MSO7970 - Ashley Combe House, Porlock (Monument)


Built for Peter King, 7th Baron King in 1799, the house has been called Ashley Combe, Ashton Lodge and Ashley Lodge. His son, William, married mathematician Augusta Ada Byron, daughter of Lord Byron and Countess of Lovelace.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

Full Description

The King family built a small house at Ashley Combe in c.1799. The Lovelaces developed this into an Italian villa in the 1830s, with steeply terraced gardens, paths and tunnels. [1b] 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] A history of the site, with photographs, is included in an article in the Exmoor Review. It states that the house was never the main family seat. N.B. The article gives an incorrect date for the death of Mary, the 2nd Countess Lovelace. [3,15] Several photographs of the house survive (see [3,4,12]). 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. Several cottages and a lodge were added to the site in the 1930s [1a]. 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] The house and gardens are shown on the 25 inch 1st and 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey maps. The house is sited at SS 8572 4814 and labelled "Ashley Combe". [6,7] The house is shown on the 1841 Porlock Tithe map. It is labelled "Ashley Lodge". [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. 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 later married Ada Byron. The house 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. [9] A house, known as Ashley Combe, was built by Peter King, 7th Baron King (1776-1833) in 1799. The King family's 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). From 1835 to 1840 the house was extended and improved, with 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. 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] Information similar to that provided by Source [3] is given by Corner. [12] A planning application was submitted in December 1970 to demolish Ashley Combe House and to build a private dwelling on the site. The existing house was described as "unoccupied for some years" and "ruinous". A letter was submitted supporting the application in January 1971, which stated "the present house is now in a very dilapidated and dangerous condition". The application was approved. [13] A further application was submitted in June 1972, again seeking to demolish the house and rebuild it. It was still described as ruinous at this time. The application was refused. [14] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [16] A drawing of Ashley Combe Lodge dating to around the early 20th Century includes a glimpse of the house. [17]

Sources/Archives (19)

  • <1b> Monograph: Orbach, J. and Pevsner, N.. 2014. The Buildings of England: Somerset - South and West. Yale University Press. p529-530.
  • <1a> 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> 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).
  • <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, 1999.
  • <6> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1854-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <7> Map: Ordnance Survey. County Series; 2nd Edition (1st Revision) 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. Hazel Riley. 2-.
  • <12> Monograph: Corner, Dennis. 1992. Porlock in Those Days. Exmoor Books. p61, 67, 71.
  • <13> Website: Exmoor National Park Authority. Exmoor National Park Authority website - Planning section. 75438.
  • <14> Website: Exmoor National Park Authority. Exmoor National Park Authority website - Planning section. 75438/A.
  • <15> Verbal communication: Various. 1993-. Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Team staff comments. Catherine Dove, 28 June 2021.
  • <16> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1127301, Extant 28 June 2021.
  • <17> Artwork: Harper, C.G.. 1892-1933. Ashley Combe Lodge, seen from the east. Drawing.
  • <18> Index: Charterhouse Environs Research Team. 2012. The CHERT Index of the Drawings and Sketches of the Reverend John Skinner. Vol 18 (1836 Devonshire), pages 88, 91.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Local Heritage List Status (Proposed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 NE31
  • National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1127301
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33945



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

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (11)

Related Events/Activities (2)

Record last edited

May 18 2023 5:54PM


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