Thorn Art
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19th Century Thorn

Lockyer image

Major Edmund Lockyer

Arkwright image

William Arkwright

The exact date of the present house is unknown, however it is on the site of an earlier building which goes back centuries as evidenced by the existence of tudour cellars. Thorn House (previously known as South Wembury House) was refurbished in the early 19th century by Thomas Lockyer; one time Mayor of Plymouth. From about 1806 it became the Lockyer's permanent home and soon afterwards some 536 acres were transfered from the 'Manor of Wembury'.

In 1876 Richard Cory, a wealthy London coal merchant, bought the South Wembury estate from the Lockyers. The Cory's added a ballroom and billiard room which made an attractive venue for entertainment and shooting parties; guests included the Prince of Wales and his brother the Duke of Edinburgh.

Thorn Garden: Early Development

In 1920 the house was sold to William Arkwright, a descendant of Richard Arkwright who had made a fortune in cotton spinning. Having sold his property, Sutton Scarsdale Hall in Derbyshire, he moved to South Wembury House, which he renamed 'Thorn'. Here he embarked upon a major programme of garden development, laying out terraces and formal grounds in imitation of those at Sutton Scarsdale. William brought some of the statuary and other items, including four enormous Italianate Carrara marble urns, with him from Derbyshire to Devon. These remain as important focal points in the garden today. The ram's head handles have formed the current symbol of Thorn (see top of page). The gardens were developed to such an extent that they were reputed to be the richest in Devonshire.

These lasting contributions to Thorn, were further enhanced by the next owner, the Hon. Mrs Ida Marie Sebag-Montefiore. A enthusiastic horticulturalist she won an award at the 1934 Chelsea flower show.

Thorn Today

Mrs Sebag-Montefiore moved out of Thorn in 1938, having given some of the neighbouring land to the National Trust, and over the next twenty years the estate was gradually broken up into smaller units. John and Eva Gibson have lived at Thorn since 1981. Eva's vision and knowledge as a plantswoman has enabled her to attempt to recreate Arkwright's vision of 'Utinam'.

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