This film is part of Free

Jolly Lane Cott

The house that Thomas built in a day

News 1980 3 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for South West Film and Television Archive


Architect David Young visits the village of Hexworthy on Dartmoor to look at Jolly Lane Cott, the only known example of a cottage built in one day. Custom says in the unwritten law of the moor that a house built in a day can be claimed by the people that build it, if four walls, a roof, a marked out boundary and smoke billowing from the chimney by sundown are achieved. The cot or cott indicates a small cottage and is in the hamlet of Huccaby, a cluster of houses.

Sally (Sarah) Satterley lived in the house until her death in 1901. On midsummer’s day in 1835 with her husband Thomas a local ostler employed looking after the horses at the Saracen’s Head (now the Two Bridges Hotel) Jolly Lane Cott was built. The event has given rise to many romanticised versions of the story. They would have been challenged by local landowners and farmers and probably paid some rent to the Duchy who own half of the moor but their lives would have improved. They freed themselves from a life of servitude and were granted automatic grazing rights and a means of earning a living. A Saracen in heraldry means a (returnee) crusader and perhaps inspired Thomas to take on such a momentous task.