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HER Number:MDV4517
Name:The Bull House, Pilton, Barnstaple


Possibly once the residence of the Prior of Pilton Priory, Bull Hill House comprises two ranges, that aligned north-south, at right angles to the road dates to the 15th century. The other, east-west, range was added in the 16th century but incorporates a possibly earlier gatehouse. The initials RB, probably those of Robert Brett, the last steward of the priory are carved above a window. In the eastern angle between the ranges is an 18th or 19th century extension. The house was in multiple occupation in the 19th century but the various parts were gradually acquired by a single owner/occupier in the earlier 20th century who began restoration work on the building to return it to its former medieval appearance.


Grid Reference:SS 556 341
Map Sheet:SS53SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishBarnstaple
DistrictNorth Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishBARNSTAPLE
Ecclesiastical ParishPILTON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS53SE/134
  • Old SAM Ref Revised: SS53SE47
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SS53SE47

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • HOUSE (XV - 1401 AD to 1500 AD (Between))

Full description

Green, T. + Wapshott, E., 05/01/2012, The Former Glove Factory, Pilton, Barnstaple, Devon, 9 (Report - Survey). SDV349806.

Bull House was bought in 1854 by the Sanders brothers, tanners and woolstaplers of Barnstaple. They turned the rear part of the house into a manufactory for agricultural gloves and gaiters. The business was subsequently expanded by J.E. Bayliss into a purpose-built factory just to the north.

Ordnance Survey, 1855-1895, First Edition 1:500 Town Map (Cartographic). SDV338879.

'Bull House (Remains of) recorded on the 1855-1895 1:500 town map, part of a larger property called Rosehill.

Spiegelhalter, C., 1946, Eleventh Report of the North Devon Branch, 116 (Article in Serial). SDV350886.

Pevsner, N., 1952, The Buildings of England: North Devon, 137 (Monograph). SDV336196.

Lomas, J., 1967, The Old doors and Doorways of Barnstaple, 41 (Article in Serial). SDV85818.

Bull Hill House, formerly the residence of the Benedictine Priors of Pilton is built mainly of mellow local stone with a pleasing elevation, partly castellated with stone-mullion windows and solid oak front door in a Tudor four-centres stone doorway incorporating carved spandrels. The internal doors are of equal interest, especially the panelled door leading from the drawing room through a stone-depressed arch into the main staircase hall. On the first floor are some fine oak, nail-studded doors in stone-arched doorways, giving access to the five bedrooms. These are also of interest, containing some lofty oak ceiling beams, amongst the finest in Barnstaple.

Corny, M. L., 1969, Bull House. The Ancient House of the Priors of Pilton (Monograph). SDV350885.

Miles H. + Miles, T., 1972, Pilton Excavation 1972 (Un-published). SDV350370.

No evidence found for Bull House being the Prior's residence.

Department of Environment, 1973, Barnstaple, 17 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV89941.

A two storey house of coursed rubble with Tudor arched doorway.

Reed, M. A., 1978, Pilton. Its Past and People, 39-45 (Monograph). SDV340752.

Possible formerly the detached priors residence. Occupied by a woolmerchant, fellmonger and glove manufacturer in the 17th-19th centuries.

Department of Environment, 1984, West Pilton (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV350701.

Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N., 1989, The Buildings of England: Devon, 629 (Monograph). SDV325629.

Dates to the 15th century and has a 16th century solar wing.

Rance, C., 1995, Archaeological Assessment of Land adjoining Bull Hill, Pilton, 4 (Report - Assessment). SDV340753.

May be connected with the name 'Rackfield' located on the Tithe Map at SS55573401.

Southwest Archaeology, 2012, Bull House, Pilton, Barnstaple, Devon: Interpretive Historic Building Survey (Report - Survey). SDV349858.

Bull House is believed to have belonged to Pilton Priory at the time of the dissolution and to have been the Prior's lodgings. Documentary evidence indicates that the Prior had a house in Pilton in 1443, a date consistent with the earliest phases of Bull House. The house comprises two ranges. The north-south range, at right angles to the road, which dates to the 15th century, lies at right angles to the road and contains a central hall with solar rooms at each end. It was truncated by the addition of an east-west range in the early-mid 16th century. This later range contains a gatehouse at its east end, two ground floor chambers, a hall or great chamber on the first floor with a further chamber above the gatehouse. The initials RB carved above a window are probably those of Robert Brett, former steward of the priory who died in 1540 and who presumably, therefore, succeeded the last Prior as resident of Bull House. In the western angle between the ranges is a newel stair and passage, and in the eastern angle is an 18th or 19th century extension. By the mid 19th century it appears that the house had become mutiple occupied. The back part of the house was subsequently turned into a glove manufactory by the Sanders brothers. By 1895 the old hall range comprised a cottage and workhouse and the solar range had become two cottages. Multiple occupation came to an end in the earlier 20th century as John Manderson gradually acquired all parts of the premises and began work on returning the house to its, perceived, medieval state, a process continued by the subsequent owner. The house, which was bequeathed to the National Trust in 2010, consequently contains a number of architectural elements introduced during these restorations. See report for full details of building survey. Map object based on this source.

Ordnance Survey, 2012, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV348725.

Map object based on this source.

English Heritage, 2012, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV348729.

Bull House. Large house. Probably 15th century, enlarged and partly rebuilt early or mid 16th century; minor 19th century addition. Roughly-coursed stone rubble; details in at least 2 types of local dressed stone and some limestone. Pantiled roof, with long stretches of old crested ridge-tiles. 3 stone rubble chimneys, 2 of them with tops rebuilt in red brick. 2 old red brick chimneys and a third in early 20th century brick. 3-room and through-passage 15th century range at right-angles to street; open hall with original storeyed ends; at upper end the remains of a narrow 4th room, apparently containing a garderobe. This room partly demolished in early 16th century to add a 2-room storeyed cross-wing at an acute angle to the original range; newel stair in the angle with external passage from hall. At front of cross-wing, at a slightly less acute angle, a gatehouse, probably earlier than the wing; 19th century rear extension against front of 15th century range. 2 storeys (except for open hall). East face of hall has chamfered doorway with 4-centred arch; much restored. 2 mullioned-and-transomed 2-light hall windows with Tudor-arched lights top and bottom; straight hoodmoulds and relieving arches; some original masonry. Ground-storey window to lower end room removed and replaced by doorway; now a window again with wood-framed casement. Above, a restored 2-light Tudor-arched window. At left-hand end a 20th century wood casement window; restored 2-light Tudor-arched window above. Cross-wing and gatehouse have 6-window range to Bull Hill. At right-hand end an almost unrestored doorway to gatehouse in local purple stone; hollow and ogee moulded, 4-centred arch with carved spandrels, large claw-like stops. Ground-storey windows all 20th century with flat-headed mullioned-and-transomed lights. 2- and 3-light Tudor-arched windows in upper storey; those in gatehouse appear to be entirely 20th century, but those in wing have substantial amounts of original masonry, including straight hoodmoulds, the centre one with initials RB. Gatehouse has top string course and original crenellated parapet, these extending on to right side wall. Latter has 2 20th century Tudor-arched windows. Left gable-end of wing has a single upper-storey window with 2 Tudor-arched lights and straight hoodmould with carved terminals; some old masonry. To left, and overlapping the hoodmould, is a projecting garderobe with slated lean-to roof; small trefoil-headed limestone window in upper storey. Stair turret and passage (properly visible only from Medina next door) has crenellated parapet and partly restored 2-light Tudor-arched window with hoodmould in upper storey; similar 3-light window in ground storey, 2 of the lights now blocked. INTERIOR: rear door of through-passage blocked; relieving-arch visible. Whole 15th century range has continuous open arch-braced roof with 2 tiers of chamfered butt-purlins; chamfered, curved windbraces below the lower tier; scratched carpenter's marks; moulded wall-plates. All the trusses have cranked collars and chamfered arch-braces, except that the partition trusses have plain braces. Below them are surprisingly thin partition studs; these appear to be original since between 2 of those at the lower end is a wooden quatrefoil spy-hole which was blocked by upper-floor beams in the hall until circa 1964. Beneath the upper end partition is a stud-and-panel partition (former doorway infilled with re-used studding). Another one at lower end with scroll stops; this was brought from gatehouse, where it had been used as wall panelling, but fills original mortices in partition beam overhead. Upper rooms at both ends have very thick, square floor joists. At left-hand end of rear wall of hall is a segmental-arched doorway without mouldings. Immediately to right of it is a square-headed stone fieplace with chamfered surround; the roof timbers show no sign of smoke-blackening or of a louvre. Ground-floor room at upper end has end wall chimney; relieving arch of fireplace visible. Purlins continue beyond chimney and the rear purlin, oddly, has a step-stop against the chimney. Stair passage at rear of hall has 4 stone doorways with 4-centred arches. That to upper end room is chamfered with diagonal-cut stops. That to cellar below the same room is chamfered without stops; below it is a rebated cellar doorway and to right a stone quatrefoil opening to a squint. Doorways to stair and wing have ogee and hollow mouldings with claw-like stops matching those on the front door. Rear ground-floor wing room has wooden ceiling of intersecting beams, heavily moulded with half and three-quarter round mouldings; plain joists set different way in alternate panels, chequer-fashion. Faint traces of painted decoration on the beams. At front end a stud-and-panel partition; narrow chamfered studs without stops; doorway with flattened Tudor arch. In rear (north) wall a blocked, 2-light Tudor-arched stone window. Front wing room has 17th century panelling with small ovolo-moulded panels. Stone chamfered fireplace with very slightly curved head and pyramid stops; 2 rows of herringbone tiling in fire-back. Ceiling has plain beams and joists. To left of fireplace a garderobe with small round-arched stone window; beneath it a barrel-vaulted stone drain flushed by a natural spring. Chamfered, round-arched stone doorway with diagonal-cut stops leading into 15th century upper end room. Gatehouse has large, moulded stone doorway in rear wall with attached shafts supporting a 4-centred arch. Between it and the front door is a piece of moulded wood ceiling like that in the rear wing room. On first floor, stair passage has 4 stone doorways with 4-centred arches, 3 of them chamfered with pyramid stops. Doorway to wing has hollow and ogee moulding; claw-like stops. The 2 window rooms were combined circa 1970; partition had studs like those in hall with horizontal laths let into grooves in their sides. Continuous arch-braced roof with 2 tiers of unchamfered through-purlins; staight collars with moulded braces; moulded wall-plates. Room at the front has 2 tiers of arched windbraces. Each room has a stone fireplace with chamfered surround and pyramid stops, the top corners rounded; front room fireplace is in front wall; rear room one in rear wall. The latter's chimney slightly overlaps a 16th century window next to it. Upper room of gatehouse has in rear wall a blocked stone 16th century window with 2 Tudor-arched lights; hooks for internal shutters. HISTORICAL NOTE: the house belonged to Pilton Priory at the Dissolution, when it passed to the Bret family, who held it until 1593. Robert Bret (died 1540), was the last steward of the priory, and his widow, Thomasine, seems to have acquired the freehold soon afterwards. They are probably Robert's initials that appear on the window of the cross-wing. There is a common assumption that this was the prior's house in 15th century, but evidence is lacking and the north wall of the Parish Church of St Mary bears marks of what are generally believed to be the former priory buildings. Bull House is one of the best-preserved late medieval houses in Devon, and has been carefully restored. Date listed: 19th January 1951.

Southwest Archaeology, 2013, Greater Barnstaple Area Project Database, Mapping Area 2005 (Un-published). SDV351581.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, Unknown, SS53SE47 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV91394.

Site visit 31st March 1976. Well-preserved 16th century huse of special interest in this area. Tradition places an underground passage between Bull House and Barnstaple Priory. The supposed entrance under Bull House could be seen some 30-40 years ago. The house was formerly an ecclesiastical residence.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV325629Monograph: Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N.. 1989. The Buildings of England: Devon. The Buildings of England: Devon. Hardback Volume. 629.
SDV336196Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1952. The Buildings of England: North Devon. The Buildings of England: North Devon. Paperback Volume. 137.
SDV338879Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1855-1895. First Edition 1:500 Town Map. First Edition 1:500 Town Map. Map (Digital).
SDV340752Monograph: Reed, M. A.. 1978. Pilton. Its Past and People. Pilton. Its Past and People. Unknown. 39-45.
SDV340753Report - Assessment: Rance, C.. 1995. Archaeological Assessment of Land adjoining Bull Hill, Pilton. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. 95.10. A4 Stapled + Digital. 4.
SDV348725Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2012. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital).
SDV348729National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2012. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV349806Report - Survey: Green, T. + Wapshott, E.. 05/01/2012. The Former Glove Factory, Pilton, Barnstaple, Devon. Southwest Archaeology Report. 120105. A4 Stapled + Digital. 9.
SDV349858Report - Survey: Southwest Archaeology. 2012. Bull House, Pilton, Barnstaple, Devon: Interpretive Historic Building Survey. Southwest Archaeology Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV350370Un-published: Miles H. + Miles, T.. 1972. Pilton Excavation 1972. Unknown.
SDV350701List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1984. West Pilton. Historic Houses Register. A4 Bound.
SDV350885Monograph: Corny, M. L.. 1969. Bull House. The Ancient House of the Priors of Pilton. Unknown.
SDV350886Article in Serial: Spiegelhalter, C.. 1946. Eleventh Report of the North Devon Branch. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 78. Hardback Volume. 116.
SDV351581Un-published: Southwest Archaeology. 2013. Greater Barnstaple Area Project Database. Greater Barnstaple Area Project. Digital. Mapping Area 2005.
SDV85818Article in Serial: Lomas, J.. 1967. The Old doors and Doorways of Barnstaple. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 99. Paperback Volume. 41.
SDV89941List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1973. Barnstaple. Historic Houses Register. A4 Comb Bound. 17.
SDV91394Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. Unknown. SS53SE47. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.

Associated Monuments

MDV96235Related to: Medina, Bull Hill, Pilton (Building)
MDV5339Related to: Pilton Glove Factory, Barnstaple (Building)
MDV800Related to: Pilton Priory, Barnstaple (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV5929 - Interpretive Historic Building Survey of Bull House, Pilton, Barnstaple

Date Last Edited:Oct 4 2013 10:31AM