The project to restore an important Devon country house, which is finally being rescued after being neglected since the 1970s, has received a significant boost. English Heritage has awarded a £500,000 grant which will allow major work to continue on making Poltimore House watertight and safe for the ongoing restoration work.
The grade-II*-listed house has been a familiar sight to anyone who has driven on the M5 near Exeter who would have seen it slowly deteriorating since it ceased being a hospital in 1975. Originally the Bampfylde family seat, Poltimore was originally built in the 1550s with this part now forming a still visible core section of the house. It was greatly extended in 18th-century with the work including a Rococo-style saloon and then again in the 19th-century with the addition of a grand imperial staircase.
The decline started when the Bampfyldes finally left the house in 1921 after the death of the third Baron Poltimore, and put it up for sale. For many houses this was a prelude to demolition but Poltimore escaped by becoming a boarding school for until 1939 when it then became temporary home for Dover College during WWII. After the war the house became a nursing home and remained in use as a hospital until 1975. Once empty, the decline accelerated rapidly with thefts of lead, fireplaces and other fittings including the entire balustrade from the staircase. The damage was compounded by serious arson attack which destroyed the roof.
The journey back from total dereliction started in 1997 when the house was acquired by the Buildings at Risk Trust before being taken over by the Poltimore House Trust in 1999. Their intention is fully restore the house for mixed use with commercial aspects combined with community and arts use. A large and active group of Friends of the house have tirelessly campaigned to save this important piece of Devon’s heritage and English Heritage are to be congratulated for such a large contribution towards the estimated £5.5m restoration bill.
More information including details of the planned restoration: ‘Poltimore House‘