Poltimore House, near Exeter, has a very chequered history – a Tudor mansion made over in the C17th, added to in Victorian times and set in grand grounds; the seat of the Bampfyldes until its slow decline, via use as a school, wartime billet, hospital, care home and eventual repossession and abandonment, not helped by a fire and systematic looting of architectural and building materials.
Occasionally, groups are allowed to go round to look at the dark and mysterious ruin, which is now covered by an external roof and scaffolding, haunted by a noisy chattering of jackdaws. Entering from a warren of outbuildings down a corridor adorned with hard hats, one emerges into the Gormenghast gloom of the original Tudor courtyard – a real “Wow!” moment.
After time for the eyes to adjust to the darkness, one can start to explore the ground floor rooms that are accessible; sadly, the intriguing upper levels and staircases are all out of bounds. It’s difficult to know where to start – the place is full of peeling paper, dusty ruined plasterwork, blistered paint, random artworks and the odd almost normal space – a red-painted library and a green-walled operating theatre.
After all that excitement, time for a cup of tea and a bun in the café – on which whimsical note, I shall stop. (There are lots more photos, but I’ve run out of steam for now!)