Arthur William Perry, 1860 - 1948
The Gardens of Check House, Beer Road, Seaton, Devon
Gardens of Check House, Beer Road, Seaton, Devon

"Arthur W Perry" lower left

pencil and watercolour
26 x 78 cm. (10.1/3 x 31 in.)


The house was originally known as Calverley Lodge. It was built for Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan, geologist, antiquarian and botonist and his wife Pauline, patroness of the Pre-Raphaelites. Trevelyan also built Seaton Bridge (Axemouth parish) in 1877, and the concrete bridge over the River Axe. (The second concrete bridge to be built in the United Kingdom). Sir Walter Calverly Trevelyan and his wife Pauline, used the house as their seaside residence. Sir William had inherited the manor of Seaton, and he and his wife developed and made several improvements to the area. Pauline was a patron of the Pre-Raphaelites and they entertained many well-known people of their day, including Thomas Carlyle and Florence Nightingale. Their friends also included Tennyson, Christina Rosetti, John Millais and William Morris’s wife Jane.

On January 3rd 1845, an unusual couple, Walter Calverley Trevelyan and his wife Pauline, paid a “long meditated visit” to Seaton, a small village by the river Axe in Devon. Trevelyan was aged 47, tall, reputedly humourless and a well-known geologist, antiquarian and botanist; he was also a philanthropist teetotaller and pacifist and the heir to a baronetcy and considerable estates at Nettlecombe in Somerset and Wallington in Northumberland. Pauline was 19 years younger, the daughter of an impoverished parson, small, brilliant, quick, warm-hearted, always full of jokes, a writer, critic and artist, the future “monitress friend” of Ruskin, patroness of the Pre-Raphaelites and the first to spot the young Swinburne as a potential genius. The House of Lords had just confirmed a judgment in Chancery: that the manor of Seaton and a considerable acreage of land had been fraudulently obtained in 1788 by Thomas Charter, steward to old Sir John Trevelyan of Nettlecombe. Once Seaton and its neighbour Beer had belonged to the Abbey of Sherborne. Henry the Vlll sold Seaton to a John Frye of Yarty, and the Trevelyans had in herited it through the marriage of the first baronet in 1655 to Mary Willoughby, whose great-grandfather had bought it from his relatives the Fryes. The local connection had been strengthened by the second baronet’s marriage to Urith, daughter of Sir John Pole. The neighbourhood of Seaton had interesting geological features, not least being the famous Axmouth Landslip of Christmas Eve 1839. The site was also considered to be the Roman station of Moridunum.

Two great chalk cliffs contrasting with the red earth protected the village from the west and the east. Pauline loved the spot. She was also fascinated by the lace makers of Beer though at the same time appalled by their poverty the people were once supposed to have been smugglers and of Spanish descent. She and her husband decided that it was their duty not only to help them but to modernise Seaton, still in effect an Elizabethan village in character and amenities. This could be done by creating a kind of spa to attract visitors of the “right sort”. Soon a somewhat exposed place was chosen for her own seaside villa. A bath house for hot and cold seawater baths was already in existence. It had been constructed as far back as 1810 so Trevelyan decided that it must at once be rebuilt. “First Rate” sewerage and an esplanade that could stand up to gales were other priorities. All this would be at his expense. However in May 1846 his father died so for the next decade his energies and financial resources were most concentrated elsewhere. The friendship with Ruskin became very close. If Sir Walter, as he was now, found himself drawn to any sort of mechanical invention or new scientific discovery, Pauline enthusiastically followed all the latest artistic trends. When the architect of the Oxford Museum, Ruskin’s friend Benjamin Woodward, came to stay at Wallington, she was seized with the idea of getting him to turn Seaton into a Venetian Gothic “Eden”. She also set about producing her own Pre-Raphaelite-inspired lace designs and selling the results in London and Northumberland. She won prizes and obtained commissions from such friends as Christina Rossetti, Ruskin’s mother and Lady Grey, the Prime Minister’s widow. She was a tireless campaigner against the truck system operated by her “arch enemies”, the Truckers of Branscombe a system whereby lace was bartered for groceries.

Sir Walter’s school for Seaton children was finished in 1860. On its opening he gave future pupils a solemn address on “Education, Ignorance and Temperance”. Obviously the building, if not Woodward’s creation, was inspired by his work, for its tower-like porch, sloping roof and general proportions had affinities with Llys Dulas, which he built for Lady Dinorben in Anglesey. Certainly his project for the new terraces along the esplanade was meant to have gables similar to another of his houses, at Upper Phillimore Gardens in London. Alas, by the time he actually visited Seaton, he was near to death from consumption, so it is doubtful whether he was able to develop many of his ideas. Meanwhile Sir Walter pressed on with the realignment of roads, demolition of insanitary buildings, plans for the installation of gas lighting, waterworks and a branch railway. He also built a model farm and improved others, and in the process, at Honey Ditches, found the remains of a very large Roman villa. Now the time had come to build the Trevelyan’s own house. A young architect named Charles Edwards, who was already responsible for a bank and police station at Axminster, both “Venetian Gothic and good”, was commissioned to carry out what are without doubt Woodward’s original designs. Tradition at Seaton has it that Ruskin was the architect, which is not possible, of course, though he might well have been shown the designs and would undoubtedly have approved of the use of local materials, such as flint and freestone.

The house became known as Calverley Lodge. Some may find it bizarre, with its walls in black and white squares, its trefoil windows, tall chimneys, variegated slates, gables and fretwork; and no doubt it did look pretty stark before Sir Walter’s pine trees grew up. Yet it is fascinating, not only as a piece of avant garde 1860s architecture, but for the fact that every detail, inside and out, was obviously planned with intense, loving care. Although called a “cottage” by the Trevelyan’s it had nine bedrooms and great, solidly-built cellars. The staircase is of black wrought iron entwined with gilded lilies, inspired perhaps by ironwork at the Oxford Museum or, as some say, by Paddington Station, admired so much by Sir Walter. Lady Ashburton, the former Lousia Stewart-Mackenzie and known as Loo, was Pauline’s best friend. As soon as this impetuous personage heard about the proposed villa, she declared she must have one too, although she had never yet been to Seaton. A neighbouring piece of cliff was thereupon sold to her. But she rejected Edward’s work and called in her own architect, Henry Glutton. The building, Seaforth Lodge, went up with surprising speed. Superficially grander than Calverley Lodge, with 12 bedrooms, not to mention a stable block, it is nevertheless less interesting, simply a large holiday house for a large lady.

In March, 1864 Loo had the Carlyles to stay, with the Trevelyans as fellow guests, Calverley Lodge not being nearly ready. Carlyle had just finished his Frederick, which he read out to the company in the evenings. He was taken on rides by Sir Walter, sometimes in the company of Thomas Woolner the sculptor, and seems not always to have appreciated the scientific talk. Mrs Carlyle was enchanted by the view and wanted her husband to buy a house in the neighbourhood, “a sort of Devonshire Craigenputtock”, at St Mary’s, near Axminster. Meanwhile Sir Walter was occupied with plans for restorations to the Church, eventually carried out by Edward Ashworth and regarded as disastrous by posterity, but through no fault of Sir Walter, who had considered building another more “tasteful” church opposite his manor house. Edwards was commissioned to draw up plans for a temperance hotel, to be known as the Coffee Tavern, and later Sir Walter was to sponsor another such establishment, Gould’s Hotel (now Woolworth’s). Gas was laid on by 1865, and the Seaton and Beer Railway opened in 1868. Sir Walter’s water supply was not however functioning until 1874.Calverley Lodge was ready for occupation on February 24 1866, it had cost £3,980 12s 5d, and the furnishings many “very modern” from Heal’s £468 12s 6d. Pauline had been extremely ill, but managed to entertain a few guests like William Bell Scott, who designed a sideboard, all flowers and quatrefoils, and the youthful George Otto Trevelyan, who read her his Cawnpore.

In April the Trevelyans went abroad with Ruskin. Pauline died at Neuchatel on May 13. Thereafter Sir Walter never lived in Calverley Lodge, but lent it to relations. However he continued with his developments at Seaton. The ferry rights over the Axe were bought up, and in April 1877 his three-arch bridge, the second concrete bridge in England (the first built in Earl’s Court in 1867, had been demolished in 1873), was opened, complete with an all concrete toll-house—Sir Walter being a campaigner for more use of concrete. He now deemed the moment right to launch out once more on major scheme for a half mile of villas (concrete?) along the sea front. It would be in conjunction with the Hon. Mark Rolle, who owned much of Beer. But Sir Walter’s side of the operation came to naught, perhaps as well for Seaton, for he died on March 23, 1879. Seaton remained tied to Nettlecombe, which underwent a series of misfortunes. Calverley Lodge was sold some time after 1905 and renamed Check House in 1918.  

Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan, sixth baronet (1797–1879), naturalist, was born on 31 March 1797 at Newcastle upon Tyne, the eldest son of Sir John Trevelyan, fifth baronet (1761–1846), and his wife, Maria (d. 1852), daughter of Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson. Educated at Harrow School, where W. H. Fox Talbot (1800–1877) was a scientific crony, he proceeded in 1816 to University College, Oxford, becoming a keen geologist under William Buckland's guidance and an accomplished antiquary who contributed to Hodgson's History of Northumberland. Having graduated in 1820 he moved to Edinburgh to extend his scientific interests. In 1821 he visited the Faeroe Islands to study their natural history and in 1823 was the first to demonstrate the intrusive nature of the Whin Sill in Northumberland. From 1822 Trevelyan was an ardent phrenologist who supported a Combeian school in Edinburgh, opposed capital punishment and flogging, argued for state education to prevent crime, and condemned alcohol, tobacco, and opium as morally degrading. Having rejected a possible wife on phrenological grounds, in 1833 he met Paulina Jermyn (1816–1866) [see Trevelyan, Paulina Jermyn, Lady Trevelyan], eldest daughter of the Revd G. B. Jermyn, at the British Association for the Advancement of Science; they married on 21 May 1835.

In 1846 Trevelyan succeeded to the title and family estates. As a wealthy landlord he practised scientific agriculture and promoted the well-being of his tenants. In 1853 he refurbished Wallington, Northumberland, as a Pre-Raphaelite showpiece, aided by his artistic wife, a painter and lace designer who was friendly with Ruskin, the Carlyles, and Swinburne. They also developed Seaton, Devon, as a resort.

Trevelyan continued to maintain his antiquarian interests, co-editing a volume of Trevelyan Papers for the Camden Society. He also maintained a large collection for natural history and ethnology at Wallington and generously gave specimens and money to museums. He backed Pitman's movement for spelling reform, becoming president of the derided Phonetic Society. As a political Liberal in 1865 he bought an estate at Tynemouth, where a relative was an election candidate, for £61,000 to secure the tenants' votes; after the election he sold it. As a tolerant Anglican and total abstainer, he collaborated with dissenters in campaigning for the prohibition of alcohol. From 1853 to his death he was president of the United Kingdom Alliance for Suppression of the Liquor Traffic and in 1854 president of the National Temperance Society.

Trevelyan was of foppish appearance, with careless dress and long moustache and hair, but he was a courageous opponent of social and intellectual tyranny and an aristocratic eccentric who fought for causes to the last. Among his eccentricities was a mania for concrete, which culminated in 1877 with the opening of his Axe Bridge at Seaton, England's second concrete bridge. Following the death of his first wife, on 11 July 1867 Trevelyan married Laura Capel, daughter of Capel Lofft, of Troston Hall, Suffolk. He died at Wallington on 23 March 1879 from a cold and was buried simply, as he wished, at Cambo, Northumberland, on 1 April 1879. His wife died the next day. Both his marriages being childless, the title descended to his nephew, Alfred Wilson Trevelyan (1831–1891) but Trevelyan left Wallington to his cousin, Charles Edward Trevelyan (1807–1886).

Jack Morrell DNB


Large detached house in landscaped garden overlooking sea. Circa 1860. Probably to the designs of Benjamin Woodward but executed by Charles Edwards and completed in 1866. Large Victorian gothic house. Built of knapped flint and stone in chequered pattern with red brick and stone dressings. Steeply pitched slate hipped and gabled roof. Small gables with shaped and pierced bargeboards. Two storeys.Asymmetrical plan and elevations. Two storeyed canted bay with pyramidal roof. Chamfered stone window frames with shouldered and cusped arches. Across southfront and around the curved corner to left is a cast iron verandah with decorative pierced spandrels and glazed tented roof. Gabled timber porch at east end with ornate bargeboards and finial and with three-light window in gable above. External corbelled chimney breast to side with set-offs and diagonal shafts. Conservatory on west side probably late C19.

Artist biography

With an Address at Prospect House, Seaton, East Devon, Perry exhibited and sold three paintings at the NAG in the Summer of 1906 including Seaton Bay. In 1907 also in the NAG he exhibited and sold Landslip and Icanthus. He painted in watercolour & specialised in landscape, coastal & village scenes. Many of his works were reproduced as hand coloured half tone postcards by Worth's Art Gallery in Exeter. He didn't exhibit widely, but did exhibit two works at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists in 1908. His art shop in Seaton sold all kinds of art materials as well as his paintings. He doesn’t seem to have tried to exhibit his work. He died in 1948 and is buried in St Gregory’s churchyard.