Visit to Downes House, Crediton, 4 April 2024

Members of Exeter Branch who visited Downes House in early April were greeted at the front door by the owner, Henry Parker. This was an unexpected surprise which set the tone for a fascinating afternoon, as Henry Parker joined us as we toured the house with our guide, Frankie, from time to time adding brief comments about the family.

Downes House was once the home of General Sir Redvers Buller VC (1839 – 1908) whose imposing statue in Exeter is well known to generations of Exeter students. However its origins go back to 1692 when the first house was built by Moses Gould, a wealthy Exeter merchant, on a gentle rise overlooking the Creedy river valley. His granddaughter married James Buller, thus beginning a long association with this famous family. Redvers Buller inherited the estate from his brother in 1874 and following retirement from a long and illustrious career in the army which included several important campaigns in Africa he spent the last seven years of his life at Downes. By this time he had been awarded the Victoria Cross and also been granted the freedom of the city of Exeter.

So popular was Sir Redvers Buller with his troops and with the general public that on his retirement in 1901, some 50,000 people subscribed to the statue of him on his horse that was unveiled in Exeter in 1905. After a short illness Redvers died in 1908. At Downes House one room, designated as a Museum, contains a wealth of campaign materials and personal mementos from his army days. Throughout the house we saw family memorabilia, heraldic shields with Coats of Arms of the Buller family, a magnificent plasterwork ceiling above the imposing main staircase as well as many family portraits spanning the centuries.

Over the years the house has seen many changes; today much is faced with Beer stone and the original main entrance has been closed and the space turned into an impressive Long Hall. In 1975 the house and its estate passed to Rosemary Parker, niece of the last owner, Michael Buller, as there was no male heir. Today her son Henry Parker, his wife and family live there, welcoming visitors on specific days during the year into their family home.

Thanks to Anne Mayes for organising the visit, to Frankie Peroni for showing us round and to Henry Parker for adding the extra personal details to illuminate our tour.

 

Louise Clunies-Ross

Created by Alex Volkov