Old Court Hotel

Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim

Elizabeth spent her early years with her grandmother Jemima Spinckes at Aldwinkle. However, Elizabeth was frequently at Whitchurch visiting her other grandparents and her aunts who lived there till 1800. After the death of Jemima, she went to live with her aunt Margaret and Admiral Graves at Hembury, near Honiton, Devon. Admiral Graves was the godfather of John Graves Simcoe.

It was to his godfather’s home that John Graves returned in 1781 to convalesce, after his distinguished career during the American War of Independence and thus to meet the young Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was slight of build at only 5 feet tall but was vivacious and sociable. An able rider, she enjoyed travel, the outdoors and developed a love of nature which inspired her as an artist. She was an able student, fond of the gaiety and dancing, which was part of estate life. Simcoe thus got to know the young Elizabeth well. They were married at Buckerell Church in December 7782 when she was 20 and he was 30.

They purchased an adjacent estate and built Wolford Lodge as their home. Life at Wolford was well ordered and, from the earliest, a centre of Devon life. They started their large family of eleven children, dominated by girls, with the birth of Eliza in 1784. The daily regime of early rising, horse riding and prayer illustrated her self-discipline and commitment to the Church. Most of all, it bore witness to her energy, which she applied to the rearing of her children and to the support of John Graves.

She was often in the company of her lifelong friend, of Mary Anne Burges, who came to live near Wolford and was the only person who was allowed to draw Elizabeth’s likeness.At this time, among her many works, Elizabeth commissioned a genealogy of the Gwillims and Simcoes. The Gwillim `Pedigree’ was 18 feet long, 4 feet wide and made from the finest materials. It is, together with the heraldic drawings on which it was based, in the possession of Elizabeth’s descendants to this day.

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