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HER Number:MDV57543
Name:Woolcombe House, Sidmouth


Woolcombe House originated as a substantial open hall house probably in the 15th century. It was subsequently altered in the 17th century at which time a first floor was inserted and then underwent radical change in the 18th century when the building was truncated to make a smaller house.


Grid Reference:SY 127 882
Map Sheet:SY18NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishSidmouth
DistrictEast Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishSALCOMBE REGIS
Ecclesiastical ParishSIDMOUTH

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SY18NW/166
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

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

Full description

Department of Environment, 1973, Sidmouth, 7/36 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV98992.

Child, P., 1997, Sidmouth Town Council Offices. Woolcombe House, Woolcombe Lane, Sidmouth (Un-published). SDV347024.

Site visit 13th May 1997 by Peter Child. The List description is very poor.
Woolcombe House is of considerable architectural interest. What is now the Council Chamber is located under the arch-braced medieval roof of a substantial whole house probably of 15th century date. This roof has three principal trusses surviving, connected by two sets of purlins, with the bottom tier supporting wind-braces to the rafters (the braces are concave against the rafters). In the centre of each bay between the trusses are two subsidiary collars which are birds-mouthed over the purlin. The roof trusses are jointed crucks of the standard Devon form with a mortice on the the upper side of the curved section of the post, the ridge apse is also standard. The centre truss has clearly been closed from the evidence of stake holes which previously would have supported wattle and daub. The westerly truss, which is now against the outside wall equally appears to have been open, as there is no evidence of any infilling and the arch brace is chamfered to the wall side. It is now closed with later studding applied against its face. The easterly truss seems originally to have been open and does not lie flush against the wall in its upper part so that the wall may well be later than the truss.
The nature of these trusses seems clearly to indicate that the structure as it now stands is not complete and the whole form of the house has been changed from its original state. What is now one open space was originally divided in two and one can postulate that the originall hall of the house was in the western section where the one surviving arch-brace would have been the principal truss over the hall. The eastern bay would presumably have been over the inner room of the house and there is insufficient evidence to say whether this would have been open to the roof or floored. Given its similarity in form to the hall bay it is more likely to have been open to the roof.
The hall was subsequently floored in the 17th century and a fireplace was inserted on the first floor in the eastern bay on the front wall served by a lateral stack which also serves the ground floor fireplace. The beams on the ground floor, inserted at this stage, are substantial but only have run-out stops. The layout of the ground floor replicates a small traditional Devon house, in that there is a through passage with a small room on its west side and a small hall on its east side served by the fireplace with a lateral stack. The 17th century beams do not entirely align with the modern partitions and it is probably therefore that the house was first floored in, when it was its original full size and then reduced to its much smaller size in the early 18th century from which there are other details, in particular the panelling on the wall of the new hall on the opposite side to the passage, which may have been the panelling for the back of a bench. The developmental sequence therefore is substantial open hall house with partly arch-braced and fully wind-braced roof, probably open all the way through. Secondly, flooring-in, in the normal manner in the 17th century with the addition of a lateral stack serving the then inner room and chamber (one would need to postulate a further fireplace to serve the hall at this stage). Thirdly, a radical reordering of the house with the demolition certainly of the lower end and possibly the upper end (since the existing upper and is clearly not of any great antiquity) to make a miniature 2/3 room cross passage house.

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

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

Woolcombe House. Once one of the manor houses. Restored by Miss Leigh Browne and now the Sidmouth Museum. 2 storeys rough cast front, much altered. Gable end slate roof. Remains of external chimney with offsets. Ceiling has been inserted in Medieval Hall but open timber roof remains on 1st floor. Beams and other woodwork visible internally. Date listed: 12th October 1951.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV347024Un-published: Child, P.. 1997. Sidmouth Town Council Offices. Woolcombe House, Woolcombe Lane, Sidmouth. File Note. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV348725Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2012. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital).
SDV348729National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2012. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV98992List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1973. Sidmouth. Historic Houses Register. A4 Spiral Bound. 7/36.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Jun 13 2012 12:52PM