The Gould family
1600s – 1700s
The Gould family acquired the estate from Sir Thomas Monk in 1626 and it is believed that Henry Gould built the beginnings of the house as we know it today. Henry Gould married Ann Wills and their initials are carved in the over mantle of the fireplace in the front hall, as well as the year in which they acquired Lewtrenchard. However, they mostly lived Floyer Hayes in Exeter until Henry’s death when Ann came to the Dower House of Lew to live out her widowhood in 1636. The Dower House was built by her son Edward for her. Sabine Baring-Gould believed that the Dower House was the original site of Lew House, before it was moved to higher ground sometime during Edward III’s reign.
The estate was then inherited by the third son of Henry and Ann, Edward Gould. Both his older brothers had died young. In 1667, Ann fell ill and died, supposedly of the plague. Edward himself died a few days later, also of the plague. Henry Gould, Edward’s son, then inherited the Lewtrenchard Estate.
Henry married Elizabeth Leggatt and they had two daughters, Anne and Susanna. Anne married well, but Henry did not approve of Susanna’s chosen groom, Peter Truscott, and refused attended their wedding. After the marriage on 6th October 1713, Susanna walked back from church to Lew House alone where upon she collapsed and died. Some say this was of heart failure and others say she was poisoned due to the feud between the families. She is believed to be the ghostly white lady who has been seen walking the driveway at Lewtrenchard.
Henry’s brother, William, married Elizabeth Drake, a relation of Sir Francis Drake. They had one son, William Drake Gould and inherited Lewtrenchard, as well as several other estates including Pridhamsleigh and Staverton. It is believed that William Drake Gould actually lived at Pridhamsleigh, demolished part of Lew House and altered the Lew Mill Farm and Dower House turning it into the miller’s house.
In 1740 William Drake Gould married Margaret Belfield, their portraits hang above the fireplace in the back dining room. They had two children; Edward and Margaret. In 1766 William died and Edward inherited the estates.
Edward, also known as ‘The Scamp’, was a gambler and according to local legends was one night nearly ruined by losing at cards. He lost badly at a game of cards and was so desperate that he disguised himself as a highwayman and held up his fellow card player. The victim of the hold-up recognised Edward and as a consequence of this Edward shot him.
He was arrested and engaged John Dunning, a local attorney, to defend him. Mr Dunning managed to get Edward acquitted by asking the witness how he knew it was Edward Gould. The witness replied that he could see clearly who it was, by the light of the full moon. The judge asked if anyone had an almanac in order to check that the moon was full that night. Whereupon Dunning said he had one in his coat pocket if someone would fetch it. He then proceeded to show that there was no moon that night and so the witnesses could not have seen that it was Edward. It was later discovered that Dunning had falsified this almanac to get Edward acquitted!
Unfortunately Edward had to pay Dunning with some of the estates he had inherited from his father. John Dunning then became Lord Ashburton and his son became the 2nd Lord Ashburton, however the title died off soon after.
Thankfully Edward did not lose Lewtrenchard as he had already mortgaged it to his mother. His mother, Margaret who was also affectionately known as ‘Old Madam’, worked tirelessly to bring the estate back to fortune. She is also thought to be responsible for extending the house backwards in 1770, producing a narrow dining area to the rear of the drawing room, now the front dining room. This continued into where the current back staircase is and connected to a corridor to the rear of the bedroom on the first floor.