In 1911, Misses May Crooke and Mabel Carlyon took on the lease of Stowford Lodge and the five acre gardens for a period of six years, at an annual rent of £123 12s 0d. May Crooke then set up the Devonshire School of Gardening, the only such establishment in the South West.
May and Mabel had trained, and then became instructors, under the guidance of the Warwickshire Agricultural Scheme which was started by the Countess of Warwick in 1898. She was better known as one of the mistresses of Edward VII!
In May 1912, Miss Crooke was awarded an honorary Diploma in Horticulture by the Women’s Agriculture International Union.