Hele House. Now divided in to two properties, Hele House still looks today as it did when Isabelle took her photo.
Hele House is set in the Devon countryside about 2 miles west of Ashburton. At the time the photos were taken it was in the ownership of William Bennett Daw and his wife Mary née Taylor. William and Mary were both born in 1822 in Torquay. They married in 1843. They initially lived at 2 Park Crescent, St Marychurch. By 1861 William employed 39 men and was a successful builder in Torquay. With each decade they upgraded their property, first moving within Torquay to 4 Torbay Terrace then to Torbean House, before purchasing a 350 acre farm at Bovey Tracey. Finally, by 1891, they had purchased their final home, Hele House at Ashburton.
A nearby neighbour to the Daws when they lived at 2 Park Crescent, Torquay, was my great-great-grandfather, John Cockerman Gedye, who lived with his family in the newly built Park Villas, a street of terraced properties built in St Marychurch. Whether because William Daw was the Park Villas builder, or because they attended the same church (John C Gedye was the organist at St John’s Church, Torquay) the families became close friends and William Bennett Daw was asked to be one of the witness signatories to John Cockerman Gedye’s will.
The Daws had no children of their own, and seemed to “adopt” the Gedye children, and their heirs, as their own. There may even have been a bit of matchmaking going on. Three of John Cockerman’s children married partners who were related to William and Mary Daw. Alice Gedye, headmistress of a girl’s school in Babbacombe, married William’s cousin, Samuel John Daw, a successful solicitor in London. Alice’s sister Elizabeth married George Olive Hayward, a ship’s captain and distant Daw cousin and the girl’s brother, Frank Gedye, also a ship’s captain, married Anna Cumming another distant Daw cousin. Frank Gedye was subsequently an executor to William Bennett Daw’s will. Annie Isabelle Eliza Gedye, who took the photos in this album, was a grand-daughter to John Cockerman Gedye and spent much of her life as “lady’s companion” to William Bennett’s wife Mary. Following Mary’s death in 1903 Isabelle remained at Hele to look after William Bennett then, following his death in 1908, she became a companion to her step aunt, Grace Daw, her uncle, Samuel John Daw’s, second wife. His first wife, Isabelle’s Aunt Alice, had died in childbirth.
Updated on October 28, 2017
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