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Latitude: 50.5897 / 50°35'23"N
Longitude: -3.5161 / 3°30'57"W
OS Eastings: 292778
OS Northings: 77764
OS Grid: SX927777
Mapcode National: GBR P1.KXL4
Mapcode Global: FRA 37JH.VC0
Entry Name: Ashcombe Tower
Listing Date: 2 December 1988
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1147029
English Heritage Legacy ID: 85663
Location: Ashcombe, Teignbridge, Devon, EX7
Civil Parish: Ashcombe
Traditional County: Devon
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon
Church of England Parish: Ashcombe St Nectan
Church of England Diocese: Exeter
SX 97 NW ASHCOMBE
8/1 Ashcombe Tower
Small country house. 1933-6 by Brian O'Rorke for Major Ralph Rayner, MP. The
design incorporates a former folly, originally part of the Mamhead estate and
possibly by Salvin, who designed Mamhead House in 1833. The folly is used as a water
tower to the 1930s house. Local grey limestone, mostly plastered but with
idiosyncratic rusticated dressings ; green Westmorland slate roofs, gabled at ends ;
chimney stacks with rusticated stone rubble shafts.
Of considerable interest stylistically, the exterior influenced by the Vernacular
Revival and using traditional materials and a pitched roof, the interior fittings
Modern Movement in style. Said to be the only private house by Brian O'Rorke.
Plan: South-facing, overlooking the garden, with a forecourt and the principal
entrance on the north side. The core of the house is an irregular H plan with west
and east crosswings. Adjuncts to the H plan are a kitchen block to the north west,
at right angles to the west crosswing and a former squash court to the north east, at
right angles to the east crosswing. The 1830s tower is incorporated into the east
crosswing at the rear (north). Principal living room ('the big room') in the centre,
the east crosswing containing a morning room to the front (south), a study and the
stair hall (in the base of the tower). The west crosswing has a dining room to the
front with a loggia opening on to the garden and service rooms to the rear adjoining
the kitchen block. Ground and first floor plans were published in Country Life in
1937 and there has been little alteration to the plan with the exception of the
squash court, converted to domestic use, and 'the big room', which has been re-
partitoned, creating an axial passage between the vestibule and stair hall. The
house was on mains electricity from the beginning. Water was pumped from the main in
to the valley and stored in the water tower.
Exterior: 2 storeys and attic. Regular fenestration with a mixture of 18-pane sashes
and small-pane casements. Rusticated quoins and jambs to the openings, some of the
rustication extended as vertical banding from ground floor to eaves. South front
roughly symmetrical with 4 windows to the centre, the gabled ends of the crosswings
to left and right. 2-leaf French window with glazing bars to the left of the centre
block, the other 3 ground floor windows sashes, first floor casements high under the
eaves. The crosswings have round windows in the gables and wide 4-light first floor
casements. Ground floor sash to east wing, the west wing with a recessed loggia at
the south end with French windows leading into the dining room. The kitchen block is
set back at the left end with a small swimming pool in front of it enclosed by a
pergola feature to the south and a west wall with a circular summerhouse with a
conical thatched roof. The right (east) return of the east crosswing has an unusual
ground floor bay window to the study with rounded shafts' to left and right.
The rear elevation is more imposing and asymmetrical, including the massive, squat
tower at the left (east) which acts as a foil to the crosswing at the right. The
kitchen block at the far right is enclosed behind a tall wall. The front door, to
right of centre, has steps up flanked by sculptured reindeer. 2-leaf panelled door,
deeply recessed, with ashlar stone reveals ; a section of rusticated stone above the
door incorporates armorial bearings. 3 sashes to the left ; 4 first floor casements,
4 attic dormers ; small-pane casement windows to the end of the crosswing. The water
tower to the left is impressively severe with battered walls, a flush parapet and
deeply-recessed windows of a slit-like appearance. Deeply-recessed doorway on the
inner (west) face which also has a presumably contemporary clock face. The north
face has a first floor French window (lighting the stair) with a balcony and long
stone gutters projecting below the parapet.
Interior: Very complete Modern Movement interior, reflecting the architect's
experience in fitting out British liners. The fittings are much as described in the
Country Life article of 1937 including the furniture and textiles by Marian Dorn.
'The big room', originally the full width of the centre portion of the house, has
been partitioned axially on the line of the 2 massive columns which originally formed
a nominal division between the heated part of the room and the space leading to the
stair hall. The room has been divided across its width by a plain glass screen wall
with sliding doors. Concealed lighting, fitted cupboards, pale wood and shiny
textures of glass, veneer and gloss paint characterize the interior. Impressive
stair with a timber lattice balustrade and round section newel post with a chromium
plate ball finial.
The listing includes the walling to the forecourt and kitchen block, paving to the
south of the house and a garden pool against the south wall of the former squash
Brian O'Rorke designed the fittings of the liner Orion before designing Ashcombe
Tower, the General Steam Navigation Company's office, lower Thames Street was
designed by him 1936-60 and his New Barclay Hotel, Knightsbridge was designed in
1965-1971. Ashcombe Tower is the only private house in his opus (information form
owner) and is still lived in by the Rayner family.
An important and unusual 1930s house in a very good state of preservation with a
remarkably intact interior.
"Ashcombe Tower, South Devon", Country Life, Feb 13 (1937).
Photograph of the 1830s tower before 1933 in the possession of Major R. Rayner, the
O'Rorke, Brian, Perpective of north elevation of Ashcombe Tower, in RIBA Drawings
Series, The Thirties by David Dean (1983), p. 18.
Documentation relating to the house said to be held by the Victoria and Albert Museum
(information from owner).
Listing NGR: SX9277877764
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