Exeter’s Grade II listed marvel, Poltimore House (by Jamie Ransom)
All around the U.K, there is an abundance of historically important buildings or properties oozing rich stories and events of the past. Some are grand, beautiful and elegant, while others – no less important – are far less ostentatious. For some of these amazing properties, there is a tale of transition from great opulence to great decay. A story of immense change between desirability and necessity with a sequel currently being written of dedication and restoration.
So did you know that one such great historical property is right on your doorstep? I am talking about the superb Grade II listed marvel that is Poltimore House in Exeter.
The history of this once magnificent home belonging to the Bampfylde family dates back hundreds of years. Not entirely in the form that we see today, but as a property that has its beginnings back in Tudor times. As ownership of the home passed through generations of Bampfylde’s over the decades’ additions were made, parts were rebuilt and the house expanded. Much as we do when modernising our own homes today.
The final addition to the structure of the house is recorded as being the construction of the outer west wing in the early 1900’s which provided – among other things – the Grand Ballroom. The house by this time was even more strikingly detailed in splendour.
Unfortunately just over a decade later in the 1920’s the house was considered no longer a requirement for the Bampfylde family and it was placed at auction to be sold. The property did not actually sell but found new life – for a time – as ‘Poltimore College’ providing a place of education for girls. By the late 1930’s this was to change again with the closure of Poltimore College. There was briefly a new and similar use of the house, but by 1945 an entirely new chapter would be written.
1945 saw Poltimore House being viewed by two doctors from Exeter as being a solution to a dire need for a maternity hospital and for other medical care. The house was purchased by the doctors and used as such until later becoming the property of a part of the NHS in the early 1960’s. Amazingly a family member of mine had a brief stay there as a patient!
The house continued to be used for the medical care of others up until 1976 when the fate of Poltimore House began to take a downward spiral of neglect, theft and later a devastating arson attack. The grand house was alone, uncared for and was being reduced to a glimmer of its glorious former standing.
The turn of the millennium brought with it new hope for the house in the form of the Poltimore House Trust. A collection of people that would dedicate themselves to the saving of one of Exeter’s greatest historical homes – allowing it to begin rising like a Phoenix from the ashes. Much has already been achieved and widespread recognition through media and television very nearly secure much-needed restoration funding.
Since then alternative funding has been secured and an impressive structure was built over the house to protect it from the elements. With full support from English Heritage further financial help has been made available and the crucial restorative work continues.
Poltimore House is awe inspiring – if not mesmerising – to see and the vast full history is simply fascinating! Those that now care for Poltimore House are not only wonderful but also happily engage with everyone by organising great events within the grounds. This gives each of you the opportunity to explore, experience and support this fabulous part of Exeter’s past and its future.
I have had the pleasure of visiting the house for a number of events which included a visit after the restoration of the beautiful chapel was completed.
The next time you see an upcoming event being held at Poltimore House do NOT miss out by not being there. It is very special indeed.
Catch up with the events at the house on Twitter @PoltimoreHouse.
About the author
Jamie Ransom is Exeter born and bred, with a Devon family that spans generations. He loves all things property, history and heritage, especially in his hometown Exeter; “I love Exeter for its amazing growth, but also how it has remained so relaxed with great access to the coast and rugged moors. I am an avid lifetime Titanic enthusiast and researcher” … He also runs his own Exeter based Devon property management company; Ransoms Residential. Jamie is our very own history buff and will be uncovering the fascinating history of places around the city for Exploring Exeter.
Tags: charity Friends of Poltimore House, Devon, english heritage, Exeter, grade 2 listed, history, poltimore festival, poltimore house, ransoms residentials