Devon's answer to the Great Gatsby, parties again

JCA Team:
Rory Duncan
Nigel Hammett
Project Design Team:
Johnston Cave Associates (Architects)
Project type:
Conservation, Refurbishment, Extension & Repairs
Project year: 2014
External link:

Built in the 1840’s , this late Georgian Grade II listed house was requisitioned in WWII by the War Office and became a rest home for American officers. It then served the indignation as a B&B before finally being carved up into flats. By 2010 it had fallen into a shocking state of disrepair and featured in Country Life as ‘Wreck of the Month’.

It hadn’t always been this way. Between 1890 and the 1930’s the house had been owned by ‘Billy’ Grant; Arctic explorer, photographer, bon viveur and Devon’s answer to Jay Gatsby of the Great Gatsby fame.

The parties and were legendary and stories abounded. A favourite was one where four men stripped to the waist and swam across one of the lakes to settle a bet, washing in a tub of champagne afterwards.

In 2011 our client on the hunt for a project opportunity, found the house and it’s 200 acres with commanding views over the Blackdown Hills and dating back to the Doomsday book, ‘beguiling’.

With the support of English Heritage, we carried out extensive repairs including the careful removal of rusting ironwork within the stonework. 

Having found the original architects plans we were able to go back and reinstate parts of the original layout which had been well hidden by the flats conversion. The former stone gatehouses were also rebuilt based on the original details.

Everything was brought up to modern standards. The 14 bedrooms became eight - all with en-suit bathrooms. The scullery, larder, dairy and kitchen have been combined to create a family kitchen and we added an orangery and swimming pool.

The dining room now seats 24 comfortably. We reinstated the drawing room, study and games rooms as well as restoring the library and its magnificent bookcases to its original splendour.

The house has retained its original glamour with a Chinese room with hand painted wallpaper. There is a Blue room that mirrors Victorian tastes and an African room with fabrics and designs from the ‘dark’ continent.

The grounds have also been restored. The three lakes have been dredged and one restocked and fallow deer for the first time in over 100 years now roam the 50 acre deer park.

The 18th-century walled garden which now includes a tennis court, produces vegetables and cut flowers in abundance, much to the delight of the 1,000 visitors who toured the grounds as part of the National Gardens Scheme.

The house has been turned full circle and now hosts shooting parties and weddings - just as in its heyday.