Seafield – Westward Ho!

The house on the cliff edge known locally as “ Spooky House“ or even “Haunted House”! and probably built in the mid 1800. The property was owned by a family called Nixon or de Courcey Nixon who came from Limerick, Ireland and it was in this family’s name for many years.

Brinsley de Courcey Nixon was born in County Limerick, Ireland about 1825 and his occupation at the time of the 1881 Census was given as a Banker in London. Brinsley’s father – Horatio Stopford Nixon, 1787 – 1838 from Cavan, Ireland and was married on 3rd May 1824 to Charlotte Fergus b.1782. Strathore Fifeshire Ireland.

Brinsley de Courcey Nixon was born 5th May 1825 and married on 30th June 1864 in County Limerick Ireland a Caroline Mary GOOLD (GOULD) 1830-1875. He married again on 6th October 1877 in County Limerick Ireland to Francis Evelyn HAMPTON born abt. 1830 London.

The 1891 Census of Northam – Seafield shows the following:

NIXON Lottie – head – Y12 (Y= Born in County)
NIXON Elizabeth – Daugh – Y11
NIXON Fergus B – Son – Y10
NIXON Edward H – Cousi – Y10
NIXON Brinsley – Son – Y5
Luscombe Anna H – Servant – 35 Y Governess
Rodgers Joseph – Servant – 24 Y Butler Employee
Tindale Jane – Servant – 19 Y Kitchen Maid
Mounce Mabel – Servant – 17 Y House Maid
Hoar Emily – Servant – 19 Y Nursery Maid

Kelly’s Directory of 1897 shows the property still in the name of Brinsley de Courcey and the 1901 Census shows the property let to another family – as follows:

William J Pursey – head – 33 Postman postal worker
Elizabeth A – wife – 35 – born Frithelstock
James E – son – 4 – Northam
William H – son – 1 – Northam
Harriet m in law – Widow – 57 – Taunton
Elizabeth Bragg sister – 28 – Uphill

In 1906 the property is shown as being in the name of the son Lieut. Furgess Brinsley Nixon who later became a major with the R.Innis.Fus. – Medals awarded 31st May 1918. On 10th Nov.1903 Gladys Elizabeth Nixon – abt. 1880 – 1960 married Hugh Grosvenor 2nd Baron of Stalbridge born on 5th May 1880 – died on 24th December 1949, on of Richard de Aquila Grosvenor, 1st Baron of Stalbridge and Eleonor Francis Beatrice Hamilton Stubber.

During WW2 the Americans were billeted at Seafield and the surrounding area. Gladys died on 21st March 1960 and as far as our research shows there were no children, and the property was sold, the new owners of Seafield made it a Bed and Breakfast establishment, and it is still owned by the same family.

Research by Maureen Richards 2003

22 Responses to Seafield – Westward Ho!

  1. David Kennedy says:

    Brinsley de Courcy Nixon is a Scot. He was born at Strathore near Kirkcaldy which is in Fife, a county of Scotland.

  2. Susan Perry says:

    My mum is Jean’s cousin and apparently it has been sold. Does anyone know who to?

    Please get in contact if you do.

  3. Tom Poulter says:

    I would like to contact carol king ref Seafield House, can you please forward my message on to her. Thank You Tom Poulter

  4. nic says:

    Message for John Bragg – William James Pursey was my great grandfather. I may well be able to help out with some info on the Braggs. Feel free to get in touch through my website –

  5. John Bragg says:

    In my last letter I forgot to mention the other family name I’m tracing. It was the Pursey family who married into the Bragg family who possibly had connections with the Brixham fishing trade. Hoping, John Bragg

  6. John Bragg says:

    My gran lived at Seafield House with her parents and siblings until she married my grandad Frederick Richard Bragg at St. Margaret’s Church in Northam, he was a Royal Navy man as were his two sons Reginald George and Frederick Edwin. Gran and Fred. Edwin are buried in the same church but grandad is buried in Barnstaple. If anyone has any info on these two families I’d be very grateful if you could pass it on to me. Thank You, John Bragg

  7. Julia Kiddle says:

    I would like to see the garden and maybe help get it back to its former glory.

  8. Niall says:

    We visited Westward Ho today and wandered past the house. The lower floor windows are now completely swamped with brambles and ivy and are now almost invisible. Quite a few windows are broken. An elderly lady was sitting in an upstairs window. When we waved up at her she smiled and waved back. She looked rather kindly and quite happy. I wished I could have chatted to her about her house and family. Anyway, couldn’t somebody who lives locally and knows her organise a crowd-funding campaign to help? (provided she wants any help, of course).

  9. Julie Macdonald says:

    Just an idea but, if the building could be made safe, why not open it up for tours? I’m sure there are many people who would love to view the property and this could create enough money to fund repairs .

  10. Michelle Harper says:

    Iv been going to Westward Ho! Now for my whole life (40 yrs) iv always loved the entire place, but especially Seafield House, or “my house” as I call it!!
    My brother has now bought property in the area, which is great -free holidays!!!- my daughter, 15 yrs, is adament she will live there ASAP!! The house itself is beautiful, the garden was always immaculate but if the lady in residence needs to maintain it, I would b more than happy to help, it would b an honour.

  11. Chris Mumford says:

    How spooky, as there is a comment from someone with the same name writing about Seafield Guest house that is now known as Spooky House. I most certainly do not remember writing about Seafield, but still have amazing memories of my family holidays there. We used to go at the same time each year as other families from Liverpool and Bedford, and a lovely lady from neat the Scottish border. I can say that the holidays were always great fun and that Seafield was such a beautiful house and garden. We would play football in the garden or go down the private stairs to the rockpools when the tide was out. The beach was always the destination nearly every day and great times were had there learning to surf. Seafield was so grand to me that it always felt somewhere special. I shared the big room on the first floor looking out onto the garden and the sea. Each night we had a great time after dinner in the conservatory with all the other kids. Some nights the Dads would go to the beach for latenight swimming!! I visited some years ago and was upset to see that Seafield was in a poor state of repair. Perhaps someone might return it to its previous splendour PLEASE. Places like Seafield deserve to be saved and enjoyed.

  12. carol king says:

    In the sixties my mum Enid Waters worked at Seafield guest House as a waitress/cleaner: Mr and MrsWare owned it then, as the daughter Jean does now, and were friends of Mum’s parents.
    It was a posh Guest House, beautiful rooms, lovely views…never liked the very top windows that looked over the sea it seemed a long way down,and the wind would make the windows rattle.
    In the summer holidays I would go with her,it was great fun! It was always busy ,usually a full house of guests,some coming from London which seemed miles away to me. They came on the train to Bideford Station when the son would go off and pick them up.
    The food was always lovely ,local produce every day. I can remember the boxes of fresh vegetables , and I think they used to grow their own tomatoes in the consevatory.
    The son ,Geoff, used to catch lobsters and crabs and one thing I hated was they would cook them in the kitchen..I can still remember the smell and sound.
    They had a dog ,I think it was a poodle which I used to take over the Tors.
    The garden was tended by Geoff and was always immaculate. There was a lovely big sitting room with a terrace looking west towards Hartland point, and steps going down onto the lawn.
    There was also a gate with steps that led down the the rocks and a swimming pool which I always thought was a private pool just for the guests.
    I am sure if you want any more information my Mum would enlighten you,she may even have some photos.
    The daughter (Jean)worked in Agos in Barnstaple for many years.

    I totally agree that the house should be looked after it is /was so lovely ,I spent many summer hloidays there with my Mum and I never found it spooky ! It has lots of very fond memories for me and it is sad to see its decline.

  13. Bob Morgan says:

    I was born in Cleverdons Cafe Mill St in 1946 and I’ve viewed with interest articles in The Buzz over the past couple of months on the topic of missing shops.
    Out of interest I have quickly listed 34 shops in Mill St. relating back to the 50’s plus more importantly 6 shops that are still trading in their original names and have therefore undergone the passage of time – no mean feat.
    I know you’ve pursued this topic – do you require further listings ?
    Bob Morgan

  14. Chris Mumford says:

    There were 3 or more large houses in that area when I was a child. I visited there in 1973. After returning in 2005 and 2007 I spoke to somebody from the area who said that the house was occupied by 2 people (and the beautiful lawn would be testiment to that). The house is still as I remember it from 1973 but much closer to the sea. The Other house, belionging to Braddicks is still there and the house I stayed in, a little farther back, more yellow bricked in colour, was apparantly demolished in or around 1989.
    The cliff either needs to be supported and reinforced behind the house as years of erosion have made a noticeable intrusion towards the garden of Seafield, and it was felt that if something were not done in the next decade to fifteen years, it would be lost to the sea.
    I do hope somebody steps in to save this fantastic piece of architecture, even move it backwards if at all possible (and it can be done nowadays) to save this wonderful home.

  15. christine key says:

    I heard it had been left to a chap who previously rented rooms in Westward Ho on condition that he lived there, and that he and his sister shared the house but never got on with each other. Apparently he has since died, which is appears evident as previously the lawn was always nicely mowed and is not now, and the lady lives there alone. It’s such a shame it can’t be restored.

  16. Stan Andrews says:

    @Rose Arno….Unfortnately the house has been vandalised over recent years. Windows have been smashed on the front of the house and recently the old lady who lives there placed a sign in the window asking “Please don’t throw stones”. About 2 years ago I overheard some teenagers bragging how they’d broken in through the front door one night thinking it was empty…and they were shocked to find someone living there.
    Seafield House will always be a talking point, it’s become an iconic part of the Westward Ho! history. Respect to the lady who lives there.

  17. RoseArno says:

    Thanks for your comment, it has not been vandalised but is in need of some renovation.

  18. George Bennett says:

    Im doing a school project about the history of westward ho and one of the things im including in it is seafield house. This was really helpful and seafield house is a beautiful property which doesnt deserve to be vandilised.

  19. Janet Forward Powell says:

    Seafield House is still lived in by an elderly lady who cannot afford to have repairs done. She is the owner of the property, has lived there since she was nineteen and has too many memories of her family life there to leave. She loves the place.

  20. Tracey says:

    Fallen in love with the property, can’t understand why stones have been thrown at the windows. Would love to visit and learn from the owner about the reality of living in such an amazing and historical property!x

  21. simon perry says:

    very interested in the house offering my services to help to restore house to its former glory please email either way. would love to look around to see the extent of the work involved, seen the house today 20/07/2011 fantastic property

  22. Rod Heather says:

    Brinsley de Courcey Nixon built the house as holiday home. He was the founder of London & Provincial Bank and in 1870 a financial backer of John Hughes the Welsh industrialist who founded the city of Hughesovka (now Donetsk) in the Ukraine and modernised Russia’s iron and steel industry. Nixon’s youngest son Brinsley spent time in Hughesovka where he met and later married Elizabeth the niece of John Hughes.

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