Poltimore Community Landscape Project
A new two-year collaborative project (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council) 'Community and landscape: transforming access to the heritage of the Poltimore Estate' has researchers, Dr Oliver Creighton, Professor Henry French and Dr Penny Cunningham (Project Officer) from the University of Exeter working with the Poltimore House Trust∞ to investigate the gardens, deer park and wider historic landscape of Poltimore, Devon.
The project will establish practice for engaging local people, including schools, local societies, interested individuals and community groups, in presenting landscape heritage and for promoting community ‘ownership’ of research. Ultimately, the project will also produce a detailed piece of research that tells us about the impact of social organisation on landscape in a local and regional context. One of the main aims is to transform access to the rich heritage of Poltimore House’s grounds and estate for a wider range of people in the region including visitors to the house and its landscape and schools.
Activities and training for volunteers include:
- On site training events covering aspects of archaeology (including surveying, field walking and geophyscial surveying) and local history (documentary and map research)
- Open days that will allow visitors to explore the rich landscape heritage of Poltimore
- An interactive website∞ that will encourage visitors to experience and explore the historic landscape and its development through time
Poltimore House is a grand country residence and the centrepiece of one of the Devon’s great estates. A Grade II* listed building of Tudor origin that has great architectural importance and was occupied by the Bampfylde family until 1921. In the 20th century, the house was used as a girl’s school, then a wartime refuge for Dover College and later as a hospital, that became part of the Exeter Hospitals Groups in 1963. These phases of ‘public’ use ensure that the house also has a prominent place in recent social history.
The Gardens and Landscape at Poltimore
Poltimore House was also the centrepiece of a ‘polite landscape’ –a grand country residence embedded within parklands and gardens that were intended for pleasure and visual impact. Five hectares of the house’s surroundings are owned by the Poltimore House Trust and comprise a multi-phase landscape including ornamental canals and water features, designed avenues, an aviary/menagerie, rich historic garden architecture and a deer park. The project will be investigating the evolution of Poltimore’s landscape though time, from prehistory to the present (but with an emphasis on the 16th to 20th centuries). The research will highlight the impact of changing tastes and aesthetic sensibilities on the design of a tract of landscape. The scrutiny of designed landscapes showing continuous evidence of modification from the Tudor to modern periods is rare in the south-west and the project will produce a pioneering case study in this regard.
The Project will help to open up Poltimore’s gardens and wider estate as a community heritage resource by including new materials to enhance on-site presentation of the house and its landscape and by producing a leaflet that will include maps of the estate that will be available for free distribution and for downloading via the website∞
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