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HER Number:MDV114799
Name:The Duchy Hotel, Princetown


Originally built in the early 19th century to house military officers, the building fell into disrepair when hostilities with the French and Americans ceased. In the 1850s it was renovated as a hotel and gained a good reputation; the Prince Consort reputedly stayed here in 1852, while the Prince and Princess of Wales visited in 1909, the year before the Prince was crowned George V. Another famous visiter was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who may have writted part of the Hound of the Baskervilles here. Modernised in the 20th century, it was leased to the Home Office from the 1940s-1990 and was used as a prison officers mess. Taken over in 1991 and refurbished by the National Park Authority in partnership with the Duchy of Cornwall, it was converted into a visitor centre and remains a key building within the settlement.


Grid Reference:SX 590 734
Map Sheet:SX57SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishDartmoor Forest
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishLYDFORD

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses: none recorded

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • OFFICERS QUARTERS (XIX - 1809 AD to 1810 AD (Between))
  • HOTEL (XIX to World War II - 1850 AD to 1940 AD (Between))
  • OFFICERS MESS (World War II to XX - 1940 AD to 1990 AD (Between))
  • INFORMATION CENTRE (XX - 1991 AD to 1993 AD (Between))

Full description

Devon County Council, 1838-1848, Tithe Mosaic, approximately 1838-1848 (Cartographic). SDV349431.

The building is depicted on the Tithe Map. Shown with projecting wings at both north-west and south-east ends, creating an 'H' shape.

Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

'Duchy Hotel' is depicted on the later 19th century historic map and there have been alterations to the building which were associated with its conversion to a hotel in the 1850s.

Barber, C., 1995, Princetown of Yesteryear Part I, 16-19 (Monograph). SDV359850.

Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is said to have stayed here when it was the Duchy Hotel. The driver of his horse and coach was named Baskerville, a name later used in one of his most famous works. It is widely believed that he may have written part of the novel here.
There used to be an old toll gate standing outside the hotel until about 1854. This was Barrack Gate and was one of two at either end of the road that ran from Rundlestone to this point. The gate served as a boundary mark to show the jurisdiction of the prison. Part of it was taken to Brimpts, near Dartmeet, where it was used as an entrance gate.
The Prince and Princess of Wales visited the hotel in 1909; the following year the Prince became George V ruling until his death in 1936.
Includes a number of historic images of the building.

Barber, C., 1995, Princetown of Yesteryear Part II, 4-5 (Monograph). SDV359851.

Images of the Duchy Hotel, including one from the time the building served as the Prison Officers Mess.

Joy, R., 2002, Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History Volume 2 The Convict Prison 1850-Present Day At Her Majesty's Pleasure, 148 (Monograph). SDV359843.

The Duchy Hotel was built from 1806-09 as the army officers' mess. All other ranks were housed in barracks numbered 1-11 in the barrack compound on Barrack Road, opposite the church. After the closure of the war prisons in 1816, the hotel became derelict but was renovated and opened as a hotel until 1940 when it was used as prison officers' mess. Single officers were allocated a room in the Duchy Hotel as they were not permitted an offical quarter. After the conversion of the governor's house into the new prison officers' mess the Duchy Hotel was redundant. The lease was relinquished to the Duchy of Cornwall in 1990 and the building converted into a visitor centre.

Dartmoor National Park Authority, 2011, Princetown Conservation Area Character Appraisal, 21, figure 19 (Report - Assessment). SDV359514.

Duchy Hotel
One of the early 19th century buildings of the original village being built to serve officers stationed in Princetown to guard prisoners of war. Modernised in 1908 to mark the visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales on 10 June 1909.

Dartmoor National Park Authority, 2015, Dartmoor National Park Authority, Accessed 2016 (Website). SDV358499.

The Old Duchy Hotel (Now the National Park Visitor Centre, Princetown) - A potted history.
The original building was constructed between 1809 and 1810. It was built to serve as quarters for the officers who were stationed here to guard the prisoners of war at the nearby prison and command the associated military barracks which were opened in 1809. The prison was designed by Daniel Asher Alexander and it is likely that he also designed the Duchy Hotel.
The fortunes of the Duchy Hotel appear to mirror the general fortunes of the settlement. In the years surrounding the opening of the prison (1809) the settlement was a busy centre, however, within a few years (1815) hostilities with the French and Americans had ceased, the prisoners of war were released and the prison and barracks were left empty; the small settlement fell into decline.
In 1850 Perry's Directory records the building as being empty. It was in a sad state of decay when Mr James Julian Rowe took it over at about this time, however it soon gained the reputation as 'the foremost hostelry on Dartmoor'; and the Prince Consort reputedly stayed here in 1852.
The reason for this change in fortunes and also the royal visit was the reopening of Dartmoor Prison on 2 November 1850, this time as a convict prison.
An early photograph shows the building as rather plainer in design than the present structure. It was built of granite from the prison quarry and had exposed rubblestone walls, with a simple Doric portico in the centre of the front façade which faced on to the turnpike road. The building would have been heated by large open fireplaces fuelled by locally dug peat.
In 1908 the hotel was modernised; it was re-fronted and a large decorated room was added at the rear. This refurbishment was the work of a Plymouth architect, F A Wiblin. Perhaps the reason for it was advanced knowledge of another royal visit, that of the Prince and Princess of Wales on 10 June 1909. Photographs recording this event depict the newly renovated building splendidly bedecked with flowers, palms and hanging baskets.
Many features of the 1908 interior remain; the decorative detail matches the style of the busy baroque dressing added during the contemporary re-fronting of the building, giving the whole a distinctive period flavour. Some of the most notable period features include the entrance hall with its mosaic floor with inscription 'Welcome the Coming – Speed and Parting Guest', the main staircase and the handsome newel posts; the door and door cases with etched glass panels; the plaster ceiling and little bandstand within the coffee room.
Slightly later, in 1914, the Hotel was altered again. An extension was added to the right (north) of the main building; the architects of this addition were the firm of Richardson and Gill, Sir Albert Richardson RIBA. Richardson's extension is in the quieter early 19th century style and reuses the stone pillars from the original front entrance. In 1928 the ground floor rooms were converted to a dining room.
In 1941 and for the following 50 years the building was leased by the Home Office and used as a Prison Officers mess, providing accommodation and a place to eat for prison officers without married quarters. The National Park Authority in partnership with the Duchy of Cornwall took on the responsibility for the complete refurbishment of the building in 1991. The Centre opened to the public on 7 April 1993 and this was followed by the official opening by HRH the Prince of Wales on 9 June 1993. In those days it was known as the High Moorland Visitor Centre. A programme of refurbishment has begun and a change of name to National Park Visitor Centre will see this wonderful old building continue to play an important role in the centre of the moor for many years to come.

Ordnance Survey, 2016, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV359352.

The modern map shows the building as the Tourist Information Centre.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV349431Cartographic: Devon County Council. 1838-1848. Tithe Mosaic, approximately 1838-1848. Digitised Tithe Map. Digital.
SDV358499Website: Dartmoor National Park Authority. 2015. Dartmoor National Park Authority. http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/. Website. Accessed 2016.
SDV359352Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2016. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #74128 ]
SDV359514Report - Assessment: Dartmoor National Park Authority. 2011. Princetown Conservation Area Character Appraisal. Dartmoor National Park Authority Report. Digital. 21, figure 19.
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. 148.
SDV359850Monograph: Barber, C.. 1995. Princetown of Yesteryear Part I. Princetown of Yesteryear Part I. Paperback Volume. 16-19.
SDV359851Monograph: Barber, C.. 1995. Princetown of Yesteryear Part II. Princetown of Yesteryear Part II. Paperback Volume. 4-5.

Associated Monuments

MDV117224Related to: Former Post Office, Princetown (Building)
MDV99699Related to: Jubilee lamp standard, Princetown (Monument)
MDV6300Related to: Stone cross on Ter Hill (Monument)
MDV114806Related to: The former Railway Inn, Princetown (Building)
MDV15373Related to: The Plume of Feathers, Princetown (Building)
MDV114802Related to: The Post Office, Princetown (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Nov 7 2016 10:27AM