Poltimore House

Pros and Cons


Poltimore lay on the edge of Exeter, close to Killerton House (a popular National Trust property), in sight of the M5 motorway, close to Exeter airport and between the spread of new housing developments out of Exeter and East Devon.

For many years, East Devon District Council had striven to find ways to save the House and they initially led the Steering Group, managed the accounts of the Development Study and offered £461,000 in partnership funding for a bid to the National Lottery distributors.

Being an important historic House on the Buildings at Risk register, there was a good chance that CCANW could attract funding from heritage bodies, as well as the arts. HLF advised English Heritage and CCANW that they might look to fund a percentage of the entire capital project if the emphasis was on conservation rather than the new galleries, up to a maximum of 75% of the total.

The restored parts of the historic House and the addition of a contemporary wing to the building by a leading architect would be likely to attract additional visitors and income from admission charges. Our plans for the gardens would also widen the appeal to visitors and there was adequate room for parking.


The most serious disadvantage of Poltimore was the scale and cost of the building work necessary, and that we could not find a way to achieve the work in phases, as funding became available.

Our ambition was to attract 120,000 paying visitors a year; however, the Lead Consultants did not consider these numbers to be achievable. Instead they estimated 50,000 annually in our first years and were not able to develop a viable business plan based on that figure. To give some comparison, nearby Killerton House and Gardens attracted over 100,000 paying visitors annually 1996-9, and CCANW attracted 40,000 visitors in its second year at Haldon.

We had not followed up offers to help from patrons. Lord Poltimore of Christies had offered to host a fundraising event in 1998. Our MP Hugo Swire, Director of Sotheby’s and formerly Head of the National Gallery’s Development Fund, also offered to help, but neither offer had been followed up.

Unlike the National Trust’s Killerton Estate, Poltimore had no tenants from whom one could derive income. It also did not have sufficient land on which it might have been developed housing.

In July 2001, the Culture Secretary approved restructuring of ACE despite opposition from Regional Arts Boards (RABs) including SWA. The merging of ACE with the ten RABs in 2002 most likely accounted for a certain amount of ‘turmoil’ reported in dealing with ACE in this period. From 2002, this Archive makes the distinction between the national ACE and ACESW regional offices.

The first round of the ACP beginning in 1995 was advertised as wishing to support ambitious and visionary projects. The second round to which we applied in 2002 had different stated priorities and took a strategic approach which was not to our advantage.

SWA saw Plymouth as the City where they wanted to create a contemporary art focus comparable to Liverpool, Manchester and Gateshead. Exeter College of Art and Design also moved permanently to Plymouth in 2007.

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) in Exeter benefitted from a HLF grant of £10,000,000 to Exeter City Council which paid for its redevelopment from 2007.

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Haldon Forest Park

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