Adcroft House History – Updated 21 June 2023

Adcroft House is situated on Doatshayne Lane, not far from St Michael’s Church.  It is a triangular plot of about two-thirds of an acre. During an archaeological survey in 2016 it appeared there were signs of buildings going back to Tudor times, with early bricks being unearthed, but no datable artefacts were found.  Three separate stages of construction were discovered, although this could have just been separate rooms or perhaps the three cottages mentioned later.

The earliest written mention that has been found so far is in the Tithe Maps and Apportionment dating from about 1839/40.  What is now just one plot is divided into two separate entities on the Tithe Map, as shown below.

Adcroft - Tithe Map extract

Below is an extract from the Tithe Apportionment schedule, showing the two properties that make up most of the Adcroft House plot we see today.  Note that the land is owned by Francis Harvey, who was an Axminster farmer and landowner.  The tenants are Collins, Wakley & Stilling (616) and Elizabeth Hoare (615).

In the 1851census the properties are called Princes Cottage (615) and Princes House (616), with the latter being comprised of 3 separate dwellings, probably terraced cottages.  According to the census, the Princes House buildings are home to 18 people at this time.  For further details please refer to the Adcroft Timeline.

It is difficult to gather any useful information from the 1861 and 1871 censuses, as the enumerators didn’t provide many property names, giving unhelpful addresses such as “village” or leaving this blank.

In 1881 the cottages are described as “Doatshayne Cottages”, and five separate households are shown there, but it is likely that there were still only 4 properties on the plot.

By 1891 the name has become Prince’s Row with three separate households, but there is no mention of Prince’s Cottage, not even as unoccupied.  For further details please refer to the Adcroft Timeline.

In 1897 the complete plot was put up for sale.  We don’t know who the seller was.

The name “Adcroft” is probably derived from the field that was adjacent to the plot before Adcroft Rise was built.  This field is described on the Tithe Apportionments as “Add Croft”.  There is no mention of a house being called Adcroft until 1901.

In 1901 a widower called George Board is living in “Adcroft”, but there are no listings for any other properties.  These may have been unoccupied, but normally the census enumerator would make a note of this.  The occupants from the 1897 have either moved to new houses in the village or left (or died?).

The 1910 Property Valuation survey tells us that the ‘House & Garden’ at ‘Adcroft’ is owned by Edwin Hoare from Boro House, Axmouth and is occupied by Frederick Harvey.  It seems this is the separate property to the north, as the same survey also advises that there is an “Adcroft (Old Ruins)” that is owned by Frank Partridge (Butcher & Poultry dealer living at Mount Pleasant).  Edwin Hoare also owns another ‘Garden’ at Adcroft, which is probably the land formerly attached to the ruined cottages.

The census of 1911 tells us that Fred Harvey and his family (4 people) are living in two rooms in “Adcroft Cottage”.  It seems that this is the separate property in the narrow part of the plot owned by Edwin Hoare.  The three linked properties known previously as “Princes House” are presumably still in ruins.  Did Frank Partridge possibly buy the ruins at the 1897 auction?

From 1918 to 1928 Agnes Laura Arnold lives in ‘Adcroft’, but we are not sure if this is part of the old ruins or a separate property.  The 1921 census states Mrs Arnold is widowed and living in Adcroft with 4 children.    This is further updated by the 1928 Property Valuation survey, from which we learn the cottage (named “Adcroft”) is owned by Mrs Ford and still tenanted by Agnes Arnold.  The owner is presumably Mrs Alice Ford, wife of George Ford, living at Mountfield Cottage.  From 1929 to at least 1947 Mrs Arnold lived in ‘Princess Cottage’.  Is this the same property? Was the name changed to save confusion with the new wooden bungalow?  Or did Mrs Arnold & family move from the partly ruined buildings to the separate cottage?

It is not known when the wooden bungalow was built, but the assumption has always been around the 1930s.  Around this time Hubert Ford, the gardener at Mountfield (following his father George), comes on the scene.  In 1928 his mother owned the cottage and what is described as the “Garden”.  She did not die until 1940, but Hubert Ford is listed as owning land called ‘Adcroft’ in 1931, so perhaps his mother gifted him the property.  He owns the whole plot of Adcroft, complete with Princess Cottage and tenant, plus the land extending right down to Church Hill, meaning this part has been acquired sometime earlier.  On the 1939 Register Hubert is shown as still living with his parents at Mountfield Cottage.  Presumably around this period, he developed the land and built the wooden bungalow. 

In 1942 Hubert Ford married Teresa Marie O’Doherty, who was a nurse employed at Mountfield.  Hubert, Marie and her son all lived in the bungalow.  The son is still with us and still spends some time in Musbury.  He tells of happy times in what was a very pretty house and garden.  In 1947 Mr & Mrs Ford decided to relocate to Ireland and the house was put up for sale.

The sale advertisement from the Western Gazette of 11 July 1947 shows a lot of interesting details about the house. Water is provided from the well, which is pumped into a storage tank to provide running water. Drainage is by use of a septic tank. Three bedrooms are mentioned, which must have meant an extra room was provided by the extension shown in the picture above. What became the sitting room was presumably classed as a bedroom. There is also reference to the grass paddock, which is what we know as Churchfield House and the car park today. The sale includes the cottage, with tenant, to the rear (the front faced south then).

The sale at auction (in the Church Hall, Axminster) on 24 July 1947 raised £3100.  This is about £125,0000 in today’s money, which still seems quite a bargain.  It is thought the Churchfield House / Car Park land was sold off after the sale, in about the 1950s.

In 1948 Hubert Ford is still on the Electoral Register as living at Adcroft, but the new owner, Clara M. Read is also registered at that address.  This probably implies that Hubert has not taken his name taken off (he and his wife moved to Ireland), but Clara Read registered before the qualifying date of 30 June 1948.  Later, the will of Clara Maud Read confirms that Adcroft was her address when she died in February 1959.

The 1948 Electoral Register also shows that Mrs Arnold and her son John are living at 4 New Council Houses, so she has evidently moved out of Princess Cottage.

In the 1950s or 1960s the old Princess Cottage, must have been pulled down and turned into a garage [see aerial picture].

An aerial view of Adcroft in the 1960s. Mountfield is in the foreground.

In 1961 the property was owned by Miss Ethel M. Chivers.  She sold the house to Mr & Mrs Nicholl who lived in Adcroft until about 1981.  We have pictures of a well-cared for and much-loved house in this ownership, courtesy of the Nicholl’s daughter, who now lives in Somerset.  [Adcroft in the 1970s]  After her parent’s deaths in (about 1981) she sold her parent’s house to, as she called him, ‘Farmer Littley’ and his wife Doris.  Lawrence Littley was a well-known character of the village, having farmed at  Drake’s & Baxter’s Farms for many years and chaired the Parish Council amongst other things.

Lawrence Littley made changes to the house.  He pulled down the old garage, using the stone to create a splayed driveway entrance, which led to a new garage beside the house.  An annex was constructed, to connect the house and garage.  Mains water, mains gas and central heating were now all installed.  These could have been installed any time in the 60s or 70s, but it is likely, at least the latter two were Mr Littley’s doing.  Mrs Littley died in 1987 and Lawrence in 2004.  The house laid empty and unkempt for over 11 years and it was eventually put on the market for its development potential.  [Click here for sales particulars]

It was purchased by the current owners (as if you don’t know who!) in February 2016.  Demolishment of the wooden bungalow commenced in October 2016 and by August 2017 the new house was ready for occupation.


There is still research to do.  Electoral registers from 1945 to the early 2000s will give more details of ownership and dates.  Musbury residents may recall the house during the second half of the 20th century.  And there is always that surprise find that appears out of nowhere!…

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