14th June 2016
The Marketing team at The Barker Collection chose the opulent setting at Downe Hall to capture the magnificence of the new Majestic Collection. It’s the family home of Managing Director Matthew Barker, his parents have lived there for the last nine years.
It was a beautifully sunny day and we fell in love with the property and were keen to learn about its history:
Downe Hall was built in the late 18th century for William Downe, a member of a long-established Bridport family. In 1770, William Downe, a Presbyterian merchant, married Mary Hounsell, the daughter of one of Bridport’s textile merchants. In 1786 he purchased the land, stretching north from Rax Lane to Coneygar Hill, on which he built Downe Hall – a substantial property consisting of ten bedrooms.
There were extensive gardens, complete with a coach house, stables and a dairy; while the hill behind was landscaped, providing a view right down to the sea at West Bay. Downe’s chosen site immediately adjoins the northern edge of the town, and its elevated position affords long southerly views towards the sea.
In 1792, William Downe and his brother, Samuel, a surgeon and partner in the Bridport Bank, sought to improve the access to the Hall by leasing two properties from the Burgesses of Bridport. Here they built Downe Street, with its terrace of Georgian houses. William Downe was a wharfinger and, following the death of his brother, a partner in the Bridport Bank. He owned two wharfs at East Smithfield, London – the Dung Wharf and Downe’s Wharf, which had warehousing and a house for the clerk. It was leased to Downe and Co. at an annual rent of £900 and a one-third share of the profits and, in 1809, it became the exclusive wharf for the Edinburgh and Leith Shipping Co. and was also the landing place of choice for Bridport ships.
When William Downe died in 1810, seemingly a successful merchant and banker, he left Downe Hall to his daughter Sarah Read, whose husband took William’s place at the Bridport Bank. Mountfield and Rax House, which Downe also owned, were left to daughter Elizabeth Atkins while his third daughter’s husband, Andrew Gillon, was left Downe’s Wharf and his share in the business.
In 1811 the executor, Joseph Gundry, on discovering that Downe’s assets would not cover both his debts and legacies, gained a ruling in the Court of Chancery that William Downe was a bankrupt. His daughters now had to take their place with the other creditors, unless the deficit could be raised. In 1814 Read resigned from the Bridport Bank and, at the same time, the Edinburgh and Leith Shipping Company withdrew from their contract, claiming that they were owed £842. The ensuing litigation lasted many years. In 1818 Read formed a new partnership, which continued until 1823 when he withdrew, shortly before his coal merchant business was declared bankrupt. His bankruptcy seems to have triggered the Ruling of the Court of Chancery for, in July of that year, Downe Hall was sold at auction, along with Mountfield and Rax House.
The new owner of Downe Hall was Henry Templer. Born in 1785 he had embarked on a career with the East India Company’s maritime service. In 1806, whilst serving as the third officer on the Lady Burges, he was shipwrecked off the Cape Verde Islands. He took his first command, the Baring, in 1811 which commission was noted for one of the passengers being so alarmed by Templer’s manner that she locked herself in her cabin until they landed in India. Further voyages followed, allowing Henry Templer to amass significant wealth, which he then invested, becoming managing owner of a number of ships. Clearly the investment paid handsomely as he was soon expanding his fleet with the Bombay in 1822, closely followed by the William Money, the Moira and the Minerva. In 1833, the East India Company’s new charter took away its trading rights and opened India and the Far East to competition. Templer made one more purchase, the Scaleby Castle in 1834, selling it at a significant profit two months later.
Continue reading the story about Downe Hall courtesy of Dorset Life:
Blog posted by Gill Buley (Head of Marketing & Interior Stylist)