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Widecombe History Group Talk
UGBROOKE HOUSE AND THE CLIFFORD’S a talk by Helen Turnbull.
Helen Turnbull introduced herself as archivist, of Ugbrooke and the Clifford family, and apologised for the fact that she was not on top form, and her voice occasionally gave problems. With the help of a number of slides she took us through the history of the Clifford family, from the time of William I to the present day. The Clifford’s came to England after the Norman Conquest, they were of Scandinavian and Norman descent, at that time their name was Pond, and were given land in the Welsh marches by King William .Three generations later one of their descendants married a wealthy lady from ’Clifford Castle’ and from then on they adopted the name Clifford. They seemed always to find favour with the monarchs through the ages, and this led to acquiring lands and estates in many parts of the country. Occasionally their wealth came from fortuitous marriages. George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland was a privateer, but also held commands in both the Navy and later the Army and entered into the conflict with the armada from Spain during the 16th century. He had no male heirs. A peerage was created in 1617 for Thomas Clifford and titled ‘Clifford of Chudleigh’ and since then Ugbrooke house has been the family seat. The first Baron was very involved in politics, but when required to swear an oath on the ‘Test Act’ to prove that he had no Roman Catholic leanings. Failure to do so meant that he would lose many of his rights and privileges, in both education and commerce. However Thomas subsequently resigned from office and became a Catholic and later St Cyprians Chapel was built within Ugbrooke House. The 13th Baron, Lord Clifford, Lewis was Col Commander of the Devonshire Volunteer Infantry Brigade and was known to have joined General Custer, while travelling in America to hunt buffalo, and was involved in his battle with Chief Sitting Bull. The Clifford family, in common with other families suffered greatly when taxes and death duties caused them to sell many of their estates in all parts of the country, and, indeed their property in Kingsteignton. Ugbrooke House itself has seen many changes too, with Robert Adam remodelling it and moving away from the Elizabethan ‘E’ shape. Adam’s work can still be seen in places, and certainly in the chapel. At more or less the same time Capability Brown was commissioned to re design the gardens and estate land. One notable change was to create a lake by damming the Ug brook, which ran through the estate. Coming rather nearer to the present day, WW 2 saw the family move into the Dower House and Ugbrooke was let to St Mary’s convent school from Gravesend. The majority of the staff were of course nuns, the one male member of staff failed to stop some of the more active students causing some damage it seems. Later still the house was taken over by the ministry of pensions to accommodate injured Polish Officers.
In 1954,Ugbrooke was in a poor state and the then Lord Clifford, Hugh, was, in common with other landowners having great difficulty drying his grain harvest due to a very wet summer. He therefore used the mansion, with windows wide open, as a granary, and successfully dried his crop.
A visit to Ugbrooke today will reveal a beautifully designed and furnished mansion that owes much to the present Lord Clifford and his wife Clarissa
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