About Us at Harrabeer House
Why the hare and trees for our logo..?
………..to be revealed further down the page!!
Michael and Amanda
Hello to anyone reading this! We are Michael and Amanda Willats, on-hands owners of the Harrabeer in Yelverton. We are here to ensure you enjoy your visit to us by offering you relaxed, peaceful surroundings, cooking good, honest, locally produced(where possible) food, advice on where to go, what to do so you will have enjoyed your Devon experience so much that it will leave you wanting to come back here for more. This is our home, a little bit of “olde Englande” so please don’t expect “minimal”, “sterile hospitality” or “the norm”. We do perhaps veer towards the “politically incorrect”, without being offensive! Naturally!
We came to Devon from Surrey/Sussex in June 2001 both having done a multitude of different jobs which dove-tailed very well into our new live down in Devon. As with all new businesses, we learnt (literally!) on our feet during the early days and still, after all these years, we meet with new challenges once in a while which we generally conquer. That said, this techie stuff is where we encounter our most frustrating tasks. People are fine – continuous learning about new technology is not and don’t start us on a report for this and report for that – do we really need all this paperwork running a small b and b??!! How about the EU?? No, let’s not!!…on the other hand??!!
The History of The Harrabeer
HARRABEER means “WOOD OF THE HARES” – I told you I would reveal the reason for our new logo! There has been a site here pre Domesday Book which is hardly surprising considering the property’s position – sheltered, half way down a hill with a water meadow at the bottom (that plot now has a house built on it called The Springs!!) surrounded by woods and fields.
We had two sisters who stayed here who have a family document in their possession dated 1503. It was detailing an argument between two brothers concerning the ownership of “the dilapidated Harrabeer” so, in effect; the old part of the building you see today is “new build”.
When we first moved here in 2001 our neighbour, Tracy Dunn, offered to do a historic evaluation on the property. She suspects that The Harrabeer is around 1680’s due to the early roof construction. It is however debatable as to whether it is actually a long house but it certainly has many features of one. The area which is now the bar area would have been where humans lived with a fire place in between and on the other side of that would have been where the animals slept in what is now the kitchen. The barn was detached and built at right angles to the main building and there is a court yard – all a typical design for a long house. The outside spiral staircase leading up to Room 6 would have been added later for more privacy for the Master and Mistress of the house is also a typical addition. Obviously over many years the property has been utilised and changed to suit individuals needs of the time so many original feature have been lost.
Before the railway explosion in 1800’s the property remained much it was when it was re-built after the family dispute in 1503. We know this as, if you visit BUCKLAND ABBEY, you will find a tithe map dated 1784 which shows The Harrabeer – a farm on the Buckland Abbey Estate. In 1850’s the railway came through Yelverton which brought people into the area who wanted larger properties so an construction extension was added to The Harrabeer which, in effect, over doubled its size making it into a very desirable residence.
There is a lot more history, dates and ownership details relating to the building as a farm so do ask to see the Historic Evaluation done by Tracy Dunn when you are here if you are interested.
Our Other Interests
You may notice in our cover photo there is a Black 1952 Citroen Traction Avant. This is Michael’s pride and joy and willing to talk about it with like-minded people giving you a potted history and look around if you ask nicely!! On the subject of cars – you must also visit our downstairs loo where there is a unique collection of photos taken by our good friend, Bob Bowers grand-father in the 1920’s when he started up his industrial photographic company…Now that is another story to tell!
The other notable car in the photo is Amanda’s 1990 blue Mazda – an early example with “pop-up” lights – great for touring around Dartmoor on those lovely sunny days!!! Amazing how much shopping you can fit in the small boot with brute force and determination!!
To us The Harrabeer is a truly wonderful building and was the best move we made coming down here from the SE. The Harrabeer has so much charm and character (“where all is in harmony” – you can ask us about the mediums who have visited if you wish!) We hope that you will come here and enjoy staying and, having read this, now have an appreciation of our journey making The Harrabeer not only in to a business but into our home.
To continue the more recent history: we start in 1975 when the property was purchased by Frank Callicott who turned The Harrabeer into The Harrabeer Country House Hotel. It was fitted with all the up to date avocado, sage, whisper pink and champagne bathroom suites – some of which are still in situ today – they are such good quality – although the avocado corner bath and suite did have to go when we updated the Master Bedroom! Frank’s original idea was to have a golf course attached to the property as the property was purchased with surrounding land. Planning permission was refused so instead, planning permission was granted for the houses to the right of The Harrabeer.
Obviously over the years the remaining land was sold off for individual housing plots. There was even a swimming pool at one time!
We moved here in June 2001 having seen the property in May – we were in and trading within 6 weeks. Amazing how quickly things can be done when you are a cash purchaser! We remember that during those first 3 weeks we were so busy and we wondered if we had really done the right thing – we were so tired some nights that we went to bed with our day clothes on crawling out of bed the next morning! Things settled and by winter we were ready for our first decorating project. This was to get rid of a most horrid 1970’s fireplace in the sitting room. (Pictures available!) Then, once Dartmoor National Parks gave permission, a local builder, Brian Piper, transformed the dilapidated barn in to 2 incredibly thoughtfully restored self-catering suites. A master builder he certainly was! The opening (by Brian) of the suites coincided with our 25th Wedding Anniversary so a big celebration!
Over the following years we decorated the rest of the building getting rid of the mushroom walls, black panelling with burgundy ceiling in the dining room, stripping off the layers of thick white paint on the beautiful slate fire place in the Master bedroom and, another major project, gutting the bar area (including the bar service area which had Frank’s arm hairs trapped under the Formica attached by the Evostick!!) and finding all sorts of fantastic original features such as the inglenook fire place and ceiling beams. This project was carried out by our 2 sons, Oggie and Douglas over Christmas 2008. A huge success and so pleased we allowed the boys to “make an investigatory probe the ceiling” that year!!
All the rooms have now been decorated and even redecorated but work never stops here. Our latest projects have been the installation of 15 windows on the road side and court yard area of the building, the resurfacing of the court yard and the re-roofing of the court yard rooves removing the saturated concrete tiles on the kitchen roof and nail fatigued slates over the other rooves. We have 11 different roof levels…! It was fascinating watching the roofers uncover the roof over the kitchen – there are 3 different roof structures – the early ones with wooden pegging and cobwebs like you have never seen!! All that is left to do now is the kitchen – still holding up with many of the cupboards in the kitchen hand made by Frank in the 1970’s – “bespoke” I believe the term that is used today!