Tales of a Ricardian Traveler – Debunking a Myth at Dartington Hall


Lady on Horseback Lady on Horseback, mid-15th c., British Museum

Dartington Hall, near Totnes in Devon and just southeast of Dartmoor National Park, represents a uniquely British form of historical contradiction. It is both medieval, having parts of a Grade I-listed late 14th century manor house, and modern, being the current home of the Schumacher College and formerly the site of a progressive coeducational boarding school which broke all the molds of English education and even attracted the attention of MI5. Today, it operates a hotel, restaurant and conference center, and has Grade II* listed gardens.

Our visit was prompted by the prospect of staying briefly in the house built between 1388-1400 by John Holland, first earl of Huntingdon and duke of Exeter. The Holland dukes of Exeter were themselves highly controversial figures and their history is closely intertwined with that of the Houses of York and Lancaster. We didn’t…

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  1. An excellent article about my favourite place. What cannot be seen in the photograph of the roof boss is that the rose is encircled by ears of wheat, almost as if supporting it. The wheat ear was John Holland I’s personal badge, and he did indeed support his royal half-brother.

    I have Anthony Emery’s ‘Dartington Hall’, an in-depth study of the hall, in which he states and references: “The rose on which the hart lies was associated with the royal family long before the 15th century and has no particular reference to the House of Lancaster. H. Stanford, London, Royal Beasts (1956), 32.”

    If there was no paint on the roof boss before the hall was restored, who is to say it was ever red? It may have been white, or gold.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the reply, and I’m glad you mentioned the Holland “wheat ears” surrounding the Dartington Hall roof boss. I couldn’t quite photograph them, as they tend to “hide” behind the boss. My photo shows tiny, tiny glimpses of gold, which are the “tips” of those wheat ears. It is a very interesting combination of devices, and yes, without any further information on the original color of the cinquefoil rose, we are left to speculate. And thanks for highlighting Emery’s text as it appears to be the most comprehensive one about Dartington Hall, although interestingly enough, he takes a rather dim view of John Holland I.


  2. I am reminded of ‘the Prince of Wales’ feathers’. The truth is all of Edward III’s sons used those feathers in various contexts. Edmund of Langley did to my certain knowledge. The use of symbols is a lot more complex than many people recognise. Another example is the Sun in Splendour, usually associated with Edward IV and said to be a reference to the three suns seen at Mortimer’s Cross. However it was used by Richard II! It may well be Edward used it as a sign that he was Richard’s rightful heir.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the reply. Yes, I agree with you about symbols being more complicated than meets the proverbial eye, and especially about the “Sun in Splendour” device being a possible reference to Edward IV’s claim as the heir to Richard II.


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