The Dunsland Project

The National Trust first suggested the Dunsland Estate as a site for a new building. Dunsland lay some five miles east of Holsworthy in North Devon and was one of three manors in the parish of Bradford at the time of the Norman Conquest.

The Dunsland Estate on Google Maps

History of Dunsland House 1500-1969

In the early Tudor period around 1500 the first all-stone house was built on the site. The house was enlarged in 1609 during the Jacobean period and its final enlargement was made around 1670 during the Restoration.

Dunsland House and its 92 acres were acquired by the National Trust in 1954 who completed the restoration and furnishing of the House in 1967. It began to play a part in the cultural life of the district and the last of a series of musical recitals was given to a packed audience on 14 November 1967. Three nights later the House caught fire and was reduced to a smoking ruin. Some architectural features were rescued but the House needed to be completely demolished.

Dunsland House 18 November 1967. Photo The National Trust guide book.

The National Trust published a guide book on Dunsland House in June 1969, documenting its restoration and subsequent demolition. Another booklet, The Dunsland Saga was written by Bickford Dickinson and published in 1996.

Dunsland House 1967. Photo Leonard Elmhirst, from The Dartington Archive with permission of Dartington Trust and The Elmgrant Trust.

A few weeks before Dunsland went up in flames, Leonard Elmhirst and his fellow Dartington Hall Trustees had been invited to visit in case the House would suit the development of an arts centre. A photograph that he took is reproduced here from the original deposited at the Devon Archives and Local Studies Service (ref.1845Z/Z/1), along with his letter dated 11 November 1969. The arts centre is now established at Beaford.

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The Proposal

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