The History of Northmoor House

Northmoor House was built for John Locke in 1856 on a site reputedly chosen by his bride. His family was from Newcastle upon Tyne, where they were partners in a firm called Locke and Blackett, a large lead works on the banks of the Tyne, shown in the pictures. By coincidence, the current owners great grandfather had a coach works in the same area, and a great uncle was a tenant farmer of the Blacketts.

Newcastle was very black with pollution from coal smoke and it was a relief to escape to the house on unspoilt Exmoor, although the journey was difficult as the Great Western railway stopped at Bristol and there was no continuous line to Newcastle. John Locke built up an estate of 2000 acres, and from the deeds it appears he started from scratch, buying it up in several different lots. The Lockes had eight children, and with all the staff the house must have been a hive of activity.

By the 1870’s the Lockes had sold the estate to Sir Frederick Wills and his family, who had a large interest in a tobacco firm in Bristol. They built the new stable block in 1874. The original stables were at the back door of the house, complete with clock tower, but these fell into disrepair and were eventually demolished in the 1950’s. The Wills also built more staff accommodation, the Gardeners’ Cottage and buildings at Kennel farm, which were in the style of the accommodation for factory workers in Bristol. Northmoor could not have paid its way and was really a pleasure estate, for hunting, shooting and fishing, with the Wills main residence being near Bristol.

In 1926 the estate was sold again, to Colonel Edward Clayton. His son, David, lived here until 1994 when he moved to Kennel farm, and started a business making all-terrain ‘Supercat’ vehicles in the stable yard. He died in 2004. In 1994, the estate was sold to Tom Yandle, a local farmer, who then sold the house and 100 acres to the present owners, Ralph and Suzanne Nicholson. Their daughter Melinda has now taken over as manager.

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