Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group (SARG) 

Wall Lizard Colonies: Chaplin Estate

Chaplin Estate


Closest Town:

DARTMOUTH (4.3 km)


Introduction date:


Site Name:

Chaplin Estate


Source of introduction:

Probably Italian stock.

Site Access:



Colony Status:


Relative population estimate:



Extirpation date:

circa 1990


In 1954, the third Viscount Anthony Chaplin released several species of animals into his walled garden at Wadstray House (Owned by Lord Chaplin from 1951 until his death in 1981) at Blackawton, near Totnes in Devon.

A number of spp. campestris and some Madeiran wall lizards turned out at this time did not survive. A second attempt with spp. campestris was attempted in 1962 with the release of twelve animals; this attempt also failed.

Much greater success was met with the release of fifteen spp. nigraventris (possibly spp. brueggemanni) at the same location, also in 1954 (Confirmed from an interview with Viscount Chaplin's widow). By the late 1970s this population was reported to number several hundred individuals.

Two egg carrying [Midwife toad] males from the London Zoological Gardens were released at Black Oughton [Blackawton is the location of Wadstray Ho.], Totnes, in South Devon by Viscount Chaplin in the mid 1950's. This colony existed until the early 1970's but has not been heard of since. ( P Nicholson, Teignbridge District Council, 1985)

Lord Chaplin died in the early 80's; subsequently, his widow was unable to maintain the walled garden due to inaccesibility and so it was largely abandoned. The result was the collection of animals and an array of exotic plants were left to their own devices. His widow sold the house to the current owners in 1992.

The current owners described the walled garden as being full to top with brambles and nettles when they redicovered it, to the extent that they couldnt open the door. The only plants that remained in there (aside from the brambles) were a couple of honeysuckle.

The restored garden was surveyed in May 2007, and although both Slow worms and Common lizards were observed, no Wall lizards were evident, despite ideal conditions. It is assumed that the original colony became 'shaded out', and dispersed to less optimum habitat in order to find basking opportunities. It is assumed that the colony became extint around 1990.

Ecological impact:

Not assessed


Walled garden in the grounds of a country estate.

Habitat at Chaplin Estate
Habitat at Chaplin Estate
Habitat at Chaplin Estate
Habitat at Chaplin Estate

From the sub species recorded in literature, the animals were most likely of the green-backed form, possibly with striking black markings.