Poltimore House

Development Study

From the spring of 1999 to the spring of 2000, on the assumption that both stage one and two Feasibility and Development Studies would need to be submitted in any application to the ACE/ACP, a detailed stage two Development Study was coordinated by the Steering Group on behalf of EDDC. Peter Boyden and Russell Southwood of Boyden Southwood were confirmed as Lead Consultants. This study included the producing of plans for the regeneration of the House and its gardens, in order to establish the level of the funding application.

Article in Devon Life magazine 2000


The exhaustive Development Study eventually ran to seven volumes and cost just under £200,000. The volumes covered the context of the study, surveys and proposals for the House and grounds, finance and access. Volumes 2 and 6 are in the CCANW Archive and 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 are held by Poltimore House Trust.

Accounts for the study were kept by EDDC but now unfortunately cannot now be traced. However, project management accounted for around 10% of these costs; programme, education and operations (including business and fundraising consultants, and artists fees) 30%; architecture and landscape (including architects fees); building and grounds surveys, access and transport consultants) 60%.

From the evidence of other records, including minutes of meetings, the costs were largely covered by the Arts Council Lottery Fund (£55,000 – the balance of the original £75,000 grant), English Heritage (£44,720), East Devon District Council (£13,000), South West Regional Development Agency (£20,000), PROSPER ‘Gift Aid’ (£20,000), Entrust (£3,500) and a RSA Art for Architecture Award (£5,000).

Architectural Proposals and Costs

Adrian Gale (then Director of Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture) was Architectural Advisor to the Steering Group. He recommended a selective interview be held with three or four architectural firms short-listed in April 1999 from ten that he would suggest. He advised that a contemporary architect be in charge overall, but that a conservation architect/consultant would also be needed. Seven practices were invited to visit Poltimore, then narrowed to two or three for interview.

Western Morning News, 6 April 2001.

As a result, in May 1999, two leading Edinburgh practices, Richard Murphy Architects and Simpson & Brown Architects, were selected to prepare an integrated approach to RIBA Stage D which would conserve the historic building and move it into the 21st century. The new element would be as distinct from Poltimore’s 18th century additions as these were to the original Tudor House. A quantity surveyor, transport, access and fundraising consultants were also employed.

English Heritage agreed to support 80% of the cost of Simpson and Brown’s initial survey and report as part of the Development Study. Devon Wildlife Trust contributed a bio-diversity survey of the gardens. Gross Max, a practice based in Edinburgh, were chosen from a shortlist for the role of Landscape Architects.

Proposals by Gross Max and connections to the surrounding landscape 2000

In July 1999 the Buildings at Risk Trust (BART) agreed to sell the freehold to an independent trust. With financial support from English Heritage, Devon County Council and an interest-free mortgage from EDDC, Poltimore House Trust was established in 2000 to secure the freehold, who agreed to offer a 99 year lease to CCANW once it had been established. On 9 April 2000, an event to mark the signing of the Treaty of Exeter at Poltimore in 1646 was held in its grounds; the treaty had marked the ending of the Civil War in the South West.

In June 2000 the new plans for Poltimore House and gardens were exhibited at the Architecture Centre in Bristol, Richard Murphy gave a presentation and a symposium was held. The exhibition, designed by Northbank as a contribution to the project, moved to Honiton, Falmouth, Plymouth and Exeter.

Article in Building Design magazine 2000

Artistic and Education Programme

I became Project Officer to the Steering Group and until 2000 my wife Jill provided support as Project Administrator. In November 1998 I was appointed a Visiting Fellow at the University of Plymouth as an expression of its support and this continued until 2002. I started to plan the artistic programme in July 1999 with a Programme and Operations Sub-committee which included Tom Trevor and Zoë Shearman (Spacex Gallery Co-curators) and the artist Lesley Kerman.

Three debates were set up in Exeter, Plymouth and Bristol to explore what was meant by ‘nature’ in the 21st century; these were curated by Tom Trevor and funded by a grant of £3,500 from SWA to Spacex under the umbrella of the new Exeter Contemporary Visual Arts Consortium. The idea of a University of Plymouth research centre and the establishment of a ‘core’ art collection were also explored.

The search for a lead artist involved the drawing up of a long list of 22 experienced regional artists, from which four were invited to make a presentation. From these, Garry Fabian Miller was chosen as Lead Artist, benefitting from a grant from the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) Art for Architecture scheme.

Proposal by Garry Fabian Miller 2000

Lisa Harty of Public Art Forum was appointed Commissions Assistant. Notices were widely distributed across the UK and Republic of Ireland. 290 submissions for commissions were received by the end of August 1999, from which 12 artists were invited to Poltimore and make a presentation. From these, five were chosen to make proposals: Thomas A.Clarke, Angus Fairhurst, Alec Finlay, Rebecca Earley and Pak Keung Wan.

Proposals by five other artists 2000

Sue Clive and Laura Denning (assistant) were appointed Education Consultants and Caroline Mawdsley took over this role in July 2000. The Steering Group was divided into a Programme and Operations Sub-committee and an Architecture and Landscape Sub-committee.

Artistic Programme

The second volume of the Development Study covered the principles, policy and approach of the artistic programme. This was written by myself, Tom Trevor and Education Consultant Bronwen Gwillim, facilitated by Val Millington who had left SWA at the end of December 1999.

A series of appendices documented recent exhibitions and symposia around the world, nature in design, a list of local students and 63 international artists who had visited Poltimore, contacts and consultations that had taken place, and estimated revenue costs.

A synopsis of each of six key books that had most influenced me in developing the CCANW concept were also included: Fragile Ecologies by Barbara Matilsky, Man and the Natural World by Keith Thomas, The Philosophy of the Environment ed.T.D.J.Chappell, Natural Reality by Dr Wolfgang Becker et al, Future Natural ed.George Robertson et al, and Nature in Design by Alan Powers.

A section of the volume outlined a provisional programme over three years commissioned from Spacex gallery and written by its Artistic Director, Tom Trevor. This covered its structure, annual themes, main exhibitions, use of project spaces, events and performances, longer term projects, commissions and residencies.

The theme of the first year was The Nature of Re-presentation, the second Geo-Poetics and the third The Light & the Dark. Longer term projects and commissions were articulated in detail and referenced the work of Lois Weinberger, Peter Fend, Carsten Holler and Rosemarie Trockel, Louise Bourgeois, Sigalit Landau and many other artists and collectives such as Platform UK.

Education Strategy

Another section of the second volume described the education strategy which had been researched and developed by Sue Clive, Laura Denning and Caroline Mawdsley, and compiled by Bronwen Gwillim. This summarised the national and regional policies and initiatives that provided the operational context for CCANW. It set out an education policy, a potential programme and its delivery including partnerships, fundraising and evaluation. Appendices set out a programme for the pre-opening and first year, a budget breakdown, list of key partners, people consulted and a marketing strategy. A list of 49 further and higher education organisations I had contacted or consulted in the UK and abroad was also given.

Business Plan

The sixth volume covered finance and began with a business plan commissioned by CCANW from Southwood Consultants and completed in May 2001. Whilst the consultants described our establishment at Poltimore as an ‘extremely attractive project’, it expressed concern over ‘serious shortfalls in the capital and revenue funding required’. Whilst capital could be addressed by funding applications, income would depend on 120,000 paying visitors to break even. The consultants projected that only 50,000 visitors annually were likely in the first three years and it would take some years to rise to 100,000. Admission charges were based on £4 for adults, £2 for students, under 16s, senior citizens and the unemployed. Under 5s were admitted free.

See related pages below for more on our fundraising.

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