I said I would try and find out to what purpose the Gamekeeper’s Cottage (photo above taken 2009) was being used now, since it’s recent renovation …
And so I contacted the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust and had a very swift response from them, an email arriving this morning in which I have been informed that “the cottage is now being offered as accommodation for the Trust’s Long Term Volunteers. These volunteers are on a 12 month placement with the Trust gaining experience in practical conservation.”
Some years ago, I read the following on a notice board outside the then derelict cottage:
The earliest record of the cottage is from 1567. It was used by the Warrener. His job was to tend a colony of rabbits kept on the hillside behind the cottage. A 2-mile long wall enclosed the rabbit warren and the animals supplied Cockington Court with fresh meat. Manscombe woods [behind the cottage today] did not exist and the landscape was very different: the hillside would have been covered in rough scrub and open grass areas.
The lakes and gardens were laid out by Rawlyn Mallock in the 1600s while the woods were planted in the 19th century. It was in the 19th century that the cottager earned its present name. Rabbits, which had naturalized in the wider countryside, were no longer a luxury item and the upper classes turned to a new exotic food – pheasant. Pheasant shooting became very popular among wealthy landowners and Cockington was one of the many estates which employed a gamekeeper to tend the valuable birds. Manscombe Woods was planted to provide cover for rearing the young birds.
Today pheasants live wild around Cockington and are rather more fortunate than their Victorian ancestors – shooting is no longer allowed. In 1990 the cottage was burnt down by vandals and left a ruined shell.
I can remember the burnt out shell of the cottage being rebuilt in the early 1990s, after which it was used for various purposes, but in the last decade it again fell into disrepair. The latest renovation would appear to have changed the cottage quite radically, but nonetheless it is good to see the building still in use more than 450 years since it was built.