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Powderham Castle

A Grade I Listed Building in Powderham, Devon

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Latitude: 50.643 / 50°38'34"N

Longitude: -3.4605 / 3°27'37"W

OS Eastings: 296824

OS Northings: 83604

OS Grid: SX968836

Mapcode National: GBR P3.66Z0

Mapcode Global: FRA 37MC.RNJ

Plus Code: 9C2RJGVQ+5Q

Entry Name: Powderham Castle

Listing Date: 11 November 1952

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1097666

English Heritage Legacy ID: 85987

ID on this website: 101097666

Location: Powderham, Teignbridge, Devon, EX6

County: Devon

District: Teignbridge

Civil Parish: Powderham

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Powderham St Clement, Bishop and Martyr

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

Tagged with: Castle English country house Historic house museum Independent museum

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SX 98 SE

6/340 Powderham Castle


Fortified manor house, the seat of the Courtenays, Earls of Devon, since the C14.
Medieval core with a sequence of C18 alterations, principally of the 1750s and 1760s,
music room addition of 1794-6 by James Wyatt for the third Viscount. In the late
183cs Charles Fowler was employed at the beginning of a C19 programme of alterations
which continued into the 1860s. Fowler designed the Gothic dining room addition and
effectively turned the castle round - it had formerly faced east - by transforming
the old service yard to the west into a forecourt with a gatehouse. Grey limestone
rubble with some fragments of red sandstone ; embattled parapets.
Plan: The medieval core in the main range, on a north-south axis, is partly buried in
the later alterations but consisted of an open hall with 3 service doors at the lower
(south) end leading into service rooms and a kitchen at the south. The private
apartments to the north of the hall included a first floor solar. The north wing was
a chapel wing (chapel mentioned in 1450) projecting east from the main range, A
smaller corresponding south wing was probably originally detached and retains a high
quality late medieval roof ; it may have been a first floor or open hall of some kind
and although unheated at present appears to be shown with stacks in a stylized
drawing of 1743. 4 substantial towers survive : a medieval north-west tower, a
probably medieval tower in the angle between the main range and north wing and towers
on the west and east walls of the main range ; these may be C16 or C16 remodellings
and certainly predate 1734 (Buck's engraving). A fifth tower is buried in C18
alterations to the north wing. The programme of C18 alterations is described in
detail in Mark Girouard's article in Country Life and before the employment of James
Wyatt for the 1790s music room is remarkable for the use of local builders and
craftsmen. In brief: by 1717 the north wing had been recast as a chapel with library
over, the library (now a drawing room) being refurbished in 1740 with plaster work
(no longer existing) by Jenkins and a baroque chimneypiece, doorcase and
bookshelcases (now moved downstairs) probably all by J. Channon. The hall in the
main range was subdivided vertically by 1755 when it was split between a spectacular
stair hall with a massive open well stair by James Garrett of Exeter employed as
'surveyor' to the Powderham Estate with plasterwork by John Jenkins, and a 2 storey
high reception room retaining the medieval service doorways at the lower end of the
hall. Further alterations of the 1760s for the 2nd Viscount involved work in the
north wing and single-storey rooms flanking the east tower including rococo ceilings
and Gothick windows. In the 1780s the chapel in the north wing, was converted into a
drawing room (formed into libraries at the beginning of the C19). The 3rd Viscount,
who inherited in 1788, added the splendid music room, adjacent to the north wing in
1794-6, by Wyatt. The final major programme of alterations was begun by the 10th
Earl who employed Charles Fowler to add a dining hall on the west side of the main
range and create a new entrance front on the west side with a baronial courtyard; the
whole exterior of the Castle was "extensively restored and in part re-Gothicised"
(Girouard) at the same time. The dining hall was not completed until the late 1850s
and in 1861 the south wing, with the superior medieval roof, was remodelled asia
Exterior: Main range 3 storeys, north and south wings 2 storey, 4 storey towers to
north-west, west and east, single storey music room, dining room and west bays. All
battlemented and buttressed on'the west elevation. West elevation with a 4-storey
entrance tower and the north west tower projecting at the left with Fowler's 3-bay
buttressed single storey dining hall between the towers with tall transomed Decorated
traceried windows. Massive arched doorway into entrance tower below a corbelled
oriel window by Fowler, another oriel of unknown date on the main range to the right
of the entrance tower. 1-, 2- and 3-light stone windows in square-headed frames,
some with cusped heads, mostly C19 restorations but some probably original. The east
elevation (formerly the main entrance) also has a 4-storey entrance tower with a 2-
leaf Gothick traceried door, flanked by single-storey projecting battlemented bays
with Gothick windows. Embattled tower in the angle with the north wing which has 5-
bays of sash windows with Gothick glazing bars on the inner return, one bay to the
east end. The south wing has 2 projections on the inner return and a bay window on
the east end. Between the south wing and the east tower the main range, with a
projecting turret, rises above a single-storey block. Adjoining the north wing, at
the north end the Wyatt music room projects to the front (east) with a 3-sided bay
with big 2-leaf windows with semi-circular fanlights and ogival glazing bars. The
north end of the castle has the north west tower to the right with a projecting
embattled stair turret. Set back from the tower and to the left, a 3 bay 3-storey
block with early C18 segmental-headed sash windows with proud architraves. The music
room to the left has a 3-sided embattled turret. The south side of the south wing
(the present chapel wing) is 5 bays with a 2-bay adsdition at the east end. A stone
retaining wall to the terrace east of the castle with battlemented bastions is
included in the listing.
The Forecourt Fowlers embattled forecourt buildings, in the baronial style, include a
central gatehouse with moulded Tudor arches and a stone rib vault with a battlemented
octagonal corner tower flanked by buttressed embattled walls. Outside the south wall
an irregular service range now includes the estate office: on the north side the
Steward's house, partly in a rectangular corner tower with a second gatehouse to the
north-east leading to the drive from Powderham Gate. Grey limestone walling with
refuges and octagonal piers at the west end flank the narrow drive immediately in
front of the forecourt up to the west gatehouse.
Interior: Described in detail in Girouard's article in Country Life, of the medieval
remains the 3 2-centred arched double-chamfered doorways to the service end survive
with a flatter arched doorway above, possibly to the hall gallery ; a moulded stone
fireplace in the first floor solar and a turret stair in the adjoining tower ;
blocked doors and windows are also said to survive beneath later wall plaster. Fine
probably C15 6-bay arched brace roof in the south wing (now the chapel) with hollow
chamfered arch braces carried on carved corbels-and windbraces. The C18 work is
extensive and splendid from the early C18 chimneypiece and overdoors in the original
library (matching the Channon bookcases of 1740) to the magnificent stair hall,
described as "the most spectacular space of its date in Devon" (Cherry). The stair,
rather archaic for the date, is massive with 3 flights with barley sugar balusters,
the exuberant plasterwork in deep relief by John Jenkins covers the walls and
underside of the flights with a mixture of stylized ornament and naturalistic leaves,
fruit and animals with military trophies and musical instruments. The other C18
principal rooms (apart from the original library) have later rococo ceilings and fine
chimneypieces with original grates and jonery. The music room by Wyatt, described in
1798 as "the finest and most expensive room in the County" (Swete) is sophisticated
Neo-classical with a coffered dome and decorated plaster ceiling (the ceiling
retaining original paint) with a frieze incorporating musical instruments. Scagliola
Corinthian wall pilasters divide niches filled with large alabaster urns, the
roundels above painted by the 3rd Viscount and his sisters ; white marble skirting
boards. Splendid marble chimneypiece by R. Westmacott Sen, with large white marble
figures playing the flute and tambourine : the Thomire grate of 1788 is no longer in
the room. 1757 organ by Seede in an elaborately decorated case.
Charles Fowler's dining hall, begun in 1835 but finished during the time of the 11th
Earl (in possession 1859-1888), has a fine 7-bay roof painted timber roof, a gallery
at the south end with Gothic panelling, a massive painted stone Gothic chimney-piece
based on Bishop Peter Courtenay's fireplace in the Bishop's Palace, Exeter and a dado
of linenfold panelling with a frieze of armorial bearings of the Courtenay family.
The present chapel, in the south wing, includes C16 carved bench ends that originated
from South Huish.
Documentation relating to the C18 and C19 building programmes is deposited in the DRO
and other archive material exists at the Castle. Buck's useful engraving of 1743
showing the east elevation before the building was turned round is reproduced as a
plate to Hardings's article in TEDAS and a stylized drawing of the same elevation on
a map dated 1743 exists in the DRO. Swete's 1799 watercolour show the east and north
elevations much as they are today.
Map dated July 1743 in DRO, 96m add/E11.
Harding, Lieut-Colonel, 'A Paper on Powderham Castle', Transactions of the Exeter
Diocesan Architectural Society, vol. I, Part II, second series, pp. 170-183 and
plates 26, 27 and 28.
Swete, J., 'Picturesque sketches of Devon', vol. 17 (1798). MS held in DRO.
Girouard, Mark, 'Powderham Castle, Devon' ; Country Life, July 4th 1963, pp. 116-119;
July 11th 1963, pp. 1-5.

Listing NGR: SX9682883599

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