Back in February I told you about a substantial country house in Withycombe called Nutbrook. It stirred a lot of interest, particularly from those of you who live around that area and those who have connections to the old house.

In particular, thank you to Maurice Southwell who sent me a very rare picture (courtesy of Mrs S P Neilsen of Honiton) of the back garden and view of the house together with much information on the house and its owners. Due to the interest Nutbrook and Burnside generated I thought it would be good to share all this additional information that has come to light since February with you.

It appears that the next resident from the mid 1890s after the Rev Charles Strong who was there at the time of the 1891 census was the vicar of Withycombe Raleigh who succeeded him, Rev G P de Putron. He lived there until the Church sold it to Mr Philip Foale Rowsell, CBE, JP and his wife, Florence Mary (nee Norton) in the early 20th century. Her father, Rev Walter Norton, was a former Minister of Tower Street Methodist Church. Philip Rowsell was from Somerset and came to Devon in 1885 as manager of the chemists, Holman & Ham and he eventually rose to become its managing director.

He was President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and also of the Faculty of Insurance of Great Britain. He was active politically for the Liberal Party and was Chairman of the Honiton Division. He was a Devon County councillor for Withycombe Raleigh and elected an Alderman in 1932. He was Mayor of Exeter between 1921 and 1923. He chaired the Finance Committee of Devon County Council. Outside of politics he took a keen interest in many organisations in Exmouth being President of The Chamber of Commerce, Exmouth YMCA, Exmouth Choral Society, The Choral and Orchestral Society, Exmouth Evening Institute and Exmouth Sea Angling Association. He was an avid supporter of Withycombe Rugby Club which his son, Donald was a founder member of and club captain.

The grounds of Nutbrook were often opened to the public in the summer, especially for fetes and garden parties for Withycombe Methodist Church of which he was a member and generous supporter.

Anne Ellis of Exmouth has told me of her mother, Clare Kate Farley, who at the age of 14 was a lady’s maid at Nutbrook for eight years in the 1930s. The Rowsells employed a butler and chauffeur called Rogers who drove their large Buick motor car. There are two cottages to the left of The Holly Tree Inn where he lived in one and the gardener in the other. The Buick was used by them to open the new dualled road at Ebford in his capacity as Mayor of Exeter.

Philip Rowsell died at Nutbrook on 1 May 1946, aged 81. Whether his widow sold the house to the Stanleys of Burnside House or to the council is unknown. Both were valued together in 1948 and Nutbrook was valued at £11,500 due to it needing a substantial amount of work. It was demolished in the 1950s for the Burnside development of housing.

In the present School Lane lies Burnside Cottage or Lodge as it has sometimes been referred to. Maurice Southwell always thought his grandfather Walter James Pannell (1886- 1947) was born in what was Nutbrook Cottage. Both Walter and his father were gardeners. The family were originally from Lympstone and Maurice’s great grandfather was gardener to Captain Thomas Hull of Burnside House. As Nutbrook Cottage is adjacent to what was Nutbrook House and garden, it gives further credence to it originally being Nutbrook Cottage and not Burnside Cottage/Lodge as that house was much further away.

If you would like to find out more about Exmouth Museum please visit or email Mike at