George Templer

Born in 1781 and educated at Westminster, George was 32 when he inherited the Stover Estate, the Haytor Quarries and the Stover Canal in 1813, following the death of his father, James. Well-known for his sincerity and kindness, George was also quite extrovert and enjoyed a lavish life-style, often entertaining celebrities – including the actress Sarah Siddons – at his Stover mansion. He had a mistress, Ann Wreyford, the daughter of farmer Wreyford of Greenhill, Highweek, who bore him six children between 1815 and 1835. George was a good sportsman, indulged in amateur dramatics and was a fair poet, writing mostly about people, wildlife and hunting. Involved with the breeding and training of beagles from the early 1800s, he founded the South Devon Hunt, formed the Teignbridge Cricket Club and in 1820 held the rank of Lt. Colonel in the South Devon Yeomanry. With so many outside interests, it is perhaps not surprising that George left the running of the extensive Stover Estate (bought by his grandfather in 1765) to his lawyer.

In business, 1820 saw George hit upon a creative way to increase profits from his Haytor quarry; constructing an eight and-a-half mile, granite-railed, horse-drawn tramway, linking the stoneworks directly to the Stover Canal basin at Ventiford. Georgian Britain witnessed a boom in the building trade and, as granite is naturally impervious to the industrial grime that was increasingly blackening the fine stonework of our expanding cities, demand for the Dartmoor stone rocketed.
By 1825, the Devon Hay Tor Quarries Company had won contracts to supply cut granite to build London Bridge, followed by stone for parts of the British Museum, the National Gallery and Covent Garden Market,  as well as numerous orders from local towns and cities to supply pavements, kerb stones and setts for road surfaces.  In 1826 George Templer arranged for the construction of a row of cottages to house his quarry workers (The Rock Inn, Haytor, was built at the same time).

Ultimately, however, moving 20,000 tons of granite a year from Haytor to Stover Canal via the granite tramway, then by barge to Teignmouth proved too expensive. In 1826/27 it was reported that The South Devon Hunt did not meet as George had sold his dogs – this was indicative of his financial decline and by 1829 George was forced to sell the Stover Estate, the granite tramway and Stover Canal to the Duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour.

On looking back for the last time from Haldon to Stover George wrote:
"Stover, farewell! Still fancy's hand shall trace thy pleasures past in all their former grace; and I will wear and cherish, though we part, the dear remembrance ever at my heart.
Not as the hare whom hounds and horn pursue, in timid constancy I cling to you; but, like the bolder chase, resolved, I fly. That where I may not live, I will not die."