It’s about time we said something about Devon.
It’s full of wonderful things including a 16 sided house called A La Ronde just outside Exmouth. It sits on a hillside overlooking the sea and was built in the late 18th century for two cousins called Jane and Mary Parminter.
A La Ronde this Spring.
They came back from a grand tour of Europe and brought back a collection of items. They decorated the inside with feathers and shells. The rooms are arranged in a circle to catch the light of the sun as it moves around the house. They were contemporaries of Jane Austen and the Napoleonic War (the house looks a bit like a Martello Tower) and wanted the house to be passed down only through the female line. They were also Christians and built a chapel and manse in a similar style to the house. These buildings have very distinctive diamond and triangular windows.
A close up showing one of the unusual diamond windows. This photo shows the conservatory that was inserted between the barn and the house. This was taken down before the National Trust acquired A La Ronde.
A La Ronde also had a garden originally designed to complement the house. In 1995, the ha-ha wall was rebuilt in the garden and lots of pottery and glass were found from the time of the Parminter cousins which is now on display in the tea room.
It once had a thatched roof but it was altered in the Victorian period…by a man.. and it now looks even more quirky with a tiled roof and dormer windows. A bit like Caractacus Potts’ windmill house in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Rebuilding the ha-ha within the garden of A La Ronde tea cups, jars and other pottery contemporary with the original house were recovered during the work.
The house is very popular and it would be easy for this unique place to be damaged by too much love so the National Trust commissioned a Conservation Management Plan and the building historians Bob and James worked with the property team, the archaeologist and the curator and wrote one for us.
The NT is gradually creating CMPs for each of its properties and this is how you make one.
First you need an introduction which sets out why and what the CMP is and how to use it.
Second is the Understanding the Asset section. How can you conserve a place if you don’t know what it is, who lived there. What was the place about? What is its context and how did it change and develop over time?
Third is what does all this tell us about how significant it is. Are there lots of buildings like this or is there nothing like A La Ronde anywhere. What parts of the building and grounds are particularly important.
Fourth what is the vulnerability of the place. What are the factors likely to damage the special nature of the building and grounds..access, parking, lack of or inappropriate repair, the town creeping up from the valley and altering the views?… What are the opportunities to improve people’s enjoyment of A La Ronde how can it be linked to its wider landscape and other buildings like the chapel and manse built for the Parminters just up the road.
The Chapel built for the Parminters just up the road.
Fifth is to create a set of policies which will enable people to use the plan like a bible and make sure that the spirit of A La Ronde is conserved long into the future.
Sixth is an action plan with short, medium and long term tasks needed to conserve the place set out as a timetable and
Seventh go through the whole plan and draw out the essential key to the document the Executive Summary set out in a couple of pages for busy managers to understand the essentials of the place at a glance.
With all this in place A La Ronde should be just as wonderful in another couple of hundred years.