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Oldway Mansion

A Grade II* Listed Building in Preston, Torbay

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Latitude: 50.4431 / 50°26'35"N

Longitude: -3.5676 / 3°34'3"W

OS Eastings: 288784

OS Northings: 61532

OS Grid: SX887615

Mapcode National: GBR QT.RF1Y

Mapcode Global: FRA 37DW.KXM

Entry Name: Oldway Mansion

Listing Date: 13 May 1951

Last Amended: 25 October 1993

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1195207

English Heritage Legacy ID: 383869

Location: Torbay, TQ3

County: Torbay

Electoral Ward/Division: Preston

Built-Up Area: Paignton

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Paignton Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

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Listing Text


1947-1/4/102 (West side)
13/05/51 Oldway Mansion
(Formerly Listed as:


Large house, now in use as Borough Council offices. 1873 to
the designs of GS Bridgman for Isaac Singer, founder of the
sewing machine company. Contractor J Matcham of Plymouth,
design partly undertaken by Isaac Singer himself. House
thoroughly remodelled 1904-1907 for Singer's son, Paris,
architect unknown to date.
MATERIALS: Stuccoed; roof concealed behind parapets except
lead-covered lantern. Probably 1870s stacks with yellow brick
shafts, stone bands and pots. 1904-1907 build said to include
a large proportion of concrete construction. Original build in
French Renaissance style. Remodelling, with elevations
described as in Pevsner as "stunningly bombastic" based on
various French precedents, including Versailles.
PLAN: The existing plan makes use of the outlines of
Bridgman's double-depth arrangement (demolishing a private
theatre on the east side), but the early C20 work cut a
massive open well, top-lit stair hall for an imperial stair
down from the former ground floor to the former basement,
which is the level of the present main entrance on the N side
facing onto the courtyard. The stair leads up to ballroom on
the east side. Other principal rooms face south, overlooking
the formal gardens laid out by Duchesne with a study on the N
side (now the mayor's parlour). On the west side of the stair
hall, at the old ground floor level, a gallery based on the
hall of mirrors at Versailles, with stair off to the former
first-floor rooms. The position of the early C20 service rooms
is unclear, they were probably sited below the east range.
EXTERIOR: 3 storeys except south elevation, which is 2
storeys. All elevations remodelled in 1904-1907 except the W,
which retains Bridgeman's facade.
Entrance (N) elevation 13 bays, the centre 3 broken forard and
pedimented, the 2 narrow bays flanking the centre slightly
broken forward. Ground floor with chanelled rustication and
recessed 2-light windows with keyblocks. Modest entrance of
triple doorways in centre 3 bays. First and 2nd-floor bays
divided by giant Ionic pilasters with entablature and dentil
cornice below balustraded parapet.
Centre 3 bays with distyle Ionic columns in antis, pediment
above entablature filled with a winged shield drooping over
the cornice. First-floor windows in outer bays with moulded
architraves and tall French windows onto individual cast-iron
balconies between the pilasters. 2nd floor windows in outer
bays tall 2-light casements, 4 panes per light with moulded
architraves, sill blocks and swags of cloth carved in relief
under the sills. Narrow bays flanking the centre 3 have
first-floor one-light transomed windows and round-headed
one-light second-floor windows. Centre 3 bays have first-floor
round-headed French windows with pilastered architraves with
stucco mouldings and swags of cloth over the arches. Windows
glazed with small panes with spoke glazing bars and open onto
cast-iron balcony. Above the French windows 3 blind oculi
decorated with festoons of husk ornament.
The 8-bay east elevation also has a ground-floor loggia of
small square-headed openings with keyblocks, walls decorated
with chanelled rustication. Above this a gaint colonnade of
Ionic columns with entablature and moulded cornice, creating a
loggia with coffered moulded ceiling and balustrade in front
of the ballroom. The bays to the wall behind the loggia are
divided by giant pilasters, windows and details similar to N
elevation. Life-size statue groups on the roof at left- and
9-bay 2-storey S elevation plus 3-bay single-storey canted
pavilions at either end. Ground floor with chanelled
rustication, centre 3 bays slightly broken forward and
pedimented. Cornice at first-floor level; balustraded parapet
to main block and pavilions. Central garden doorway to main
block and to each pavilion with moulded architrave and
keyblock, with small-pane French windows with fanlights with
spoke glazing bars; similar window onto first-floor centre
cast-iron balcony. Other ground-floor windows with moulded
architraves and keyblocks, glazed with 2-light small-pane
casements; similar first-floor windows with individual
cast-iron balconies and carved panels over the lintels
depicting Cupid at play. Narrower bays flanking the centre
with blind panels roundels and niches with husk and flower
festoons and swags of drapery. Pediment filled with classical
female nude, perhaps Venus, leaning on an amphora and looking
at an owl.
2:3:3-bay yellow Flemish bond brick W elevation to Bridgman's
designs with a corbelled cornice, moulded tile relief and
bowed balconies. Triple window lights stair, attractive tiled
panel below stair window.
INTERIOR: Mostly dating from the 1904-1907 phase, but
retaining some of the 1870s features, particularly on the top
Remarkable 1904-1907 stair hall, said to be based on Lebrun's
(unexecuted) designs for the stair at Versailles for Louis
XIV. Mosaic floor; imperial stair with marble and bronze
3-sided gallery on round-headed marble arcading at the old
basement level, the east side of the stair hall was designed
to take JL David's painting showing Napoleon crowning
Josephine (returned to France in 1946 and now hanging in
The west side has an Ionic screen of paired, painted marble
columns into the hall of mirrors. The north and south sides
have paired gilded doors with elaborate overdoors and tall
marble pilasters flanking statue niches containing sculpted
headless torsos with armour and helmets. Spectacular painted
ceiling above enriched cornice with trompe d'oeil paintings of
allegorical classical figures.
The ballroom, to the east, has a sprung woodblock floor and
probably original light fittings. It is lined with fixed
mirrors with gilded surrounds and decoration of flaming
torches and musical instruments.
The north end has a coloured Italian marble chimney-piece with
original integral fireback and cast-iron surround. Above the
chimney-piece gilded side panels with an elaborate swan-necked
pediment with the Bourbon crest create a frame for a 1717
painting of Loius of Bourbon, Prince of Asturias. Flanking the
chimney-piece, paired doors below bow-fronted galleries. White
Italian marble chimney-piece on the west wall has a large
mirror over and glazed doors to left and right below classical
panels carved in relief. 2 paired doors from the stair gallery
have overdoors with integral trompe d'oeil flower paintings.
The hall of mirrors is lined with round-headed mirrors in
marble architraves and contains an C18 white marble statue of
a woman playing a pipe as well as 2 Greek style candlesticks.
The study, now the mayor's parlour, to the north, has
full-height fluted oak Corinthian columns flanking paired
doors with carved round-headed overdoors and relief sculpture
Suite of rooms on south side also retains original
chimney-pieces (some from Bridgman's phase), mirrors,
elaborate plaster cornices etc
Bridgman stair with balustrade of cast-iron panels and ramped
handrail rises from the hall of mirrors to the upper floor,
which also retains plasterwork and chimney-pieces, although
now re-partitioned for office use.
Numerous features of interest, including statuary from the
1904-1907 phase survives, but are not mentioned individually
HISTORY: Isaac Singer's drawings for the Bridgman phase
survive and are owned by the Borough Council. A small museum
in the entrance hall contains numerous photographs and
documents relating to the history of the house, including
photographs of Bridgman's building. Paris Singer is said to
have obtained permission to scaffold the Galerie des Glaces at
Versailles to examine the Lebrun colour scheme there as a
model for the stair hall at Oldway.
The Singer family had a major impact on the development of
Paignton and bought and developed land in the town. Paris
Singer had an affair with Isadora Duncan, who spent some time
at Oldway, which was used as the set for the film 'Isadora'.
Plans to develop Paignton into the centre of a film industry,
which was to be the British answer to Hollywood, were based at
Oldway and Little Oldway.
In 1914 the house was converted into the American Women's War
Hospital. In 1929 it was reused as the Torbay Country Club,
with some alterations to the basement level. The RAF
requisitioned the building in 1939, it was bought from the
Singer family by the Borough Council in 1945 for ยป45,000
(Penwill FR: Paignton in Six Reigns: 1953-: 152-153; Tully P:
Peter Tully's Pictures of Paignton: 1988-: 47; Buildings of
England: Pevsner N: Devon: London: 1952-1989: 839-40).

Listing NGR: SX8878461532

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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