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HER Number:MDV10156
Name:Poltimore House


Tudor house of 16th century with many later additions and alterations; the addition of a new south front in the early 18th century reorientating the house to face south instead of north. It was owned by the Bampfylde family until the 1920s. Since then it has had several uses including a school, a hospital and a nursing home. It was partially destroyed by a fire in 1987 and became increasingly derelict until acquired by the Poltimore House Trust in 2000.


Grid Reference:SX 967 963
Map Sheet:SX99NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishPoltimore
DistrictEast Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishPOLTIMORE

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX99NE 12
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX99NE/9
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II*): 88466
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX99NE 12

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • COUNTRY HOUSE (Built, XVI to Late 20th Century - 1501 AD to 2000 AD) + Sci.Date

Full description

Unknown, Untitled Source (Photograph). SDV129125.

Black and white photographic views of the house in 1827 and 1971 and of interior in 1950's. Page of photographs from un-named magazine in parish file.

Unknown, 1921, Illustrated Particulars, Plan and Conditions of Sale of The Poltimore Park Estate, 6-11 (Pamphlet). SDV129124.

Detailed description of rooms in house.

Collins & Collins, 1921, Illustrated Particulars, Plan and Conditions of Sale. The Poltimore Park Estate (Un-published). SDV358787.

Various, 1936, Poltimore College Near Exeter, Annual Record 1936 (Pamphlet). SDV345340.

Following the death of the third Baron Poltimore in 1918 the house was surplus to the family's needs, and it was puit up for auction, Failing to sell, it was taken over by a girls' school in 1921 and was renamed Poltimore College. The college closed in 1939.
The annual record for 1936 gives an insight into social activities that took place at the school and includes extracts from letters, short stories, and a record of the girls that attended.

Department of Environment, 1952, St Thomas RD, 96 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV129122.

Mainly late 16th, late 17th and 19th century, with a west range of 1908. Originated as L-shaped Tudor house. Two storey with 11-bay front and two axial stacks. Internal Tudor work removed except for one stone arch. Seventeenth century staircase. Seventeenth century roof to south range. Eighteenth century salon possibly on site of Tudor hall.

Pevsner, N., 1952, The Buildings of England: South Devon, 247-8 (Monograph). SDV336217.

Poltimore House. Large plain Late Georgian mansion screening the remains of a Tudor house whose gables appear at the back. Inside, two Tudor ceilings, late 17th century staircase, salon with Early Georgian plasterwork, drawing room with ceiling in Adam style, hall and library added early 19th century.

Fortescue-Foulkes, J., 1971, Untitled Source (Monograph). SDV129142.

Trease, G. E., 1971 - 1973, The Story of Poltimore House., 159 (Article in Serial). SDV129121.

Review of book by R. F. Foulkes given.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1980, SX99NE12 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV129140.

Poltimore House, now Poltimore Hospital, 18th century, remains of Tudor House.

Department of Environment, 1985, Poltimore, 73-4 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV129235.

Mansion of the Bampfylde family (after 1831, Lords Poltimore). Mainly late 16th, late 17th, 19th century and a western range of 1908, with internal decorative schemes. Stuccoed, the whole building including moulded stonework painted white, with slate hipped roofs. An L-shaped Tudor house now forms the rear and east ranges of a large mansion that has undergone considerable expansion, enclosing and ultimately almost completely filling an internal courtyard. The front block was built by Sir Coplestone Bampfylde (died 1691; built possibly in 1681, the date inscribed on a gatepier to the estate). In the mid 18th century the salon was redecorated; other principal rooms were refurbished in the later 18th century, and the hall in the early 19th century. Also in 1908, a new range was attached to the left-hand side of the building. Two storeys throughout with the exception of a service wing.
Exterior. Front. The original 11-bay front remains much as it appears in Edmund Prixeaux drawing of 1735. Central 3 bays project slightly. All corners with rusticated quoins; pilasters mark each bay; plat band, moulded cornice and parapet. Nine dormer windows just visible above parapet which have since lost their gables. Two axial stacks. All stacks are now rendered and capped. Original entrance arrangement has lost its architrave and is obscured by porch of 1831 with 2 Doric columns in antis. This porch has had a circa1970 glazed screen inserted. Extending to the left of this range is the 2-bay addition of 1980, set back slightly, its parapet marginally higher, also treated with rusticated quoins. All windows with with timber hornless sashes, 9-panes above 9 panes to each window above, the lower window sashes with 2 panes and margin panes, the glazing scheme of 1831, (4 panes and margin panes with horns to 19th century extension). Right-hand range: 7 bays, treated as front; and of the same date, and marking the Tudor work. Two panes to each sash, plus margin panes to ground-floor windows; 3 panes to upper and 6 to lower sashes of first floor windows. Sixth and seventh bays occupied by a 19th century singled storeyed extension, rusticated quoins, with a sash window to either end, 2 blocked windows to the side. Rear range: 3 separately gabled Tudor bays which form a 7 window range, sash windows inserted, sashes hornless, 2 with 12 panes to each sash; 2 with 12 above, 8 below; 4 with 6 per sash; but retaining original 3-light 4-centred headed windows in gables, jambs and mullions, stone, with cavetto mouldings, some lights retaining leaded panes, 28 to each light in the left-hand gable, 8 to the others, all with cames. To the right of the Tudor range the elevation is taken up with 2 wings, one of 2 storeys and another of one. Left-hand elevation: 19th century, 7 bays; sash windows, 2 panes per sash to first floor.4 panes above and 2 below to ground floor. A single-storeyed rear extension treated with rusticated pilaster buttresses. Nineteenth century outbuildings all with wavy bargeboarding. Late 17th or 18th century rainwater heads to main range. Internal courtyard, elevation of Tudor range; one 3-light window (as to rear elevation) in a gable wall with mullions and transoms; angle stair-turret, late 17the century, polygonal, with two 3-light windows to basement, 1 to ground floor, 2 to first floor and 3 to attic; 10 leaded panes per light with cames.
Interior: (described in chronological order). Internal Tudor work has been removed except for one internal stone 4-pointed arch chamfered with pedestal stops. Sir Coplestone Bampfylde's great rear open-well staircase runs through 3 floors from basement to attic: square-profile newels with moulded caps surmounted by balls, and pendants, with turned balusters. The northeast 19th century vestibule contains what is supposed to be a copy of a 17th century plaster ceiling in the adjoining room, but possibly surviving under present false ceiling. Original 17th century roof to south range survives (Mercer). Roccoco salon, perhaps of the 1740s, occupies 4th part of right-hand side, possibly occupying the site of the Tudor hall, is an interior of high quality : ceiling with central sunburst (containing female face), with foliage surround with swirls and herons; oval wall mirrors between windows with foliage and heads; end panelled doors with moulded architrave, egg and dart motifs and modillions to cornice, with broken pediment; side door similarly treated but with no pediement; 2 large mirrors to inner walls with festoons and cherubs' heads; white marble chimney piece with wooden surround on scrolled brackets with centrally placed ram's head. Dining room and Red Lounge: (flanking entrance hall), the former with Adam decorative style plaster and woodwork detailing and ceiling with roundels and corner panels containing classical scenes. Two fluted columns and moulded cornice. Lounge rather less elaborate, with 2 composite columns, and marble fire surround. Early 19th century hall still entered through 18th century door with fanlight; 2 rows of Ionic columns cross hall at foot of imperial stairs with metal openwork balusters. Corinthian columns and pilasters to landing. 1908 banqueting hall and other principal rooms with neo-classical detailing, the banqueting hall quite elaborate in its detailing, with rich plaster cornice and marble fire surround. The whole of the parapet has been covered in bitumen as has the slating over the 16th century work. The front roof may have been raised and the side roof is covered in various rooflights and solar panels. Historical note: the
treaty for the surrender of Exeter (April 1646) was negotiated at Poltimore House. References: the best account is by Eric Mercer (RCHM),
1978. A full history is J Fortescue-Foulkes, Story of Poltimore House. Other details: LBS 88466.

National Monuments Record, 1985, SX99NE12 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV129131.

Cherry, B., 1988, The Devon Country House in the Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries, 101-2 (Article in Serial). SDV129144.

This large house with a courtyard plan still has a north range of the 16th or early 17th century, an east range with the medieval hall disguised as a mid 18th century saloon, and a long 11 bay south-facing entrance range, now stuccoed , extended and much altered inside, but recognisable on an early 18th century Prideaux drawing. The new main entrance range provided an alternative to access through the traditional great hall. Other details: Plate 9.

Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N., 1989, The Buildings of England: Devon, 688-90 (Monograph). SDV325629.

The former seat of the Bampfyldes, converted in the 20th century to a hospital, then to an old people's home, and at the time of writing in need of a sympathetic new use. The substantial mansion stands in a spacious parkland setting. The plain white stuccoed south front conceals a characteristically Devonian peicemeal development of considerable complexity, quadrangular in plan with the courtyard filled in at a later stage. Other details: Plan.

Sainsbury, I. S., 1990, Poltimore House (Personal Comment). SDV129132.

Poltimore House is no longer a hospital as depicted on the Ordnance Survey 1:2500 dated 1969. The south-west wing of the building is being renovated because it was gutted by a recent fire.

Stoyle, M. J., 1990, The Civil War Defences of Exeter and the Great Parliamentary Siege of 1645-46, 17 (Report - non-specific). SDV129126.

The mansion house of Mr Bampfield at Poltimore was fortified and garrisoned by parliamentary troops in 1645.

Pugsley, S, 1994, Devon Gardens, 6-92,94,125-9 (Monograph). SDV672.

Griffith, F. M., 1995, DAP/YY, 5-6 (Aerial Photograph). SDV129153.

Gray, T., 1995, The Garden History of Devon: An Illustrated Guide to Sources, 179-80 (Monograph). SDV671.

Other details: Plate 46.

Horner, W., 1995, The RAF/ROC HQ at Poltimore Park (Un-published). SDV354443.

During World War II Poltimore House served as a convalescent home for injured Royal Air Force pilots. It also housed the emergency operations room for the Royal Air Force sector. There are also references to 200 Womens' Auxilliary Air Force personnel being based here.

Clark, J. + Richardson, D., 1999, Poltimore House (Un-published). SDV357690.

Poltimore House was an early seat of the Bampfylde family, but later converted to a hospital then an old people's home. Recent history and neglect of Politmore resulted in acquisition by East Devon District Council, who passed it to the Buildings at Risk Trust. It is now likely that the future of the house and its landscape features will be secured for an appropriate alternative use.

Land Use Consultants + Lambert, D., 2001, Poltimore House, Devon: Historic Landscape Survey (Report - Assessment). SDV342703.

The oldest part of the present house, the north-west and north-east facing gabled fronts, certainly date from the second half of the 16th century.The surviving gardens and park are both in a very run down state and a larger part of the park has been returned to arable land, having lost virtually all its parkland trees. Other details: Maps and illustrations.

Arnold, A. J. + Howard, R. E. + Litton, C. D., 2005, Tree ring analysis of timbers from Poltimore House, Poltimore (Report - Scientific). SDV321940.

Analysis of 55 timbers taken from Poltimore House in 2005 resulted in the identification of two construction sequences. Roof timbers and two stud posts from the east wing and the eastern part of the north wing were dated to the mid 16th century. Timbers from the south front were dated to 1725, and one timber from the east range suggested work was being undertaken in 18th century. Timbers from the ground and first floor frames were dated to the mid 16th century and late 17th/early 18th century. The earlier timbers from the south range represented the secondary use of these timbers. Other details: Includes plans and photos.

English Heritage, 2006, Buildings at Risk: The Register 2006, 69 (Report - non-specific). SDV336311.

Poltimore House was in immediate risk of furrther rapid deterioration or loss of fabric in 2006 but no solution had been agreed.

2006, Tree ring date lists 2006 (Article in Serial). SDV361590.

Reference to tree-ring analysis of timbers from Poltimore House, Poltimore, (citing A. J. Arnold, R. E. Howard, and C. D. Litton, Council for Archaeology Report 37/2005. 45pp).

English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West, 95 (Report - non-specific). SDV342694.

Sixteenth century country house with later additions. Acquired by a trust with funding from English Heritage and the Local Planning Authority in 1997. Urgent works carried out in 1998 to make the building wind/weather-tight. Emergency roof cover erected 2006. Feasibility study undertaken, and discussions about future of house ongoing. Other details: Photograph.

National Monuments Record, 2009, Pastscape (Website). SDV342699.

Poltimore House was built in the late 16th century as the seat of the Bampfylde family. An L-shaped Tudor house now forms the rear and east ranges of a large mansion that has undergone considerable expansion, enclosing and ultimately almost completely filling an internal courtyard. The front block was built by Sir Coplestone Bampfylde in the late 17th century. Successive generations altered and extended the house, most notably in the early 18th century, by the addition of two wings. Around this time the interiors of the early house were refined, culminating in the flamboyant rococo finishes of the famed Saloon. In 1831, another major building campaign was initiated to mark the elevation of the Bampfylde family to the Peerage. A west wing, now gutted by fire, was added in 1908. The Bampfyldes ended their occupancy of the house in 1921 when it was put up for sale. It became a boarding school for 18 years from 1921 to 1939 and was the temporary home for Dover College during World War Two. In 1945 the house became a private nursing home before being taken over by the National Health Service in 1963 to become a maternity hospital. It remained in use as a hospital until 1975. During this time many damaging alterations were carried out including the removal of the Jacobean ornamental plaster ceiling in the parlour. Between 1976 and 1996 the house suffered from neglect, arson, theft and vandalism. Thieves have stolen many fireplaces and even the entire iron balustrade from the grand imperial staircase. In 1997 the house was acquired by the Poltimore House Trust who intend to convert it into the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World, a project which will explore new understandings of our changing relationship to nature through the arts. The house played a key role during the Civil War as, in the great hall, the Treaty of Exeter was negotiated and signed in 1646, thereby ending civil strife in Devon and Cornwall. Other details: Monument Number 448100.

Cunningham, P., 2010, Buttons, Bullets and Berry Head (Article in Serial). SDV360824.

Poltimore House is a grand country residence and the centrepiece of one of the country's great estates. It is a Grade II* listed building of Tudor Origin that has great architectural importance and was occupied by the Bampfylde family until 1921.
Poltimore House also went through three phases of public use as a girl's school, wartime refuge for Devon College and as a hospital. It was also the centrepiece of a "polite landscape", a grand country residence embedded within parklands and gardens that were intended for pleasure and visual impact.

English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West, 85 (Report - non-specific). SDV344777.

No change, still in very bad condition.

English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011: South West, 87 (Report - non-specific). SDV355280.

Very bad condition. Priority A. The first phase of repairs to the roof will commence in 2011.

Singleton, J., 2012, Poltimore Park, Poltimore House, Exeter, Devon: Results from a Fieldwalking Survey (Report - Survey). SDV361005.

The Poltimore estate was owned by the Bampfylde family from the 14th century until the 20th century. The house originated in the Tudor period and during the English Civil War of the 1640s was used as a garrison point. The Bampfyldes left Poltimore in 1921 and the house became a school and then a hospital. It was sold by the NHS in 1975 and its grounds reduced to just 13 acres. It then became a nursing home until 1987 when it was partially destroyed in a fire. The house subsequently became increasingly derelict until its acquisition by the Poltimore House Trust in 2000.

Creighton, O. + Cunningham, P. + French, H., 2013, Peopling Polite Landscapes. Community and Heritage at Poltimore, Devon (Article in Serial). SDV361004.

The Bampfylde family are first recorded as the owners of Poltimore in a deed of 1298 and continued to hold the estate until the early 20th century. The present house, which dates to the mid 16th century has a complex history. The earliest identifiable phase of the buildings is the Tudor period; dendrochronological dating of roof timbers in the north and east ranges produced felling dates of 1559 and 1544-69 respectively. Thereafter if underwent signficant structural changes in the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, including the addition of an 11 bay south range in 1726-8 which turned the house to face southwards onto parkland, a central staircase and rear kitchen ranges in the 1830s and the east ballroom in 1908. The Bampfylde family left the house and sold the estate in 1921. It was subsequently used as a girl's school until 1940, a wartime evacuation home from 1940 until 1945 for a boy's college, a hospital until 1975 and then a nursing home until 1987 when the ballroom wing was destroyed by fire. It was acquired by the Poltimore House Trust in 2000.

Poltimore House Trust, Undated, Poltimore House (Un-published). SDV346938.

Reproduction of an 1827 watercolour of the south front.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV129121Article in Serial: Trease, G. E.. 1971 - 1973. The Story of Poltimore House.. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 32. Unknown. 159.
SDV129122List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1952. St Thomas RD. Historic Houses Register. Unknown. 96.
SDV129124Pamphlet: Unknown. 1921. Illustrated Particulars, Plan and Conditions of Sale of The Poltimore Park Estate. Sale Particulars. Photocopy. 6-11.
SDV129125Photograph: Unknown. A4 Single Sheet.
SDV129126Report - non-specific: Stoyle, M. J.. 1990. The Civil War Defences of Exeter and the Great Parliamentary Siege of 1645-46. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. 90.26. A4 Stapled + Digital. 17.
SDV129131National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 1985. SX99NE12. National Monuments Record Index. Unknown.
SDV129132Personal Comment: Sainsbury, I. S.. 1990. Poltimore House. Website.
SDV129140Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1980. SX99NE12. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV129142Monograph: Fortescue-Foulkes, J.. 1971. From Celtic Settlement To 20th Century Hospital. The Story of Poltimore House. Photocopy + Digital.
SDV129144Article in Serial: Cherry, B.. 1988. The Devon Country House in the Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 46. A5 Paperback. 101-2.
SDV129153Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1995. DAP/YY. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 5-6.
SDV129235List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1985. Poltimore. Historic Houses Register. A4 Comb Bound. 73-4.
SDV321940Report - Scientific: Arnold, A. J. + Howard, R. E. + Litton, C. D.. 2005. Tree ring analysis of timbers from Poltimore House, Poltimore. English Heritage Centre for Archaeology Report. 37/2005. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV325629Monograph: Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N.. 1989. The Buildings of England: Devon. The Buildings of England: Devon. Hardback Volume. 688-90.
SDV336217Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1952. The Buildings of England: South Devon. The Buildings of England: South Devon. Paperback Volume. 247-8.
SDV336311Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2006. Buildings at Risk: The Register 2006. English Heritage Report. A4 Bound. 69.
SDV342694Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2009. Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West. English Heritage Report. A4 Bound +Digital. 95.
SDV342699Website: National Monuments Record. 2009. Pastscape. www.pastscape.org.uk. Printout.
SDV342703Report - Assessment: Land Use Consultants + Lambert, D.. 2001. Poltimore House, Devon: Historic Landscape Survey. Land Use Consultants Report. A4 Grip Bound.
SDV344777Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2010. Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West. English Heritage Report. Digital. 85.
SDV345340Pamphlet: Various. 1936. Poltimore College Near Exeter, Annual Record 1936. Poltimore College Near Exeter, Annual Record. A5 Stapled + Digital.
SDV346938Un-published: Poltimore House Trust. Undated. Poltimore House. Mixed Archive Material + Digital.
SDV354443Un-published: Horner, W.. 1995. The RAF/ROC HQ at Poltimore Park. Mixed Archive Material + Digital.
SDV355280Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2011. Heritage at Risk Register 2011: South West. english Heritage. Digital. 87.
SDV357690Un-published: Clark, J. + Richardson, D.. 1999. Poltimore House. Devon Register Review. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV358787Un-published: Collins & Collins. 1921. Illustrated Particulars, Plan and Conditions of Sale. The Poltimore Park Estate. Sale Particulars. A3 Unbound + Digital.
SDV360824Article in Serial: Cunningham, P.. 2010. Buttons, Bullets and Berry Head. Devon Archaeological Society Newsletter. 107. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV361004Article in Serial: Creighton, O. + Cunningham, P. + French, H.. 2013. Peopling Polite Landscapes. Community and Heritage at Poltimore, Devon. Landscape History. 33. Digital.
SDV361005Report - Survey: Singleton, J.. 2012. Poltimore Park, Poltimore House, Exeter, Devon: Results from a Fieldwalking Survey. University of Exeter. Digital.
SDV361590Article in Serial: 2006. Tree ring date lists 2006. Vernacular Architecture. 37. Unknown.
SDV671Monograph: Gray, T.. 1995. The Garden History of Devon: An Illustrated Guide to Sources. The Garden History of Devon: An Illustrated Guide to Sources. Paperback Volume. 179-80.
SDV672Monograph: Pugsley, S. 1994. Devon Gardens. Devon Gardens. Unknown. 6-92,94,125-9.

Associated Monuments

MDV10158Parent of: Plasterwork at Poltimore House (Monument)
MDV125145Related to: Carriageway to Poltimore House (Monument)
MDV10157Related to: Dovecote at Poltimore House (Monument)
MDV125144Related to: Lodge at Poltimore Park (Monument)
MDV19787Related to: Poltimore Deer park (Monument)
MDV49340Related to: Poltimore House Gardens (Monument)
MDV49341Related to: Poltimore House, Estate Buildings (Monument)
MDV125166Related to: Rabbit Warren to north of Poltimore Barton (Monument)
MDV125141Related to: Road through Poltimore Park (Monument)
MDV49338Related to: South or New Lodge, Poltimore (Building)
MDV49339Related to: Stables at Poltimore House now Poltimore Gardens (Building)
MDV29721Related to: Threepenny Lodge, Poltimore (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV1671 - Poltimore House: Historic Landscape Survey
  • EDV1673 - Tree Ring Analysis of Timbers from Poltimore House, Poltimore, Devon

Date Last Edited:Feb 4 2022 3:56PM