About the House

Poltimore House is a significant Devon landmark, historically and architecturally. The drawing shows it as it was c.1900.

Reconstruction of Poltimore House c. 1900, drawing Simpson and Brown

The building of POLTIMORE HOUSE on this site did not start until the 1550s, long years after the first mention of the manor of Poltimore in the Domesday Survey of 1086.

By the time Richard Bampfylde began building his Tudor mansion, the estate had been held by Bampfyldes for more than three centuries – after John Bampfylde was bequeathed it by a Canon of Exeter Cathedral in 1298.

That first great house can still be seen at Poltimore today – the three-gabled north front, the fine Tudor staircase tower in the corner of the central courtyard. Attic windows and fragments of Tudor fireplaces are still visible – in some cases revealed as a result of its damaged condition today.

When Richard Bampfylde died in 1594 his will describes the house and its fittings, and mentions ‘the Parlor Chamber the Sollar Chamber the Hall Chamber and the Chamber over the Kitchen. Still there at Poltimore, though covered over with more recent changes, the locations of these key rooms of a Tudor house  can still be identified.

Successive generations of Bampfyldes built, rebuilt and added to the house. In 1646 the end of Civil War in the south west was  negotiated at Poltimore, and the Treaty of Exeter was signed in the Great Hall at Poltimore – in the fine east-facing room re-modelled in about 1740 as the Saloon.

Artist’s impression of the Saloon before the damage.

As described in Jocelyn Hemming’s A Devon House, the story of Poltimore (2005),  ‘For over six centuries the Bampfylde family lived at Poltimore, and every hundred  years or so, successive generations pulled down and rebuilt or extended the  mansion and modernised their estate.’

The remarkable building history of the house closes once Augustus Bampfylde, the second Baron Poltimore completed the addition of the outer west wing in 1908, housing new comfortable rooms and the grand ballroom.

But by 1921, following the death of the third Baron Poltimore in 1918, the house was surplus to the family’s needs, and it was put up for auction. Failing to sell, it was taken over by a girls’ school which renamed itself Poltimore College after its new home.