Heathcliff House Discover Torquay in Devon
Heathcliff House Discover Torquay in Devon

May Update

I’ve always found history interesting, at school I imagined meeting Florence Nightingale in a ward smelling of carbolic soap or being in an audience of Elizabethans watching a Shakespeare production at the Globe Theatre.  Up until now I’ve only lived in modern houses, the house I was born in was bought by my parents in the early 60s and then I lived in houses built in the 70s, 80s and 90s.  Coming to live at Heathcliff House, or St Bernard as it was originally called when it was built in the early 1860s, has been a revelation.   David Olusoga, presenter and writer of BBC’s A House Through Time, said "When we live in a house we are just passing through, people have occupied it before us and others will take our place when we leave ...” and this set me thinking about who had lived in our home before us.


St Bernard doesn’t appear on the 1861 Ordnance Survey Map but it is built by 1863, we’ve requested to see our deeds so that we can confirm the date of construction, and the Ordnance Survey Map for 1900 shows the first extension.  I searched the 1861 Census but St Bernard and our neighbours Sunnybank and Eccleston don’t appear so I decided to start at the 1871 Census to discover who lived here.


The first residents were Captain Cornelius Thomas Augustus Noddall, retired Royal Navy Captain aged 58, his wife, Sarah Mary Noddall aged 44 and their two daughters.  Frances Mary aged 12 and Kate Harvey aged 9, both girls were born and baptised in Gosport, Hampshire and were attending school in 1871.  At this time the family had two servants, both described as domestic servants, Mary A Gaillie from Jersey in the Channel Islands aged 31, and Elizabeth Mogridy from Tiverton in Devon aged 22.  Immediately, I could picture our home being used by the Victorian Noddall Family.


I did a bit more research.  Cornelius’s parents were Thomas Augustus Noddall and Rebecca Wavel Moulter and they married in Alverstoke, Hampshire on 14th September 1809.  To date I haven’t found a birth or baptism for Cornelius which is surprising as Noddall is an unusual name!  It is likely that Elizabeth Bennett Gabriel was his sister.  Thomas must have died as Rebecca marries again in December 1815.  Cornelius joins the Navy and is appointed Captain on 8th November 1836 at the tender age of 23.  During his Royal Naval service he visited the Cape and Coast of Africa, North America, West Indies, and Ireland.  He marries Sarah Mary in 1851 at Stoke Damerel which was part of Devonport and in 1852 they had a daughter Elizabeth Gabriel in Plymouth but sadly she dies at Alverstoke, Hampshire in 1864.

During the Crimean War (1853-1856), Cornelius saw active service as Master Commander on HMS London in the Black Sea and was involved in the attack on Sebastopol.  It is noted that on 15th October 1854 “an act of distinguished daring was performed in the course of the night preceding the action.  Masters William Thomas Mainprise (HMS Britannia), Cornelius Thomas Augustus Noddall (HMS London), and Charles Forbes (HMS Samson), in boats with muffled oars, eluded the Russian guard-boats, some of which hailed them, and took soundings close under the forts.  They returned safely with very useful information”.  For his part in the Crimean War, Cornelius, along with 746 other members of the British Armed Forces was awarded the Legion d’Honneur.


In July 1857, Cornelius was Master Commanding HMS Agamemnon and was involved in the selection for the best point for laying the first transatlantic cable, there is an exchange of letters detailing the advantages and disadvantages of beginning from Ireland.  The Agamemnon started the process but stopped just a few weeks into the laying as the cable broke.  I wonder if Cornelius is in this picture of the men coiling the cable into the hold?

Further research found a report in “The Gazette” where the Admiralty recorded that on 14th October, 1867, Staff Captain Cornelius Thomas Augustus Noddall had "been promoted to the rank of Retired Captain in Her Majesty's Fleet, under Order of the Council of 26th June, 1867.

Captain Cornelius Thomas Augustus Noddall was awarded the Companion of the Order of the Bath in Queen Victoria’s 1873 Birthday Honours List and sadly died aged just 61 years at St Bernard on 22nd June 1874.

If you’d like to know more about the people who have lived at Heathcliff House subscribe to our newsletter by emailing us at info@heathcliffhouse.co.uk 

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