Poltimore House

Withdrawal from Poltimore

Despite the failure of capital applications to the Arts Council and Heritage Lottery Fund, the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) identified us as a regional ‘flagship’ project and in November 2002 they provided £20,000 for new consultancy by DeFacto. An initial stage would decide if there was any possibility of Poltimore being viable and, if not, a second stage would explore other options.

In October 2003 DeFacto presented their Interim Report. Based on new costings of the full scheme at Poltimore which were now estimated at £12 million, they confirmed the unviability of the previous business plan. Costs either needed to be reduced or another commercial tenant needed to be found.

It was recommended that PHT press ahead on conservation and to apply to HLF as CCANW’s plans were most unlikely to succeed. Numerous permutations of phasing had already been explored and all were more expensive. It was a matter of ‘all or nothing’ and the danger was that the struggle moved CCANW away from its original aims.

Coincidentally, Poltimore House had been chosen for the BBC2 Restoration series in which viewers decided which of 30 Buildings at Risk should be saved. This focussed on returning buildings to their ‘former glory’ rather than a new use. Screenings took place in August 2003, and decisions reached in September. Although Poltimore reached the final, it did not win and in November CCANW announced that it was withdrawing from Poltimore and beginning the search for a new home in the South West.

In 2005, the book A Devon House: The Story of Poltimore by Jocelyn Hemming was published by the University of Plymouth Press in association with Intellect Press.

Final chapter The Millennium and Beyond from A Devon House 2005

The failure of its ACE/ACP/HLF grant applications could have left CCANW with the responsibility of maintaining a rapidly deteriorating historic building but, recognising this would have completely negated its original aims, a second separate trust had first been established in 2000 to own the freehold.

So, in the aftermath of our withdrawal, Poltimore House Trust went on to secure grants and donations to erect a protective scaffold and roof at a cost of just over £300,000. Although not completed until 2006, this has successfully stopped water ingress and thereby prevented further damage which would have proved catastrophic. The bulk of the money came from English Heritage but funds were also obtained from local authorities, The Friends of Poltimore House and other smaller donations.

Subsequent years have seen donations for work with Social Service programmes (for various organisation involved in recovery programmes and well-being) working mainly in the grounds, but also in the kitchen block. Today (2023), PHT continues work both in the grounds and the House, recently completing work on the Front Porch and in the Entrance Hall. The old School Chapel has seen several repairs and is now fitted out as a café.

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