On a couple of previous podcasts, I have talked about Ottery St. Catchpole and the Burrow. I’ve discussed why we identify the town with Ottery St. Mary in Devon, near Exeter. I talked about the relationship between the town and the Burrow, located, according to the books, about a mile outside of the village. I also mentioned that at some point I would talk about the home of one of the other known wizarding families who live in the area.
According to the books, besides the Weasleys, the other families living near Ottery St Catchpole are the Lovegoods, the Diggorys, and the Fawcetts. All of these are mentioned for the first time in Goblet of Fire chapter 6, when Amos Diggory explains why none of the other area families will be taking the Portkey from Stoatshead Hill to the Quidditch World Cup. He says:
“… the Lovegoods have been there for a week already and the Fawcetts couldn’t get tickets.”
We don’t know where in the vicinity of Ottery St Catchpole the Fawcetts or the Diggorys live, but we do visit the Lovegood house in Deathly Hallows and learn that it’s shaped like a rook — the castle piece in chess. Harry, Hermione, and Ron arrive there after seeing the Burrow, then walking the countryside for a few hours.
Now it’s important to note that there is an actual farm located in just the right place near Ottery St Mary called The Burrow Hill Farm. Rowling may well have noted this farm on a map of the area since she attended university nearby in Exeter.
And recently, I discovered that there also actually is a building shaped like a rook near Ottery St Mary. The building is in the parish of Bicton, on the grounds of the manor house there, which is just north of the village of Budleigh Salterton. It’s called the China Tower — three stories tall with crenelated battlements and all. It’s about a five mile walk from the actual Burrow Hill Farm south of Ottery St. Mary. This location and distance makes sense with the amount of time Harry, Ron, and Hermione spent wandering the countryside looking for the Lovegood home.
Would Rowling have known about this building and used it as the model for the Lovegood house? It’s certainly possible — it’s relatively famous in the area. While she was attending the University of Exeter, the China Tower sat derelict and was often visited — and vandalized — by local youths. Whether or not Rowling actually did visit the tower, it’s definitely possible that it was well known by the university students in the area. There is plenty of evidence that Rowling borrowed extensively from her knowledge of south Devon for the books, naming characters and places after real locations.
Nowadays the China Tower been renovated by the Landmark Trust and it’s available for rental. There’s no mention on the Landmark Trust website of there being a snorkack horn on the wall however.
In the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast you’ll hear the voices of our editors sharing some of the many little things which delight us about the Wizarding World. In each podcast, just a couple of minutes in length, we’ll talk about anything from cool trivia and interesting canon passages to the latest Wizarding World news. We hope you’ll join us! And we’d love to hear from you as well. Feel free to use the comment section on the blogpost for each podcast to post your thoughts.
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Music: "Winter Chimes" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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