A snippet of Great British history...

Orestone Manor Hotel was the former home of the acclaimed narrative painter, John Callcott Horsley, best known as the designer of the first Christmas card. In 1857, at Orestone Lodge, he painted a portrait of his famous brother-in-law, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.

Brunel first came to Torquay during his time as chief engineer of the Great Western Railway. He then decided to bring his wife here for a holiday and before long, they were planning to make it their permanent home. He lived for a while at Watcombe Villa, and then moved to Portland Villa—later called the Maidencombe House Hotel which has since been demolished.

John Horsley will be remembered chiefly for his family ties with the Brunels. From midsummer 1857 until midsummer 1858, Orestone Lodge (Manor) would have been the setting for many family gatherings, candlelit dinners, music in the parlour, children's games and perhaps croquet on the lawn and long, long discussions about a future that, for Brunel, was to be cut so tragically short.

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