History of Glen Goyle 

There are lots of places to go to find out something about the history of Glen Goyle.


The regular postings on the Glen Goyle Gossip pages provide insights into the heritage of the Glen.

For example:

April 2022: Glen Goyle and the plant collectors – Friends of Glen Goyle

July 2022: What’s in a name? What to call the stream running through the Glen Goyle? Part Two… – Friends of Glen Goyle

August 2022: Hobbits along the Glen… – Friends of Glen Goyle

October 2022: Queen Victoria at the Royal Glen – Friends of Glen Goyle and Uncovering the past along the Glen – Friends of Glen Goyle

January 2023: The magical history of the Asherton House Garden – Friends of Glen Goyle and Opening up the Glen Goyle lawn – Friends of Glen Goyle 

March 2023: The Canadian connections to Glen Goyle – Friends of Glen Goyle

August 2023: Stone walls along the Glen – Friends of Glen Goyle


The website has some specific sections devoted to historical themes:

Maps through time – Friends of Glen Goyle

A history of the Wool Brook – Friends of Glen Goyle

Asherton House – Friends of Glen Goyle

With the occasional update on the news pages, for example:

A memory of Asherton House garden… – Friends of Glen Goyle

There are several places elsewhere online with interesting references to the history of the Glen.


This is from the Royal Glen Hotel’s newsletter of 2007, with a great print from the 1820s:

A Pen from the Glen: Belmont House in the foreground 1814 – 1825 and The Royal Glen can be seen as Woolbrook Cottage to the left immediately behind the bridge over Glen Goyle. The slopes to the left are similar to today…”

Royal Glen News 05 v2

This is an account of how ‘Sidmouth gave the world Queen Victoria’:

“The death of George III’s fourth son, Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767-1820) was to profoundly affect the life of his baby daughter, Princess Victoria, not yet one years old. The Duke of Kent died at Woolbrook Glen, Sidmouth, in the villa which had been leased to him for the winter of 1819-20; he had been ill with a chill which he had caught on a visit to Salisbury Cathedral, which worsened over Christmas when he brought his small family to the seaside. After extreme suffering, which involved “bleeding” and “cupping”, the Duke died in his bedroom.” 

The Duke of Kent: Queen Victoria’s missing father – Royal Central

And here is an overview of the history of the Royal Glen from another edition of the hotel’s newsletter:

It was circa 1700 that the Royal Glen was built by Mr King, of Bath. It was then a modest farmhouse with a dairy, outhouses, a hay loft and a well that still exists in the centre of the house. It was first known as King’s Cottage taking the name of the owner. From 1775 the house was part of the Manor estates until 1817 when it was purchased by Major General Edward Baynes who added considerably to the grounds, and converted the original into Regency splendour with delightful castellated pediments, tentroofed verandah and Gothic casements complete with painted drip moulds. Other names followed, Woolbrook Cottage, Woolbrook Glen, the Royal Glen. In 1819 the Duke and Duchess of Kent chose to stay at Woolbrook Cottage in Sidmouth. On 23rd January 1920 the Duke of Kent died after a short illness. In 1878 the house became an Orphanage. In 1883 it was bought and managed as a boarding house by the Misses Culverwell and first advertised as such in the Sidmouth Directory of 1887.

Royal Glen news December 2007


This history was researched by members of the SVA History Group and compiled by Professor Brian Golding. We express our thanks for this work and acknowledge their copyright.

A link to the full document is given at the bottom of the page; the highlights are given below.


Glen Goyle refers to the area of land immediately surrounding the stream that runs alongside Glen Road from the sea up to Cotmaton Road. The stream itself originates at Bickwell (Beeka’s Well, according to the Dictionary of Devon Placenames).

Butcher’s guidebook of 1810 refers to a ‘low ham at the western extremity of [the fort field] is a pretty white house, built by Mr King of Bath and called King’s Cottage’. And in 1817 he writes, ”In a narrow slip of ground, called a ham, immediately adjoining [to Belmont], which is watered by a serpentine stream, and by nature forming a lovely dell, is a pretty white habitation, called, from the gentleman who built it, King’s Cottage.”

The 1813 sale inventory for the Manor refers to an updated copy of the 1789 Day map, which seems to have been lost. However much of the indexing is the same, enabling us to identify a short access track to the Western Field, which ran up the west side of the stream, as Tinkers Lane, suggesting that prior to its occupation by Mr King, the ham here had been a favoured camping ground for visiting tinkers.

History of ownership

Butcher states that Mr King built Kings Cottage, whereas Julia Creeke (local historian and author) states that he transformed a previously existing farmhouse, and the Royal Glen Hotel website says that he built it in 1700. However, we can be fairly certain it did not exist in 1789, when the manor map was drawn, as being manor property it would have been marked if it existed. Mr King’s lease included the strip of land either side of the stream down to the coast, on which he built a new drive, replacing Tinkers Lane, on the opposite side of the stream. (excerpt) ……………………………

………… In December 1819, seven-month-old Princess Victoria moved into Woolbrook Cottage with her father and mother, the Duke and Duchess of Kent. Her father, then deeply in debt, had chosen the place both to flee creditors in London, and to make sure that his precious daughter, in line for the royal succession, remained in England. Just after Christmas, the Duke of Kent returned wet and cold from a walk, developed pneumonia and died. The next day, the Princess and her mother returned to London. ………………..

………… (North of Manor Road )The Glen Goyle walk, known as “Little Glen“ at the time, was presented to the town by Balfour in 1905 as a through track from Manor Road to Seafield Road. The top bit came into public ownership when the town houses were developed at the top of Cotmaton Road. Broseley Homes/Ideal Homes almost certainly gave the northern end of Glen Goyle to East Devon District Council in 1978 as part of the planning permission. (Information from John Pendlebury, who was in charge of the company and still lives in Sidmouth). So the current position of Glen Goyle is that the bottom half is on a long lease to EDDC from Sidmouth Town Council (though STC say they have no record of this) and the top half is owned outright by EDDC. 
(South of Manor Road) The section between the Belmont and Manor Road was bought by the Belmont Hotel as an extension to their garden, probably about 35 years ago now, or at least just after Brends bought the Hotel. Prior to this it had been neglected ………


Names of the house, stream & valley

There is no record of a name for the stream or the valley until 1817, when Gen. Baynes leased Kings Cottage and renamed it Woolbrook Cottage, implying that the stream was called the Wool Brook. In the Blue Plaque book, Julia Creeke records that it was his mother who moved in first, and may therefore have chosen the name. Either way, it is a strange choice as it is the same name as the main tributary of the Sid that runs from Core Hill down through Stowford and Woolbrook Village to join the Sid just to the East of Exeter Cross. Since the Bayneses were newly arrived, it is possible that they mistook the name, or simply liked it.

Others have suggested that the name of the stream is ancient and comes from Old English for “small“ (“hwonli“ is small in Old English) or ‘Brook coming immediately from a spring, not yet joined by another’ (“well“ is a spring in Old English). Either of these names could apply to any stream in the Sid valley and is therefore a poor choice if the purpose of a name is to distinguish it from others. The house would then have been named from the stream. The first guide book to suggest that the stream had a name was Mogridge (1836). This may be contrasted with the other Woolbrook which was recorded as Ullebrocke in the 12th century, which the Dictionary of Devon Placen ames interprets as “Ulle’s Brook“, i.e. a personal name. However, others have differed on the origins of this name also.

The path from Manor Road to Seafield Lane was called Little Glen in 1905 when given to the public. The name Glen Goyle is obviously more recent than that, but its origin has not been found. Glen is Scottish for a valley, while Goyle is Devon dialect for a ravine …………….

Landscaping, Planting etc

The 1888 map shows that the lower part of the stream was dammed in several places to create pools and waterfalls. One of these is visible in the picture below.

The trees make a contribution to the story.  There are the two large Monterey Cypresses. They cannot be older than Victorian because they first arrived in the UK in 1838.  Monterey Cypresses grow very quickly and they are probably only about 100 years old, planted when the area was developed by Balfour and Sampson. The oldest tree as you walk through the Glen is the Oak near the footbridge which is probably 200-250 years old, but that is inside the wall of Cotmaton House.  The Oak beside the path across Manor Road inside Belmont is the oldest tree in the whole Glen, somewhere between 3-400 years old.  Any others of similar or greater age have been lost either to development or Dutch Elm Disease.  The manorial map shows the part between Asherton and what is now Manor Road, as a tree lined strip among the allotment strips and these are most likely to have been pollarded Elms because Elms were the main hedgerow tree in Regency and early Victorian times according to the guides, rides and other sources such as Elizabeth Barrett’s diary.  

In the early post-war period, the Goyle behind the Belmont was pretty overgrown. When Brends took over the Hotel they tidied it up and it was obvious that they intended the area nearest Manor Road to be a Woodland garden, damming the stream and bricking up the sides to create a pool.   Spates in the stream soon silted this up so it became a rather muddy area.  

Above Manor Road the area originally was a quite pretty area. On the right-hand side of the footpath some of the original plantings remained of shrubs and azaleas.   On the other side were a few rhododendrons and down in the stream was a Gunnera and another water loving plant with a large yellow spathes and some Astilbes together with ferns and some bluebells.   Over the years there have been some vicious spates down the stream and these washed out all these plants.   I think EDDC must have removed the Gunnera.   As the trees have grown ever larger so the amount of light reaching the plants has decreased.   The rhododendrons became more and more spindly and eventually were removed.  The other shrubs have also suffered from lack of sun light and the badgers, who colonised the stream bank and each year invade all the gardens adjoining the Goyle, make a great mess in the process and further damage the plants.

When the upper section was acquired there were some handsome trees including a magnificent Monterey pine and a magnificent specimen of a Lime tree. The pine blew down in a gale and the Lime was felled. 

Full Pdf available here

1818, showing the line of Glen Goyle, from the collection of Brian Golding

This view from Witheby shows the trees along the stream running down to the sea.