MEM23388 - Ferny Ball (Building)


The first house and farm built on Exmoor after Boevey completed his residence at Simonsbath in 1654. It was built by John Sanger in 1818 but was gutted by fire in 1954 or 55. Miss Hope Bourne, a celebrated local author, lived on site in a caravan.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Other than the Inn and farm at Red Deer and the Acland Arms at Moles Chamber, only four other houses are listed on the Census of 1841 in Exmoor parish, all within the southeastern corner of Exmoor and occupied by married men and their families. The first is likely to be Ferny Ball, the only farm in the area that ties in with the hunting records of the North Devon Staghounds, when in 1818 the hunt passed close by Sangers new house. John Sanger of Whitechapel, Bishops Nympton, purchased this land from Edward Hill of South Batsham and Samuel Moore of South Hill, two of the Withypool Free Suitors. Ferny Ball is likely to be the first house and farm built on Exmoor after Boevey completed his residence at Simonsbath in 1654. That this was the only house in the area at the appropriate time is confirmed by the Electoral Roll of 1841, but by this time, following John Sanger's death on 4th August 1834, the freehold of the house and land had passed to Alexander Fisher of Bishops Nympton (although he did not live there). It was occupied by William Blake and John Barrow (both agricultural labourers), with their wives and families. By 1851 William Poole had moved into Ferny Ball, where he was farming 130 acres. He remained there until 1863, when he took over the Red Deer Inn and 200 acres of land on the Exmoor Estate, leaving his son-in-law, William Thorne (who had been living at Ferny Ball since around 1861) in the farm. He continued to farm there for 50 years until shortly before his death in 1917, aged 85. The farm was purchased by 'Young' John Thorne in the 1950s and, since his death in the 1981, passed to his son Jeremy. The stock, however, was tended by the celebrated Exmoor authoress Miss Hope Bourne, who lived in a caravan close to the farmhouse, which was gutted by fire in 1954 or 1955 when it was owned by a Mr Craven Wilkinson. The house was reroofed but not refurbished and is now used as a store. [1] John Sanger of Whitechapel built a house in the old forest in 1818 that later became known as Ferny Ball Farm. [2] The farmstead is shown on the 1st and 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey maps in a similar arrangement to the modern MasterMap data. [3-5]

Sources/Archives (5)

  • <1> Monograph: Burton, R.A.. 1989. The Heritage of Exmoor. Roger A. Burton. 82-3.
  • <2> Monograph: Siraut, M.. 2009. Exmoor: The Making of an English Upland. Phillimore & Co. Ltd. 1st Edition. 109, 248.
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-1907. County Series, 2nd Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <5> Map: Ordnance Survey. 2015. MasterMap.



Grid reference Centred SS 8009 3586 (94m by 59m) (Historic mapping)
Map sheet SS83NW

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Other Statuses/References

  • None recorded

Record last edited

Apr 30 2018 10:26PM


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