Bird-lover’s paradise where rare breed was discovered is up for sale for £1m

A birdwatcher’s dream, this house is where the rare cirl bunting was discovered.

By Chloe Shakesby   |   Property writer   |
Wednesday 22nd June 2022 11:43 am
@chloeshakesby
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Knowle House exterior
The eight-bedroom home once belonged to naturalist George Montagu. (Savills Exeter )

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This 17th century home for sale used to belong to one of England’s most prominent naturalists - who discovered several species and had half a dozen named after him.

Knowle House, near Kingsbridge town centre, is a Grade II* listed home that was built in the 1600s, making it one of the first hundred houses to be built in the town.

The home, which is on the market for £1.25m, once belonged to naturalist George Montagu, who moved there in 1798 to write his Ornithological Dictionary, which is still used by bird spotters today.

Knowle House exterior front
The small plaque proclaiming that George Montagu once lived here is visible on the front of the property. (Savills Exeter )

While writing the book at Knowle House, in 1800 Montagu discovered the first known cirl bunting in the UK - the bird which is now the mascot of nearby Stokeinteignhead.

cirl bunting
The cirl bunting was discovered in 1800 and in the UK is now only found in parts of Devon. (Paco Gomez - Escribano soteño-Macho on Flickr. )

Montagu was also the naturalist behind the discovery that a certain kind of harrier bird was breeding in the UK, leading to the breed being named ‘Montagu’s harrier’.

As well as birds, Montagu was known for discovering new species of sealife, with some also being named after him - Montagu’s blenny, Montagu’s snapper, Montagu’s ray, Montagu’s sucker and Montagu’s sea snail.

knowle house hall
The grand entrance to the property features high ceilings and a sweeping staircase. (Savills Exeter )

While carrying out repairs to the house in 1815, Montagu stepped on a nail, and due to poor healthcare in the era, died of tetanus.

The house itself was first listed in 1949, and is older than the town hall - but has now been restored and refurbished to modern standards while retaining its historic charm.

With high ceilings and sash windows, the house is spread across three floors, with two entrances.

There are eight bedrooms and two reception rooms, as well as a boot room, a utility room, a study, and a cloakroom.

The kitchen/dining room boasts a walk-in pantry and a feature fireplace, and leads to a conservatory with access to the terrace and garden.

knowle house conservatory
The conservatory is perfect for avid birdwatchers. (Savills Exeter )

The house is being marketed by Savills Exeter and is listed at a price of £1.25m.

Amy Hart of Savills Exeter said: “To find a house of this stature in the middle of the town is nothing short of finding the jewel in the crown.”

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