Bicton is a civil parish and a former manor in the East Devon district of Devon, England, near the town of Budleigh Salterton. The parish is surrounded, clockwise from the north, by the parishes of Colaton Raleigh, Otterton, East Budleigh and Woodbury. According to the 2001 census it had a population of 280. Much of the parish consists of Bicton Park, the historic home of the Rolle family, with Bicton Common, adjacent to Woodbury Common, in the west. The parish includes the village of Yettington on its southern border.
Bicton appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Bechetone, held by William Porter, probably by the service of guarding the gate at Exeter Castle and the prison there. The manor passed through several families until Sir Thomas Denys (1559–1613) left two daughters as co-heiresses. The eldest was Anne Denys, who by her marriage to Sir Henry Rolle (d.1616) of Stevenstone, brought Bicton to the Rolle family.
The gardens at Bicton were begun in around 1735, supposedly to a design by André Le Nôtre, but most of the work was undertaken by John Rolle, 1st Baron Rolle in the early 19th century. This included the digging of the lake in 1812 by French prisoners of war, planting the arboretum in 1830 and the noted araucaria avenue in 1842. Other features include the orangery (1806), the "bulbous" palm house (c. 1825), and the castellated octagonal China Tower of 1839.
John Rolle died, childless, aged 86 in 1842. However, after his marriage to his second wife, Louisa Trefusis, he decided to appoint as his heir her nephew, the six-year-old Mark George Kerr Trefusis (the younger brother of the 20th Baron Clinton) requiring him to change his name to Rolle, which he did. However, when Mark Rolle died in 1907 he left no male heir so the Rolle inheritance passed to his nephew, Charles Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis, 21st Baron Clinton (1863–1957).
The 21st Baron let and later sold the mansion house and surrounding lands to Devon County Council as an agricultural college, now Bicton College, which as of 2016 covers 490 acres (200 ha), and sleeps 231 residential students. The gardens at Bicton were renovated by the baron in the 1950s and opened to the public in 1963. The 22nd Baron gave the botanical gardens to a charitable trust in 1986, which sold them in 1998 to Simon and Valerie Lister who turned their 63 acres (25 ha) into a commercial visitor attraction named Bicton Park Botanical Gardens – see below. The remainder of the land comprising the former manor of Bicton is still owned by Baron Clinton under the management of Clinton Devon Estates. This includes 17,000 acres (6,900 ha) of tenant farmland, 4,700 acres (1,900 ha) of woodland and 2,800 acres (1,100 ha) of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths. The equestrian venue known as Bicton Arena is also part of the estate.
In 1850, Lady Louisa Rolle commemorated her late husband by building a new church on the estate close to the old one, which was partly demolished and the chancel reworked by Augustus Pugin as a mausoleum to the Rolle family. The mausoleum, which is not open to the public, contains Minton floor tiles, a vaulted ceiling, east and west decorated windows by Pugin, and a Rolle monument on the north wall designed by George Myers. It also contains the baroque marble tomb of Denys Rolle (died 1638) and his wife and son, which was described by W. G. Hoskins as "magnificent". Some fifty years before its demolition, the topographer John Swete made a watercolour painting of the old church, and wrote of its picturesque setting in his journal in 1795.
The church of 1850 was designed by the Exeter-based architect, John Hayward: Hoskins simply called it "dull", though it was later described as an early example in Devon of the ideals of the Cambridge Camden Society.
Rolle also built the four-sided pillar in the centre of the four-cross-ways between Bicton and Otterton in 1743. As well as serving as a signpost for the various places to which the four roads lead, it incorporates biblical inscriptions, such as "Her ways are ways of pleasantness", etc.
Bicton Park Botanical Gardens
Bicton Park Botanical Gardens is a tourist attraction on the southern part of the former Bicton estate. The landscaped park includes historic glasshouses, a countryside museum, the Bicton Woodland Railway train ride, nature trail, maze, mini golf, indoor and outdoor children's play complexes, restaurant and shop. The gardens, which originated in c.1730 are Grade I listed.
The four glasshouses at Bicton Gardens were designed to re-create the natural environment of plants from different continents. The Palm House was built in the 1820s to a curvilinear design, using 18,000 small glass panes in thin iron glazing bars. The Tropical House is the home of the Bicton orchid (Lemboglossum bictoniense), named after the Park where it first bloomed in 1836. The Arid House features cacti and other succulents growing in a naturalistic desert landscape.
- It was required of all future holders of the manor to contribute to the upkeep of Exeter prison until an Act of Parliament in 1787 discharged the Rolle family from this obligation by payment of a fine.
- "Map of Devon Parishes" (PDF). Devon County Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 November 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- Harris, Helen (2004). A Handbook of Devon Parishes. Tiverton: Halsgrove. p. 19. ISBN 1-84114-314-6.
- Thorn, Caroline & Frank, (eds.) Domesday Book, (Morris, John, gen.ed.) Vol. 9, Devon, Parts 1 & 2, Phillimore Press, Chichester, 1985, part 2, 51:1.
- Cherry, Bridget; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1989). The Buildings of England: Devon (second ed.). Penguin Books. pp. 172–174. ISBN 0-14-071050-7.
- "Bicton College – About". Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "Bicton College – Accommodation". Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "Clinton Devon Estates Infographic" (PDF). Clinton Devon Estates. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 January 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
- Hoskins, W. G. (1972). A New Survey of England: Devon (New ed.). London: Collins. p. 335. ISBN 0-7153-5577-5.
- Gray, Todd & Rowe, Margery (Eds.), Travels in Georgian Devon: The Illustrated Journals of The Reverend John Swete, 1789–1800, 4 vols., Tiverton, 1999, vol.2, pp.140–145
- "Infographc Estates". Retrieved 16 June 2015.
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