The Donkey Seat

In the hills just above Shaldon stands a large Victorian house in about 17 acres of land.  It is believed to date from 1849 when it was owned by George Hennet, a railway engineer who undertook many contracts for Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s broad gauge railways in the South West of England.

The residence has been in the same Scottish family since 1865 when Captain Alexander Graeme purchased the house before extending it. He was also responsible for building a summerhouse in the style of a temple in the grounds with a frieze based on Greek mythology. The summer house is still in situ, as is the old font, which forms a focal point at the end of an avenue created by neatly trimmed yew hedging. There are also numerous plaster plaques and ornaments throughout the grounds, which extend to about 17 acres and include an area of woodland together with fields and paddocks.

Captian Graeme planted a field with the Union Jack in laurels; a maze along the lines of the one at Hampton Court; and a wooden tower which swayed in the wind, erected in the fir wood – all apparently great attractions to young visitors.  The tower was approached by a path, the entrance of which was flanked by slabs bearing the famous commands “England expects every man to do his duty” and “Up Guards and at ‘em”.  Apparently everyone brave enough to climb the tower was rewarded at the top with a glass of cherry brandy to drink the Queen’s health and confusion to her enemies!

The family also apparently owned a donkey which used to trot behind the family coach.  When the donkey died a seat and sundial in its memory were erected at the east end of the wood.

Does this give a picture of a rather eccentric Alexander Graeme?  If so his death would come as no surprise – he was killed in a duel on board the Granicus, at age 87!

The above has been obtained from:

Wikipedia – George Hennet ….
Rightmove  ….
Book of the Graemes