Saturday, 10 March 2012


When, in 1794,William George Maton travelled along the West bank of the Estuary he was accompanied by two friends. They were a remarkable trio although probably they did not seem so. They were all men of genius who would die to be written up in the Dictionary of National Biography. Thomas Rackett, the oldest of them, he was in his fortieth year, was a clergyman distinguished as an antiquary, a naturalist and a geologist. There is the famous painting by Romney of him as a boy in a red coat represented above and now in the Dorset County Museum. Charles Hatchett, ten years younger, was the English chemist who discovered the element niobium and William Maton, all of twenty years old, was to become the Royal Family's favourite medical man.

William wrote his 'Observations' but it was Mr Rackett who was "occupied in representing the more striking beauties of the scenery by a series of masterly sketches." He particularly liked to sketch castles but he made no sketch of Powderham, at least there is not one in the book. William wrote:

"We were led to expect a noble situation for the Castle, but how great was our disappointment to find it almost in a flat, very much exposed on the side towards the Channel and with a broad marsh in front. It faces the river, but little pains have been taken to open the view to it with advantage, or to heighten the effect of those materials which nature has furnished."

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