The Rev. John Ingle creates St Olaves house and gardens

St Olaves Church, Exeter (mostly 14th century)

St Olaves Church, Exeter (mostly 14th century)

In June 1868 the Rev. John Ingle (1823-1901) purchased 2 adjoining parcels of land in Murchington, a hamlet lying on the edge of the sprawling Dartmoor parish of Throwleigh, at a cost of £1900. Together these parcels, being ‘Dickers Tenement’ and ‘Dodds Farm,’ represented some 50 acres of woodland, coppice and valuable water meadows, together with a range of farm buildings and cottages.  He renamed the property ‘St Olaves’ after his own medieval parish church on Fore Street, Exeter.

The granite retaining walls at St Olaves

The granite retaining walls at St Olaves

John Ingle spent considerable sums on hard landscaping and the laying out of formal gardens, fruit gardens, and a croquet lawn, all of which are still in evidence today. The croquet lawn was created on the site of a mini quarry created to provide the stones for the new garden’s massive granite retaining walls. These walls can still be seen clearly etched into the hillside when viewed from Meldon Hill on the other side of the Teign valley. It is likely that many of the specimen trees dotted around the property and the adjacent National Trust wood (Milfordleigh) date from this time, including the massive Coast Redwoods and Grand Pines.

However Ingle had overreached himself financially and from 1873 he appears to have become unable to meet all his debts. Eventually, in 1877, he surrendered St Olaves, its grounds and 22 acres to the Rev. William T.A. Radford of Down St Mary in exchange for the cancelling of a mortgage debt of £1591 (at a time when a typical annual salary would have been between £50 and £100).

Subsequently, in 1882, John Ingle signed over to a small group of creditors, including the Rev. Radford, the whole of his income from his living as Rector in St. Olaves parish church, Exeter. But even then he continued in possession of Dodds Farm (30 acres), and another local property, Blackertons (18 acres) – in 1891 he was seeking to let these on long-term leases in order to generate income following his retirement.

Ingle died almost penniless at Exeter in 1901. In his will he declared: ‘I charge all my children not to bear the least animosity to William Tucker Arundel Radford BA rector of Down Saint Mary. In taking possession of my beloved home and grounds at Murchington he did only that which he was justly entitled to do.’