Portledge and its owners


Portledge, a splendid example of 17th century architecture, is placed in a setting of great beauty and surrounded by a park noted for its loveliness. Parts of the house date back to earlier years, and the doorway which led into the old Great Hall has remained untouched since it was built about 1234. The 13th century arch of the chapel still stands and the Brew House is reminiscent of the days when hops were grown extensively on the estate. The old Great Hall has lost its Minstrel Gallery, which was moved over 100 years ago to Alwington Church, a lovely 15th century church containing many monuments to the Coffin family. The dining-room retains a   beautifully plastered ceiling which contains a fine example of heraldry. The courtyard was roofed in and made into a new hall in the middle of the 18th century. There are many pieces of fine old furniture, ancestral pieces, carved  stone coats of arms ,Spanish armour and Armada guns; priceless panelling and heavily studded doors There is also a belfry and a Spanish armada courtyard. It is also a constant reminder that in their day such famous men as Raleigh, Grenville and Sidney were visitors to Portledge.

The Coffin family is of Norman origin, the elder branch living at Coutitout near Falaise, Calvados at the time of the Conquest. It is believed that Richard was the first of the family to come to England with William the Conqueror and was granted land around Portledge about 1086. From then until 1766 there was nearly always a Coffin at Portledge. The charter granting Free Warren  over all the manor of Alwington, given to Sir Richard Coffin in 1454 is still in the possession of the family. The connection between the Pine and the Coffin families began with the marriage of Edward Pine and Dorothy Coffin at Alwington Church in 1671 .Their grandson ,Rev  John Pine inherited the estate and by Act of Parliament in 1797 assumed the name and arms of Coffin.The law at the time discriminated against females who were banned from inheriting property. In order not to lose the Coffin name off the inheritance it was decided to join the names as all the property had to go to the Reverend Pine. In 1642 the Coffin family went to the New World  so all the family members from there are still called Coffin.

Should anyone be interested in further information regarding the family ,I have published two books on the subject

These are:-

The Boer War diary of John Edward Pine- Coffin- One Man’s Boer war

and Coffin family letters 1600-2002. Both books are available from Walter Henry’s Bookshop making good presents at £15 each., or your local library.

Susan Pine -Coffin

The house is   no longer  owned by the Pine -Coffins and is now in private hands-  no part of the house or grounds is open to the public.

50 Responses to Portledge and its owners

  1. Arthur Gardner Coffin, III "Chip" says:

    I am decendant of the Nantucket Coffins. My name is Arthur Gardner Coffin, III. I am now 81 years old and have not been to Nantucket for about almost 60 years. My first son is Peter Tristram Coffin and lives near his mother and me in south Georgia (USA). Our other son is Seth Keys Coffin who lives in Florida. We are proud to be Coffins. I have spent a lot of time plying the seas and am now a retired Captain! I wish Portledge was again in Coffin hands… but it will not be! So is life!

  2. Raymond Murphy says:

    I Also am a descendant of Tristram Coffin of Nantucket so It’s especially interesting to me. I’m sad that the house isn’t owned by a Coffin or one of the descendants. If I ever get rich, I’ll purchase it and bring it back.

  3. Peter Collins says:

    In common with many of your above subscribers, spent numerous enjoyable holidays
    at the Portledge from early 60’s onwards. It became an almost annual ritual to visit the
    Hotel run by the Gnoykes. I believe at the time it was leased from the Pyne Coffin
    Family. Our grown up Children often re-call wonderful holidays spent there in the
    grounds and on the beach, expressing regrets that they were unable to take their own
    Children there. On a recent holiday in North Devon. attempted a trip down Memory Lane/ All to no avail. The huge gates across the drive barred all access to the Estate.
    Shame on Mr Cannon for denying pleasure to so many Portledge Lovers!

  4. mary Smith says:

    I stayed at Portledge when I was first married 39 years ago .Slept in the four poster bed walked the path to the beach. We took my parents back with two of my small children,we walked the path again and my dad took the kids investigating the rock pools on the beach .Those children are in there thirties now and my parents are 90 .Such lovely memories ??

  5. Heather Ford says:

    I am also a direct descendant to Tristram Coffin and hoping one day to see the Manor. My branch came to the US just after the Mayflower and purchased Nantucket for 20 gold pieces and 2coon skin hats. They where whaling kings and discovered many islands in the area. Money Dick was written based on my families whaling organization. My family were also quakers that helped free the slaves via the Underground Railroad which is described in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Very proud of my lineage.

    Heather Ford-Coffin

  6. sharon thomas says:

    In Oct. 1988, my husband and I had a very disappointing first honeymoon night in Padstow. Got in the car and started driving east ..coming close to sunset and late afternoon, we passed a large elevated billboard sign The Portledge Inn. Drove past a couple of miles and decided to drive back and explore. A rough packed gravel road through fairly heavily wooded area went on for a bit and then, a clearing. To our complete and utter astonishment, the most beautiful manor house in all it’s majesty surrounded by lush green was before our eyes. Our honeymoon was not lost! We had the most delightful accommodation in back of the main house. AND we had a private ‘secret’ entry to our bath. It was in back of a bookcase that opened from the main room to a spacious bath overlooking grazing cows and fields. In the morning, you could hear the cowbells outside the window. So enjoyed it. I’m saddened it is private now. I may be jealous.

  7. R Hill says:

    My Husband and I had our wedding reception at the Portledge back in 1987 beautiful place shame it’s no longer open to the public.\Gsy5

  8. Judith Stoleson says:

    I had been researching the Coffin family lineage for over 20 years when I got my wish and visited the Portledge Hotel in 1987. It did not disappoint, The lovely manor and out buildings were as I had pictured them. Susan Pine-Coffin told me that some of the timbers from the Spanish Armada were found on the beach below their property and used to add on to the main house. She also gave my husband and I keys to Alwington Church where the Coffin coat-of-arms was carved into the pulpit. I was inspired to write a novel loosely based on the life of Sir William Coffin and his service as a courtier to King Henry VIII. It’s called The King’s Man and is on Amazon if anyone is interested.

  9. Karen says:

    HI, I was created at Portledge! My parents met while working there with the Gynokes. Mum worked on reception and chambermaiding and Dad was a waiter. They still keep in touch with friends they met there and the Gynoke family too.

  10. Carole Caple says:

    I used to work at the Portledge when the Gynokes owned it. It was so lovely to finish work and go for a walk in the grounds, so many beautiful walks down to the beach or in the woods to the strange pond that was there. The staff quarters were very spartan and the roof leaked. Also, bats flew up & down the downstairs corridor at night so it was very spooky if you were late back. The facilities for staff were terrible but we got by. I had some lovely moments there and the guests were so kind to me as a young, shy waitress.
    It was there that I developed my love for cream teas!

  11. Mike says:

    I worked at Portledge hotel as a commis chef. I lived in Fairy Cross. There was a beautiful footpath to the beach. Would love to see it all as now near 60. Memories sadly fade

  12. John Hudson says:

    My parents gave my brother and I many happy holidays at Portledge from late 1950s to early 1960s. I still have happy memories of hotel and private beach. It was a wonderful haven and so easy to make holiday friends with other guests.

  13. Bob tubbs says:

    I worked at the Portledge hotel as a waiter 1980 to 1982…
    Pine coffins were very nice people to work for..The dining room was very grand and we had repeat hotel guests each year.wonderful memories of behind the scenes fun.Took for granted the beauty of North Devon.

  14. Su Scotting says:

    Hello, I am a member of the Jarwood family. 18th century John Jarwood married Nancy Waterman whose mother was Hepsibeh Waterman nee Coffin of Natucket, Mass USA. Her line goes back through to Nichols Coffin of Brixton Devon and presumably back to Sir Richard and beyond. If anyone in their researches comes across anything about John Jarwood also sometimes referred to as Captain John Jerwood Jarwood I would be much obliged as cannot trace his parentage. Thankyou so much for all this information here.. it is a revelation! Su Scotting nee Jarwood

  15. Robert Hannington says:

    I stayed there several times as a child with my family.
    At the age of 11 I watched the 1966 World Cup in the TV room. Quite tense as the manager Rudi Genoike was German and the majority of the staff were German. I particularly remember the lovely walk through the woods to its private beach..
    Happy memories!

  16. Kimberly Brown says:

    I too am a decedent of Tristam Coffin.
    I am interested to know where all the paintings, portraits, and artifacts ended up when the first out of family, hamburger king purchased Portledge.
    Can they be seen anywhere?
    Thank you for any guidance… Kimberly

  17. Carol Chapin says:

    Can anyone tell me if there is any old relation between the Coffin family and the Chapin family. I am researching my ancestor, Samuel Chapin, who was an early English arrival to America. His father John Chapin was son of Roger Chapin (Jr). Before him, I find records for a Roger Chapynn Coffin. Both Coffin and Chapin are Norman names. Are the families related? Thank you, [email protected]

  18. Chris Gravestock says:

    My family stayed there nearly every year from 1958-1993. It was a fantastic place. In the later years, no matter what else we were up to, we would keep the late May bank holiday weekend free for Portledge. I still miss it.

  19. Robert Turner says:

    I have recently purchased a cottage in Fairy Cross which used to belong to the Portledge Estate until the early 80’s. It used to have a thatched roof originally and I am sure it was once two cottages. It is opposite the road that leads to alwington next to swan farm. I am trying to locate some photos and some history about it so if anyone can help that would be great. Many thanks Rob

  20. Christine Price says:

    I am also a descendent of Tristan Coffin and now live in the Chicago area. My mother has quite a bit of information, too. I drove past Portledge yesterday and were not allowed in. There is an expansive wooden gate with the name Portledge upon it. We were told the property is now private and can not be viewed. We were then kindly asked to leave. I had hoped they would just take us for a quick ride up to the front of the house for some pictures, but they couldn’t do it. If anyone wants to share information, please contact me at [email protected]

  21. Isabel Monteith says:

    My Great-Grandmother was Jane Anne Coffin. I have a scroll that claims to be
    a Coffin family history. I have never been to Portledge. I am interested in
    a woman named Joan Avent who was an ancestress of the Coffins both British
    and American.

  22. Tim Noble says:

    I am related to Tristram Coffin and we have a very extensive family tree stretching back through the Norman invaders of the Uk right Back to 190AD. If you are interested in what we have in terms of family tree contact me at [email protected]

    I am related directly to several English kings and William the Conquerors brother.



  23. Tom Christie says:

    Please can someone tell me what has happened to the large ornamental pineapples that flanked the gateway to the Portlege Hotel at Fairy Cross? I was dismayed last year to see that they had been removed and I am hoping that the loss is not permanent. Please can someone tell us what has happened and why? Throughout my lifetime they were a landmark to watch out for on annual summer journeys along the old A39 and I’m very distressed that they are no longer there!

  24. jay failing says:

    I am a Coffin descendant, and plan to visit Bideford doing “roots” research. I get the feeling private owner is not open to visits; however, perhaps once in awhile this New Owner might consider a open house period, once a year or the like. My Mother had the Privilege and great pleasure of visiting and staying at Portledge Manor prior to Estate Passing from the family, meeting the Pine Coffins at that time who were hospitable.
    My ancestors descended from Sir Richard Coffin line, the Americas beginning being Tristam Coffin, arrive 1642, north america, who purchased Nantucket Island with Macy’s, Folgers, Bishop and Starbucks, I believe. Our family spread across the United States as pioneers, finally to the west coast, and now, I reside in Hawaii. There is record of Nantucket Coffins putting into port in hawaii, during the short whaling period of Coffin history. It is with hopeful heart to get to visit Portledge Manor and also Le Courtiton near Falaise, where there is a Norman Castle, and perhaps remnants of Coffin estate there, although it passed from Coffin family in 1600s as I understand my readings. Further back our roots are Nordic, Norman=Northman.
    Perhaps by networking and offering $ for access once annually we could gain access, just a brash yankee idea. [email protected]

  25. sallyharris says:

    I remember in the 60s as a young teenager, walking out to portledge hotel, with a friend to wash dishes in the kitchen.. it was a long walk from bideford.. we stuck it for two wks mrs gyonoke had a baby and she took me upstairs,and told me to wash the babies nappies, they were in the bath piled high in stinking brown water, I didn’t have a clue what to do, don’t think she did either.

  26. Dr M. Maguire says:

    I would like to trace records (including correspondence and photographs) of Tristram Pine-Coffin, killed in North Russia in 1919, for my research into Devon officers and soldiers active in the North Russia Relief Force. I would welcome any help locating such records.

  27. Julia (was Hicks) says:

    I also stayed at Portledge with my parents every summer for years when Rudi Gnoyke was running the place. I have so many happy memories of the other people who stayed there it was like a big family. I remember the Winstons, Chalstreys, Douwes, Rudi and Max Gnoyke, and many many more. So much fun!

  28. Sue Winston says:

    I used to stay at Portledge Hotel every Summer when the Gynokes owned it – anyone else remember the Gynokes? We used to see the same people every year, they were wonderful times.

  29. Mrs Turner says:

    2nd May 2017 is our 30th Wedding Anniversary and we celebrated our wedding day all those years agowith a wonderful reception at the Portledge with the Pine Coffins. Will never forget it such a gorgeous place!

  30. Diane Barron says:

    I stayed at Portledge with my parents when I was about ten. I remember the swimming pool and my mum still have pictures of me next to the pool with a stray dog i had made friends with. I remember the path to the sea. Inside Portledge I remember there was a games room, a big piano in the dining room and we were shown where there was an entrance to smugglers tunnel in one of the rooms but it was all sealed up. Very fond memories of Portledge and what wonderful hokiday we all had. I would to love have gone back and visited but heard it is no longer open to the public. I was extremely lucky to have stayed there.

  31. Lynne popham says:

    If the long distance descendants of Pine-Coffins ever get to Fairy Cross go up,to the church at Woodtown. Lots of Pine-Coffins are buried in the churchyard and that might help with the family history research. Could take photos if anyone would like to see who’s there.

  32. Stewart Partridge says:

    Going back long ago to the summers of 1963 and 1964 when I was 9 and 10, my parents and I stayed at the Portledge Hotel in Fairy Cross. Even for a child it was a great place to stay, with nice coastal walks and a twisting path down to the beach, which was I recall a private beach. Those times were before the annual exodus of many Brits to foreign holidays in Spain, Greece and France, so the hotel was very full and I guess profitable.

    I’m in the throes of writing a book that includes those past memories, so if anyone knows where I can access photos or comments about the Portledge Hotel at that time, I would be grateful.

  33. Angela Jefferson says:

    I have many happy memories of staying at The Portledge as a child in the 60s and early 70s.

  34. Mrs. Joyce Brophy says:

    I am just starting to research my family origin. My mom was a Coffin, she has passed through the gates of Heaven but she told me that she thought the Coffin family came from Scotland. This is so exciting for me. If anyone can help me or give me some helpful information on steps I can take from this point on, I would greatly appreciate it.

  35. LB says:

    We stayed at Portledge many times in the 1990s when there were lots of rumours , over many years , about Mr Pyne Coffin selling it . I organised the hospital ball there and our wedding party was held there , I think on one of the last weekends it was open! We used to call Mr Pyne Coffin “Mr Ben” as he would change outfit as he changed role from receptionist to restaurant manager. He worked very hard with few staff and numerous maintenance issues to deal with
    We have lots of great memories such as walking along the coast path, finding a rat floating in the toilet… Swimming in the freezing pool…
    We became so so fond of it and I tried to organise my 40th there but was very sad to hear it is no longer open to the public, maybe it will be for my 50th?? I would love to take our children there. It’s is such a beautiful unique place.

  36. Leona says:

    Recently I discovered that I am a descendant of the Coffin family through Tristram Coffin. More specifically, I am related to Elizabeth Coffin Greenleaf whose husband was one of the original purchasers of Nantucket Island. I would also like to visit England and Portledge Manor. If anyone discovers a way that it is possible, I would very much like to know.

  37. Nigel Taylor says:

    My wife and I worked at the hotel in the early eighties, the hotel attracted many wealthy and celebratory guests. I still have a copy of the menu we served at that time.

  38. Carol Baker says:

    Hi I have recently bought a cottage which was part of the Portledge estate, and I wondered if you knew where I can find any pictures of the original cottage. I understand that it burnt down in the 1950’s and the barn attached was made into a 2 storey cottage, but we have not sense of how it looked originally, and was our cottage 2 cottages. Hope you can help. Best wishes Carol

  39. Rev John Wilderspin says:

    Stayed at Portledge on several occasions while growing up in the 60’s, very fond memories

  40. geoffrey E. Coffin says:

    I am still trying to contact present owner and arrange a visit………have been there about 10 years ago and want to return. If anyone knows of a contact there please email to me when you can. Thanx; Geoffrey Coffin ([email protected])

  41. Hugh Loxdale says:

    Dear Susan,

    I was interested to read your webpage, as above. I am trying to contact descendants of Lt. Col. John Trenchard Pine-Coffin. Any help would be gratefully received.

    With best wishes,

    Hugh D. Loxdale

  42. Nicole says:

    I have been researching my family line and Richard Coffyn is my 15th great grandfather. I would be interested in obtaining an image of the the charter granting Free Warren over all the manor of Alwington, given to Sir Richard Coffin in 1454. I am a descendant of the line through Tristram Coffyn who came to the USA. I live in Canada. I would also be interested in “Coffin family letters 1600-2002” is there a way to obtain a copy or view it here in Canada?

  43. Gordon F. Coffin says:

    Hi from Canada. We are traveling over to visit our daughter who now works in London. We are making plans to travel to Bideford for a few days. Is there a place that we can do some family research?
    Thank you
    Gord Coffin
    Town of Kensington, P.E.I.

  44. James Noble says:

    I remember the first thing the new owner did in 98 was quietly fence over the public footpath that ran through the grounds to the beach. Was very disappointed as it was a lovely walk through the wood.

  45. Geoffrey E. Coffin says:

    Hello; I am so pleased to have visited Portledge and grounds 5-7years ago; Owner (I believe Mr Cannon) was away at the time however, caretakers allowed me free to walk the grounds……….I thoroughly enjoyed a beautiful afternoon there……walked to beach, swam in the ocean and allowed my mind to drift back hundreds of years to a time when my ancestors played and enjoyed all aspects of the property. I would like to return and visit the Manor House; anyone with info on how to contact Michael please get in touch with me; Thanx so much. GC

  46. M Curtice says:

    I grew up in Fairy Cross and when I was about 12years old, as my father worked on the grounds and gardens of the then hotel,we moved to a cottage located near the hotel.We later moved up to the lodge until father left the employment to move into Bideford. I appreciate the owners wish to retain privacy but now aged in my seventies would love to take a trip down memory lane where I spent many happy years. My dads younger brother also worked there as head gardener when it was a private house before Mr Hart took over and opened it as a hotel .
    It was during Mr P H Moselys reign that my father was employed

  47. Randy Coffin says:

    My wife and I are traveling to England in late May, early June 2013. I know the Portledge Manor is privately owned. Besides Portledge Manor, are there other things to see in the area related to the Coffin Family? We are considering travelling to Bideford and areas nearby.

  48. Buffy Ansett says:


    My mother and myself have been handed a few documents relating to our family history. We have been given information that puts us as descendants of Sir William Coffin. Alexander Thomas Coffin and Caroline Henrietta Bathurst came to Okains Bay, Akaroa, New Zealand on the ship called “the samarang” and had children in which are my mothers great great grandparents. We are very very much intrigued on our family history and would love to have some more information regarding the “coffin manor” or anyone else that is related.

  49. Maggie Hock says:

    I am a Coffin descendent and would like to visit Portledge Manor, how do I make contact with the owner? Thank you for your consideration.

  50. Mrs. Tammy Miller says:

    Rev. John Pine was my great Grandfather. Although I do have documentation, I would like to know more about my ancestors.

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