History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Powderham Castle was begun by Sir Philip Courtenay in 1390, and it has been the seat of the Earls of Devon ever since. It took Sir Philip almost 30 years to complete this fortress on the banks of the Exe, but the castle that greets the eye of visitors today is largely the result of Victorian renovation by Charles Fowler, the architect of Covent Garden, London.
But if the exterior is a Victorian recreation of an idealised medieval castle, the interior is pure Georgian country house, with a profusion of elegant rooms topped by carefully moulded plasterwork ceilings.
An extraordinary centrepiece is provided by the staircase hall, which rises the height of the building. The walls are encrusted with plasterwork birds, animals, and a variety of artistic motifs celebrating themes of peace and love.
Amidst all this Georgian splendour there are still traces of the original medieval house to be found; in the room beside the great hall is an overmantle carved with the date 1533, but older still are the 14th-century arches leading to the kitchens and buttery.
One of the most enjoyable rooms open to visitors is the Music Room, created in 1794 by James Wyatt as a venue for the 3rd Viscount's coming of age ball. Throughout the house are the requisite collection of family portraits, including some dating back to the early 16th century.
Across the rose terrace at the rear of the house is the chapel, which boasts a wonderful 15th-century timber roof.
The woodland garden, in particular, is worthy of note; plantings of daffodils, primroses and Devon violets make for a profusion of colour in the spring. Fallow deer graze in the Deer Park, and in summer visitors can ride the special tractor-trailer cart to view them up close. Especially for the children is the new Secret Garden, full of animals of the soft and cuddly sort, including guinea pigs, rabbits, and pygmy goats.
The house sits in a lovely location beside the River Exe, and wonderful views of the Exe Estuary can be had by climbing the Belvedere Tower.
About Powderham Castle
Address: Kenton, Exeter, Devon, England, EX6 8JQ
Attraction Type: Historic House
Location: 8 m SE Exeter, off A379
Website: Powderham Castle
Historic Houses Association
OS: SX965 832
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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