 1?


Certainly the family has needed (God’s blessings)in marriage, warfare, business, family affairs and inheritance. The line nearly died out in the 18th century when a little boy, George, was at the age of 1, the only heir to the Estate. Family members served in the Hundred Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, in Greece and Hong Kong in the 19th Century and in the First and Second World Wars. They have had their heroes and villains, successes and failures. The fortunes of agriculture have been fundamental, and there have been diversifications such as a disastrous venture into copper mining in the 19th Century and a better one into tourism in the 20th.


They have suffered sadness in the premature loss of children, parents, wives and husbands. On the other hand they have known the satisfaction of looking after one of the loveliest landscapes in Britain with the confidence to plant trees for future generations to enjoy.


The house has reflected developing needs and tastes over the years; from a central hall house of late medieval times where everything happened in one room, to the stylish and fashionable 18th century Georgian country house, to its current incarnation as part family house, part business where commercial functions have competed with children’s indoor rugby for space.


The family has retained a keen interest in politics and maintained relationships with politicians but have not become directly involved in politics themselves, preferring to observe and understand the forces that might shape their destiny rather than become embroiled in the minutiae and intrigue of political life with all the attendant risks to the stability of the family and the land.


Despite this the Estate covers only a fraction of the land that it once encompassed, but the family is still there in the form of David and Catriona Fursdon and their three sons, Oliver, Tom and Charlie not to mention Lottie the labradoodle, Ruby the chestnut mare and a collection of other animals.


The Fursdon Estate is about 750 acres of arable, pastureland, parkland, orchards and woodland. The diversity of landscape, combined with some of the most stunning views Devon has to offer, makes the Fursdon Estate a great place to walk and enjoy the countryside.


Fursdon is a traditional country and sporting estate with working farmland surrounding the manor house. The land is used for growing cereals, grazing livestock, and managed game shooting. It is this farming which has been the mainstay of the estate over the centuries, and although Fursdon has not been immune from the need to diversify, farming remains very much a core aspect of the estate. The particularly scenic views and rural character which make the estate so special are dependent on the agricultural custody of the land. It retains many of the traditional features present for hundreds of years, such as ancient trees and hedgerows, old lanes and agricultural buildings.


There is an abundance of wildlife to be seen, encouraged by conservation projects which we have implemented in recent years. One such project has been the replanting of the original orchards, with the apples being used to make batches of Fursdon cider.


The house stands on the 600ft contour line and the highest point on the estate is Cadbury Castle, the site of an ancient Iron Age fort - home of the Dragon mentioned in Risdon’s survey of Devon 1626. Firdown is a hilltop copse of beech trees, and on a clear day you can see the sea at Sidmouth gap to the south east, Dartmoor to the south west and Exmoor to the north.


The Coach Hall


The Coach Hall is situated in the stable yard and is used for many activities. It serves as a ticket office and an atmospheric tea room when the house is open to the public but is also right at the heart of the Cadbury community, being used as the parish hall for events and meetings.


It can be hired for functions and is suitable for lunches, lectures, exhibitions, small family parties etc. It can seat up to 50 people, and there are fully equipped kitchen and toilet facilities.