William Francis Cowper-Temple acquired the Cliff from Gerald Agnew in 1877 and in its place he built The Babbacombe Cilff. The house was designed by John Ruskin and decorated mainly by Burne-Jones and William Morris. In 1880 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Mount Temple.
Previously, following the death of his first wife, he had married Georgina daughter Admiral John Delap Tollemanche in 1848. The Cowper-Temple’s main home was at Broadlands in Hampshire whilst the Babbacombe Cliff was viewed as holiday retreat, until, following the death of her husband in 1894, Georgina, Baroness Mount-Temple moved permanently to Babbacombe.
Whilst living there she was well known as a local philanthropist whose social gatherings and entertaining were second to none. Her guests included William Wilberforce and Oscar Wilde who worked on ‘A Woman of No Importance’ during his stay. ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ was being performed at The Royal Theatre in Abbey Road, Torquay and he was able to attend and see the reaction from the audience personally.
Baroness Mount-Temple was very involved in the preservation of wildlife and the bronze statue near the Cliff Railway shows her with a bird on her wrist and usually flowers in her hand. It is said to be a good likeness of her. Georgina Mount-Temple died on the 17th of October 1901.
Babbacombe Cliff was sold and from 1928 to1998 it was known as Babbacombe Cliff Hotel and Babbacombe Court Hotel, the business floundered more than once becoming very run down until the building was converted into apartments.
Babbacombe Cliff has now regained some of its former glory.