Bridge House was built in 1793 for newly weds John
Davy Foulkes and Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Inglett Fortescue, Lord
of the Manor of Dawlish. Foulkes was the commander of the East Indiaman
ship ďAsiaĒ and, in 1795, captured seven Dutch East Indiamen off St
Helena. With his prize money, he bought a house in Exeter. However, he
died in 1813 and in 1814, the house was put up for sale.
House: dining room, drawing room, breakfast room, five bedrooms, water
For the servants: housekeepers room, butlerís pantry, kitchen,
dairy,cellars and five bedrooms at the top.
Double coach house and stabling.
Two acres and a cottage
However, the house was not sold until 1829, when retired vicar from
Dublin, Rev Theobald Walsh and his family moved in. He enlarged the
house to accommodate his seven children by adding the bow fronted
extension. Generations of the family lived in Bridge House until 1898.
Then, for several years, the family leased the house out to visitors for
the summer and only returned occasionally.
It is believed that Charles Dickens wrote parts of Nicholas Nickleby
(published 1838) whilst staying here and made Dawlish the birthplace of
its main character
In 1906, the house was bought by Sir William Gordon-Cumming, a retired
lieutenant Colonel of the Coldstream Guards, who fought in the Zulu Wars
and Egypt. The family had estates in Scotland and owned Gordonstoun
(later the public school). He was discharged from his regiment for
dishonourable conduct after cheating at cards, when playing Baccarat
with the Prince of Wales and friends.
The family enjoyed living in Dawlish. Their daughter loved the garden
and wild primroses. They helped the local cricket club, re-turfing the
pitch on the Newhay. And two members played for the club. The family
returned to Scotland in 1913.
Then, Lady Fairlie-Cunningham bought the house and eventually sold it to
the trustees of the Railway Convalescent Homes in 1918. The institution
was established in 1899 by a group of railway men. They were funded by
subscriptions deducted from the menís pay as the railway companies did
not provide any financial support. The first convalescent home was in
Herne Bay. The Dawlish home was very popular and in 1929, it was
substantially extended. A Games room and Billiard room were added in
1935. An additional storey was added to the games wing to provide a
writing room, rest room and veranda.
The ghost of Lillie Langtry is said to haunt the house. She is said to
have stayed here with Edward VII when it was owned by Lady Cunningham
until the end of WW1.