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HER Number:MDV104798
Name:Grosvenor House, Princetown


Grosvenor House was built 1806-9 as part of the barrack complex of Dartmoor Prison for troops and turnkeys. It was converted into flats for families of warders in convict times and is one of the few remaining early 19th century buildings on the site.


Grid Reference:SX 587 738
Map Sheet:SX57SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishDartmoor Forest
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishLYDFORD

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX57SE219
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 1447701

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • BARRACKS (Built, XIX - 1806 AD (Between) to 1809 AD (Between))
  • FLATS (XIX to Late 20th Century - 1837 AD (Between) to 2000 AD (Between))

Full description

Ordnance Survey, 1904 - 1906, Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map (Cartographic). SDV325644.

Row of four houses marked on the west side of the Barracks.

Joy, R., 2002, Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History Volume 2 The Convict Prison 1850-Present Day At Her Majesty's Pleasure, 147, 161 photograph (Monograph). SDV359843.

Grosvenor House was built from 1806-09 as No. 10 barracks for troops and turnkeys. In convict time it was converted into four flats for families of warders which was still the case in 2000. It had a water-closet block at the rear which was demolished when internal water-closets were fitted.

Humphreys, C., 2013, Grosvenor House, Barrack Road, Princetown, Dartmoor: WSI (Report - Assessment). SDV364057.

Laing-Trengove, D. + Wapshott, E., 2013, Grosvenor House, Princetown, Devon. Results of Historic Building Recording & Archaeological Monitoring & Recording (Report - Survey). SDV352031.

Grosvenor House was built 1806-9 as part of the barrack complex of Dartmoor Prison. The barracks comprised a series of buildings located within a polygonal enclosure most of which together with the enclosing wall were demolished during the course of the 20th century. Grosvenor House is now one of the few remaining early 19th century structures on site. It comprises a three storey building, including a basement under a slate roof with six windows on each floor at the front and four internal chimney stacks.
The basement is primarily constructed of granite and is contemporary with the upper sections of the building. It has a central axial corridor with rooms to the east and west and is lit by large windows on the east side and small openings on the west. Some of the rooms also have exterior access doors. Some 19th century doors and window openings survive. Four main phases were identified. The basement may have originally functioned as service rooms, possibly servant's quarters and/or kitchens. Four of the rooms had large open fireplaces, now blocked and also connecting doorways set to the west side of the chimney stacks. These doorways were also subsequently blocked and used as cupboards. Other alterations include the insertion of additional brick and concrete block internal walls and the lining of the exterior walls in concrete. The basement was last used as offices until the discovery of asbestos some 10-15 years ago.
The monitoring work focused on the clearance of two rooms on the western side of the building (8a and b). These rooms appeared to have had raised floors suggesting that they formed part of the floor above rather than being true basement rooms. They were probably infilled when the modern stair turrets were constructed in the mid 20th century. A historic floor surface was also recorded on the eastern side of the basement (9) during the development works.

Ordnance Survey, 2013, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV350786.

Historic England, 2021-2022, NRHE to HER website, Accessed 04/10/2021 (Website). SDV364039.

Grosvenor House. The prison complex at Princetown was initially constructed between 1806 and 1809 to designs by the London architect Daniel Asher Alexander in order to accommodate prisoners captured in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and subsequently in The War of 1812 with the United States of America. The full capacity of the two existing military prisons in England and the unsatisfactory presence of large numbers of prisoners in hulks moored in proximity to the arsenals at Plymouth, led the Transport Board of the Admiralty to seek new sites for a prison in the vicinity. The result was the construction at Princetown of the five radial blocks, with associated accommodation, set within the encircling wall still evident today, though much altered. The benefits of the radial plan and enclosure meant large numbers of prisoners (up to 5000 initially but rising to 10,000 after the outbreak of the War of 1812) could be contained with the minimum of supervision. The garrison was accommodated in a separate in a separate enclosure a little distance to the south east of the main complex and it is to this complex that Grosvenor House belongs.
As the numbers of prisoners within the complex increased, existing buildings within the prison were converted to accommodate more troops and further buildings added for the same purpose. The barrack compound has received less academic study than the main complex itself, though early drawings give an indication of its layout. These engravings and ink drawings depict a roughly octagonal compound with a range of buildings set around the inside of the perimeter wall and within the enclosure. With the end of the Napoleonic and American Wars in 1815 the prison was closed in 1816, though not before the massacre of 67 American sailors at the hands of the garrison in 1815, who were later themselves interred on the site.
With the increasing resistance of the colonies to convict transportation and a pressing desire to address the accommodation of convicts in prison hulks, the British Government looked again at utilising Dartmoor as a civilian prison. The Prison complex and garrison underwent a substantial degree of alteration. By the time of the 2nd edition Ordinance Survey map in 1905 the garrison barrack compound had lost its enclosing wall, though a good part of the blocks remain. In 2006, however, Grosvenor House (formally barrack block No.10), the former 'reading room' (a structure marking the north eastern most extent of the compound) and a gate pier to the south east of the complex are all that remain of the former barrack compound. Grosvenor House itself is now divided into flats.
Grosvenor House is a substantial rectangular building of two storeys with basement and attic, beneath a pitched slate roof. Orientated on a south east to north west axis, the principal walls are constructed of dressed rubble stolen and granite, as are the chimney stacks. The main elevations are rendered. The principal east elevation comprises six bays, defined by plain window openings accommodating modern aluminium frames. Some of the interior arrangement of walls have been altered, and a few fireplaces remain. The roof structure is intact, comprising common rafters on massive purlins in turn supported by large diagonally set braces , themselves counter braced with a horizontal strap. The purlins incorporate some interesting technical features. The lengths of timber are joined by scarf joints, locked with a central `chock¿ and strapped with two iron 'roves' or washers. It has been suggested that the joints and roving are carpentry techniques closely associated with warship construction in the later 18th and early 19th century and may point to a strong naval association.
An unusual survival of the former garrison complex. However, it is in architecturally an exceptionally plain style, with the addition of full height stair blocks and ground floor porches in the mid 19th century, and other alterations in the 20th century have changed the character of the building (citing Advisor's Report by David Morgan, 24/07/2006).

Sources / Further Reading

SDV325644Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1904 - 1906. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV350786Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2013. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #64265 ]
SDV352031Report - Survey: Laing-Trengove, D. + Wapshott, E.. 2013. Grosvenor House, Princetown, Devon. Results of Historic Building Recording & Archaeological Monitoring & Recording. Southwest Archaeology Report. 130816. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV359843Monograph: Joy, R.. 2002. Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History Volume 2 The Convict Prison 1850-Present Day At Her Majesty's Pleasure. Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History. 2. Hardback Volume. 147, 161 photograph.
SDV364039Website: Historic England. 2021-2022. NRHE to HER website. https://nrhe-to-her.esdm.co.uk/NRHE. Website. Accessed 04/10/2021.

Associated Monuments

MDV42840Part of: Barrack Complex, Dartmoor Prison, Princetown (Monument)
MDV15309Part of: Dartmoor Prison, Princetown (Building)
MDV117270Related to: Dart Cottage, Princetown (Building)
MDV117269Related to: The former ladies' club, Princetown (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV6223 - Historic Building Assessment and Archaeological Monitoring at Grosvenor House, Princetown (Ref: 130816)
  • EDV8409 - Dartmoor Royal Forest Project

Date Last Edited:Oct 4 2021 4:02PM