MSO7076 - Simonsbath House (Building)


Simonsbath House incorporates part of James Boevey's house which was built in 1654, and the shell of John Knight's uncompleted mansion of the 1830s. It is now used as a hotel. The Exmoor Society was founded here in 1955.

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Full Description

Simonsbath House is centred at SS 7722 3923. It is alleged to incorporate part of James Boevey's house which was built in 1654, as well as the shell of John Knight's uncompleted mansion dating from the 1830s. [1] The building is now in use as a hotel. [2] The buliding is mid 17th Century in date and was extensively altered in the 19th and 20th Centuries. It was built for John Boevey. The building is roughcast over rubble, with bitmen covered slate roofs. The plan was orginally 3 or 4 cell with a cross passage, but has been altered to a U shape. The house was built by the Warden of Exmoor Forest, John Boevey, and was until the early 19th Century the only house in the Royal Forest. Around 1819 it became the home of the Knight family and was subsequently much altered by the Fortescues in the early 20th Century. [3] James Boevey had this house built in around 1652 and the house has the date 1654 carved in the fireplace. At this time, Simonsbath House was the only house in the former Royal Forest. Boevey did not live long in the new house, and by 1657 John Hill was in residence. He was a farmer from Withypool, who enclosed 118 acres of fields around the house to create the first farm in the Royal Forest. In 1694 the house was still in use as a farm, with brewing, cheesemaking and salting also. By 1789 the use had changed to a licensed alehouse, which became known as the Simonsbath Inn in 1800. The house was used for a time for noncoformist preaching and was also used as the meeting place for the Forest Courts. This also provided temporary lodgings for Knight's farmers while they waited for their new farms to be built. The structure of the building changed over time, from Boevey's original house it was much enlarged by the Knight family. Further alterations were then seen for the Fortescues and for the building's subsequent use as a hotel. [5] Until the Royal Forest was disafforested this was the only building located within the Royal Forest. [6] The building was visited in September 2012 as part of the rapid condition survey of Exmoor's Listed Buildings 2012-13. It received a BAR score of 6. [7] Simonsbath House was surveyed in summer 2017 on behalf of ENPA. It is a complex building of the mid 17th Century with major additional phases of the 1760s, 1820s, 1890s and 1970s-80s. The survey consisted of thorough examination of the physical fabric coupled with newly surveyed plans of the building. Documentary research and location of complementary pictorial and cartographic evidence took place alongside the field examination. James Boevey purchased Exmoor Forest from parliamentary commissioners in 1652-3 and must have begun the house soon after this; the date 1654 appears on a fireplace lintel in the building. It is unlikely he ever really lived here and it was let. After his death, the property was sold by James' third wife, Margaret Boevey nee Cresset in 1704, to Robert Siderfin of Luxborough and Croydon in Carhampton Parish. He again acted as a non-resident landlord. After his death in 1720, the house passed through various foresters but the house was probably lived in by their deputies. From 1789 the farm house was licenced and frequented as the Simonsbath Inn, although continuing in use as the centre of forest administration. The Inn continued in the building until the late 1820s, until John Knight, who originally lived at Lynton, moved into the house c.1827 or 1830. John Knight of Wolverley and Simonsbath, 1765-1850, purchased the Exmoor estate from the Crown by sealed tender in July 1818, with the purchase completed in 1820 but with effective ownership and control commencing in August 1818. He hoped to rebuilt the house from the outset. Work started from the outset to make the existing house habitable (including the construction of a cellar) and to construct a new house. Work commenced on the latter in January 1820 and reached three storeys (the shell survived until the 1890s) but was suspended at some point due to lack of funds and it was never roofed. The house passed on to John's son Frederick Winn Knight (1812-1897), who later sold the reversion of the estate to the Fortescue family of Castle Hill. On his death, Viscount Ebrington (later the 4th Earl Fortescue) quickly assumed control and began alterations to the house. These included a reduction in height of the rear shell, which was then roofed and made habitable, and substantial alterations and extensions to the main building in front. The main road through Simonsbath, which at this time ran across the front of the property was also diverted away at this time, to provide more privacy. During World War Two, the House accommodated a girls' school (1940-1945) and then briefly a boys school. It was then run as a Hotel, known as the "Diana Lodge Hotel" (1946-1950), perpetuating the name from the wartime school of that name. The freehold of the house was eventually purchased from the Fortescue Estate in 1969 and it was converted to a hotel in the 1970s. It is noteable that the Exmoor Society was founded here in 1955. [8] Simonsbath House and Farm, with c.560 acres was leased to Charles Le Blanc by Frederic Knight from two months after Lady Day 1851 for a period of seven years. The lease was managed by Robert Smith. The house, buildings and front paddock were to be given up at any time if 12 months notice was given and if a new house and buildings were erected on the farm to receive him. Roads, fences and buildings were to be kept in repair by the tenant (the latter two reimbursed by Knight). Le Blanc was to take the furniture that he wanted but Knight did not require. [9]

Sources/Archives (9)

  • <1> Monograph: Burton, R.A.. 1989. The Heritage of Exmoor. Roger A. Burton. 38, 70.
  • <2> Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. RCHME Field Investigation, 28 October 1994.
  • <3> Index: 2/1/1986. Thirty-fifth List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, District of West Somerset (Somerset)/Exmoor National Park.
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1889. 1st Edition Extract Map of Simonsbath.
  • <5> Monograph: Siraut, M.. Royal Forest, Exmoor: A guide to the Royal Forest of Exmoor. Exmoor National Park Authority. 4, 12, 24-5.
  • <6> Leaflet: 2013. Simonsbath, Exmoor: Exmoor moorland archaeology walks series. Exmoor National Park Authority.
  • <7> Report: Lawrence, G.. 2014. Exmoor National Park: Rapid condition survey of listed buildings 2012-13.
  • <8> Report: Blaylock, S.. 2017. Historic buildings survey of Simonsbath House Hotel, Simonsbath, Exmoor.
  • <9> Archive: Various. 1815-1999. Knight Archive. KN.CORR.012_1851.05.20_Tr.pdf.



Grid reference Centred SS 7721 3923 (54m by 35m)
Map sheet SS73NE

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Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (3)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • 2012-3 Building At Risk Score (6): 1076/11/14
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO10647
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO12548
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 73 NE66
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 1029805
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 31133
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 35750

Record last edited

Mar 8 2021 11:40AM


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