A Brief History of Canonteign
The history of Canonteign starts with the first Viscount Exmouth, Edward Pellew. Born of Cornish stock in 1757, his father was captain of a Dover Packet and on his death 1765, Edward and his brothers, Samuel and Israel, went to live with their grandmother in Penzance.
Samuel became a customs officer in Falmouth, while Israel and Edward won honours in their chosen naval careers. However, it was Edward who achieved the greatest naval Honours, being knighted in 1793. Sir Edward Pellew bought the Canonteign Estate in Devon’s Teign Valley, now within the Dartmoor National Park.
He went on to win yet more honours and in 1814 was made a Baron and took the title Lord Exmouth. His prowess at sea and skilful battle planning earned him the distinction of Vice Admiral of All England, a title he shared with his peer, Lord Horatio Nelson.
In 1816, he informed the admiralty that he had finally ‘struck his flag’ and was rewarded with the title of Viscount, settling with his wife in Teignmouth shortly after. He entered politics and became MP for Barnstaple, attending the House of Lords regularly until his peaceful death in 1833.
27th August now commemorates the Battle of Algiers Day. The T.S. Canonteign Sea Cadets (The Teign Valley Unit) traditionally lay a wreath on the family crypt at Christow Church and then take part in a Memorial Service at Canonteign Falls. The current owners of the Falls, Mr and Mrs Christopher Baylis, are keen to keep this tradition alive and to encourage visitors to the Falls to join them in commemorating this brilliant naval man.
While Sir Edward preferred to live near the sea at Teignmouth, his son Pownall, the second Lord Exmouth, and his wife took residence at Canonteign. During the lifetimes of ten successive Viscounts, the Estate has seen many changes.
The mining boom, especially in this part of Devon, created prosperity and when Frank Mills, a London banker and entrepreneur, opened a mine on the Estate, Canonteign flourished. It was at this time, in order to drive a wheel to power the mine, that the waterfall was diverted from its original course, some 10 metres away, via a leat (what a wonderful feat of engineering this was.)
When the mining boom ceased in 1880, the third Lady Exmouth instructed that the waterfall from the leat course should cascade over the nearby massive rock formations. This spectacular waterfall, the highest sheer drop in England at some 70 metres, is the most wonderful backdrop to the ancient woodland walks leading through the remains of the Secret Garden, on through the Victorian Fern Garden, to the splendour of the views across Devon from the summit, known as Buzzard's View.
The 20th Century saw a steady erosion of the Estate due to crippling death duties. In 1985, restoration work was begun on the estate and continues to this day. The spectacular waterfall, woodland walks, meadowlands teeming with wildlife, wetlands and lakeside walks and historical interpretations, now enable the visiting public to enjoy this wonderful part of Devon. By visiting, you are helping to conserve and enhance the beauty of the Falls and surrounding areas.