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Dockacre House


Dockacre House, Launceston in 1908.
Dockacre House, Launceston in 1908.

Dockacre or ‘Dokkeaker’ as it was first known is a Grade II listed house on the corner of what is now Dockacre road but was subsequently known as Horse Lane. It dates from the sixteenth century somewhere between 1520 and 1560 first as a small farmhouse, later additions upon cow house, etc, as a longhouse. In 1678 the area was known as Quarry Park. Old documents show that up until the late eighteenth century the house and grounds were part of an Irish estate and stretched down nearly to Ridgegrove Lane. From the cellar, there is reputed to be a secret passage that leads either to the Castle or St. Mary Magdalene Church. The passage is very narrow, however, but is big enough for a person to crawl along. It is hidden behind two false windows. The passage was cut off when Dockacre Road was constructed, the foundations of which confine the length of the passages to the depth of the house.
Of former owners and occupiers documented, Nicholas (Mayor 1716 and 1721) and Elizabeth Herle are remembered for a number of stories surrounding the death of Elizabeth whose large memorial survives behind the organ loft in the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene inscribed, ” Depart ye life ye December 1714 by starvation or other unlawful means.” An interesting account of the death of a Nicholas Herle appeared in the Norwich Mercury on Saturday 10th August 1728. “On Sunday last, August 4th died at Hampstead, Nicholas Herle of Launceston in Cornwall, Esq.; a gentleman of good character and great estate who not long since when he was High Sheriff of that county, had the misfortune accidentally to shoot his lady.” Dockacre House is reputed to be haunted, possibly by Elizabeth and apparently by others, and there are numerous examples of objects moving from one place to another. In the house is a collection of walking sticks of former occupants and tradition determines that these have to be kept in the correct order lest they rattle in the night. The stick added by Nicholas Herle incorporates a flute and legend has it that anyone that hears the flute will soon suffer a death in the family. Another eminent occupant was Coryndon Rowe, Physician and Alderman; mayor 1792, 1797, 1810, 1821 and 1829. A son born to this couple in 1801 was to become Sir William Carpenter Rowe.

Coryndon Rowe 1767-1847 mayor 1792,1997,1810,1821,1829. (c) Lawrence House Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Coryndon Rowe 1767-1847 mayor 1792,1997,1810,1821,1829. (c) Lawrence House Museum

Charlotte Louise, Francis Emily (Fanny) and Sarah (Sedgie) three daughters of Dr Thomas William Smith, a surgeon at Lewtrenchard, operated a Girls school at The Walk (then called Avenue Place) and they subsequently took Dockacre House for use as a school in addition to Avenue Place. Associated with the history of their school was the Launceston Church of England High school for girls, founded in 1879, which ran for nine years from Edymead House. When it closed, the Smith’s took the few remaining pupils into their own school and adopted at a later date, the title of Launceston High school for girls. At various times during the nine years of the C of E school, the Smith’s helped their rival establishment by accommodating a few of their boarders at Dockacre. The Smith’s took small boys as well as girls and these boys were taught by Miss Sedgie Smith in a small outbuilding at Dockacre; they included Geoffrey Cowlard, Gerald Peter, Colin Parsons and Horace Kittow. In 1898 they moved having purchased Pendruccombe House and they sold Dockacre House.

1879 advert for the school at Dockacre House.
above 1879 advert for the school at Dockacre House.

dockacre-house-interior         dockacre-house-2

After the Smith sisters, the house was bought by a John Baker in 1902. In 1910 it became the home of the Rev. John Frayling Forch, the Curate of St. Mary Magdalene Church. From 1914 to 1923 a Mrs Raddall lived at Dockacre.
In 1937 the house was bought by the parents of John Woodward, who later became Admiral Sir John Woodward (Sandy) and who was the Falklands Task Force Commander in 1982. Dockacre was his home until 1959. His father was the Chief Cashier at Barclays Bank in the town. They sold the house in 1959 to Mr and Mrs Winston Folley who in turn sold the house to Lieutenant Colonel Raymond Buckeridge in 1968 and the house has remained in the family ever since. Mr Buckeridge wrote a detailed history of Dockacre House in 1988.
In his book, Mr Buckeridge makes mention to strange occurrences in the house such as pictures falling off walls for no apparent reason and of strange banging’s and tappings in the night. One of the many incidents that he mentions is that which occurred on the night of October 13th, 1987, when his nephew John came to stay for a few days. Mr Buckeridge says ‘At about 10:30 p.m. my wife and I went to bed and left John in the dining room to finish viewing a play on television. He related to me that at about 11:30 p.m. he heard our golden retriever scratching at the dining-room door, obviously asking to come into the dining room from the back hall. After the scratching had occurred several times more over the next few minutes, he got up in desperation to let her in. As he was about to open the door for her, there was one more piece of heavy scratching. He opened the door only to find our dog asleep in her basket at the foot of the spiral staircase some 20 feet away!’ Having finished watching the television programme, the nephew retired to his bed in the main guest room above the dining room and after dozing off, the door suddenly opened. He got out of bed in a flash and after carefully shutting the door again and making sure that it was securely closed, got back into bed. No sooner has he got back to bed, than the door slowly opened again! After this, he locked and bolted the door and a peaceful, but the sleepless night was endured.
Another incident involves his milkman. It was in the 1970s and at about 4:30 a.m. one morning, the milkman, that for some strange reason after walking down the drive, looked up at the bedroom windows, which was something he had never done before. To his horror, he saw the figure of a man in a wig standing at one window looking directly at him! After that, neither that milkman or any subsequent milkman delivered their milk before broad daylight.

Dockacre House by Jim Edwards
Dockacre House 2005 by Jim Edwards.

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