V. A Short History Of Poltimore House


For those of you who haven’t realised this already, our upcoming youth arts festival TYPify is going to be held at Poltimore House out near Pinhoe on the outskirts of Exeter. Here’s a little about the venue.

Poltimore House

Anyone who has visited Poltimore house will know it for its skyline silhouette and mysterious feel, like some haunted house film set. The derelict interior is contrasted with modern floors and steel I-beams that support the place and make it safe. There is a plan to restore the buildings to their former glory while maintaining the history of the place and this can be seen in the works that are taking place around the estate. The whole thing is a clash of ages; the past, present and future forever visible creating a powerful dynamic space. The current enclosure of the house within scaffolding and protective tin roof does nothing to diminish any of this character either. In fact, it lends to it, plunging the place into a permanent half-light like the stage of some theatre before the curtains draw back and the play commences.

The place has a story to tell. The original Tudor buildings were built by the Bampfylde family around the 1550’s at the dawning of Queen Elizabeth 1st’s reign. However, over the following centuries each generation of the family added, adapted and modernised the house and estate right up until 1908. In 1918, after trying and failing to sell the property at auction, it became Poltimore College girls’ school and then in 1939 the wartime home to the boys of Dover College in Kent. Post the Second World War the house was turned into a private maternity hospital and then taken on by the NHS. All of these further adaptions for use added new layers to the historically conglomerated building we can see today. You can look into some walls, cut away by time’s damage, and see hundreds of years into history. Here, there is the arch of some old doorway, now bricked in and covered over by NHS stud wall improvements. There, you’ll be able to find the original Tudor wood burning fireplace, reduced down by the Victorians to a small grate for glowing coals and then further overlaid by lath and plaster hiding it altogether to anyone who might have visited.

The grounds have their own secrets too. Though now being brought back under control after many long years of leafy wilderness they still hold a furtive magic. Everything from the now mostly vanished Chinese garden and ponds, to the wide open deer park, to the concealing foliage of the woodland behind, makes you feel as if you could turn a corner and find yourself in another world.

The old house has born witness to the smashing of mirrors, nicking of mouldings and murals and other bits of odd vandalism along with an arson attack in 1987 that destroyed the former ballroom wing. But now, every event, festival and filming session hosted there brings it to life and gives it a new lease of energy. It’s magic never diminishing, it is a perfect, atmospheric and inspiring venue.

Come along and join us at Devon's only dedicated youth arts festival. TYPify is going on from the 6th – 8th July at the historic Poltimore House just outside of Exeter.


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