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Latitude: 51.0769 / 51°4'36"N
Longitude: -4.0563 / 4°3'22"W
OS Eastings: 256046
OS Northings: 132855
OS Grid: SS560328
Mapcode National: GBR KR.DD6W
Mapcode Global: FRA 26D8.MJY
Entry Name: Penrose Almhouses
Listing Date: 19 January 1951
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1385215
English Heritage Legacy ID: 485677
Location: Barnstaple, North Devon, Devon, EX32
District: North Devon
Civil Parish: Barnstaple
Built-Up Area: Barnstaple
Traditional County: Devon
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon
Church of England Parish: Barnstaple Holy Trinity
Church of England Diocese: Exeter
SS5632 LITCHDON STREET
684-1/5/199 (North East side)
19/01/51 Penrose Almshouses
Almshouses, originally 20 dwellings, each for 2 inmates of the
same sex. Completed 1627, 3 years after the death of the
founder, John Penrose. Later repair and refurbishment includes
C20 replanning with partial conversion into flats and some
features copying the original. Local ashlar masonry for
external walls, internal partitions of brick; granite
colonnade; natural slate roofs; brick stacks with old handmade
brick shafts with considerable repair in modern brick with
corbelled cornices (one original stack retains clustered
shafts with a corbelled cornice of moulded bricks; lead gutter
on colonnade is brattished and decorated with Tudor roses and
PLAN: 4 ranges of almshouses arranged facing onto a large
courtyard, with a passageway through from the street and
another at the rear, leading to allotments.
EXTERIOR: the street frontage has a 2-storey porch in the
centre, with open returns, flanked by lean-to roofs supported
on 9-bay colonnades on low walls and, to left and right,
projecting gabled wings containing a single storey boardroom
to the left and a chapel to the right. The parallel range at
the rear also has short projecting rear wings; former laundry
outside courtyard in rear right corner.
Almshouses single-storey and attic with gabled half dormers
and ovolo-moulded oak mullioned windows and 4-centred doorways
with oak door frames, the latter with scroll stops. Windows
glazed with diamond-leaded panes; plank and cover strip doors.
Continuous slate pentice at first-floor level. Each range has
a regular 4-window elevation facing the courtyard, the dormers
with coped gables and purple stone relieving arches. 4 doors
to each elevation, the 2 ranges parallel to the road with
additional wider passageways in the centre with oak frames,
the stops on the front-passage front frame carved with the
initials of John Penrose.
The Litchdon Street elevation has the 2-storey porch in the
centre with a coped gable and an ovolo-moulded arched granite
doorway inscribed 'John Penrose' and a C17-style timber gate.
Above the doorway a plaque records 'this howse was founded by
Mr John Penrose, marchant, sometime maior of this towne. Ano
Do 1627'. 4-light mullioned window above with relieving arch
and sundial in the gable. Tapering granite columns to left and
right. Passageway from Litchdon Street is lit by a probably
C18 sexagonal lamp, suspended from the pentice by an iron knee
The gable ends of the left and right wings have 4-light Gothic
stone windows with a king mullion and Y-tracery. Chapel gable
to the right has a bellcote. Gabled attic half dormers have
ovolo-moulded timber mullioned windows. Under the colonnade
there are 2 doorways and 4 (2 to each side of the porch) C20
4-light mullioned windows matching the originals. Floor paved
with probably C19 tiles and C19 or early C20 timber seat in
C17 style attached to wall. Oak door frames and doors lead
into the chapel and boardroom, with a wicket door into the
Flat-roofed C20 service extensions to rear of the almshouse
ranges on all but the street side, although the rear elevation
backing onto the allotment has original mullioned windows and
one half dormer partly rebuilt in brick.
INTERIOR: one almshouse inspected; thoroughly modernised,
although features of interest may survive behind modern
plaster. The chapel has a fine interior with a 3-light east
window and shallow, coved plaster ceiling with the remains of
a C17 scheme of decorated plasterwork with vine motif and a
central pendant for a chandelier. Fittings include C17
bookrests and benches with some C19 panelling and a C19
lectern. The boardroom has a C19 panelled dado with fitted
drawers and a somewhat altered fireplace.
HISTORICAL NOTE: according to a board fixed under the
colonnade John Penrose, 1575-1624, buried in Fremington, was a
dealer in slight woollen goods and mayor of Barnstaple.
The boardroom contains a portrait of John Penrose, aged 26,
signed Cornelius Jannsen and dated 1601, a portrait of Gilbert
Paige (Paige's Almshouses, Church Lane, Barnstaple (qv)) c1650
and some interesting photographs of c1910 showing the Penrose
Almshouses with residents in uniform including an interior
showing the double range which was used at that date in the
shared units. Also 1944 drawings by Allen T Hussell, 32 High
Street, Ilfracombe, showing the almshouses before addition of
the rear blocks, with privy blocks shown behind the ranges.
This is a remarkably attractive and ambitious early C17
complex, incorporating some interesting Gothic Survival
windows to chapel and boardroom and is the finest of a notable
group of almshouses in Barnstaple.
(Buildings of England: Pevsner N & Cherry B: Devon: London:
1989-: 159; Hussell A: Architect's Drawings: 1944-).
Listing NGR: SS5603732863
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