Heritage Category:
Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Exeter (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SX 90652 91592


SX9091 14/588 EXETER Bowhill

29.1.53 I

House. Built c1500 for Roger Holland, a prominent Exeter citizen, MP and Sheriff of Devon; it passed to the Carews of Anthony in Cornwall through his daughter; it was owned by John Carew, MP for Tregony and Regicide - it reverted to the Crown for a short time after his execution in 1660. In the care of the DoE and then English Heritage since 1976. MATERIALS: notable for an intensive use of cob, apart from the Hall, Parlour and Great Chamber which are of local volcanic trap. There is some use of Heavitree stone (Hall stack, NE stair and kitchen W doors), The external walls are (re-)plastered and the roof (re- )covered in Delabole slate, laid in traditional manner (random-width slates laid to diminishing courses, pegged over rent laths, bedded and torched). The structural timber-framed first-floor partition dividing the Hall range from the Great Chamber is double-lathed over studs and infilled with hay-cob (much restored). PLAN: Essentially a reduced courtyard plan, formerly of 4 ranges with a gabled projection to SE. The domestic range faces S overlooking the Moretonhampstead road. The Hall is at right angles forming the E range with its upper end to N. The kitchen occupies the remains of the W range and is reached by a (restored) pentice extending from the through passage to the S end of the Hall.

The ground floor of the S range has a well-lit Parlour, off the through-passage; a room formerly sub-divided into pantry and buttery individually accessed from the Parlour and from the pentice; a store-room and a large room to SW with a (restored) through-passage giving direct access from road to courtyard. The upper floor of the S range has the Great Chamber above the Parlour, formerly reached by a lost stair turret on the SE corner of the lost SE block; a large unheated Inner Chamber and a fine lodging chamber formerly with oriel window are accessed by a gallery and stairs on the W range. The courtyard was formerly galleried to the west and probably to the north giving access to lodgings on the W, E and N sides and to the principal lodging to the SW. DEVELOPMENT: The Hall evidently fell into disuse early. The ground floor of the S range was altered in the C17 (parlour extended by one bay to include a pair of large windows on the south side, screen between pantry and store taken down, Inner Chamber sub-divided). These alterations were partially reversed in the 1970's as part of a scheme to reinstate the medieval volumes. The major down-grading alterations happened c1800, concentrating living quarters in the S range with a new kitchen built in the NE corner of the courtyard. Then if not before, the galleries, the pentices, the Hall porch, the SE block, the N range and the oriel were removed and the E and W ranges truncated. The cob N, E and W gables were removed and the two latter closed in by simple framing. Glazing bar sashes were inserted piecemeal in the ground and first-floor openings and in the E gable. The whole was re-roofed, with the possible exception of the Hall. A small 2-storey extension was added to the NW in the mid C19 with plain cross sash windows (another installed in the W gable). The cob cross-wall in the centre of the S range survived into the 1960s when a number of seriously damaging changes were made. EXTERIOR: 2 storeys. East elevation, with 8/8-pane sash set in gable facing to left, is set above large rectangular window openings with hood mould and central king mullion, that part to right retaining two arched stone head; with sunken spandrels and that to left wholly replaced by 6/6-pane sash; pointed arched parlour door to right, then larger moulded pointed arch to screens passage doorway (formerly with porch); the principal ornament is reserved for the Great Hall, which has 2x2-light, square-headed cinquefoil and transomed windows, with head stops on E side; these windows flank a large lateral stack, the upper part rebuilt since 1976. Other elevations have inserted sashes (see Development above). South elev;1tion has, between restored kitchen doorway and east corner, label mould; over original window openings, some with cinquefoil-headed lights, and lateral stack to parlour with rebuilt brick flue. North elevation has early, C19 block projecting to NW, with sashes, and C17 restored S-light chamfered wood-mullioned window above moulded round-arched doorway. The courtyard elevations are particularly notable for the windows to the north side of the Great Hall, identical in form to those on the south side (see above); cinque~foil-headed light to north side of east elevation, which has pentice, fashioned after the original, which connects the kitchen block to north to the screens passage to south. INTERIOR: The principal surviving features of Bowhill are the remarkable roof structures in the Great Hall and Great Chamber. They derive from the jointed cruck system which covers the rest of the house, and relate to a small but important group of local buildings which includes the Exeter Guildhall, the Deanery and the Law Library and the later roof at Cadhay near Ottery St Mary.

Their distinctive features are: heavy moulded plates at collar level, coves above the collar and "intermediate" trusses (actually braces tenoned to common rafters which clasp the collar plates); carved bosses; wind braces terminating as ashlars and (lost) hammer-beam sculptures. Two simple Perpendicular capitals enrich the end truss of the Great Chamber. The Hall is a roof of 6 bays; the S range is roofed in 11 bays, 4 of them over the Great Chamber. The W kitchen range is of 2 bays. The "Oriel" Chamber has a simple wind-brace roof and was designed to have bosses. Hall fireplace is a reconstruction. Similar fireplaces (lacking shelves) survive in the Parlour and Great Chamber. The kitchen fireplace has a broad segmental arch which shelters a bread oven and, formerly, ovens opening from the north. All fireplaces have characteristic joggled arches and are built up of a fine local trap. The kitchen fireplace appears to have a framework of high shelves above it, possibly a form of smoke-dispersal before it was floored. The hall retains fine two-centred moulded trap doorways; there was another to the S range. Many of the original timber mouldings survive, distinguished by forward-facing chamfers to openings. HISTORICAL NOTE: The mansion has been repaired to reinstate the major volumes of the medieval plan, apart from the kitchen where a (re-used) floor was inserted c1800. The kitchen chamber is now accessed from the "Oriel" Chamber (1970s break-through). The roofs relate to a small but influential group of roofs in Exeter, notably the Guildhall and the Deanery and have affinities with the more sophisticated roofs in the Convent of the Presentation of Mary, the Law Library and at Cadhay. Bowhill was depicted in the foreground of the Buck Brothers' "The South-West Prospect of Exeter", 1736. It was the centre of well-known nursery gardens where the famous Luccombe (Devon) oak was developed. It declined and after World War II was engulfed in suburban development. It was finally bought by the DoE in 1976 by which time its condition was seriously unstable.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Legacy System:


Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, The South West Prospect of the City of Exeter,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

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Date: 02 Mar 2004
Reference: IOE01/05553/36
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Rex L. Haythornthwaite. Source Historic England Archive
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