Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: November 24, 2017.
Webpage updated: November 24, 2017

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When Swilly House was put up for auction on Thursday June 17th 1926, the prospectus told us that it was a Georgian residence with a part dating back to Tudor times.  The House faced south and was approached by a well-timbered drive.  On the ground floor was the Entrance Hall, Lounge, Dining Room, a Double Drawing  Room, a Smoking Room, and a Gentleman's Cloak Room.  The Dining Room measured 21 feet by 16 feet and the Drawing Room, 37 feet by 15 feet 6 inches.  From the latter French windows gave access to the garden.  There were also a large and airy Kitchen with a fitted Dresser; a Scullery; a Pantry; a Dairy; Store Room and a Garage.

Upstairs, 'approached by a  quaintly winding Staircase' were six  Bed and Dressing Rooms, all facing south, and by a separate Staircase three Bedrooms for servants.  There were one Bathroom, with hot and cold water, a Hot Linen Press and a WC.  The House was furnished with electric light, mains water and drainage, and a telephone.

Outside there were the Old World Rose Garden, two old Walled Gardens and a Vinery.  These amounted to 1.951 acres.  In front of the Rose Garden was a Meadow of 2.921 acres, falling towards a leat.  The Vinery and Walled Gardens were 'prolifically stocked with choice fruit trees, suggest illusions  of a bygone age'.

Swilly House had been owned in the 16th century by the Kemp family.  It passed to the Furneaux family when Miss Emma Kemp married Mr John Furneaux in 1652.  One of them, Tobias Furneaux, took part in Cook's voyages of discovery and the Furneaux Islands, off Tasmania, were named by Cook in his honour.  But between 1841 and 1851, probably circa 1850, the Furneaux family moved to Lower Swilly, presumably so that they could rent out Swilly House to provide income.  It remained in the ownership of the Furneaux family.

The House had been occupied since December 23rd 1919, or soon afterwards, by Fleet Surgeon Alexander George William Bowen, Royal Navy, and his wife Mrs Adeline Gertrude Bowen, who came from Plymouth.  Her husband originally came from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and had previously worked at the Royal Naval Hospital, Stonehouse, before moving to Rochester, in Kent, from where he retired.  The vendor, the Reverend William Mordaunt Furneaux, of Winchester, was the last member of the Furneaux family to have ownership of the property.

Mr Alexander George William Bowen died on January 4th 1926 at the age of 62 years and was buried at Weston Mill Cemetery on Friday January 8th 1926.  It was thus that Swilly House came on the market.  It was purchased for 3,000.  Mrs Bowen remained in the area until she passed away in 1955.

It transpired that Swilly House had been purchased by Plymouth Corporation and was demolished soon after purchase as the Swilly Housing Estate was under construction.  The House was where Furneaux Avenue bends.


With acknowledgement to the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office.