The history and heritage of Boringdon Hall

Take a trip into the past and explore the heritage of Boringdon Hall...

The history of Boringdon Hall stems from the Domesday Book, where one of the earliest mentions of a permanent construction was recorded, The name "Boringdon" comes from the Saxon "Burth-Y-Don," meaning "enchanted place on the hill."

It was around the year 956 AD that King Edgar granted the Manor of Boringdon & Wembury to St Peter of Plympton, so naturally, Boringdon manor belonged to the priory until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 by Henry VIII. Boringdon Manor became Crown property and Henry VIII granted it to his courtier Thomas Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, who was a favourite of the King.

In 1549 Thomas Wriothesley sold the Manor to Henry Grey the Duke of Suffolk and father of the fated Lady Jane Grey, who became Queen of England for only nine days in 1553. In that same year, Henry Grey sold Boringdon to Richard Mayhew of Tavistock. His granddaughter married John Parker, who inherited it in 1582 and it was he who remodelled the manor to the more traditional "E" shaped Elizabethan design, still incorporating much of the medieval house. It was then that Edmond Parker named the building Boringdon House. The picturesque village of Colebrook was built by Parker to house their estate workers and was part of the land owned by the family, which stretched to the old gateway at Plym Bridge.

Work on the Manor was completed in 1587 and it was in this year that John Parker gave a great banquet in honour of his old seafaring friend Sir Francis Drake, to celebrate the sea dogs' well-planned raid on the Spanish fleet in Cadiz Harbour. Many distinguished guests were present at the banquet, Drakes Uncle Sir Hawkins Richard Grenville, Sir Walter Raleigh and William Parker (brother of John Parker) who became Lord Mayor of Plymouth and was most distinguished of the Caribbean Pirateers.

All visitors to Boringdon Hall will immediately notice the great mantle above the fireplace in the Great Hall depicting the coat of arms of King James I. It bears the date 1640 and is ornamented with the figures Peace and Plenty. The Parkers were loyal to King Charles and in 1642 civil war broke out. It was during the civil war that Cromwell’s Round Head Forces destroyed the part of Boringdon Hall that is now missing. The house was then confiscated and the large family fortune was lost.

When King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660 the Parkers were rewarded for their loyalty and house and fortune were returned. By the end of the century, the wealth of the Parker family had increased considerably and in 1712 they purchased Saltram House, which they enlarged and remodelled to their own needs. The family moved in 1750 and this was the early beginnings of Boringdon’s decline. Still owned by the Parker family as recently as 1920, it was used only as a humble farmhouse. In modern times many owners have come and gone including the National Trust. At one time the whole property could have been purchased for little more than £5,000.

Boringdon Hall was converted to a hotel by a previous owner but was destroyed by fire in March 1989. A considerable amount of time and money has been invested in making Boringdon Hall one of the foremost hotels, banqueting and conference centres in the South West of England.

The Coat of Arms

The concept of the great men throughout Europe decorating their shields with designs unique to their family, which was to become known as Heraldry, evolved in the 12th century. It was in 1197 that Richard I, known as Coeur de Lion (Lion Heart) after his exploits in the crusade, adopted the Arms of three gold lions on a red shield as the Royal Arms of England. 800 years later they are still there on the present Royal coat of Arms representing England.

In 1337 King Edward III, in support of his claim to the French throne, incorporated the French Royal Arms of three gold fleur-de-lis on a blue shield into his. The French Arms remained on the English Royal Arms until 1801, interestingly just a few years before Nelson disposed of the French fleet and Wellington finally ended Napoleon’s exploits.

In 1603 King James VI of Scotland became James I, also the King of England and so the United Kingdom was created.

To represent this in the Royal arms, the Royal arms of Scotland was incorporated. This consists of a red lion rampant within a border which heraldically is termed a "double tressure fleury-counter-fleury."

At the same time Ireland was represented for the first time by the gold harp with silver strings on a blue background.

The coat features both the motto of British monarchs Diev Et Mon Droit (God and my right) and the motto of the Order of the Garter, Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense (shamed be he who thinks ill of it) on a representation of the Garter behind the shield.

These arms were first used by James I of England and by his fateful son Charles I and his grandsons Charles II and James II.