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HER Number:MDV6280
Name:Tor Royal Farmhouse, Princetown


Tor Royal. A small Dartmoor mansion built 1785-1798 by Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt, as his private home and estate farmhouse. A wing was added 1815-20 to provide a royal suite of rooms to accommodate the Prince of Wales, although no documentary evidence indicates a visit to Tor Royal.


Grid Reference:SX 600 731
Map Sheet:SX67SW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishDartmoor Forest
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishLYDFORD

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 909844
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX67SW/42
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II*): 92758

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • MANSION HOUSE (Built, XVIII - 1785 AD to 1798 AD (Between))

Full description

Brooking-Rowe, J., 1905, Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt and Princetown (Article in Serial). SDV237567.

Tyrwhitt made many experiments in farming at Tor Royal. Other details: (37) 470-471,472.

Pevsner, N., 1952, The Buildings of England: South Devon (Monograph). SDV336217.

Tor Royal was restored in 1912. Other details: 250.

Copeland, G. W., 1953, Old Houses visited in 1953 by the Plymouth Branch (Article in Serial). SDV224889.

Tor Royal. A small Dartmoor mansion built by Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt 1785-98, with a wing added 1815-20. General plan of a central hall around which are placed the principal rooms. Doors embellished with highly decorative gild and painted panels. A fireplace from Carlton House, London. In a side wall of the rear-court is a curious granite water tower, surmounted by a low and open octagonal lantern supported on round granite shafts, the whole made to simulate a clock-tower by the addition of a large sham dial. Outside the house, at the south-east, are two doulton flower pots, representing plumes of feathers, and inscribed Coade London 1797. Other details: 245-246.

Hoskins, W. G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon (Monograph). SDV17562.

Other details: 429.

Hemery, E., 1983, High Dartmoor (Monograph). SDV249702.

Other details: 371-3.

Department of Environment, 1987, Lydford (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV266265.

House. 1785-1793 with addition of c.1815-20 restored and altered slightly in 1912 by A E Richardson. Built by and for Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt. Plastered stone walls. Slate and asbestos slate roof in mansard over central 2-storey section hipped to left-hand wing, gabled to right-hand wings. 2 gable end stone stacks to 2 storey section. Parallel right-hand wings each have gable end stone stacks. 2 axial stone stacks to left-hand wing. Plan: the original building consisted of what is now the central 2-storey section and the right-hand parallel single storey wings. The 2-storey part consisted of the principal rooms with a stair in a small wing at the rear and the right-hand wings were for service purposes. In circa 1815-20 the L-shaped single storey wing was added at the left end extending to the rear and consisted of a high quality suite of self-contained rooms reputedly for the use of the Prince of Wales. At the centre was a large reception hall with 2 principal rooms opening onto the rear courtyard and 2 rooms at the front. The plan remains very unaltered to the present day.
Exterior: 2 storeys with attic and single storey, almost symmetrical front of central 2-storey range with slightly different single storey wing to either side. The 2-storey section was given a mansard roof and attic and its windows renewed in the restoration of 1912. It has a symmetrical 3-window front of sash windows – 12 panes to the first floor and taller 8-pane windows to the ground floor. Dormer attic windows are roundheaded sashes with intersecting glazing bars at the top and small pediments above. The main windows are all shuttered and this may be an original feature as they are shown in a drawing of the house in 1828. Central enclosed porch with hipped roof and granite pillars is probably an adaptation of the original doorhood supported on pillars shown in the drawing. Each of the 1-storey wings has 3 sash windows but those in the left-hand wing are considerably larger and it has similar windows along its left-hand wall extending to the rear. The rear elevation is considerably more irregular. Behind the 2-storey range are 2 small hipped roof wings, the right-hand one containing the staircase. Between them a later outshut has been added. A single storey service wing extends to the left parallel to that at the front. To the right of the 2 storey range the other wing projects with a doorhood supported on granite pillars on its inner face.
Interior remains fairly unaltered with an obvious difference in the quality of the principal suite of rooms which retain some very high quality features. The hall has a domed ceiling with a lantern. At the base of the dome is an unusual plaster frieze depicting a steam engine pulling trucks (reputedly commemorating the construction of the Princetown railway). In the corners are simple scenes either of a Shepherd with his sheep or a Carter with his horse. Above is a frieze of corn sheafs and baskets of fruit. The motif of the steam engine and trucks is repeated in plaster below the lantern. The chimneypiece in the hall is contemporary and has reeded pilasters each with a lion's head at the top and a frieze of a key motif with a flower at the centre. At either end of the hall are double arches leading to other rooms. Several doors in this suite of rooms were obtained from Carlton House in London when it was demolished and these still survive. There are also doors which are, or have been, covered with green baize and decorative studwork. The room to the left of the hall has a coved cornice with applied fleur de lys. The room behind it has an ornate plaster cornice and a marble chimneypiece with classical figure at the centre of the frieze. The room in front of the hall is lined in wood with fielded panelling in places up to chair rail level and built-in cupboards with pilasters and decorative frieze. The small room to its left has an Art Nouveau chimneypiece with coloured tile surround. The stairs have a closed string, square panelled newel with flat cap and turned balusters.
Thomas Tyrwhitt had no previous connection with Devon but came to know Dartmoor through his association with the Prince of Wales whose secretary he was, and in 1786 he was appointed auditor to the Duchy of Cornwall. He became an M.P. to Okehampton and later Plymouth and in 1812 he was appointed Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. In the same year he was also Knighted. Tyrwhitt built Tor Royal and made its estate in a completely uncultivated part of the moor as an exercise in making the moor agriculturally productive and he experimented with more unusual crops such as flax. Various members of the royal family stayed at the house. Tyrwhitt was also responsible for the building of both Dartmoor Prison and Princetown railway which led to the development of Princetown as a town. The interest of this house lies not only in the quality of its interior and its unaltered nature but also in its historical importance to Prince town and its royal connections. Other details: 12.

Fletcher, M. J., 1989, Untitled Source (Site Visit). SDV237571.

Two storey house, with single storey wings, built 1875-1793. Additional wing 1815 to 1820. High quality plasterwork and fittings.

Wade-Martins, S., 1999, Thematic Survey of Planned and Model Farms: Devon, 13 (Un-published). SDV17916.

Berry, E. + Thomas, N., 2010, Tor Royal farmhouse, Princetown, Devon. Historic Building Record. (Report - Survey). SDV344858.

Historically important private residence and estate farmhouse built between 1785 and 1789 by Thomas Tyrwhitt, Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales as well as an entrepreneur who first developed Princetown as a viable settlement to house his agricultural workers. Evidence suggests there may have been a pre-existing structure on the site of Tor Royal, which would explain the incorporation of the courtyard wall into the later clock tower and the slightly skewed plan of the house. Contrary to previous theories, the extension to the house that included the Royal Suite appears to have occurred sometime after 1841 (not in the 1820s) as the Tithe map shows no change from Shillabeer’s 1812 survey of the house. If correct, this extension would have likely been carried out following Tyrwhitt’s death in 1833 but could potentially still have been planned by him. This later date for the construction of the Royal Suite may also shed doubt on the reuse of architectural fittings from Carlton House in London, which was demolished in 1825, thus requiring the components for reuse to have been stored for at least 16 years before being installed at Tor Royal. The house was further developed by Albert E Richardson in 1912, in anticipation of Prince Edwards visit, replacing the original farmhouse roof to provide more space for service quarters, as well as refurbishing many of the fireplaces and re-roofing the clock tower and repairs other features which had fallen into decline sometime in the later 19th or very early 20th century.

Ordnance Survey, 2011, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV346129.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV17562Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954. A New Survey of England: Devon. A New Survey of England: Devon. A5 Hardback.
SDV17916Un-published: Wade-Martins, S.. 1999. Thematic Survey of Planned and Model Farms: Devon. Thematic Survey of Planned and Model Farms: Devon. A4 Stapled. 13.
SDV224889Article in Serial: Copeland, G. W.. 1953. Old Houses visited in 1953 by the Plymouth Branch. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 85.
SDV237567Article in Serial: Brooking-Rowe, J.. 1905. Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt and Princetown. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 37. Digital.
SDV237571Site Visit: Fletcher, M. J.. 1989. RCHME.
SDV249702Monograph: Hemery, E.. 1983. High Dartmoor. High Dartmoor. Hardback Volume.
SDV266265List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1987. Lydford. Historic Houses Register. A4 Bound.
SDV336217Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1952. The Buildings of England: South Devon. The Buildings of England: South Devon. Paperback Volume.
SDV344858Report - Survey: Berry, E. + Thomas, N.. 2010. Tor Royal farmhouse, Princetown, Devon. Historic Building Record.. Cornwall Council Report. 2010R051. Digital.
SDV346129Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2011. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #97096 ]

Associated Monuments

MDV16868Related to: ROUTE MARKER NON SPECIFIC in the Parish of Dartmoor Forest (Monument)
MDV26082Related to: Swincombe Farm (Monument)
MDV15373Related to: The Plume of Feathers, Princetown (Building)
MDV54359Related to: Tor Royal Lodge, Princetown (Building)
MDV122509Related to: Water and clock tower, Tor Royal (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4779 - Tor Royal farmhouse Historic Building Record

Date Last Edited:Oct 15 2018 9:23AM