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Hemyock Castle
Ancient Heart of the Blackdowns

Artists and Writers in the Blackdowns

Hemyock in the upper Culm Valley, is situated in the Blackdown Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty, long popular with artists and writers.

Artists and writers have included:

Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe (1762 to 1850)

Elizabeth Simcoe, wife of General John Graves Simcoe, was an accomplished artist. Her beautifully illustrated diaries of her time in Canada are stored in Ontario, Canada. Pages can sometimes be viewed via the Internet at:

Most of the Simcoes' archives are now held in Canada.

Self Portrait of Peter Orlando Hutchinson

Peter Orlando Hutchinson (1810 to 1897)

Peter Orlando Hutchinson the prolific Sidmouth artist first visited the Castle in 1851 with his photographer friend Heineken. Hutchinson returned several times, painting many views of the Castle and surrounding countryside.

Five volumes of his illustrated diaries and over 750 of his sketches are stored in the Devon Records Office. Recently, a East Devon AONB project has made the Peter Orlando Hutchinson archives available online.

R. D. Blackmore

R D Blackmore is best known for Lorna Doone, his romance set in Exmoor. His father was curate at Culmstock so Blackmore grew up in the Blackdowns. In 1894, he published the little known but highly regarded novel Perlycross, set in the Black Down Hills. Alongside the story, Perlycross includes detailed descriptions of local places and living conditions at that time. Blackmore used real places, but changed their names:

Bernard Knight

Bernard Knight's series of historical novels featuring Sir John de Wolfe are set in 12th century Exeter. While solving crimes, Sir John often travels around the fringes of the Blackdowns, dealing with the land-owners and villagers.

The Camden Town Artists Group

In about 1911, the artist Walter Sickert (1860 - 1942) formed the Camden Town Group named after Camden Town, London. Artists in the group were interested in portraying nature and landscapes. Several were friends of "Squire" Harold Harrison the owner of Applehayes, near Clayhidon. They were fascinated by the natural landscape of the Blackdowns and by the ancient field patterns. Amongst those who visited and painted were:

In her book Portrait of a Killer, the writer Patricia Cornwell alleged that Walter Sickert was "Jack the Ripper" responsible for the notorious "Whitechapel Murders" in London. Readers will have to judge the credibility of this theory.

Recent Artists and Writers

Many artists and writers still live and work in the Black-Down Hills. Some galleries are open to visitors. Devon Artist Network & Somerset Art Works organise regular "Open Studio" events & exhibitions, often in the Autumn. The artists include Peter Barrett, noted for his paintings and illustrations of wild life. Writers have included the creator of Blakes Seven and Faith Addis writer of the TV series Down to Earth. Like Blackmore, writers often base their characters on real people and places. Some are only too recognizable.

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Hemyock Castle, Hemyock, CULLOMPTON, Devon, EX15 3RJ, UK.
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