Where old meets new...
PUBLISHED: 06:59 21 May 2015
Matt Austin Images 2013
Meaning ‘a steep wooded place’ in Anglo-Saxon, Hanger Farm was one of the first freeholds in Devon and has a recorded history dating back 800 years to the time of the Magna Carta. Lovingly restored into a family home, it is both grand in historical features and humble in homeliness. NAOMI TOLLEY visits owners Marianne and Peter Odling-Smee at their Cornwood manor
The facade of granite ashlar blocks and double-oriel windows reflects the historical status of Hanger Farm.
Founded on ancient, former moorland on the western fringe of Hanger Down, this impressive property was first referred to in a document witnessed by John de Hanger. Dating back to 1215, the official paper detailing the setting up a freehold called Cholwichtown.
“Many such settlements developed in this way during the 12th to 14th centuries, with early farmers exploiting edges of open land, such as Dartmoor,” reads an extract from Devon Rural Archive on the property.
Exactly 800 years later, it is a warm historical-cum-homely abode with its fine carved granite walls, moulded fireplaces and window and door frames still well intact, as well as oak panelling and the unusual evidence of two latrine turrets, stable blocks and an old granary and feed store.
Alongside these periodic features sit modern decors of pearl greys and duck egg blues, reflecting Marianne’s Scandinavian roots and the couple’s love of sailing, which is how they met. Marianne, at the age of 16, had come to Devon from Denmark to learn English and to sail when she met Peter, also a fan of the ocean - born in Newton Ferrers, he was serving in the Royal Navy.
Marianne then returned to Denmark to finish her studies as a dentist before the couple married and travelled the world with their work, collecting art and memories, before eventually settling in a little cottage called Puttapool on the edge of Cornwood village.
This art in all mesmerising shapes and forms of paintings and furniture now adorn the rooms and walls of the house, reflecting the colourful and loving life both Peter and Marianne have shared together, as well as family pictures including their sons’ marriages at Hanger Farm.
“There are so many happy memories here,” says Marianne. “I don’t have a favourite part of the house, I just love all of it. I have loved every minute of living here,” says Peter.
Reflecting back to his Devon childhood, he says: “I first remember this house from the age of about nine years. I used to ride my pony up here, gallop around and ride back. I remember it was a bit scruffy and primitive but I liked it. I had a feeling about it.”
And that proved to be more than just a “feeling”. It was when Marianne and Peter were living in Puttapool that they befriended the owners of Hanger Farm and visited the property together for the first time: “I just loved it,” says Marianne.
And in 1980 it became their own: “It was very different then. Many of the features had been uncovered but there was still scope to make it our own.”
Since its construction, the farm had been through various ownerships and undergone significant periods of change but it was in the 1960s that it underwent “what must be one of the most extensive reconstruction jobs to be carried out in South Devon”, according to a dated copy of Devon Life.