Hemerdon House is a country house of 1793, extended in the early 1800s, and completed in the late C19.
Reasons for Designation
Hemerdon House, a late C18 country house with C19 additions, situated within landscaped grounds, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: as a small country house of c.1800, completed in the late C19. It is built to a restrained design with well-handled Classical detailing, and the internal fixtures and fittings survive largely intact
* Historic interest: built for the Woollcombe family who played an important role in the social history of Devon in the C18 and C19
* Setting: situated within its landscaped park which retains its pond, walled garden, pathways and some planting
The documentary evidence available suggests that Hemerdon House, which was built for George and Maria Woollcombe, was erected between 1793 and 1800. It began as a small square building giving onto what was then the Plympton to Cornwood road. In 1800, with the support of a local magistrate, the road was diverted, allowing the old road to become the drive to the house. This enabled the existing park to be laid out, and the house was then extended in the early 1800s. The coach house to the north-west of the house is likely to have been erected in the mid-C19. The lodge to the west, is a late C19/early C20 building.
There is no known architect for Hemerdon House which appears, from its irregular plan and its architectural features, to have been built as money became available. For example, the Library remained uncompleted in the 1880s, as evinced by the recordings of one of the Woollcombe cousins when as a small girl (in the late 1880s), she was allowed to play in the library which had a mud floor and no furniture. The library was finally completed by the Reverend G. L. Woollcombe, who came to live at Hemerdon on the death of his mother in 1889.
The Woollcombe family play an important role in the social history of Plymouth. Henry Woollcombe, the brother of George Woollcombe, was particular influential as an avid collector of art by nationally important local artists, such as Joshua Reynolds, and as the founder of Plymouth Athenaeum. Henry left his collection of books and paintings to his nephew, George, and it now resides at Hemerdon House. Henry was a keen diarist but unfortunately he does not refer to the building of Hemerdon House by his brother.
Architect: architect unknown.
Materials: it is built of rubble stone covered with grey render. It has a slate roof, set back behind a parapet with moulded cornice.
Plan: rectangular building on plan, with irregular internal layout, reflecting the gradual build of Hemerdon House. The principal rooms are to the west and south of the hall, with service rooms to the east.
Exterior: Hemerdon House is a two-storey country house with two principal elevations: south and west. The south elevation has seven bays and is arranged 2-3-2 with a central pediment. Above the upper windows are long recessed panels, perhaps intended for reliefs. The west elevation is of five bays, arranged 1-3-1, with a central pediment which contains the Woollcombe coat of arms. To this elevation the recessed panels are omitted, allowing for longer ground floor windows than on the south front. The main entrance is to the north elevation, and comprises a six panel door with fanlight above and side lights, within an open porch. To the west of the entrance is the north wall of the Library with two niches. To the east of the entrance is the service range.
Interior: the L- shaped hall has a plain staircase with ramped handrail and stick balusters, and a stair window to the half landing. In the hall are two elliptical arches between the entrance to the library and drawing room. The library has an acanthus leaf frieze and cornice, geometrically ribbed ceiling and a pink granite fire surround. It retains wood panelling to dado height and fitted shelves. The drawing room, with cornice and marble fireplace, occupies the south-west corner of the house and has windows facing both south and west of differing heights. The dining room and study retain their fireplaces, and the study also includes fitted cabinets to the alcoves. The fireplaces survive to the first-floor bedrooms. There is additional attic accommodation. Throughout there is good survival of joinery which includes fitted cupboards and six panel doors.
Setting: Hemerdon House lies within a small landscaped park.