HeritageGateway - Home
Site Map
Text size: A A A
You are here: Home > > > > Devon & Dartmoor HER Result
Devon & Dartmoor HERPrintable version | About Devon & Dartmoor HER | Visit Devon & Dartmoor HER online...

See important guidance on the use of this record.

If you have any comments or new information about this record, please email us.

HER Number:MDV34304
Name:Former Exe Vale Hospital


Former Devon County Pauper Lunatic Asylum, later hospital, then converted to residential use in the early 21st century. Built in 1842-45 with several periods of addition throughout the late 19th century, and further 20th century additions.


Grid Reference:SX 938 880
Map Sheet:SX98NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishExminster
Ecclesiastical ParishEXMINSTER

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX98NW/115
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II*): 85462

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL (Built, XIX - 1842 AD to 1845 AD (Between))
  • HOSPITAL (XX - 1901 AD to 2000 AD (Between))

Full description

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

'County Lunatic Asylum' shown.

Ordnance Survey, 1930 - 1939, Fourth Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map (Cartographic). SDV336668.

'County Mental Hospital' shown.

Ordnance Survey, 1953 - 1969, Ordnance Survey Six Inch Map (Cartographic). SDV340358.

'Exminster Hospital' shown.

Brooks, C. + Cox, J., 1986, Charles Fowler and the Devon County Asylum, Exminster, 11-14 (Article in Serial). SDV351714.

Griffith, F. M., 1986, DAP/FV, 1-6 (Aerial Photograph). SDV351713.

Department of Environment, 1987, Exminster, 35-36 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV301731.

Brooks, C., 1987, Secretary's Report, 1 (Article in Serial). SDV23996.

Feasibility study submitted by the Devon Buildings Group to English Heritage 1987.

Griffith, F. M., 1988, Devon's Past. An Aerial View, 115 (Monograph). SDV64198.

In this hospital Charles Fowler applied the same functional approach as he had to other public buildings, resulting in an exceptionally enlightened and radical design, which provided airy wards for the patients, a farm where they grew their own food, and a layout of wards radiating from a central service block which permitted the efficient use of staff and avoided the need to deliver meals from the kitchen by horse and cart, as was the case in some establishments of the time. The future of the Exe Vale hospital is in some doubt since it is about to become surplus to NHS requirements (Griffith citing Brooks and Cox).

Tompsett, R., 1995, Bedlam Revisited (Article in Serial). SDV347102.

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

English Heritage, 2013, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV350785.

Former Devon County Pauper Lunatic Asylum, later hospital (converted to residential use in the early C21). 1842-45 by Charles Fowler with several periods of addition throughout the late C19 including substantial work in 1893 by E.H. Harbottle and C20 additions, including work by Mr. Percy Morris in the 1930s. Gas, heating and ventilation systems of the original design supervised by the engineer to the Hanwell Asylum. Flemish bond red brick with some local red brecchia, slate roofs, some granite dressings. Fowler's original building was a redefinition of the radiating plan adopted at the Bodmin asylum. To the rear of a grand central administrative block, "Centre House", a 3-storey semi-circular range containing day rooms gave access to 6 2- and 3-storey 18-bay radial wings to accommodate "the separate classes of inmates" (Fowler). Each of the wings was completed by a 3-bay crosswing and perimeter walls linking the crosswings provided enclosed gardens and exercise areas. Centre House was linked to the semi-circular range by single-storey corridors. A hexagonal kitchen in the semi-circular courtyard behind Centre House could be supervised from the administrative block while allowing food to be distributed "with the utmost promptitude and facility" (Fowler). Single-storey radial wings projecting from the ends of the semi-circular range provided additional services. The principles governing the plan were order, discipline and the comfort and convenience of the patients and staff. The original plan is largely intact although somewhat obscured by accretions and additions to the radial wings. The tall chimney of the kitchen block has been demolished, the single-storey radial service wings have been given additional storeys, there have been staircase additions to the radial wings, which have been extended. Later additions are in red brick with slate roofs. Centre House 3 storeys and half-basement. Hipped roof surmounted by tall clock tower installed by Ross of Exeter, 1854. Brick stacks at ends. Symmetrical 5-bay front with chamfered rusticated granite quoins, stone bracketted eaves cornice and granite string courses, platband above basement. Steps up to central entrance with round-headed granite doorway with granite pilasters. Panelled 2-leaf front door with deep semi-circular fanlight with margin glazing. Railings to basement. Ground floor windows 6 over 9 pane sashes with granite architraves; first floor windows 12-pane sashes with granite architraves and floating cornices; second floor windows 3 over 6 pane sashes with granite architraves; 3 attic dormers. Doric peristyle at the rear has been partly filled in. The arcaded corridors to left and right of Centre House have been given additional storeys in part. Interior very complete including fireplaces, plaster cornices, ceiling roses and cantilevered staircases with iron balusters. Kitchen Range Hexagonal block extended westwards. Semi-Circular Range 3 storeys. First and second floor small-pane round-headed windows in recesses, brick eaves cornice. Radial Wings 3 storeys (original design mostly 2 storeys), 18-bays in length with short 3-bay crosswings with pedimented gables at the ends. Some round-headed small pane windows with ingenious ventilation devices, other windows segmental-headed sashes.Considerable later infill and extension in former exercise yards and to ends of wings. Small single-storey buildings originally abutted the perimeter walls between the crosswings, one of these survives in an altered form.Interior some survival of the original arrangement of axial corridors/exercise areas with small rooms leading off.By 1845 the total expenditure on the hospital and extras amounted to o55,000. The first Medical Superintendant, Dr. Bucknill, was noted for his liberal views on the treatment of patients. Fowler's account of the hospital, quoted in the Builder, indicates his intention to correct the problems of asylum planning experienced at Hanwell and Bodmin. Centre House is particularly handsome. The Exe Vale Hospital is a relatively complete example of an asylum built under Act of Parliament on the most advanced principles of the design of secure buildings at the time.Charles Fowler, born in Devon, is best known for his market designs including Covent Garden Market. Sir John Summerson says "His original sense of structure places him alongside engineers like Rennie and Telford" (quoted by Taylor). The Exminster asylum was planned to be fireproof with a system of cast iron beams with layers of tiles over (Taylor).Documentation relating to the hospital has recently been deposited at the Devon Record office. A drawing by Fowler of the building and a series of Annual Reports of the Committee of Visitors are kept at the hospital.Taylor, J. "Charles Fowler: Master of Markets", Architectural Review, May 1964, pp.174-182. The Builder, IV (1846), pp. 349, 350, 354, 355. Allan, S.M., Devon Mental Hospital, 1845-1945.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV23996Article in Serial: Brooks, C.. 1987. Secretary's Report. Devon Buildings Group Newsletter. 3. 1.
SDV301731List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1987. Exminster. Historic Houses Register. A4 Comb Bound. 35-36.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336668Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1930 - 1939. Fourth Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Fourth Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV340358Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1953 - 1969. Ordnance Survey Six Inch Map. National Grid A edition imperial. Map (Digital).
SDV347102Article in Serial: Tompsett, R.. 1995. Bedlam Revisited. Planning Week. A4 Single Sheet + Digital.
SDV350785National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2013. National Heritage List for England. Historic Houses Register. Digital.
SDV350786Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2013. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #88279 ]
SDV351713Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1986. DAP/FV. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 1-6.
SDV351714Article in Serial: Brooks, C. + Cox, J.. 1986. Charles Fowler and the Devon County Asylum, Exminster. Devon Buildings Group Newsletter. 1. 11-14.
SDV64198Monograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1988. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Paperback Volume. 115.

Associated Monuments

MDV106034Related to: Exevale Hospital Grounds (Park/Garden)
MDV87814Related to: Exminster Hospital War Memorial (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Apr 16 2014 8:50AM