Steeped in history, Orestone Manor can lay-claim to association with such greats as the British civil engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and painter John Callcott Horsley, best known as the designer of the first Chrsitmas card! Oh, and we mustn't forget to mention the curious tale of the elephant…
A snippet of Great British history
Orestone Manor Hotel was the former home of the acclaimed narrative painter, John Callcott Horsley, best known as the designer of the first Christmas card. In 1857, at Orestone Lodge, he painted a portrait of his famous brother in law, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. Brunel first came to Torquay in the course of his work as the chief engineer of the Great Western Railway. He then decided to bring his wife here for a holiday and before long they were planning to make it their permanent home. He lived for a while at Watcombe Villa, and then moved to Portland Villa, (later called the Maidencombe House Hotel and since demolished).
From these homes he began laying out Watcombe to be the estate of his great house. He lived to see the park virtually completed but he died before the house had got beyond the foundations. The present Brunel Manor was built there much later. John Horsley will be remembered chiefly for his family tie with the Brunels. From midsummer 1857 until midsummer 1858, Orestone Lodge (Manor) would have been the setting for many family gatherings, candlelit dinners, music in the parlour, children's games and perhaps croquet on the lawn and long, long discussions about a future that, for Brunel, was to be so tragically short.
The curious tale of the elephant at Orestone Manor
During spring 2000 the Orestone Manor Hotel was completely refurbished, and the elephant we designed into the logo. There seemed to be no obvious reason for doing so apart from the predominantly Edwardian character of the house vaguely suggested colonial associations. Soon, however, the Elephants took off and proliferated, nearly as if they had a mind and purpose of their own. Our guests kept asking us about the significance, and we, embarrassingly, had no answer. On the 20th of September 2002, our gardener Albert Orchard discovered a tiny object buried in the vegetable garden. He cleaned it from the earth, and found it to be a graceful little pipe, shaped in the form of an elephants head. An expert pronounced it to be a lady's pipe from the 18th century. We have no explanation for this coincidence. So far, no ghosts have been sighted in Orestone Manor or the garden.