St Olaves and the Suttons, 1907-1960

Throwleigh Church (courtesy of  Throwleigh Archive )

Throwleigh Church (courtesy of Throwleigh Archive)

The St Olaves estate then passed into the hands of the wealthy Sutton family and became their rural retreat from London. Edmund Sutton, KC (1845-1922) was a successful barrister who had made his name on the Lancashire circuit, before moving his business to London. The Suttons maintained a large staff at St Olaves and regularly had the produce of their gardens sent up by train to London when they were not in residence.

Sutton was a strong Anglo-Catholic (High Church Anglican), and this may have played a part in his decision to purchase St Olaves since Father Lowe, the incumbent at St Mary the Virgin, Throwleigh, was a prominent Anglo-Catholic. Significantly, on buying St Olaves Sutton also purchased the advowson of Throwleigh parish from the Lord Chancellor, giving him patronage rights over the local Church. This right passed to his widow Susanna, and then to his son Ralph, all of whom shared his Anglo-Catholic faith as well as his love of St Olaves as a rural retreat. It is said that the Suttons always put strong pressure on their staff at St Olaves, who numbered about a dozen, to attend Lowe’s services at Murchington Chapel.

It was under the Suttons that the main range of seventeenth-century properties constituting St Olaves was extended westwards with the building of a new house, which now forms one side of the L-Shaped 1970s conversion that is our own 'St Olaves House' (the north to south side having been provided by the incorporation and conversion of an eighteenth-century granite barn).

An example of fine Birdseye maple bedroom furniture

An example of fine Birdseye maple bedroom furniture

When Edmund Sutton died, in August 1922, he left an estate valued at £36,730 net. His widow Susanna survived him for a further sixteen years. She came from a wealthy, well-connected American family; her father had been an American Consul to Britain and her Great-Grandfather, Samuel Livermore, had been acting President of the US Senate in the 1790s. When Susanna Livermore died she left a significantly larger estate than her husband, valued at £52,209 net at probate (more than £8,000 of which was surrendered in estate taxes). This included not only St Olaves itself but also the adjacent Murchington Farm, which the family had acquired to consolidate its holding at St Olaves, and which had been occupied and farmed by John Newcombe for many years. Her will also mentions a collection of six Whistler etchings bequeathed to her daughter Katharine (born in 1883), along with monographed Plumridge family silver and a suite of birds-eye maple bed-room furniture at St Olaves. Not for her the fire-sell auction of all her possessions.

Like his parents, Ralph Sutton (1881-1960) lived in London as much as Devon, but he appears to have continued to play an active part in life at St Olaves until suffering a serious stroke in 1954. He died at a nursing home in Sussex in October 1960, leaving an estate of £55,378 (nearly £20,000 of which was forfeited in tax). It was after Ralph’s death that the St Olaves estate began to be systematically broken up (or rather re-divided), into the separate properties that now constitute this tiny hamlet within a hamlet.