Medieval Bridge over Exe
Medieval Bridge over Exe

A Search for a House

by Sue Jackson

Members of Exeter Local History Society were able to have a guided tour of Thomas Hall, formerly known as Great Duryard House (and in more recent years a University of Exeter hall of residence) on 30 May 2014 just as it had been purchased by the Steiner Academy and before any renovation had taken place.  A re-visit was eagerly awaited and this took place on Saturday 12 September 2015 at the start of the Academy’s new academic year.  On our first visit the Surveyor showed us over the severely decayed main house with warnings to be very careful for our own safety.  On our second visit, the occasion of the Academy’s Open Day, we were able to see the site’s complete transformation with its very impressive new school buildings and the old house completely and sympathetically cleaned up and restored.

A write-up of our visits found its way onto the Society’s website and Frances received an email from the Great, Great, Great Granddaughter of William Barnes who had lived at Great Duryard for many years following the death in childbirth of his young wife and stillborn seventh child, offering pictures drawn by his son (my contact’s Great, Great Grandfather) of the house and grounds.  There followed an interesting and fruitful email exchange over several months in an effort to locate the house William and his wife had lived in before her death on 17 th July 1850 age 28.

The 1841 Census showed William Barnes (24) Banker and his wife Lucy (19) living at Matford House in the St Leonards Parish along with Lucy’s parents Walter Long (52), Mary Long (50) and 1 male servant and 4 female servants.  In the 1851 Census William was at the home of his late wife’s sister in Monmouth with two of his eldest children of 9 and 8, whilst his three younger children of 5, 4 and 2 are at home at Matford House along with a Governess, a Butler, Cook, Nurse and Housemaid, and his eldest son is staying with an aunt and uncle in Bath.  By the 1861 Census William and his family are at Great Duryard where he lived until his death in 1891.

A quest then ensued to find where Matford House was located (not to be confused with Old Matford House also in Wonford Road).  A search of various street directories plus OS maps from 1890 to 1932 (kindly sent to me by a friend from Devon Family History Society) revealed that many houses in Wonford Road/Victoria Park Road changed their names over time but Matford House can be seen next to Fairhill (on the corner of Victoria Park Road) in 1890 and 1905.  Fairhill became Mulberry House by 1932.  The entrance to Matford House now has Cardinal Newman House/Mount St Mary Centre on its nameplate and an Express & Echo article of 9 June 2022 has the headline “Care home could be built on part of former school”.  The article begins “Part of a former Exeter convent school could be demolished and replaced with a 42-bed residential care home.  A planning application has been submitted to Exeter City Council by Stonehaven Care Group Ltd for Cardinal Newman House in Wonford  Road. … While the school incorporates the listed Mulberry House, it is dominated by mid- 20 th century educational buildings which sit between the school and the application site. … Built in 1964, Cardinal Newman House was formerly part of the Mount St Mary’s Convent School which closed in the late 1990s, and is a detached, three storey building.” 

I have no idea whether planning permission was granted and whether the original Matford House which can be seen close to the entrance is also due for demolition.  There is a private entrance at the bottom corner of Lyndhurst Road which can be seen clearly on a 1904 map.

All in all a very interesting piece of research and a positive outcome in a search for a house.

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