Prynse Hall, as it was originally called, is one of the ancient tenements of Dartmoor and a property has stood on this site since 1443. The remains of the former house can be seen in the form of a castellated courtyard and paddock;the original foundations and cellars still remain under the floors of the present building.
What happened to destroy the original house is a mystery, but it is likely that it was destroyed during the Civil War by troops as an act of vandalism rather than combat. During the 1770s the Trans Dartmoor road was planned and eventually constructed. Soon afterwards farm buildings were built at Prince Hall which can be seen to the east of the house.
In 1787 the present mansion as it stands today was built for Mr Justice Buller (later to be Sir Francis Buller) who at 32, was the youngest High Court Judge ever to sit in the British Courts. He was also the first judge to send convicts to Australia. Born in 1746 he was just seventeen when he married a local Churston heiress.
He promptly started to spend her fortune and whilst living in Prince Hall, sometime in the 1780s he built the local pub, the Saracen's Head, now known as Two Bridges Hotel. Sir Francis made the sitting room here at Prince Hall available to local people as a place in which to worship, there being no local church. It was not until the early 1800s that Princetown was constructed and eventually a new church was built in 1810.
In 1800 Sir Francis Buller died in London and the house was bought by the Gullet Family who already owned the farm. They farmed the 2600 acres which came with the house with little success although they achieved a reputation for growing enormous, though hollow, turnips. The Gullets were then succeeded by the Fowlers.
The war prison at Princetown was founded in 1806 by Thomas Tyrwitt to hold the French Napoleonic and American Prisoners of war and Prince Hall is reputed to have housed 'Les Lords', the aristocratic French Officers together with their servants. Les Lords were allowed under a gentlemen's agreement to carry arms for self protection, similar privileges were given to captive British officers in France.
Until the 1870`s Prince Hall was a farm, passing from one family to another. The Fowlers were followed by the Lambs, who, appropriate to their name, introduced the black-faced sheep to Dartmoor and later followed this with the introduction of Galloway cattle.
At the end of the 19th Century the house became the private home of the Barrington family, who were stewards to the Duke of Cornwall. The current Duke, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, still controls much of the surrounding moor and is our Landlord! At around this time it is thought that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stayed at Prince Hall and was inspired by the surrounding countryside to write 'The Hound of Baskervilles'.
In 1906 the house became a hotel and offered 'full board, garaging of motor vehicles and carriages', all for "two guineas a week!" All their correspondence finished with the phrase, "We observe the highest standard of hygiene, sanitary arrangements up-to-date". In 1913 a golf course was also constructed on the east of the tree-lined drive.
The hotel closed during the First World War, opened again in 1918 but in 1922 the Petherick family sold the property and once again it became a private house, this time to a family called Alder. In 1936 the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) used the property for stabling and servants quarters when he stayed at 'Tor Royal', near Princetown. A previous farm manager at Moorlands Farm was a stable boy then, and recalls that the Prince visited with Mrs. Simpson and brought a string of forty-two Arab horses.
In 1937 the property was bought by the Llewellyn family who set about repairing it and restoring the garden. They had some fine wrought iron gates made which carried the words 'Here bloom the sweetest flowers and here cabbages are kings'. The gates were found buried during the renovation in 1984. Captain Llewellyn is remembered locally by a characteristic action, he found a party of picnickers throwing their litter on the Moor. When he approached them they drove off, but Llewellyn took their car number, traced them and sent their rubbish to them in Yorkshire in two large tea chests, marked postage payable on delivery!
During the Second World War, while her husband was away on active service, Mrs Llewellyn lived here with her children, but before the end of the war she decided to return to her native Wales with the children.
A Mrs Carter was housemaid here in the late '30s. She was a widow who had formerly worked at Nun's Cross Farm with her husband until his death in 1934. She then moved to the cottage at the entrance of Prince Hall and she stayed on during the war years. The house was used by troops who manned a nearby searchlight battery. The sergeant in charge married the widowed Mrs.Carter and after the war he became the gardener, living in the cottage until 1984 when, after his wife's death he moved away to live with his daughter.
In 1945 Lord and Lady Astor bought Prince Hall as a summer residence, using the present sitting room as a billiard room. The following year they handed the house over to a Plymouth charity for deprived children, and it remained under their control until 1956.
Then in 1956 the house was bought by Dr. Bentley, a lady prison doctor who lived with her gardener in two rooms for over twenty years, the majority of the house falling into severe disrepair around them. In the late 1970s, Dr Bentley fell ill and sold the property to a Torbay accountant. His plans to develop the house as a hotel were thwarted by domestic problems and he sold the house to Mr and Mrs Harrison in 1984 who commenced renovation and refurbishment, a huge undertaking. Prince Hall re-opened as a hotel in 1985.
As you can see, the Country House has a colourful, varied and often turbulent history! Current owner, Chris Daly, hope that today's guests will totally relax in the magnificent natural setting, the only "turbulence" being encountered being that of decision-making regarding relaxation options or which delicacy to sample at dinner or breakfast!
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