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HER Number:MDV9221
Name:Ford House, Newton Abbot


Manor house built circa 1550, enlarged and altered in the 17th century. Restored in the 1930s and in 1981-3. Now the offices of Teignbridge District Council. Retains fine examples of 17th century woodwork and especially plasterwork.


Grid Reference:SX 870 709
Map Sheet:SX87SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishNewton Abbot
Ecclesiastical ParishWOLBOROUGH

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX87SE/23
  • Old Listed Building Ref (I): 464554
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX87SE7

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • MANSION HOUSE (Built, XVI - 1501 AD to 1600 AD (Between))

Full description

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, SX87SE7 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV348944.

Site visit 12th February 1952. On the back of the south-west wind and facing south-east stands the original structure, a three gabled house of apparently mid 16th century date. The south front of the house has one rainwater head dated 1610.

Rapin, 1822, History of England, 567 (Monograph). SDV348943.

Stirling, D. M., 1830, A History of Newton-Abbot and Newton-Bushel, 45-51 (Monograph). SDV348942.

Cotton, R. W., 1901, Ford and its Associations, 693-713 (Article in Serial). SDV348941.

Detailed history and description given.

Gibbs, R., 1906 - 1907, Ford House, 33-44 (Article in Serial). SDV348897.

Other details: Figures, plates and plan.

O'Neil, B. H. St J., 1948, War and Archaeology in Britain, 38 (Article in Serial). SDV339391.

Damage to the fabric of Ford House during the Second World War noted.

Hoskins, W. G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon, 442 (Monograph). SDV17562.

French, K. + French, C., 1957, Devonshire Plasterwork, 128,130,131 (Article in Serial). SDV4676.

Two ceilings, dated 1610, with single moulded ribs in King Charles' bedroom and the Great Hall. Other details: Plate 13, 16.

Devon County Council, 1975, Newton Abbot Town Trails, 59 (Article in Monograph). SDV352459.

Forde House was built by Sir Richard Reynall in 1610. Much of the exterior is original and the interior has a large number of early 17th century plaster ceilings. It also has a panelled hall with a chinmey piece, interesting and unusual doors and a beautiful staircase. Charles I visited the house on his way to Plymouth in 1625. William Prince of Orange, later William III, also stayed there following his landing at Brixham. It was at Newton Abbot where he first read his proclamation to 'maintain the liberties of England and the Protestant religion'.

Jones, R., 1979, A Book of Newton Abbot, 12-19 (Monograph). SDV338229.

Forde replaced the Manor House in Wolborough Street which was built in 1534. The earliest building at Forde was by John Gaverock who purchased the Manor of Wolborough in 1545. Part of Gaverock's 16th century structure survives to the rear of Reynell's rebuild of 1610. Other details: Plan.

Jones, R., 1980, Forde House, Newton Abbot (Pamphlet). SDV354750.

Forde House is named after a ford on the Aller Brook. It is suggested that Forde may have been a grange belonging to Torre Abbey and that the older building at the rear of the present house is that built by John Gaverock after he acquired the manor in 1545 following the dissolution. Prior to the dissolution Gaverock had been the Abbot's steward. The house was acquired by Richard Reynell towards the end of the 16th century who rebuilt it. The present house bears the date 1610 and is built in the shape of the letter E, thought to be in honour of Elizabeth I, who had just died. It is architecturally a plain, substantial structure built of roughcast stone in Elizabethan style. The grounds once included a deerpark which was later to disappear under the inroads of the railway.
The main feature of interest in the house are the finely carved panelling, the oak staircase, the massive oak doors and, in particular, the plaster ceilings.
King Charles I visited Forde House in 1625, Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell stayed there in 1646 and William, Prince of Orange also stayed there, in 1688.
The house had passed by marriage in 1648 to the Courtenay family who held it until 1762 when the property was let. In 1860 it was let to J.W. Watts who was High Sherriff of Devon in 1890. Forde House was sold in 1936 and again in 1960 when it became the base for an antiques business. In 1978 it was acquired by Teignbridge District Council.

Devon County Council, 1982, Annual Survey of Conservation 1981 (Un-published). SDV348945.

Ford House is now the headquarters of Teignbridge District Council which is currently undertaking a major renovation scheme. Other details: Photo.

Dudley, E. R., 1982, Forde House (Worksheet). SDV348947.

Series of worksheets recording observations made during the restoration work in 1982. Features recorded include a wall painting with foliage and animals on the mezzanine floor, 2 stone fireplaces in the Long Gallery, two large stone fireplaces and a third with a bread oven in the kitchen annexe and a jointed cruck in the east wing. Small finds include a 19th century prayer book, two pulley wheels from a clock winding mechanism, clay pipes and coins. See worksheets for further details. Other details: Photo, sketches.

Department of Environment, 1983, Newton Abbot, 33 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV298253.

Teignbridge District Council, 1983 - 1984, Untitled Source (Photograph). SDV348946.

Two black and white photographs of plaster ceiling decoration.

Gallant, L., 1986, Deer Parks and Paddocks of England (Un-published). SDV656.

Charles I visited Forde several times when he was provided with deer from the surrounding park.

Swete, J. (ed. Gray T. + Rowe, M.), 1998, Travels in Georgian Devon. The Illustrated Journals of the Reverend John Swete. Vol. 2, 29-31 (Monograph). SDV341167.

Swete describes the architectural style of Forde House as 'that of the best sort at the beginning of the last Century, and is no inelegant specimen'. Other details: Illustration dated 1794.

Cox, J., 2011, The Walronds Part 2, 37 (Article in Serial). SDV347496.

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

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

Forde House. Manor House, now the property of Teignbridge District Council. Circa 1550 for John Gravelock, enlarged 1610 altered circa 1625 for Sir Richard Reynell; restored 1930s and 1981-3. MATERIALS: roughcast over stone rubble, 20th century slate roofs with ceramic ridges, double-pitched to the central ranges, and tall 20th century diagonal stacks to the central valley and gable ends. PLAN: E-plan house of 1610 with original house of circa 1550 as the service wing to the rear right with a further late 19th century wing the rear right corner. EXTERIOR: 2 storeys; symmetrical 7-window range to the 1610 south front. A high parapet surrounding the building rises at the front in 5 large semicircular Dutch gables extending over the outer forward wings, the 2-storey porch and the flanking ranges. A central cupola with weather vane is flanked by triple stacks in the roof valley. Stone mullioned and transomed windows, 5-light to the outer wings, 4-light to the other forward-facing windows, blind 3-light to the inward-facing returns of the wings. Windows to the first floor have late 19th century glazing with 4 panes to each light, those to the ground floor have leaded lights with some old glass except the outer wings which are similar to the first floor and the sills have been lowered. The right return, slightly lower at the rear where it is 3 storeys, has paired stacks flanking a semicircular Dutch gable, that to the left is external. A continuous dripmould is shaped over a central 3-light second-floor leaded window, the lintel of a similar window to the far right reaches the dripmould. To the right of centre is a first-floor 20th century cross window over a tall 3-light leaded window. The late 19th century wing has 4 gables facing north. The 2-storey left return also has a central Dutch gable flanked by paired external stacks, that to the left is corbelled out approx one metre from the ground. Cross windows with cavetto moulded (restored 20th century) to the outer first-floor corners, label moulds to 2 central ground-floor windows between the stacks, that to the left has the lower half blocked. The 3-storey rear has spectacular alternate semicircles and triangles to the parapet. Formerly with oak-mullioned leaded windows with label moulds, there is now a variety of 4, 3 and 2-light casements and an early 18th century sash window with 12/12 panes and thick glazing bars to the first-floor centre. A large 5-light window to the upper right corner has similar 19th century glazing to those at the front. A 17th century stop-moulded architrave to the right now has a 20th century panelled door in 17th century style. A door close to the angle of the rear wing has a repaired 17th century studded door with 3 horizontal panels in a restored frame. The roof of the rear wing is hipped to the rear with large tall paired ridge stacks. The west side facing the courtyard has a small 4-light timber-mullioned leaded casement window at eaves level to the right and a similar 2-light window to the left flank a tall central 19th century half-dormer. To the left is a 19th century lean-to porch on chamfered supports over a 17th century wide-planked studded oak door with wrought-iron strap hinges. To the left of the door is an 18th century cross window with 20th century leading. INTERIOR: evidence for an older house, discovered during repairs of 1981-3, include remains of a north doorway to the screens passage, part of a turret stair by the hall chimneystack and the ends of 2 cruck blades over the main range. Rear north wing of 2-bays, possibly former lobby entrance plan divided by back-to back open fireplaces with massive granite lintels and full-depth jambs, stone-flagged to the ground floor. Along the east wall is a complete set of 18th century servant's bells. A lobby at the junction of the 17th century house has a wide 17th century oak door to the rear courtyard. The 1610 E-plan building is chiefly notable for the retention of exceptionally fine woodwork and especially plasterwork. The hall, probably formerly with a low screens passage, is fully panelled with strapwork carving to the smaller upper panels, all painted and grained circa 1980. The design of the ribbed plasterwork ceiling includes the passage (hence a low screen) and has a large central pendant. The 4 wide doors to the porch, rear stairs, right and left-hand rooms are elaborately panelled with studded squares and rectangles; the upper panels are in semicircular arches with carved spandrels; the moulded architraves have vase stops. An open fire to the rear has a wide white stone Tudor arch with a painted arcaded timber overmantel; the floor of the fire, and all the other fireplaces is chequer-pattern of small slates set edge-on. The room to the left forward wing, the Chairman's Parlour, has a 17th century strap work plastered ceiling with a truncated pendant to the centre; to the left is an arcaded overmantel flanked by Ionic columns with taller ones below; set into the former open fire is a circa 1830 black marble fireplace with roundels to block corners. 17th century panelling up to a dado rail. Two pairs of late 19th century paired Ionic columns to the rear with a lower ceiling to the rear, support a frieze of cartouches framing rectangular panels which encircle the room. The room to the right of the porch is a 20th century kitchen. The room to the right forward wing, a parlour, has a 19th century rear division. Pilasters flank the rear end which has a simple cornice; the rest has rib moulding to the ceiling, a 17th century heavily-painted 2-arch panelled overmantel similar to that in the hall with an inserted 19th century fireplace. The left-hand internal wall has a recess with a 19th century architrave to adjustable shelves. The stair well to the rear right of the hall (the upper end), has a 17th century foliate frieze and an open-well closed-string staircase with carved octagonal vase balusters and newels with gadrooned vase finials; the sides of the straight moulded handrail is carved with daisies and nailhead panels. There is evidence of some structural alteration. The stair window is 3-lights with hollow-moulded stone mullions. The axial barrel-vaulted room to the first floor above the hall, known as the King Charles Room, thought originally to have been the great chamber, has a shallow Tudor arch to a fire at the rear, rib moulding to the ceiling and elaborate tympana, that to the left with cartouches surrounding a mermaid. The door to the rear left has a late 17th century cyma-moulded architrave. Double-doors to the left are 19th or 20th century. A small room of the same depth over the porch has strapwork axial barrel-vaulting with a 17th century anthemion frieze. The glazed porch has a flat ceiling with a Pegasus frieze. The Long Room to the first-floor-left over the Chairman's Parlour, formerly two rooms, has a spectacular strapwork barrel vault with three large pendants. Projecting from the rich frieze are female supports to the vault; they are in 17th century costume and each holds a different flower. Toward the front of the left-hand wall is large fireplace similar to that in the hall without an overmantel; toward the rear is a similar smaller fireplace. Architraves and raised-and-fielded panelling below the windows are early 18th century. To the front right is an early 19th century recess with adjustable shelving. Two rooms to the first-floor right of the porch; that to the left, a former withdrawing room, has a plain axial barrel vault, early 18th and 19th century panelling around the window and steps to a narrow passage in the rear right corner leading to a rear staircase. Fireplace to the rear. The ceiling of the similar-sized bedchamber to the right has repeated rectangular panels with strapwork surrounds. A fireplace to the rear has massive red sandstone full-depth jambs and lintel. Joinery is late 18th/early 19th century. The bedchamber in the right-hand projecting wing has a similar ceiling to the left wing with strap moulding, 3 pendants and an anthemion frieze; to the right is a large Tudor-arch fireplace. The rear of the house is 3 storeys and rooms have lower ceilings. To the lower ground-floor rear left is an unheated storage room; above it is a heated room with painted decoration to the walls, some original some restored; 2 plastered-over axial beams and a simple 19th century fireplace. This room may have been a former steward's room; the room above is part of the present great chamber. To the right of these 3 rooms is the main stairwell. The room to the first-floor right can be entered from both sides. The entrance to the right of the mezzanine landing of the main staircase is through a 16th century panelled and studded door, probably repositioned from the original building set in a 17th century moulded frame. Known as the Trophy Room, it is complete circa 1700. Full-height and pine-panelled, the raised panels have bolection moulding, those to the rear wall conceals shelves and drawers within the thickness of the wall. The mullioned window of this room was replaced by a 16/16-pane sash window with thick glazing bars over an integral window seat. Bolection moulding to a 2-panel door to the right with a large brass lock and small wrought-iron knob. The corner fireplace backing onto the fire of the King Charles Room has a circa 1700 architrave panelled above and an early 19th century hob grate. Wide oak floorboards. To the right is a passage and rear stair, possibly a former gallery. To the far right-hand corner is a closet and staircase to the rear of the bedchamber. Roof structure not seen. HISTORY: John Gavelock was steward to the Abbey and Convent of Wolborough before the Dissolution. He bought the Wolborough portion of the Abbey property from the Crown in 1545 and built a house from circa 1550. The property was sold circa 1599 to Sir Richard Reynell who spent 30 years as a lawyer at 'some office in The Exchequer in London, and got great wealth'. The house, built circa 1610, was given its spectacular interiors for the visit of King Charles I and his large retinue in 1625. The Reynell tomb is in the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Old Totnes Road. Date listed: 16th July 1949.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV17562Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954. A New Survey of England: Devon. A New Survey of England: Devon. A5 Hardback. 442.
SDV298253List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1983. Newton Abbot. Historic Houses Register. A4 Spiral Bound. 33.
SDV338229Monograph: Jones, R.. 1979. A Book of Newton Abbot. A Book of Newton Abbot. Unknown. 12-19.
SDV339391Article in Serial: O'Neil, B. H. St J.. 1948. War and Archaeology in Britain. Antiquaries Journal. 28. Unknown. 38.
SDV341167Monograph: Swete, J. (ed. Gray T. + Rowe, M.). 1998. Travels in Georgian Devon. The Illustrated Journals of the Reverend John Swete. Vol. 2. Travels in Georgian Devon. The Illustrated Journals of the Reverend John Sw. 2. Hardback Volume. 29-31.
SDV347496Article in Serial: Cox, J.. 2011. The Walronds Part 2. Devon Buildings Group Newsletter. 29. A4 Stapled + Digital. 37.
SDV348725Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2012. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #109478 ]
SDV348729National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2012. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV348897Article in Serial: Gibbs, R.. 1906 - 1907. Ford House. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 4. Unknown. 33-44.
SDV348941Article in Serial: Cotton, R. W.. 1901. Ford and its Associations. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 33. Digital. 693-713.
SDV348942Monograph: Stirling, D. M.. 1830. A History of Newton-Abbot and Newton-Bushel. A History of Newton-Abbot and Newton-Bushel. Unknown. 45-51.
SDV348943Monograph: Rapin. 1822. History of England. History of England. 2. Unknown. 567.
SDV348944Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. SX87SE7. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV348945Un-published: Devon County Council. 1982. Annual Survey of Conservation 1981. Unknown.
SDV348946Photograph: Teignbridge District Council. 1983 - 1984. Photograph (Paper) + Digital.
SDV348947Worksheet: Dudley, E. R.. 1982. Forde House. Restoration of Forde House. Worksheet + Digital.
SDV352459Article in Monograph: Devon County Council. 1975. Newton Abbot Town Trails. Devon Town Trails: European Architectural Heritage Year. Paperback Volume. 59.
SDV354750Pamphlet: Jones, R.. 1980. Forde House, Newton Abbot. A4 Folded + Digital.
SDV4676Article in Serial: French, K. + French, C.. 1957. Devonshire Plasterwork. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 89. A5 Hardback. 128,130,131.
SDV656Un-published: Gallant, L.. 1986. Deer Parks and Paddocks of England. Deer Parks and Paddocks of England. Manuscript.

Associated Monuments

MDV20740Related to: 63 Wolborough Street, Newton Abbot (Building)
MDV9223Related to: Entrances to Forde House, Newton Abbot (Building)
MDV52566Related to: Fish Pond at Forde House, Newton Abbot (Monument)
MDV64335Related to: Forde Park, Newton Abbot (Monument)
MDV59909Related to: Garden at Forde House, Newton Abbot (Monument)
MDV60740Related to: Pottery Sherd, Forde House, Newton Abbot (Find Spot)

Associated Finds

  • FDV1995 - SEAL (Unknown date)
  • FDV1993 - COIN (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV1992 - PIPE (SMOKING) (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV1994 - TOKEN (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1750 AD)

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Apr 24 2019 4:08PM