A surprise birthday gift
The China Tower was built in 1839 by Lady Louisa Rolle for John, Lord Rolle, a charming surprise birthday gift from a young wife to her much older husband.
Lord and Lady Rolle were passionate gardeners and together they created fine botanical gardens and a famous arboretum at Bicton. The Rolles were an ancient Devon family who amassed vast acreages in the county through marriage and purchase. Their main seats were at here at Bicton, and at Stevenstone, where we have another Landmark, The Library. Lord John Rolle inherited his wealth from the eccentric Denys Rolle of Stevenstone, who established plantations in the Bahamas worked by enslaved Africans. The Rolles were an ancient Devon family who had amassed vast acreages in the county through marriage and purchase. From the mid-eighteenth century, their wealth was further augmented by profits from enslaved labour on extensive estates in Great Exuma and then by the compensation paid out by the government after the Emancipation Act of 1838. When the Rolle workers were freed, Lord John Rolle allowed them to take over his lands on Great Exuma, and these are held inalienably by their descendants to this day.