This film is part of Free

Hexworthy and the House built in a Day

Jolly Lane Cottage on Dartmoor is the only example of a house built in a day

News 1969 6 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for South West Film and Television Archive


TV reporter Clive Gunnell recounts the story of Jolly Lane Cott, a stone cottage by the hamlet of Huccaby on the West Dart River in Dartmoor National Park. In 1835 a farm labourer and ostler named Thomas Satterley marries a servant girl, Sarah (Sally) in secret. According to the unwritten laws of the moor, if a house could be built in one day then the builder of such a house could remain thereby obtaining grazing rights to the open land on the moor and the means of earning a living.

The house still stands and Sally lives there until her death in 1901. The Duchy of Cornwall charged nominal rent but the couple were freed from a life of servitude. Hidden in the dip, Tom and his friends would have started building at sun up laying the foundations and constructing the four walls, thatching the roof and making sure a steady stream of smoke was coming from the chimney by sundown. A landlord perhaps absent at a fair, was unable to challenge their right to stay in the cottage they had built. Jolly Lane Cott at Hexworthy is a well known Dartmoor story. The story is fictionalised by Vian Smith in his book Genesis Down (1962).