The Prouz family lived in Gidleigh from the reign of William the Conqueror until the 17th century. They owned the castle with extensive parkland, including the old manor which no longer stands, and the “Park House” which was built in the 16th century. The Park House in those days was a two-storey thatched house with short wings, facing east towards the river below. Its main drive was from Gidleigh itself, a half-mile track downhill from the church. Today this path runs through the fields at the back of the house and is really only suitable for farm vehicles and those on foot.
The house passed through several owners before being bought in 1660 by Bartholomew Gidleigh. The Gidleigh family owned the property until 1819 when it was bought by Dr. J. Whipham, whose family retained ownership of the estate for nearly 100 years. However, by 1860 it was uninhabited and in a bad state of repair. One recorded account from the late 19th century describes the property and house as “fruitful only in rabbits but curious for its singular appearance”. It is recorded that “the Rev. Arthur Guy Whipham was the last rector, patron and Lord of the manor and had a handsome modern seat in Gidleigh Park”.
Rev. Whipham’s descendant, Alfred Whipham died in 1918 with no heirs to inherit the property. Consequently, the entire Gidleigh Park estate was put up for sale. The estate, which included the manor, the Barton, the Park House and a total of 608 acres was bought by an Australian sheep farmer and shipping magnate called Charles Harold Campbell Mcllwraith. He decided to live at Gidleigh Park and in 1925 he engaged Stanley Philpot, an architect and surveyor from Tunbridge Wells, to draw plans for the rebuilding of Gidleigh Park. The house was completed in four years. However, in 1932 Mcllwraith died prematurely at the age of fifty seven and the Gidleigh Park estate was put up for sale for £15,000. From then until today there have been several owners. The house was converted into a small and simple hotel in 1955.
When Paul and Kay Henderson took it over in December 1977, the hotel and grounds were in a bad state of repair but, over the years, they did a great deal of work raising it to a level it had never previously enjoyed and, under their ownership, it gained the reputation of being one of the finest Country House hotels in Britain. They owned and managed Gidleigh Park for 27 years until 1st March 2005 when they sold it to Andrew and Christina Brownsword who, before taking ownership, had for years enjoyed the hotel as a place to relax with their family.
This Tudor style house now sits in 107 acres of gardens and woodland on the north bank of the North Teign River in the Dartmoor National Park. Andrew and Christina closed this award-winning 14 bedroom hotel and 2 Michelin Star Restaurant on 3rd January 2006 and then set about extending and restoring this stunning property. The now completed works have given us a further 9 bedrooms and, with a third dining room, the hotel can now seat 52 guests.
Designer Carole Roberts was assigned the task of refurbishing all bedrooms, the restaurants and public areas, under the direction and guidance of Andrew and Christina. Their design influences came from the Arts and Crafts Movement and from the period in which the house was originally built through to the 1980’s.
Andrew and Christina Brownsword are also proud owners of Brownsword Hotels, a portfolio of luxury hotels, which include The Bath Priory Hotel, Lower Slaughter Manor, Buckland Manor, Amberley Castle and The Slaughters Country Inn, as well as ABode contemporary city centre retreats.
Critically acclaimed 2 Michelin Star Executive Head Chef Michael Caines MBE has been at the helm of Gidleigh Park’s kitchen since 1994. Michael and his passionate team of dedicated professionals create dishes with British and Mediterranean influences using seasonal ingredients, locally sourced from as many West Country producers and suppliers as possible.
Gidleigh Park Hotel and Restaurant re-opened it doors on the 11th December 2006, taking this jewel of Dartmoor into the next phase of its history.