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Bull House

A Grade I Listed Building in Barnstaple, Devon

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Latitude: 51.0882 / 51°5'17"N

Longitude: -4.0629 / 4°3'46"W

OS Eastings: 255620

OS Northings: 134118

OS Grid: SS556341

Mapcode National: GBR KQ.CQK9

Mapcode Global: FRA 26C7.YSL

Plus Code: 9C3Q3WQP+7R

Entry Name: Bull House

Listing Date: 19 January 1951

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1385078

English Heritage Legacy ID: 485539

Location: Barnstaple, North Devon, Devon, EX31

County: Devon

District: North Devon

Civil Parish: Barnstaple

Built-Up Area: Barnstaple

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Pilton with Ashford

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

Tagged with: Building

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SS5534SE BULL HILL, Pilton
684-1/2/319 (North side)
19/01/51 Bull House


Large house. Probably C15, enlarged and partly rebuilt early
or mid C16; minor C19 addition. Roughly-coursed stone rubble;
details in at least 2 types of local dressed stone and some
limestone. Pantiled roof, with long stretches of old crested
ridge-tiles. 3 stone rubble chimneys, 2 of them with tops
rebuilt in red brick. 2 old red brick chimneys and a third in
early C20 brick.
3-room and through-passage C15 range at right-angles to
street; open hall with original storeyed ends; at upper end
the remains of a narrow 4th room, apparently containing a
garderobe. This room partly demolished in early C16 to add a
2-room storeyed cross-wing at an acute angle to the original
range; newel stair in the angle with external passage from
hall. At front of cross-wing, at a slightly less acute angle,
a gatehouse, probably earlier than the wing; C19 rear
extension against front of C15 range.
2 storeys (except for open hall). East face of hall has
chamfered doorway with 4-centred arch; much restored. 2
mullioned-and-transomed 2-light hall windows with Tudor-arched
lights top and bottom; straight hoodmoulds and relieving
arches; some original masonry. Ground-storey window to lower
end room removed and replaced by doorway; now a window again
with wood-framed casement. Above, a restored 2-light
Tudor-arched window. At left-hand end a C20 wood casement
window; restored 2-light Tudor-arched window above.
Cross-wing and gatehouse have 6-window range to Bull Hill. At
right-hand end an almost unrestored doorway to gatehouse in
local purple stone; hollow and ogee moulded, 4-centred arch
with carved spandrels, large claw-like stops. Ground-storey
windows all C20 with flat-headed mullioned-and-transomed
lights. 2- and 3-light Tudor-arched windows in upper storey;
those in gatehouse appear to be entirely C20, but those in
wing have substantial amounts of original masonry, including
straight hoodmoulds, the centre one with initials RB.
Gatehouse has top string course and original crenellated
parapet, these extending on to right side wall. Latter has 2
C20 Tudor-arched windows.
Left gable-end of wing has a single upper-storey window with 2
Tudor-arched lights and straight hoodmould with carved
terminals; some old masonry. To left, and overlapping the
hoodmould, is a projecting garderobe with slated lean-to roof;
small trefoil-headed limestone window in upper storey. Stair
turret and passage (properly visible only from Medina next
door (qv)) has crenellated parapet and partly restored 2-light
Tudor-arched window with hoodmould in upper storey; similar
3-light window in ground storey, 2 of the lights now blocked.
INTERIOR: rear door of through-passage blocked; relieving-arch
visible. Whole C15 range has continuous open arch-braced roof
with 2 tiers of chamfered butt-purlins; chamfered, curved
windbraces below the lower tier; scratched carpenter's marks;
moulded wall-plates. All the trusses have cranked collars and
chamfered arch-braces, except that the partition trusses have
plain braces. Below them are surprisingly thin partition
studs; these appear to be original since between 2 of those at
the lower end is a wooden quatrefoil spy-hole which was
blocked by upper-floor beams in the hall until c1964.
Beneath the upper end partition is a stud-and-panel partition
(former doorway infilled with re-used studding). Another one
at lower end with scroll stops; this was brought from
gatehouse, where it had been used as wall panelling, but fills
original mortices in partition beam overhead. Upper rooms at
both ends have very thick, square floor joists.
At left-hand end of rear wall of hall is a segmental-arched
doorway without mouldings. Immediately to right of it is a
square-headed stone fieplace with chamfered surround; the roof
timbers show no sign of smoke-blackening or of a louvre.
Ground-floor room at upper end has end wall chimney; relieving
arch of fireplace visible. Purlins continue beyond chimney and
the rear purlin, oddly, has a step-stop against the chimney.
Stair passage at rear of hall has 4 stone doorways with
4-centred arches. That to upper end room is chamfered with
diagonal-cut stops. That to cellar below the same room is
chamfered without stops; below it is a rebated cellar doorway
and to right a stone quatrefoil opening to a squint. Doorways
to stair and wing have ogee and hollow mouldings with
claw-like stops matching those on the front door.
Rear ground-floor wing room has wooden ceiling of intersecting
beams, heavily moulded with half and three-quarter round
mouldings; plain joists set different way in alternate panels,
chequer-fashion. Faint traces of painted decoration on the
beams. At front end a stud-and-panel partition; narrow
chamfered studs without stops; doorway with flattened Tudor
arch. In rear (N) wall a blocked, 2-light Tudor-arched stone
Front wing room has C17 panelling with small ovolo-moulded
panels. Stone chamfered fireplace with very slightly curved
head and pyramid stops; 2 rows of herringbone tiling in
fire-back. Ceiling has plain beams and joists. To left of
fireplace a garderobe with small round-arched stone window;
beneath it a barrel-vaulted stone drain flushed by a natural
spring. Chamfered, round-arched stone doorway with
diagonal-cut stops leading into C15 upper end room.
Gatehouse has large, moulded stone doorway in rear wall with
attached shafts supporting a 4-centred arch. Between it and
the front door is a piece of moulded wood ceiling like that in
the rear wing room.
On first floor, stair passage has 4 stone doorways with
4-centred arches, 3 of them chamfered with pyramid stops.
Doorway to wing has hollow and ogee moulding; claw-like stops.
The 2 window rooms were combined c1970; partition had studs
like those in hall with horizontal laths let into grooves in
their sides. Continuous arch-braced roof with 2 tiers of
unchamfered through-purlins; staight collars with moulded
braces; moulded wall-plates. Room at the front has 2 tiers of
arched windbraces. Each room has a stone fireplace with
chamfered surround and pyramid stops, the top corners rounded;
front room fireplace is in front wall; rear room one in rear
wall. The latter's chimney slightly overlaps a C16 window next
to it. Upper room of gatehouse has in rear wall a blocked
stone C16 window with 2 Tudor-arched lights; hooks for
internal shutters.
HISTORICAL NOTE: the house belonged to Pilton Priory at the
Dissolution, when it passed to the Bret family, who held it
until 1593. Robert Bret (d.1540), was the last steward of the
priory, and his widow, Thomasine, seems to have acquired the
freehold soon afterwards. They are probably Robert's initials
that appear on the window of the cross-wing.
There is a common assumption that this was the prior's house
in C15, but evidence is lacking and the N wall of the Parish
Church of St Mary (qv) bears marks of what are generally
believed to be the former priory buildings.
Bull House is one of the best-preserved late medieval houses
in Devon, and has been carefully restored.
(Corney ML: The Bull House, Pilton: Privately published:
1985-; The Architectural Review: Rudd JH: Bull Hill House,
North Devon (article): 1925-: 178-84; Reed MA: Pilton, its
Past and Present: Barnstaple: 1985-: 23, 47, 67, 151-9).

Listing NGR: SS5561834118

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