Ashley Court


This small country house nestled deep in the Exe Valley is a hidden gem of Regency Devon’s history. Built in 1805 by Captain William Dunsford to replace an earlier 17th Century dwelling of the same name, the house and its grounds have remained largely untouched ever since. The early house was recorded by the Reverend Swete in his travels in Georgian Devon. Ashley Court has been home to no less than 3 of Tiverton’s Mayors (John Upcott, Thomas Cosway and William Dunsford) and our project is to bring it gently back to the full vibrancy of life while maintaining its historic charm and slightly faded grandeur. To arrive at the front gate is to fall back 200 years to a slower pace of life and an appreciation of time and place.

ashley court food drink

Food and Drink

The walled kitchen garden, orchards and grounds at Ashley Court provide us with the raw ingredients for our Vegetarian and Vegan catering. Almost everything is seasonal, home grown, organic and/or locally sourced. In the past the kitchen garden provided food for the family and staff, part of our restoration process has been to bring this back to life. Our commitment to low food miles and good quality local ingredients has enabled us to really find the unique taste of this specific area of Devon. Highlights include cider, apple and pear juice from our orchards, wild garlic pesto from the woodlands, pumpkins, cherries and heritage varieties of soft fruits and vegetables.

ashley court stables

Garden, House and History​

Welcome to Ashley Court and the lost gardens of Tiverton! 

This small Regency Country House (Grade II) is nestled in the beautiful Exe Valley near Tiverton. It is a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ house, a place that time forgot. We bought it in 2016 as a combined family home and yoga retreat space. The gardens and grounds have so captivated us that their restoration have become our life’s work and a labour of love. The estate was once part of the hunting park of Henry II and Ashley Court may have started out as a hunting lodge. Originally built by Tiverton Wool merchant and Mayor John Upcott in 1657, the house was later replaced with the current building dating from around 1805 by a East India Company sea Captain, William Dunsford. The house later passed to Mr Dunsford’s son, Henry (a banker returned form Melbourne, Australia) and then by another relative Mr Dayman who was a Justice of the Peace. At the outbreak of the second world war Ashly Court was requisitioned as children’s hospital and subsequently sold in 1946 to Mrs Veda Stuart Murray who moved here with her daughter Yolanda. Yola married Mr Anthony Shrubb in 1946 at Exeter Cathedral and the couple lived here until Mr Shrubb’s death left Yola alone in the house for the remainder of her life. She died at close to 100 years of age having spent nearly 70years of her life here. Ashley Court has an unusually well preserved service area with many original features, servant’s bells, huge stone sink and pump in the scullery. There are period floors, fireplaces, plaster work and windows in all rooms and a magnificent decorative ironwork balcony spanning front of the house. At the back is a substantial stable block built in 1871 by Henry Dunsford (son of William) retaining all its original fittings, still in use today. An extensive network of cobbled courtyards and pathways connect all the service areas and extend into the garden, driveway and woodland walk. 

The Pasture, Gardens and Pleasure Grounds, approx 19 acres. Produce from the ¾ acre walled garden, orchards and associated dairy farm once fed the whole household. You can see the remains of the greenhouses with their heating systems and cold frames, the ancient (and tottering) espaliered apple and pear trees, submerged water tanks and a ‘frost window’. The very un-square shape of the walled garden and its proximity to the house suggests it possibly pre-dates the 1805 building. The apple loft and root store is topped with a bell to ring workers in for meals, the bell rope runs to the scullery. Extensive cellars under the house once stocked cider and fine wines, a blocked doorway intriguingly points to the possibility of a former ice house. The woodland walk takes you on a path along the perimeter of the property overlooking the Exe river with a number of large specimen trees planted in the grounds including a Lucombe Oak and Monkey Puzzle. There is a gatekeepers lodge (once the residence of the under gardener), a gardener’s loo, remains of head gardeners office and sheds (much dilapidated). The Head Gardeners cottage and the farm are no longer part of the estate, they sold off in separate lots in 1946 but can be seen from the top of the walled garden.

We are embarking on a long process of restoration, our vision is to restore the gardens to working life as a slice of horticultural history using both modern and period methods and plants. Aware of the awesome scale of such a project (we need an army of volunteers to help) we are nonetheless undaunted, we think it is exceptional to come across a garden like this that has been so little changed, and we love it. We are delighted that the Devon Gardens Trust have deemed the garden to be of historic significance and included it in their listing. Last year we began to open the garden to visitors (starting with NGS) and we have been encouraged and assisted in this project by the generous advice and assistance from many gardeners and experts in history of gardening. Your visit to Ashley Court helps let it live for a new generation of people, plants and animals, you are most welcome to see it grow.

ashley court stables

Local Area

From Ashley Court you are perfectly placed to explore the north or south coast of Devon, Exmoor, Bodmin and Dartmoor, the City of Exeter and the local market towns typical of mid-Devon. There are pretty walks from the door and local activities including the Steam railway at Bickleigh and the beautiful National Trust property Knightshayes Court with its renowned walled Kitchen Garden.