The Gamekeeper’s Cottage, Cockington, Torquay

by Margaret Powling-

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. 


Margaret Powling


  1. Eloise

    How nice that it will be put to use. The second tree photograph Is superb. What a magnificent specimen.

    03 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      We love to walk through these woods in spring, with the daffodils and wild garlic in bloom. Indeed, when we do our woodland walk, and then through fields and along a valley until we reach the upper part of the more manicured parkland that surrounds Cockington Court, I hope to be able to post on that, too, Eloise.

      04 . Apr . 2017
  2. Marlene Stevens

    So many beautiful places to visit, I must get out more.

    04 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, we’re spoilt for choice, Marlene, here in Torbay and then in the rest of Devon and Cornwall and Dorset, most places within a day’s journey (I mean, there and back) from our home. Yes, get out more, dear girl!

      04 . Apr . 2017
  3. Lara

    I’m so glad to read the cottage was restored. Even though I’ve never been there (or to the UK, for that matter), I felt momentarily glum when I read that it was burnt down. Such disrespect !
    The trees are beautiful and seem quite magical.
    It’s funny to read of rabbits being revered – in Australia they are an environmental and economic pest which require millions of dollars each year to try to reduce the populations. I remember being in Vienna about 15 years ago and seeing lantana bushes being cultivated and trimmed into intricate designs in the public gardens and I was absolutely horrified as the plant is classed as a noxious weed in Australia. We humans are a funny lot, aren’t we.
    Thank you for another tour xx

    08 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, the gamekeeper’s cottage looks lovely now it’s been restored. In fact, when I first saw it, coming from a direction (from the front and not the back) that we rarely come from – we usually approach Cockington village from the woodland area – I thought it was a different building! Yes, rabbits can turn into pests; similarly to your rabbit problem in Australia mink were introduced to this country to farm for their fur (despicable, I know, but this is what the fur trade demanded) and then they escaped into the wild and have wreaked havoc. Strangely enough, we don’t hear much about them on the News these days, maybe the problem isn’t now as great as it once was. But yes, we humans are a funny lot! Glad you enjoyed your short tour around Cockington. If this fine weather lasts and we have sufficient energy, husband and I will go on our usual Cockington walk which involves parking our car a little distance away from Cockington Court and the village, and walking through woodland and by fields to reach that more manicured area – and of course I will take photos!

      08 . Apr . 2017

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