MSO7970 - Ashley Combe House, Porlock (Monument)


The house was built for Peter King, 7th Baron King in 1799 and has been called Ashley Combe, Ashton Lodge and Ashley Lodge. It was the home of mathematician Augusta Ada Byron, daughter of Lord Byron and Countess of Lovelace.

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Type and Period (2)

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Full Description

Ashley Combe House was an Italianate Lovelace mansion of 1866. The date of its demolition is uncertain. [1] The mansion was formerly the home of Bryon's daughter and was opened as a Country Club by its owner, the Earl of Lytton, on the 1st July 1950. [2] In the woods above Worthy on the far side of the combe are the ruins of Ashley Combe House, formerly Ashley Combe Lodge. The house was demolished about 1960. It is believed that a house was on the site in the 17th Century. It was Lord King, the 8th Baron (later to become the first Lord Lovelace), who improved and extended the house and created the Italian gardens. The house was built in the style of an Italian castle and there were several tunnels in the grounds, large enough for traders' vehicles to approach the house unseen. Many trees were planted in the grounds. The Lovelace family owned Yearnor, Culbone, Sparkhayes and Bratton, near Minehead. The view from the house was magnificent, looking over Porlock Weir and across the bay. Lord King married Ada, the daughter of Lord Byron. The house was used as a children's nursery by Dr Barnados during World War Two. [3] Several photographs of the house survive (see [3, 4]). The remains of the house are centred at SS 8572 4815. Much rubble is scattered around, together with the remains of the entrance to the service wing. This consists of a complex of tunnels and arches. A small retaining wall runs for about 12 metres to the south of this. The remains of a covered garden area or service area lie at SS 8572 4816. The house sat within extensive grounds, laid out with terraces and a system of extraordinary tunnels, which are recorded under MSO7973. The architect Voysey added several cottages and a lodge in the 1930s. [1] The cottages, including Lovelace at SS 8572 4797, lie along the combe. Yearnor Mill Bridge (SS 8517 4721) may also date from this period. The lodge (SS 8582 4820) consists of a cottage and a block which spans the road, it includes many details which echo those in the ruined house and garden structures. [5] A fountain was visible on the 1st and 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey maps, in close proximity to the house. [6, 7] The house was visible on the 1841 Porlock Tithe map. [8] The first house on the Ashley Combe House site may have been put up before 1799 and was likely incorporated into any later extensions. It may at first have been intended as a summer house for Worthy Manor. It stood on a small terrace cut into the hill on the side of a 'richly wooded glen'. It was located to give a view of Porlock town and marsh and castellated to give the look of a medieval tower. Works on the site appear to have altered the building into a cottage by 1815. Further alterations were made to the house and gardens after 1833, when Lord King (who owned the property) was succeeded by his son William and he prepared for his marriage to Ada Byron. [9] A house, known as Ashley Combe, was built by Peter King, 7th Baron King (1776-1833) in 1799. The site lies just to the west of Worthy, near Porlock Weir (SS 8570 4812), one of the manors owned by the King family, whose main residence was at Ockham Park in Surrey. The house is shown on the 1804 Ordnance Survey map where it is named ‘Ashton Lodge’ [10]. Peter King’s eldest son, William, was born in 1805. William married Augusta Ada Byron, the daughter of Lord Byron and his wife Anne Isabella Milbanke, in 1835. He was made Earl of Lovelace in 1838 and his wife became Countess of Lovelace (Ada Lovelace, mathematician and collaborator with Charles Babbage). William and Ada spent their honeymoon at Ashley Combe and from 1835 to 1840 the house was extended and improved, gardens created and landscaping of the steep woodlands between Ashley Combe and Culbone Church carried out. The tithe map for Porlock (1841, [8]) shows the footprint of the house, now called ‘Ashley Lodge,’ a number of paths and rides to the north and south of the house, a road from Worthy to Culbone, and an irregular enclosure to the west of Ashley Lodge. After being made Lord Lieutenant of the County of Surrey in 1840, William moved the family to the East Horsley Estate in Surrey in 1846. Ada died in 1852 and William in 1893. He was succeeded by his second son, Ralph King-Milbanke, who extended Ashley Combe and erected deer fences around the estate. Mary, the 2nd Countess Lovelace was an architect; she worked with Voysey on designs for the Lodge (Toll House) and Worthy Manor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ashley Combe house was let to Dr Barnado’s for a children’s home in 1939; in 1950 it became a country club for a short time. The house fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1974. [11] A history of the site, with photographs, is included in an article in the Exmoor Review. [12]

Sources/Archives (12)

  • <1> Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1958. The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Penguin Books. p276.
  • <2> Leaflet: Ashley Combe Residential Country Club, Porlock, Somerset.
  • <3> Monograph: Corner, Dennis. 1992. Porlock in Those Days. Exmoor Books. p61, 67, 71.
  • <4> Monograph: Astell, J.. 1995. Around Minehead: Britain in old photographs. Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd..
  • <5> Unpublished document: Riley, H.. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation.
  • <6> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <7> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-1907. County Series, 2nd Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <8> Map: Cox, J. W.C.. 1841. Porlock Tithe Map and Apportionment. 13.3 inches : 1 mile.
  • <9> Report: Phibbs, J.. 2015. Ashley Combe and Culbone Woods: A scoping report on the landscape.
  • <10> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1804. 1 Inch Ordnance Surveyors draft map - North Molton, Devon. 1:63,360. Pen and Ink.
  • <11> Report: Riley, H.. 2018. The archaeology of the 19th Century designed landscape at Ashley Combe and Culbone Church, Exmoor National Park: Project Report. 2-.
  • <12> Serial: Exmoor Society. 1959-present. Exmoor Review. Volume 30 (1989), "The rise and fall of Ashley Combe Lodge near Porlock Weir", p50-53 (B Milne).



Grid reference Centred SS 8572 4814 (47m by 98m) (Historic mapping)
Map sheet SS84NE

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Related Monuments/Buildings (10)

Related Events/Activities (2)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 NE31
  • National Park
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 1127301
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33945

Record last edited

Mar 23 2021 10:53AM


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