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Port Eliot, Cornwall

Entrance front, Port EliotPrivately owned
A grand house and grounds near the Saltash estuary. Parts of Port Eliot are extremely old – there are fragments dating from the 4th, 9th, 10th and 13th centuries, but most of the house dates from a makeover by Sir John Soane in the 18th Century. It was previously known as Port Priory. The estuary water used to be closer, but was diverted by a dam in the 18th century.
A notable feature of the contents is a series of family portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds. They belong to the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, having been accepted in lieu of death duties, but remain in the house on condition that they are available for viewing on 100 days per year. There are a number of fine rooms with contents including valuable furniture – the Morning Room, Drawing Room (library), Big Dining Room and the Round Room. I don’t recall seeing the Conservatory annex.
The Round Room was designed by Sir John Soane and is considered one of his outstanding achievements. It is painted with a 20th century mural by eccentric artist Robert Lenckiewicz, which is regarded as his masterpiece. It depicts dozens of people known to the Eliot family and is an outstanding work. In the same room is a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, restored and presented like an art exhibit.
A look on Google Satellite makes the house plan, with its two almost separate blocks, clearer.
I found that all the house guides (stewards) were knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The house is still a family home, and visitors may see family possessions lying around – and the family dog. There are extensive grounds, which I did not have time to fully explore.
Visiting – the house is about 200 yards north of St Germans village on the B3249. Approaching from this direction you will come on an entrance with gateway and lodges forking to the right, at a small car park. The pedestrian entrance is here. You could park here and walk down past the church, as the house (behind the church) is much closer than it looks. I’m still not sure what they expect car-borne visitors to do – apparently there is another entrance and car park 1Km further on, to the west, which you’d come on first if approaching from the A38. I visited on a day of low visitor numbers (they do have an annual literature festival), and not finding anyone to ask, I drove through the gate and parked in front of the house. There was plenty space and nobody objected.
Important Notice: The owner of Port Eliot is in negotiations to sell the house to a trust run by Prince Charles. The implications for visitor access are unclear, but the interior will no longer look like a family home. As with privately owned mansions in general, the message is: Visit It While You Still Can.
For interior photos see Port Eliot website.

East Front, Port Eliot
East Front
Church from house grounds
Church
North Front, Port Eliot
North Front
Round Room & North front
Round Room & North front

Featured

Bradley, Newton Abbott, Devon

View of house exterior and lawn
Bradley Manor
National Trust.
A white manor house sits in green meadows surrounded by woodland. The L-shaped house, with many gables and tall chimneys, retains most of its medieval features. The dining room (former kitchen) has a fireplace opening formed of four tons of Dartmoor granite. The hall is the only spacious room. On the walls of an upstairs room is preserved a late medieval pattern of stencilled black fleur-de-lys. Also upstairs in a panelled room is some fine seventeenth-century plasterwork in high relief, looking well preserved. There is a collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and Arts & Crafts furniture. Much of the furniture is 18th century and listed on room cards. The chapel, which has an array of carved wooden bosses on the ceiling, should not be missed.

The interior was interesting. Outside, one can walk round with the guidebook and look at when each part was altered. Extensive woodlands surround the house. I finished my visit by exploring these, and found a back exit which eventually leads into a housing estate.

The house is half a mile from Newton Abbott town centre, on the Totnes road. The opening dates and times are somewhat restricted. The signs on the main road are inconspicuous. Note that there are no toilet facilities or tea room on site.
Good news: you can park at the site from 1.30 for the opening at 2:00 pm. It’s possible to get there by train, but I found that, unless you figure out the bus routes, it’s rather a tedious walk from the station and you need to know what foot route to take. Leave the house grounds on foot the same way you came in, if you don’t want to get lost in a housing estate.

Devon Churches 2018 – Tawstock

Sundial above door
Sundial above door
St Peter’s Church, Tawstock.
A Devon church included in ‘Devon’s 50 best Churches’ by Todd Gray.
The collection of church monuments is particularly fine. Most are connected to the Earls of Bath. Features of interest include the 16th century gallery, the manorial pew of the earls of bath, and two ceilings of Italian plasterwork.
The church is in a rural site, in the former park of the Earls of Bath. Nearby is an Elizabethan gatehouse, all that remains of an Elizabethan mansion. The house burnt down in 1787 and was replaced by the current Gothic style mansion, Tawstock Court.
Painted altar
Altar
Ceiling art
ceiling
monument
monument
monument
monument
painted tomb
Tomb
painted tomb
painted tomb
painted tomb
painted tomb
Carving below window
Carving
Screen carving
Screen carving

Royal Gunpowder Mills, Essex

Building Gunpowder has been manufactured on this site at Waltham Abbey from the time of Charles II and probably earlier. The site was purchased by the government in 1787 and incorporated as the Royal Gunpowder Mills. It manufactured increasing quantities of gunpowder, cordite and other explosives. After WWII it became the Explosives Research and Development Department, ERDE. The site was closed by the Ministry of Defence in 1991 and all valuable materials on the site were scrapped, and old records destroyed.
More recently, the site has been taken over by a charitable trust which preserves and displays the remains and also the natural history on the site. It is regularly opened to the public.
I visited the site as part of the ‘Invitation to View’ scheme of a date when the site was not opened to the general public. The visit comprised an introductory talk, a 2.5 hour walking tour and finally tea, sandwiches and cakes.
The walking tour included parts of the site not open to the general public (The public get instead a land-train tour of shorter duration).
The site is about a mile in length. The tour includes some intriguing brick and concrete structures, much greenery, a barge formerly used for transporting gunpowder, and a pond. It returns along the line of the later buildings used for making cordite. These contained beam engines (now missing) powering grindstones (now missing, but there is a replica in the last hut).
We did not visit every building (and not the film show).
Despite the length of the tour, there was not time to look at everything at leisure. 2.5 hours felt long enough on one’s feet, so anyone going on the ‘Invitation to View’ tour might want to factor in a follow-up visit on another date.
Overall, I’d rate this site as ‘interesting’ rather than ‘wow’. Worth a visit if you are interested in the subject.

Laboratory building
Laboratory building
Safety blast wall
Safety blast wall
Newton's Pool
Newton’s Pool
Boiler house
Boiler house
Press House no.2
Press House no.2
Incorporating mill
Incorporating mill

Compton Verney, Warwickshire.

House wing Private
Compton Verney is now a rural art gallery contained in a country house. In 1711, George Verney inherited the estate and set about building the basis of the present house. It was remodeled by architect Robert Adam from 1762-1768, extensive alterations being made. Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was employed to remodel the grounds from 1789 onwards. The last Verney to live in the house sold it in 1921. Since then it has passed through various hands. During WWII it was requisitioned by the Army. After 1945 the house was never lived in again and became increasingly derelict. Eventually it was acquired for conversion into an art gallery, with a multi-million pound restoration and a new block built alongside the U-shaped mansion.
The Adam Hall is left empty and available for functions. Some ground floor rooms, used as galleries, retain original plasterwork and features (restored). The upper floors and attics have been made over as exhibition spaces. The new extension contains a café and facilities downstairs and exhibition space upstairs.
When I visited there were two special exhibitions: ‘Marvelous Mechanical Museum’ with old automata (not moving) and new automata (moving), and ‘Rodney Peppe’s World of Invention’ also with toy automata made by artist Rodney Peppe.

Adam Hall
Adam Hall
Grounds
Grounds
Chapel from gallery
Chapel

Devon Churches 2018 – Ashton

A Devon church included in ‘Devon’s 50 best Churches’ by Todd Gray.
St John the Baptist, Ashton SW Dartmoor.
A 15th century church with Perpendicular style windows. Roof, window tracery, floor etc restored 1881-3 and 1899-1901. Has a 5-bay Beerstone arcade and an important 8-bay roodscreen, paintings on west side of screen ‘the best in the county’.

Church exterior
Church exterior
Screen with paintings
Screen
Screen carving
Screen
Screen with paintings
Screen
Old carved pews
Pews

Devon Churches 2018 – Hartland

St Nectan’s Church, Hartland.
The church is in the hamlet of Stoke, between Hartland village and the coast. It has a fine rood screen, painted ceilings and an interesting museum up a narrow flight of stairs. The museum has painted fragments from a painted ceiling and other relics.
The church has a tall tower that can be seen form some distance out to sea.

Exterior view
Exterior
Painted ceiling
Ceiling
Carved Rood screen
Rood Screen
Painted Ceiling
Ceiling
Carved Rood screen
Screen
Carved pew ends
Carved pews
Ceiling relics in museum
Ceiling relics in museum

Seaton Tramway, Devon

Tram at depot loop The Seaton Tramway is a 2 ft 9 in (838 mm) narrow gauge electric tramway which operates over part of the route of a former London & South Western Railway branch line to Seaton, Devon. The tram line was established in 1970 by Claude Lane.
The line runs from Colyton village to Seaton, with an intermediate stop at Colyford. Currently while the new station in Seaton is under construction, trams terminate at the Seaton Riverside depot, with onward travel by shuttle bus. As compensation for the shortened run, on the return from Seaton a conducted tour of the tram depot is currently included.

The tram ride is very enjoyable, as a top deck seat ensures views of the countryside and the riverside wetlands between Colyford and Seaton. Around a dozen trams may be seen at the tramshed. The tram service runs every half hour or so in season. There is free parking at Colyton station.
For the technically minded, the trams operate on 120 volts DC, fed from batteries which are trickle charged.
The village of Colyton is worth a visit, as is the old part of Seaton.

Tram ride -Colyton
Tram ride-Colyton
Tramshed
Tramshed
Tramshed
Tramshed

Tram_9999

Tram ride
Tram ride

Mottisfont, Hampshire

South FrontMottisfont was originally an Augustinian priory. After the Dissolution the monastic buildings were largely dismantled or incorporated into a large Tudor mansion with two courtyards. Little now remains of the Tudor mansion. In the 18th century most of the Tudor buildings were demolished and a three-storey south front constructed, giving the building much of its present-day appearance. The Stables were rebuilt in 1836.
Successive owners made changes to the interior. in 1934 the house was bought by the Russells who repaired and modernised the house, changing the function and fittings of many of the rooms.
The principal rooms on the ground floor are open to visitors, and some upstairs rooms are open as exhibition spaces, and maids’ rooms can be seen on the attic level. The ground floor contains a collection of paintings, notably the Derek Hill collection. The Russells converted the original entrance hall into a grand saloon with spectacular trompe l’oeil murals by Rex Whistler.
At basement level, vaulted cellars and other features from the old priory can be seen. One cellar contains a poignant sculpture of estate workers disappearing into the wall, a reference to WWI.
Outside the house is a 20th century parterre. Further afield are a walled garden, a winter garden, the river and other features. The Trust manages an estate of over 1600 acres.
Mottisfont is well worth a visit, which could extend to over half a day.

Principal floor - room
Principal floor
Dining Room
Dining Room
Gallery
Gallery
Maid's room
Maid’s room
Ancient beams
Ancient beams
Parterre
Parterre
Walled Garden
Walled Garden
Bas-relief monument
Bas-relief monument

Rosemoor RHS Gardens, Devon

Red flowering bush The Rosemoor Gardens are situated in a valley near Torrington, spanning both sides of the A3124. Most of the garden sections are devoted to flowering plants, but there are also some fruit and vegetable sections. If you want to see all the gardens, it is suggested that you start in the ‘far’ section at the other side of the road through the tunnel. This is the original part of the gardens and contains the original house. The house is not interesting and is converted into holiday lets.
Plants are mostly labelled so that you can identify them and maybe buy a specimen in the shop. The gardens contain both formal and informal plantings. On arrival you will probably be handed a leaflet with a numbered trail to visit interesting plants in bloom. This is a way of touring the garden if you don’t want to look at everything.
The gardens are well worth a visit if you are a serious gardener.
Parking – the car park is on the left as you arrive, but if you have a problem with going there, note that the ‘Accessibility’ parking to the right includes spaces that can be used by the non-disabled as required.

Tulipa Biflora plants
Tulipa Biflora
Gooseberry 'Black Velvet'
Gooseberry ‘Black Velvet’
Berberis darwinii bush
Berberis darwinii
Scilla
Scilla siberica ‘Spring Beauty’
Anenome x lipsensis 'Pallidia'
Anenome x lipsensis ‘Pallidia’

Markers Cottage, Killerton Estate, Devon

Cottage from rear National Trust
Markers Cottage is a medieval cob house that retains many original features. Originally it had a hall open to the roof and a cross passage. Smoke blackened thatch can still be seen in the attic. A medieval wood partition has paintings on it, and upstairs a section of decorative plasterwork is preserved.
Later the cottage was given a first floor and sub-divided. The garden contains a charming cob summerhouse (a Millenium project).
The cottage is well worth a visit if you are in the area. I suggest you combine your visit with a visit to Clyston Mill in the same village of Broadclyst.

The discreet National Trust signs in the village will take you to the village car park. Look for the sign indicating how to walk to the cottage. There is no onward signage: essentially you walk to the far end of the car park, exit in the RH corner, turn left and proceed along the edge of the playing field till you reach a street with a yellow painted thatched cottage in it. You can drive to the cottage and park outside: exit the car park turning left, then right & right into Town End street. You should be able to park outside (except during the school run!).

Interior
Interior
Painted partition
Painted partition
Patterned Plasterwork
Patterned Plasterwork
Cob Summerhouse
Cob Summerhouse