About Us

Our Strategy


Over 700 years of history Clinton Devon Estates has continually adapted and adjusted in order to remain successful and relevant. This agility is no less relevant in todays’ ever-changing landscape than it was during the Civil War, world wars, industrial revolution or the recent global financial crisis. With so much history it would be easy to look back rather than ahead. The continual evolution of our strategy is critical to keep us focused on the future and to ensure that we meet the wider demands of Society and we are prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Successful strategies do not sit on shelves but are embeded into the language and behaviours of the organisation, and are communicated and discussed constantly both internally and with our wide range of partners and stakeholders.

Our 2021 Strategy was launched in 2011, building on the successes of the previous ten years. The strategy focused on investing for our future. A future for the Estate, the Clinton family, our employees, tenants and customers, as well as the many communities and stakeholders we engage and work with. A future also for our built and natural environment – which is critical if we are to leave a lasting legacy of which we can be proud.

In an ever changing and challenging political and environmental backdrop sometimes it is easy to forget what makes the Estate and our purpose special and perhaps different to many other businesses. Our new 2030 Estate Strategy will build on the 2021 Strategy and focus on Clarity and Purpose. Ensuring that the ambition, enthusiasm and commitment, which has been the core of our approach, continues in a way which is not only right for today, but also tomorrow.

Everyone, in whatever role, has an important part to play in contributing to the delivery of our 2030 Strategy and living its values and ambition.

Our Team


Our award-winning team are responsible for the sustainable management of the Estates in North and East Devon.

  • John Varley OBE TD

    Chief Executive
  • Ben Rudkin

    Chief of Staff
  • David Cobb

    David Cobb

    Finance Director
  • John Wilding

    John Wilding MBE

    Deputy Chief Executive
  • Sam Briant-Evans

    Director of Agriculture
  • Dr Sam Bridgewater

    Director of Environment Strategy and Evidence
  • Will Dale

    Head of Commercial and Energy
  • Clare James

    Clare James

    Head of Residential, Land and Tourism
  • Adam Lovatt

    General Farm Worker
  • Alastair Cobb

    Trainee Management Accountant
  • Amanda Brogan

    Amanda Brogan

    Finance Assistant
  • Amy Hounsell

    Assistant Herdsperson
  • Andy Carpenter

    Andy Carpenter

    Building Supervisor
  • Annabelle Pyne

    Apprentice Livestock Unit Technician
  • Bailey Williams

    General Farm Worker
  • Claire Jones

    Fundraising Manager
  • Charlotte Briant-Evans

    General Farm Worker
  • Charlotte Hodgson

    Archivist
  • Chris Badlam

    Clinton Woodsman
  • Claire Dunn

    Assistant Herdsperson
  • Daisy Theophilus

    Property Administrator
  • Deborah Hill

    Finance Assistant
  • Dominic Dorling

    Clinton Woodsman
  • Ed Lagdon

    EDPH Ranger
  • Elise Prince

    People and Efficiency Administrator
  • Elizabeth Finney

    Finance Manager
  • Gaynor Hayne

    Gaynor Hayne

    Finance Assistant
  • Georgina Armstrong

    Assistant Herdsperson
  • Graham Vanstone

    Graham Vanstone

    Accountant / Insurance Manager
  • Greg Gray

    Arable Foreman
  • Hayley Hunt

    Finance Assistant
  • James Clack

    Estate Surveyor
  • Jayne Savage

    Office Manager
  • Jess Baker

    Estate Surveyor
  • John Herbert

    Heanton Woods Forester
  • Karen Whenman

    Karen Whenman

    Finance Assistant
  • Kat Ponting

    Kate Ponting

    Community Engagement & Countryside Learning
  • Kendal Archer

    Sustainability & Project Management
  • Kevin Bly

    Heanton Gardener
  • Kevin Brosnan

    Head Keeper
  • Kim Strawbridge

    Reserves Manager
  • Kirstie Ellis

    Heaths to Sea Project Manager
  • Lorna Hayes

    Lorna Syrett

    Head of Financial, Governance and Reporting
  • Luke Aris

    ND Operations Manager
  • Max Mitchell

    Trainee Management Accountant
  • Paul Swain

    Operations Manager
  • Phil Pipkin

    Assistant Farm Manager
  • Rick Lockwood

    Otter Estuary Ranger
  • Sarah Lloyd

    Property Manager
  • Sarah Precious

    People & Efficiency Coordinator
  • Savannah Brownlow

    Community Engagement Ranger
  • Toby Theobald

    Trainee Land Agent
  • Tom Garnery

    Tom Garner

    Clinton Estates Wildlife Ranger

Awards & Accolades


We are proud to have received the following recognition for our work and achievements.

2022

Estate archivist Gerald recognised for 33 year service in queen’s new year honours list

Gerald Millington, 93, from Otterton, has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his services to local history in Devon and Hertfordshire following archiving thousands of historic Clinton Devon Estates documents in a career spanning more than thirty years.

2021

Pebblebed heaths becomes a national nature reserve

The East Devon Pebblebed Heaths has received international acclaim after being presented with the much coveted declaration of National Nature Reserve. Joining the UK’s ‘crown jewels of nature conservation.

2021

Bicton Arena Engagement

Bicton Arena saw 1 million live stream views of competitions, gained just under 30,000 social media followers and attracted over 189,000 visits to their website.

2019

Apprenticeship Success

Trainee Land Agent Matthew Thompson has received a much-deserved award in recognition of his efforts during his placement year. The university has awarded Matthew a coveted Aspire Prize which celebrates students who best demonstrate the development of personal skills in a variety of areas during their placement years.

2018

Bicton Arena named Britain’s top show centre

Bicton Arena was named Britain’s top show centre by Horse & Hound magazine. The accolade followed an online poll by Horse & Hound asking their readers to vote for their favourite show centres across the UK.

2018

Helen West becomes advanced level cross-country course designer

Helen West, manager of Bicton Arena in East Devon, became an advanced level cross-country course designer – only the second woman in Britain at the time to achieve this standard.

2017

Client of the Year at the Landscape Institute Awards

Clinton Devon Estates was presented with the prestigious Client of the Year Award at the 2017 Landscape Institute Awards, nominated by LHC Design. The award recognises excellence in working with and respecting landscape architecture in our developments.

2017

British Dressage Venue of The Year 2017

Bicton Arena was awarded British Dressage Venue of The Year 2017, presented at the BD Organisers Convention held at Warwick Racecourse.

2016

John Varley appointed OBE

John Varley, Estates Director, was appointed OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to agriculture, the environment and the rural community.

2015

Third Queen’s Award for Enterprise

This award in the category of Sustainable Development, is Clinton Devon Estates’ third consecutive Queen’s Award. It first received the award in 2005, again in 2010 and now holds the 2015 Queens Award for the next five years.

2015

Investors in People

Each year since 2003, Clinton Devon Estates has been accredited as an Investor in People.

2015

Gold at the national WhatHouse? Awards

“Horizon”, Clinton Devon Estates’ development in Budleigh Salterton, was awarded a Gold at the prestigious WhatHouse? Awards. The joint venture project with Cavanna Homes, and Cornerstone providing the social housing, was named the Best Partnership Scheme in Britain.

2014

2014 Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For

Honoured for the fourth time in the Best 100 Small Companies awards, Clinton Devon Estates.

2012

2012 Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For

Honoured for the third time in the Best 100 Small Companies awards, Clinton Devon Estates also ranked second for its efforts to protect the environment, and 8th for its contribution to society.

2012

Employer of the Year, 2012 Food and Farming Industry Awards, House of Commons

HR Manager Graham Vanstone received the award on behalf of the Estates, who were said to have stood out as a ‘clear winner’.

2011

John Wilding appointed MBE

John Wilding, Head of Forestry and Environment was appointed MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for outstanding services to the environment.

2010

2010 Queens Award for Enterprise in the category for Sustainable Development

For the second time in five years, Clinton Devon Estates has been presented with the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Sustainable Development category.

2010

2010 Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For

Clinton Devon Estates were ranked 11th in the Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For with employees strongly believing the Estate works hard to protect the environment.

2010

Tom Garnery

Tom Garner, Estate Ranger – Best Entrepreneur in the Devon Life Food and Drink Awards

Tom was recognised for his Clinton Venison venture; a range of venison cuts and home-made sausages sold at the local Farmers’ Market.

2008

2008 Town and Country Design Awards, Sustainability

For the Rolle Estate Office. (In association with the Royal Institute of British Architects – RIBA).

2008

2008 BCO Awards, Regional Winner, Defining Excellence in Office Space

The British Council for Offices, in association with the Estates Gazette, named the Rolle Estate Office the South West of England and South Wales regional winner.

2008

Eco Building of the Year – Michelmores and Western Morning News

Rolle Estate Office is named winner of the Eco Building of the Year in the 6th annual awards ceremony.

2008

The International Green Apple Awards 2008 for the Built Environment and Architectural Heritage

Rolle Estate Office receives South West regional gold award for the Built Environment and Architectural Heritage.

2008

Innovative Building Design Award Royal Bath & West Show

The award for the Rolle Estate Office was presented to Estates Director John Varley by HRH The Princess Royal.

2008

The Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For 2008

Clinton Devon Estates is named as one of the best companies to work for in Britain and the very best nationally for its efforts to protect the environment.

2006

Exceptional Commitment to Heritage and Innovation – Coutts 2006 Prize for Family Business

A ‘Special Prize’ was awarded to Clinton Devon Estates in the Southern England and Wales regional final.

2005

Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the category for Sustainable Development

The award is approved by Her Majesty the Queen, on the recommendation of Prime Minister and is the premier national award for business excellence.

2004

MBE for Bungy Williams

On 1 November 2004 Bungy Williams was presented with an MBE for services to the environment.

2002

Top award for South Farm

Presented by Eternit UK, sponsors of the Country Land & Business Association Farm Buildings Award Scheme.

2002

SSSI Awards

Presented by English Nature in recognition of outstanding management of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths – a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

History


The Clinton Barony originated over seven centuries ago, when King Edward I rewarded John de Clinton for his service in the Scottish and French campaigns, notably his leadership of the Royal Army in the defeat of Scottish forces under William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298.

The Clintons have served their country as soldiers, politicians and landowners for generations. A commitment to public duty and service pervades the family history to this day.

The Clinton family has owned and managed land in Devon since 1550. In 1907, with the death of Mark Rolle (who was required to change his surname from Trefusis on inheriting estates from his uncle John, Lord Rolle) much of what had been the Rolle estate was inherited by the 21st Baron Clinton, becoming part of the Clinton Estates.

Today, less than a third of the Rolle estate as it was in the mid-nineteenth century remains in the ownership of Clinton Devon Estates. The main house is now Bicton College, part of Cornwall College; the adjoining park is privately owned by a third party and open to the public (Bicton Gardens). Thousands of acres of what was once Rolle farmland are now owned and managed by local farming families, many of them former tenants.

Mark Rolle (Trefusis) 1835 to 1907
Mark Rolle (Trefusis) 1835 to 1907

The 22nd, 23rd and 24th generations of the Clinton family continue to take an active part in the stewardship of Clinton Devon Estates, with the support of a professional management team and trustees.

For an overview of seven centuries of history in less than three minutes, please view our animation  –

We are working on publishing a more detailed history of Clinton Devon Estates and look forward to developing this page over the coming months.

We recognise the growing public interest in historic links to slavery and overseas plantations. Some of the results of our research, undertaken over the past twenty years, are summarised here for those with an interest in the Rolle family, and in particular Denys Rolle’s and John Rolle’s cotton plantations in Florida and Exuma.

Denys Rolle 1725 to 1797

Denys Rolle (1725–1797)
was an independent Member of Parliament for Barnstaple between 1761 and 1774. He inherited extensive property in Devon and was a generous benefactor to charities and religious societies, a serious student of natural history and science and a keen agriculturalist. The Rev J H B Andrews, vicar of Chittlehampton and historian, wrote that Rolle was “the richest man in Devonshire, and yet nothing pleased him more than to do a labourer’s work. He would set out early in the morning, bag of provisions and spade on his shoulder, dressed like a peasant, and work as hard as any day labourer on his estates.”

Denys Rolle spent much of his life in Florida, attempting to establish an “ideal society” and seeking to ensure that the indigenous people living on the land were treated with respect. His biographer Robert Legg records that “before he went to Florida he set out the principles which he intended should guide his conduct towards the native people. He said that there would necessarily be close contact with the Indian people, and that both natural justice and humanity required that they should be treated as true and original owners of the land. Nevertheless, it was inevitable that disputes and causes of complaint would arise – and therefore necessary that such conflicts of interest should be quickly resolved if greater troubles were not to follow. To this end he proposed that, from the first, any settlement which he made should have some proper judicature established within it. This was not granted, but on the arrival of Mr Lloyd his name was inserted in the Commission of the Peace.”

Denys Rolle brought to the Florida colony a group of 300 homeless and criminal people rescued from the London slums. However, many of them fled seeking an easier life, and were replaced with about 140 slaves. Following the loss of Florida as a British possession in 1783, the community, together with its dismantled houses and livestock, moved to a smaller site on Exuma in the Bahama Islands. The ship on which they sailed was the “Peace and Plenty”, now the name of an Exuma hotel.

Denys Rolle’s son and heirJohn, 1st Baron Rolle (1750–1842)inherited a colony of some 377 slaves on Exuma. By 1822, about fifty of them were over 40, and had most probably been brought to Exuma in 1784. The remainder were under that age and had probably been born there.

John Rolle (1750 to 1842)

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography records that while serving in Parliament John Rolle actively supported William Pitt’s campaign to abolish the slave trade.

No land or other assets in the UK were purchased with money derived from slavery. The Rolle Estate that passed to Mark Trefusis (later Mark Rolle) in 1842 was practically unaltered from the property which Denys Rolle had inherited during the previous century.

The compensation John Rolle received on losing ownership of the Exuma plantation following the abolition of slavery was substantially less than he had spent in sustaining the plantations in Florida and later Exuma. They had generated little, if any, revenue for their owner, and required a substantial subsidy to keep the business afloat and the families housed and fed. Between 1818 and 1828 Rolle spent over £5,000 (the equivalent of roughly half a million pounds today) in supporting the Exuma community.

When the slaves were officially declared free on 1st August 1838, many of them adopted the surname Rolle. They took over the Rolle lands in Exuma and ran them communally, although there was no formal deed of conveyance to them. Today there are still five Lord John Rolle Commonage Estates on Exuma, including the village of Rolle Town. These have been passed down to the descendants of the former slaves and cannot be sold.

Although the name of Rolle died out in England on the death of Lord Rolle in 1842 (revived for a while in the person of his heir Mark Rolle), the surname Rolle is still, in the 21st century, commonly found on Exuma and in the wider Bahamas. For example, the actress Esther Rolle, born in Florida of Bahamian parents; Myron Rolle, the Bahamian National Football league player, member of the Tennessee Titans and Rhodes Scholar; and Magnum Rolle, a professional basketball player born in Freeport in 1986.

‘The Rolle slaves, both male and female, were mainly employed as field or agricultural workers. However, because of the failure of cotton [due to soil exhaustion and the attack of the chenille bug], the plantation system had declined and their labour was less intensive than a comparable sugar plantation in Jamaica.’

‘By 1822 the Rolle slaves lived in families, the predominant household being the nuclear type family. Due to the decline in cotton, the slaves were left more and more to their own devices and seemingly had much freedom and mobility. They developed their own provision grounds, tended their animals, fished and gradually came to spend more time at their own affairs. It appeared from the records that they were strongly attached to their homes and their farmlands. By the 1830s they had probably become self-sufficient in food production.’

‘Between 1818 and 1828 Lord Rolle had spent over £5,000 to support his slaves at Exuma, while his return during those years was about £130 from cotton production.’

John Rolle, whose father Denys is described as a ‘major colonial landowner in Florida’, owes his inclusion to a career in politics:

‘Except on parliamentary reform, he [John Rolle] almost invariably backed Pitt, whose opposition to the slave trade he approved, even though he was heir to his father’s plantation in the Bahamas which was compensation for the loss of his Florida estates in the American War of Independence…At first peeved [in the 1830s] by the effect on his Bahamas plantation of the anti-slavery campaign, he became reconciled to it’.

‘On August 1st, 1838 all of John Rolle’s slaves were officially declared free. The slaves took over the Rolle lands on Exuma, running them communally. There are differing stories on how the slaves came to own the land. Some reports say John Rolle gave it to them while other reports say that Rolle simply abandoned the lands allowing the slaves to claim it. Either way, Rolle is remembered fondly in Exuma to this day. A large portion of his freed slaves took up the last name Rolle. In fact, Rolle is one of the most common last names in Exuma.’

ohn Rolle’s memory lives on in Exuma to this day. It’s estimated that around 60% of local residents have the last name, Rolle. A number of towns were named after him as well such as Rolletown and Rolleville and are still standing today.

There are five Lord John Rolle Commonage Estates on Exuma today. These are protected properties that cannot be sold. These include:

  • Rolle Town
  • Rolleville
  • Steventon
  • Ramsey
  • Mount Thompson

John Rolle might not have been the generous revolutionary history remembers him as, but he still played a vital role in Exuma’s history.

  • A Pioneer in Xanadu (1997) – Robert Legg
  • Bahamian Loyalists and Their Slaves (1983) – Gail Saunders
  • Estate archives
  • Exuma Online website
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • The Story of the Bahamas (1975) – Paul Albury
  • Wikipedia

News


Thanksgiving service held for the late Lord Clinton

Posted on
The life of the late Lord Clinton, one of Devon’s most important landowners, was celebrated at Exeter Cathedral on Monday (July 15 2024) in a moving and uplifting memorial service attended by around 1,000 people.

Success in Level 2 Forest Operative Apprenticeship

Posted on
We are delighted to announce that our Apprentice Woodsman, Chris Badlam, of the Clinton Woods Team, has successfully passed his Level 2 Forest Operation (Establishment and Maintenance) apprenticeship end point assessment. This marks the successful conclusion of his 18-month apprenticeship training. Congratulations Chris! The Level 2 Forest Operative apprenticeship is designed to develop a well-rounded…

£750,000 from DEFRA for Landscape Recovery

Posted on
An ambitious landscape-scale project to improve the environment for wildlife and for people has been launched by Clinton Devon Estates after a successful bid for Government funding. Kirstie Ellis has been appointed as Project Manager for “Heaths to Sea: Landscape recovery of the Lower Otter Valley”. Kirstie will lead the two-year development phase of the…

Careers & Opportunities


PLEASE SEE LINKS BELOW TO THE TENDER BRIEFS FOR THE HEATHS TO SEA PROJECT – LANDSCAPE RECOVERY OF THE LOWER OTTER VALLEY.