While the core of Bindon House is thought to date back to the 1600’s the discovery of Neolithic weapons and tools suggest that a settlement existed at the site 4,000 years ago.
The name Bindon which means “the hill where beans grow” is thought to be Saxon in origin. Documents dating from 1237 refer to “Hugh de Wendene”, Wendene being a form of Bindon as there is confusion between archaic B’s and W’s.
Unfortunately there are no records relating to the history of the Bindon estate for the next 300 years. It is possible documents from this time were destroyed during the civil war.
The next records relating to Bindon bring us up to 1520. In that year and for an unknown period prior to it, Humphrey Calwoodleigh owned the estate. The Calwoodleighs were an ancient (dating back to Doomsday) and important family in the South West of England, Humphrey’s father having been an MP and Mayor of Exeter on at least three occasions. The family history makes fascinating reading with mixed fortunes befalling past and future ancestors. Marriage into the Royal family, accusations of murder and executions during the civil war all befell the family.
In 1520 The Malets, another family of great antiquity, inherited Bindon, and were to hold it for nearly 200 years. Bindon’s links with Royalty were also continued by the Malets. Sir John Malet had a bright idea of assisting the King to beget an heir by legalising bigamy, however this came to nothing and Sir John eventually faded from the political scene after a spell in the Tower for injudicious remarks about the monarch. This episode does not appear to have changed the family’s loyalty to the crown. Unsorted documents belonging to the Order of the Augustinians of the Assumption, which owned the property during the Second World War, are said to provided proof that Bindon was ‘a centre for clandestine Royalist activity’ during the 17th Century.
Another tale during this era helps to more accurately date the house. In the early 1680’s John Trenchard MP, an ardent follower of Duke of Monmouth, visited a ‘recently built’ house with a stone staircase four miles north of Wellington. From a window he allegedly observed the Devon Militia exercising in church fields. This almost certainly refers to Bindon as the core of the house in mid-seventeenth century, its stone staircase surviving to C.1880, and there is a window from which there is a sightline to Wellington Church, although today it is obscured by trees.
The Malet’s long association with Bindon ended when the property was sold off, possibly to fund the deposit for a business venture, which went bankrupt with debts of £100,000.
Over the next 100years the property passed through a succession of hands before being rented to Ernest Augustus Perceval in 1838. The late captain of the 15th Hussars,, youngest son of twelve fathered by the one-time Solicitor General and Prime Minister Spencer Perceval. The Prime Minister has the dubious honour of being the only British PM to be murdered in office, when he was killed in the lobby of the House of Commons in 1812.
1849 saw the end of the Perceval’s tenancy, sold to Henry Moysey, a magistrate, for £6890 of ‘lawful British money’. In 1857 an entrepreneur, John Hodges, converted Bindon into a private asylum, before selling it to Henry Warre in 1861.
Warre, a city stockbroker with strong local links, left an indelible mark on the estate. As well as constructing the stables (now Bindon Home Farm), Bindon Cottage (built for his head gardener!) and the house’s West wing, he paid for and helped construct an extension to the village church. This created a private chapel for use by his family and is today called the Bindon Aisle.
The motto ‘Je Trouve Bien’ (translated ‘I find well’) can be seen above the porch on Warre’s West wing. This is the family motto and relates to an incident linked to the taking King Jean of France in 1356, of which Warre’s ancestors were party to. He remained at Bindon until his death in 1875.
The census of 1881 shows the owner of the house to be Charles Lamport and family, proprietor of a prosperous shipbuilding firm employing 120 people. It was then that the Lamports radically altered the structure of the house. Rooms which dated from medieval days disappeared to make way for the Great Hall, the stone staircase cited by John Trenchard was destroyed, replaced with teak, and an East wing, described as ‘mixed Tudor’ in style, was constructed. The East wing was later destroyed.
The Worthington’s were the next owners, acquiring the house in 1898 – a wealthy Buckinghamshire family who used the house as a country retreat. Mrs Worthington is said to have carved the lectern in the nearby Langford Budville Church.
With the new century came a new era for Bindon. In 1915, Captain, later Colonel James Hamilton Leigh purchased Bindon and became the last owner of the entire Bindon estate. After serving in the war in the Queen’s own Cameron Highlanders, Colonel Leigh saw his investments lose their value and eventually retired to a small cottage in Banborough in the mid-1930’s and Bindon was back on the market.
In 1934 it was advertised for auction, and there are tales of visitors at Bindon fleeing the blitz of London and even a tale of the house being sold to a wealthy American and transported across the Atlantic!
The next notable chapter came in 1943. It subsequently passed through the hands of two different owners, being acquired by a religious order in 1943, namely the Augustinians of the Assumption. The house was used as a religious centre of studies until 1950.
By 1961, after a brief tenure by Horlicks Dairies, the house was empty and had fallen into serious disrepair. A large programme of repair carried out by Dr James Hasson (former Chief Surgeon of Edith Cavell Hospital during the war), helped return the house to its former glory.
Unfortunately over the next 30 years Bindon once again fell into a state of serious disrepair. Until 1996 when looking for a Country House Hotel in the area Mark & Lynn Jaffa and their Partners found their retreat. After extensive renovations Bindon house was once again restored to its former glory and opened as a Country House Hotel and Restaurant on 1st June 1997.