In Devon’s Exe Valley, Ashley Court (Tiverton) is a Regency gem, set in ancient royal hunting grounds.
Lucy Peel shares why an Invitation to View visit to Ashley Court near Tiveton in Devon is a must in her feature article – ‘Small, but perfectly formed’, published this summer in magazine Devon Life .
This small but perfectly formed Regency country house in the beautiful Exe Valley, contains a wealth of period features and sits surrounded by unspoilt outbuildings and grounds, in what was once part of Henry II’s hunting park.
Originally built by Tiverton Wool merchant, John Upcott, around 1657, the house was subsequently enlarged, with the main building dating from the early 19th century.
Largely unaltered since then, its beautifully proportioned, high-ceiling rooms boast untouched period features, with ornate, carved fireplace surrounds, moulded plasterwork and fine 19th-century windows containing the original hand-made glass. Externally, a magnificent decorative caste iron verandah, with bowed centre and balcony above, spans the façade of this elegant house.
This is not a grand country house, pristinely restored and full of ‘important’ furniture, however it is precisely this which makes it so unique. For the owners, Tara Fraser and Nigel Jones, are determined to keep all the elements which so attracted them to Ashley Court when they viewed it a couple of years ago.
Ashley Court, Tiverton, Devon with Invitation to View – Find out more »
When they first walked through the door, they were amazed to find a house which hadn’t had an interior make-over since about 1905. So while they are intent on preservation, their aim is to keep everything that makes Ashley Court so special. Gentle and sympathetic preservation is their maxim and as far as decorating goes, less is definitely more. They want to keep the original paint colours and wallpaper and embrace the faded and decayed grandeur that makes Ashley Court so romantic.
Behind the green baize door, the service areas have not been decorated since the Edwardian era. Everything is intact, from the original cupboards, linen presses and other built-in features, to the servants’ bells and huge slate sink and pump in the scullery.
Outside, there are cobbled courtyards and an extensive network of pathways, which connect the service areas and extend well into the garden, drive and woodland walk.
The substantial Victorian stable block, still very much in use, retains all its original fittings,and the gatekeeper’s lodge, completely untouched since the Second World War, is a 1940s time capsule.
Visitors cannot fail to be charmed by Ashley Court. It is small enough not to be intimidating, and this relatively modest scale means that it is even possible to imagine oneself living there. In addition, the fact that it has changed so little, gives visitors a rare opportunity to step back in time and see the house exactly as it was a couple of hundred years ago, while also learning about the working life of a small country estate in the early 19th century.
For four days only in 2018 (14 March, 8 April, 6 June, 1 July, 1 August) Invitation to View offers the unique opportunity for visitors to be taken around Ashley Court on a tour led by the owners, Tara Fraser and Nigel Jones, who delight in showing visitors all the features, nooks and crannies which first attracted them to this magical place two years ago.
The tour takes in the elegant principal rooms and fascinating servants’ service area of the main house, as well as the atmospheric cellars, root store and apple loft above. The root store and apple loft are topped with a bell tower, and you are very welcome to test your bell-ringing skills.
Outside Tara and Nigel will show you the gatekeeper’s lodge, stables and courtyard, the extensive traditional walled garden and lovely woodland walk, which runs along the perimeter of the property overlooking the River Exe.
Tours cost £15, last two hours, including tea with biscuits/cake, and can be booked at www.invitationtoview.co.uk or via the booking line on 01206 573 948.
Invitation to View Tours of Ashley Court, Ashley, nr Tiverton, Devon EX16 5PD
Wed 01 Aug 2018 – Book Now »