THE early spring campaign in the West Country kicks off in style next week, with the launch onto the market of one of Dartmoor’s most historic and picturesque demesnes, the 783-acre Leighon estate at Manaton, on the eastern edge of the Dartmoor National Park, which comes with a guide price of £4.5 million through the Exeter office of Knight Frank (01362 423111). The estate stands in a magical wooded valley traversed by the Becka Brook, in the lee of one of Dartmoor’s most striking landmarks, the great granite mass of Hound Tor.
People have lived and worked in this part of Devon since at least the 1st century BC, when the Romans founded tin mines on the high moor around North Bovey and Manaton. During the Middle Ages, a combination of population growth and mild weather encouraged livestock farmers to move higher up onto the moor. With wild animals roaming the open tops, precious farm animals were housed indoors, livestock at one end of the dwelling and families at the other. This led to the creation of the Devon longhouse, at least four of which were found in the remains of a medieval village excavated at Hound Tor in the 1960s.
The once much larger Leighon estate is steeped in history, and local records trace the occupancy of the estate and its now-ruined Greator Farm from at least the 13th century. The Norsworthy family are believed to have lived at Leighon from the 1500s until the late 1800s, when the Revd R. R. Wolfe bought the estate and transformed a former Devon longhouse into the substantial manor farmhouse seen today.
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