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HER Number:MDV1636
Name:Sydenham House, Marystow


Remarkable survival of an ambitious early 17th century building with little visible alteration after about 1700.


Grid Reference:SX 428 838
Map Sheet:SX48SW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishMarystow
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishMARYSTOW

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX48SW/5
  • Old Listed Building Ref (I): 92425
  • Old Registered Parks and Gardens Ref (II): 1694

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • MANSION HOUSE (XVII to XVIII - 1601 AD to 1800 AD) + Sci.Date

Full description

Risdon, T., 1811, Choreographical Description or Survey of the County of Devon, 219 (Monograph). SDV20653.

House situated by the riverside. 'Beautified with buildings of such height' by Sir Thomas Wise at the time of the coronation of James I, that 'the very foundtion is ready to reel under the burden'.

Radford, G. H., 1895, Sydenham, 360-361 (Article in Serial). SDV344190.

Reichel, O. J., 1896, The Domesday Hundreds: Listone, 468 (Article in Serial). SDV2119.

The Domesday manor of Sidreham, alias Siderham Maury. Held by William Judhel of Totnes. Held by Bristric in the time of King Edward.

Radford, G. H., 1901, Edmund and Richard Tremayne, 322-331 (Article in Serial). SDV344193.

The Tremayne family moved here from Collacombe, Lamerton.

Radford, G. H., 1909, The Wyses and Tremaynes of Sydenham, 131 (Article in Serial). SDV344191.

Reichel, O. J., 1914, The Hundred of Lifton in the Time of Testa de Nevil, AD 1243, 205 (Article in Serial). SDV336448.

Tenancies given at the time of Testa de Nevil, 1243.

French, K. + French, C., 1957, Devonshire Plasterwork, 133 (Article in Serial). SDV4676.

Copeland, G. W., 1966, Proceedings at the 104th Annual Meeting, 34 (Article in Serial). SDV266064.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1977, SX48SW1 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV344189.

An early seventeenth century house of rubble and ashlar with a slate roof, which retains much evidence of earlier work. The best preserved Elizabethan house in Devon. DOE (HHR) Tavistock Feb 1960. TDA 27 330.
A large Elizabethan mansion built by Sir Thomas Wise who was knighted at the coronation of James I. Directory of Devonshire 1890, 591.
The best preserved Elizabethan mansion in that part of Devon. The property of the Wyse family since the time of Henry IV, the house has been rebuilt early in the seventeenth century. Report of the Devonshire Association, Vol 27, 330.
Sydenham manor was held by the Tremeyn family in the time of Henry III. Sydenham House is an interesting old Tudor mansion. During the Civil War the house was garrisoned for the King, but was taken by Col Holbourne in January 1645. Kelly's Directory 1920, 409.
The mansion is now a private boarding school.
Combe Sydenham in the parish of Stogumber was the house taken by Holbourne during the Civil War, not Sydenham House. Sydenham House was an Elizabethan mansion belonging to the Wyse family, rebuilt in the early 17th century. It was a new building, not merely a reconstruction of the existing mansion as cellars and foundations had to be dug. The square block at the back is Edward Wyse's addition of 1654, as the windows here are wooden sashed ones, all the rest having stone mullions. He also made some alterations to the interior of the house, the fireplace in the great hall bearing the date 1656, with his and his wife's arms. Sydenham is a large house with boldly projecting lateral wings to its E-shaped fron and additional short wings projecting from the larger ones towards the centre. The main staircase an enriched newel posts and intricately carved and pierced balusters. Above is a moulded plaster ceiling of circa mid 17th century date. The hall has a fine fireplace with an overmantel dated 1656. Elizabethan panelling the in the drawing room and a fireplace with richly carved wooden overmantel and marquetry inlays to the panels of the frieze. A 17th century house.

Department of Environment, 1985, Marystow, 105-107 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV339868.

English Heritage, 1987, Sydenham House (Register of Parks and Gardens in England). SDV338277.

Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N., 1989, The Buildings of England: Devon, 774-776 (Monograph). SDV325629.

Child, P., 2002, Countryside Stewardship. Farm Buildings at Sydenham House, West Devon (Correspondence). SDV344228.

The house is described as a 'spectacular' building.

English Heritage, 2010, Historic Houses Register (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV154869.

Sydenham House. Manor house. Circa 1600-1612 built for Sir Thomas Wise incorporating parts of an earlier house. Alterations of 1656 for Edward Wise, some refurbishing of 1698-1709 for the Tremayne family, late 20th century repairs and renovations, some in 1937 by Philip Tilden. Stone rubble with scantle slate roof hipped at south end and gabled elsewhere with sprocketted eaves. 5 stone stacks; 2 lateral at the rear (west) side. 1 to the kitchen at the north, 2 to the front projecting wings. Granite dressings. Symmetrical east-facing E-plan with separately roofed additional blocks on the north side. The east front has a 2-storey and attic porch and front projecting north and south wings each having subordinate wings projecting into the front courtyard. The west side of the main range has a second 2-storey and attic porch opposed to that on the east front, and a wing gabled to the west, which is divided between to main stair and closets leading off the main hall and long gallery, the division marked by an external buttress. The 2 additional blocks on the north of the E-plan consist of kitchen wing gabled to the north, and a parlour wing gabled to the north and further gabled to the west in a 3-tier bay. The parlour wing has a projecting stair turret on the north side. The irregular fenestration of the south side of the south wing suggests that this may have been the core of the pre 17th century house, although Pevsner suggested that the west (garden) front showed evidence of pre-Reformation masonry. Presumably the basic E-plan and columnar granite mullioned windows date from the 1600-1612 build which Risdon commented on as being so high that the 'very foundation is ready to reel under the burden'. The mid 17th century alterations by Edward Wise were substantial - papers dated 1654 include estimates for 'ye building of my house at Sydenham' and refer to cellars, foundations and timber windows. It has been suggested that Edward Wise rebuilt or completed the south end of the main range, but this may have been ruinous in 1831 and the evidence for rebuilding may date as late as the 1930s work by Philip Tilden. Edward Wise altered the fine chimney piece to the hall, made some alterations to the stair hall and may have been responsible for the Ipswich windows in the north and south wings and for some of the internal woodwork. The 1698-1709 work for the Tremayne family appears to be largely internal. In the circa 1840s the 3 bays of the south end of the west front were refenestrated with sash windows. The 1930s work by Philip Tilden appears to have been substantial and involved replacing 1 bay of the sash windows with stone mullioned cross windows and the addition of a first floor oriel window on the south side of the south wing. It would appear that the east wall of the south wing was also rebuilt in the 1930s, and that an early 18th century doorway to the west porch was replaced with a 15th century granite doorway introduced from elsewhere. 2 storeys and attic. Symmetrical E-plan east front with deep north and south front projecting wings with subsidiary opposed wings projecting into the forecourt. 3-bay main range, north and south wings also 3-bay. The 2-storey porch and 4 wings have plastered gables. Ground floor and first floor windows mostly regular 4-light early 17th century granite mullioned windows with high transoms with hoodmoulds and 20th century leaded panes. The first floor windows of the east ends of the north and south wings have striking, 1654 (Oswald) timber windows similar to those at Sparrows House, Ipswich. They are adaptations of a 4-light ovolo-moulded cross window design with a timber semi-circular head in the upper middle 2-lights with spoke-leading in the semi-circle. The gable windows above them are Venetian with a central arched light set in a rectangular architrave flanked by 2 lower lights. 2 storey early 17th century central projecting gabled porch fronted with ashlar masonry with a segmental arched moulded early 17th century doorway with carved spandrels flanked by Roman Doric columns on tall rectangular plinths with a flush triglyph frieze below a projecting moulded cornice. Above the cornice, set in a rectangular recess with a moulded barley sugar architrave is the armorial bearings of the Wise family in plaster with a plaster achievement and sculptural plaster mantling. Some ancient colour survives. Above the recess is a 4-light granite mullioned cross window, gable window is a 2-light timber casement with leaded panes. The north wing has two 2-light mullioned stair windows immediately to the west of the subsidiary wing. Both subsidiary wings have timber rectangular gable windows with a diamond-shaped light and diagonal leaded panes. The (west) garden front is asymmetrical with a central 3-stage gabled porch, slate-hung in the gable. To the left of the porch is a 2-bay gabled wing with sprocketted eaves, also slate-hung in the gable that oversails the bay corners. The 2 southernmost bays of the garden front have 12-pane sashes; all other ground and first floor windows are 1- 2- and 4-light granite mullioned windows throughout, those to the kitchen wing are 6-light cross windows with king mullions. A north entrance leads into a passage between the kitchen and the parlour. A further probably 16th century arched granite doorway leads into the parlour stair turret and is half-blocked by a 20th century chimney. The south side of the south wing has scattered fenestration of 2- and 4-light granite mullioned windows with high transoms, considerable evidence of rebuilding and blocked openings. The 1937 ground floor oriel on the left-hand has a conical slate roof and transomed mullioned lights.
Interior. The opposed east and west entrances lead directly into the south end of the hall, the screen no longer exists. The hall has a lateral fireplace with a chimney piece with Roman Ionic columns and an entablature, this probably dates from the 1600-1612 build and was crowned in 1656 by a dated segmental broken pediment with the arms of Edward Wise and his wife with a crest and elaborate mantling. The figures of Adam and Eve lie on the pediment. The pediment has been repainted in the 20th century. Leading off the hall into half of the wing that also contains the main stair is a small room heated from the main hall stack with a stone fireplace. The room was fitted out with a bedstead in an inventory of 1649 when it was described as the 'Orrell'. The panelled wainscot to the hall is divided by fluted pilasters and has a strapwork frieze above, it may date from the early 17th century work of Sir Thomas Wise, or may have been introduced by Edward Wise. Full-height panelling divided by fluted pilasters and crowned by a cornice broken forward over the pilasters fills the north and south walls of the hall and dates from circa 1700, with contemporary panelled doors. The main stair is early 17th century with 2 dog-leg flights broken by 2 landings. The elaborately carved pierced balusters are angled to the flights and vertical to the landings and repeated on the wall side. A male and female term applied to 2 of the newels may not be original to the stair but are probably contemporary in date. The flat moulded handrail is interrupted by large square section newels crowned by flat-topped volute finials. The stair hall ceiling is divided into 2, the plaster ceiling to the west is Adam style and is said to have replaced a painted ceiling. To the east the decorated plaster ceiling is circa 1660 (Devon Period Three, French) and presumably for Edward Wise with pomegranates enriching a central oval linked to a similar pomegranate border. A plaster wall frieze consists of shields linked by festoons, all in high relief. 3 contemporary doors leading off the upper landing have strapwork panelling and are crowned with pediments. The parlour panelling is particularly fine. Corinthian pilasters divide the wainscot which has a moulded cornice above a frieze of incised arabesques filled with what is probably gesso, picking out the pattern in white. A second frieze below consists of similar patterns framed by round-headed arches. The overmantel is a more elaborate version of this double frieze. The rooms above the parlour and kitchen have circa early 17th century panelling with some fine cockshead hinges to the doors. The heated long gallery above the hall has closets opening off on the west side and a panelled wainscot divided by fluted pilasters. A decorated plaster ceiling was probably once fixed to the 3 chamfered cross beams. In circa 1700 the gallery was partitioned off at the south end forming 2 additional rooms with panelling of circa 1700 which has been stripped of paint. The southernmost room has a contemporary fireplace, the adjoining room preserves its early 17th century fireplace, the original long gallery having been heated at 2 points. The 2 ground floor rooms the south of the hall room have circa 1700 panelling with some adaptations by Philip Tilden in the 1930s. The north and south wings have circa early 17th century dog-leg staircases with turned balusters, some of the first floor rooms to the wings have bolection-moulded panelling, some have early 17th century panelling. The kitchen has a massive stone double fireplace with chamfered segmental arches.
Sir Thomas Wise was created Knight of the Bath at the coronation of James I and sheriff of Devon in 1612. His grandson, Edward Wise came to live at Sydenham in 1654 and in 1694 the estate passed by marriage to the Tremayne family and remained in Tremayne hands until the 1930s. In a letter from Anna Bray to Robert Southey the condition of 'one wing' of the house in 1831 was described as 'in a very ruinous condition'. Photographs of circa 1900 in the possession of the present owner show the screens passage marked by a tripartite colonnade screen of Greek Doric columns, probably contemporary with the 1700 panelling in the hall. The house is a remarkable survival of an ambitious early 17th century building with little visible alteration after about 1700. Date listed: 14th June 1952.

Ordnance Survey, 2010, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV344030.

British Broadcasting Corporation, 2012, Sydenham House Fire Damage (Website). SDV350628.

Roof and much of the first floor destroyed by fire on 14th November 2012.

Arnold, A., Howard, R. + Tyers, C., 2015, Sydenham House, Marystow, Devon: Dendrochronolgy Analysis (Report - Scientific). SDV363422.

Dendrochronological analysis was undertaken on 133 of the 160 samples (or series) obtained from oak structural timbers and wall panelling elements in various areas of Sydenham House, along with the analysis of 26 of the 27 samples derived from recently felled (fallen) or living oak trees on the Sydenham House estate. The dating of 84 of the timbers indicates that the majority of these represent a substantial mid seventeenthcentury programme of works, probably in the mid-AD 1650s. A significantly smaller amount of timber, most of which is associated with the cellars, appears to represent works undertaken in the first decade of the seventeenth century, whilst the small amount of sixteenth-century timber identified is scattered through the house, although the cellars are again represented. Thirty of the wall panelling elements were dated, which, whilst it is possible that some were derived from trees felled in the latter-half of the sixteenth century, it is more probable that the majority were felled in early- and mid-seventeenth
century. The 26 dated ring series from trees identified death dates in the early AD 2000s for a number of those that had been recently felled or had recently fallen, as well as indicating the year of coring for the living trees.
Dendrochronology has successfully provided dating evidence for the documented rebuilding of Sydenham House and the subsequent substantial alterations undertaken for Sir Thomas Wise and subsequently Edward Wise in the early and mid-seventeenth century respectively. The mid seventeenth-century material predominates with respect to the dated structural timbers, perhaps suggesting that this programme of works was more substantial than previously thought, although overall the sampling programme was somewhat more restricted than would normally be implemented if the house had not suffered the devastating fire resulting in the loss of a substantial part of the fabric of the house. The majority of the dated panelling appears most likely to be associated with Sir Thomas Wise, or perhaps his immediate successors Lady Wise and their son Thomas Wise but some dated panelling could be associated with Edward Wise. A small amount of timber pre-dates the documented rebuilding of Sydenham House, which could support the suggestion of an earlier house on the site, although this material is scattered within the house and clearly could potentially represent timbers reused from another building, or buildings, on this site or in the vicinity. None of the analysed timbers proved to be later than the mid-seventeenth century, thus, no dating evidence was obtained for any later minor alterations.
From a purely dendrochronological perspective the analysis has resulted in the production of two substantial historic chronologies, one comprising 84 timbers, being 261-rings long, spanning AD 1394–1654 and thought likely to represent trees derived from relatively local woodlands, potentially part of the estate, and the second comprising 24 panels, being 364-rings long, spanning AD 1266–1629 and thought likely to represent trees derived from a more diverse and distant woodland source. Although the site chronology from recently felled or fallen trees and live trees did not extend far enough back to link up with the historic chronologies, it is again a well-replicated long chronology comprising 26 trees, being 273-rings long, and spanning AD 1741–2013 and, thus, adds to the relatively sparse network of reference data for the last few centuries. This latter chronology has also provided information relating to a level of similarity between ring series and spatial distribution with a source woodland area, and represents this most recent major scheme
of conservation and repair necessitated by the fire.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV154869List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: English Heritage. 2010. Historic Houses Register. Historic Houses Register. Website.
SDV20653Monograph: Risdon, T.. 1811. Choreographical Description or Survey of the County of Devon. Choreographical Description or Survey of the County of Devon. Unknown. 219.
SDV2119Article in Serial: Reichel, O. J.. 1896. The Domesday Hundreds: Listone. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 28. A5 Paperback + Digital. 468.
SDV266064Article in Serial: Copeland, G. W.. 1966. Proceedings at the 104th Annual Meeting. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 98. A5 Paperback. 34.
SDV325629Monograph: Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N.. 1989. The Buildings of England: Devon. The Buildings of England: Devon. Hardback Volume. 774-776.
SDV336448Article in Serial: Reichel, O. J.. 1914. The Hundred of Lifton in the Time of Testa de Nevil, AD 1243. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 46. A5 Paperback. 205.
SDV338277Register of Parks and Gardens in England: English Heritage. 1987. Sydenham House. Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. A4 Unbound.
SDV339868List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1985. Marystow. Historic Houses Register. Website. 105-107.
SDV344030Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2010. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #81784 ]
SDV344189Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1977. SX48SW1. OSAD Card. Card Index + Digital.
SDV344190Article in Serial: Radford, G. H.. 1895. Sydenham. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 27. Unknown. 360-361.
SDV344191Article in Serial: Radford, G. H.. 1909. The Wyses and Tremaynes of Sydenham. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 41. Unknown. 131.
SDV344193Article in Serial: Radford, G. H.. 1901. Edmund and Richard Tremayne. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 33. Unknown. 322-331.
SDV344228Correspondence: Child, P.. 2002. Countryside Stewardship. Farm Buildings at Sydenham House, West Devon. Letter to Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV350628Website: British Broadcasting Corporation. 2012. Sydenham House Fire Damage. www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-20339246. Website.
SDV363422Report - Scientific: Arnold, A., Howard, R. + Tyers, C.. 2015. Sydenham House, Marystow, Devon: Dendrochronolgy Analysis. Historic England. 45-2015. Digital.
SDV4676Article in Serial: French, K. + French, C.. 1957. Devonshire Plasterwork. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 89. A5 Hardback. 133.

Associated Monuments

MDV76299Related to: Animal House at Sydenham, Marystow (Monument)
MDV76298Related to: Animal Shelter at Sydenham, Marystow (Monument)
MDV76295Related to: Barn to North of Sydenham House, Marystow (Monument)
MDV76304Related to: Cart Shed to South of Sydenham House, Marystow (Monument)
MDV76297Related to: Cider Press at Sydenham, Marystow (Monument)
MDV1637Related to: Civil War Weapons from Turtle Grove, Marystow (Find Spot)
MDV76301Related to: Coach and Trap House to South of Sydenham House, Marystow (Monument)
MDV3816Related to: Collacombe Barton, Lamerton. (Building)
MDV32466Related to: Garden at Sydenham House, Marystow (Park/Garden)
MDV32004Related to: Garden Wall and Gate at Sydenham, Marystow (Building)
MDV32005Related to: Garden Walls at Sydenham, Marystow (Building)
MDV76300Related to: Horse Engine House at Sydenham, Marystow (Monument)
MDV76318Related to: Kennels to South of Sydenham House, Marystow (Monument)
MDV76296Related to: Leat at Sydenham, Marystow (Monument)
MDV67674Related to: L-Shaped Farm Building at Sydenham, Marystow (Monument)
MDV76302Related to: Pigsties in Farmyard to South of Sydenham House, Marystow (Monument)
MDV32003Related to: Range of Buildings at Sydenham, Marystow (Building)
MDV76303Related to: Sawpit to South of Sydenham House, Marystow (Monument)
MDV32002Related to: Stables and Coach House at Sydenham House, Marystow (Building)
MDV76294Related to: Stables to North of Sydenham House, Marystow (Building)
MDV67673Related to: Stables to South of Sydenham House, Marystow (Building)
MDV76317Related to: Sundial in Garden at Sydenham, Marystow (Monument)
MDV76306Related to: Sydenham Barton, Marystow (Building)
MDV32001Related to: Threshing Barn at Sydenham, Marystow (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Jan 13 2023 10:32AM