Shute Barton, National Trust
I have lost count of the number of times I have driven past the entrance to Shute Barton and said to myself ” I really must go in there one day.” Well at last I can crossed that off my to do list, as this June I finally made it to an Open Day for Shute Barton in East Devon – an historic house owned by the National Trust.
For history buffs, Shute Barton is steeped in it – a Tudor era house with Royal connections there is enough here for it to take part in a Phillipa Gregory novel. With each passing owner the building changed, additions made, windows added, doors removed, even new floors.
Guided Tours Held on Open Weekends
The tours are led by very knowledgeable volunteers and we were guided around the house for about 45 minutes. If you are at all interested in history then you will not be disappointed. I didn’t take my girls on this occasion, at 11 and 12 I think they would have just about kept up, much younger and they would probably have been bored.
A Little History
Shute Barton started life as a medieval manor house and was greatly added to in the 16th century into a typical Tudor style. The start of the tour was outside where we were shown the remnants of the original house and evidence of old doors and windows where alterations were made.
We then stepped inside what would have been part of the great hall. The main feature here is the amazing fire place, one of the largest medieval fire places still in existence.
Wow! It spans nearly the whole width of the room, 24 feet wide and is 10 feet deep – large enough to roast whole oxen in!
I waited for the room to empty in order to take a photograph, and afterwards realised that it means there is no sense of scale to my picture – but take my word for it you are unlikely to ever see such an impressive fireplace again!
Now in the 21st century the house, having survived for over 600 years, has been donated to the National Trust and converted into a holiday let. So it is for this reason that when you step out of the old hall into a relatively modern lounge it feels a little disappointing. Fortunately we were encourage to take a seat and taken back to the War of the Roses.
Our guide told the story of six month old Cecily Bonville who inherited the house and became one of the richest heiresses in the country when her father and brother were killed by the Lancastrians.
With her marriage arranged, Cicely and then her children kept on the right side of the winning Tudor team. They enjoyed an extremely affluent life in the highest royal circles, which enabled to the house to be extended into a large mansion. However sadly for her great great grand-daughter the luck did not continue and the family’s riches were cruelly redistributed – she was one Lady Jane Grey.
The painting above shows the extent of the house in all it’s glory.
Shute Barton was sold to William Pole in 1560. The family added the gatehouse and then made other substantial alterations. The house was passed down through the generations
However there was no getting away from the fact that it was a draughty Tudor house and not surprisingly if you could afford it you would build a better one. So in 1785 work started in the new Shute House.
Of course a house needs stone, and what better source than your old house you don’t like anymore!
This explains the odd shape of Shute Barton, only about a third of which remains. John Pole’s father in law had recently built Stover House (near Newton Abbot), a grand Georgian mansion. So it’s likely his wife wanted the same level of comfort for herself!
All was not lost though as we headed upstairs for the finale.
The loft room dating back to the medieval period of the house. The roof was stunning and had us all craning our necks to see the carpentry involved and the system of marks used to identify the beams like a jigsaw when it was constructed. Somehow I felt Shute Barton had redeemed itself – and if you hire this house you get to use the room as well.
We were guided around the rest of the house and admired the tastefully modernised kitchen, bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and quirky alcoves – there is no doubt it would be a lovely place to stay and has been very well renovated by the National Trust.
Overall I really enjoyed my tour and am glad that finally I will be able to offer an opinion on the place if ever asked! To learn more about the history then head over to Wikepdia or to the National Trust’s website .
If you want to extend your visit to Shute then why not take a lovely walk around Shute Woods, I’ve written about a few walks that you can do nearby – click on the link to Walking in Shute Woods .
The ‘new’ Shute House is now divided into private apartments and not open to view.
Shute Barton National Trust Historic House Devon Guided Tour
Open Day Events
Shute Barton is only open to the public 4 weekends a year – usually May and June plus Oct and Nov.
Dates for 2018 are 19 & 20 May, 16 & 17 Jun, 20 & 21 Oct, 17 & 18 November.
It is free for National Trust members or £6 adults , £3 children (chrages may have changed since my visit).
The house tour is not accessible for pushchairs or wheel chairs.
After your tour you can visit the Church next door and enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of cake.