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Great House
Colyton, DevonSold

Great House

Designer: Ros Byam Shaw
"An attractive but puzzling exterior... handsomely faced with flint chequerwork", Pevsner, Devon

This elegant, wisteria-covered mid-16th century house sits in the centre of the pretty town of Colyton, close to south Devon’s beautiful coastline. Unfolding over 4,000 sq ft and surrounded by walled gardens, the Grade II*-listed Elizabethan house has been restored and decorated by the current owners. Unique original features have been preserved, such as oak panelling dating to c.1600, leaded windows, and flagstone floors. Contemporary interventions are timeless, including Colefax and Fowler wallpaper, and various Farrow and Ball colours.

Its garden is complete with a swimming pool, a summer house, a small orchard stocked with mulberry, cherries and apples, and raised vegetable patches. A quiet and private oasis, the garden has views across the town, over hills and mature trees, and feels remarkably rural given its central location.

Setting the Scene

As part of extensive works to restore the house, it was re-roofed, the leaded windows were comprehensively restored, and new breathable lime mortar was applied. Once built as a grand home for a prominent family, the house was likely later abandoned for something more fashionable, from which point onwards it was tenanted by farmers. Internally, it is not in its original layout, but this has allowed for more open spaces, such as the large and airy kitchen and dining room.

The current owner’s love of English interiors and antiques has come together in the refined and creative interiors. She and her family completely fell in love with the house whilst on holiday in the area – at the time they had no intention of moving out of London. The owner has written in greater depth about her long love affair with the house. For more information, please see the History section.

The Grand Tour

A heavy front door of the house leads into a wide hallway, warmed by a working fireplace set in a deep inglenook; one of four 17th-century arched stone chimneypieces. Blue lias flagstones line the floor. To one side is a drawing room, with oak panelling that was likely original to the house, although not necessarily to this room. This room also has a large fireplace, now fitted with a wood-burning stove. To the other side of the hallway is a timber-framed sun room, with views of the garden. Having been a lean-to potting shed, it was fitted with new windows and is now used as an office in the summer months.

The kitchen comprises cabinetry made by a local joiner, painted in ‘Cook’s Blue‘ by Farrow and Ball. A four-oven Aga – which dates to the 1950s – has been updated and is now electric. Flagstones have been uncovered. An existing dresser painted a rich ‘Mouse’s Back‘ can be used to store and display crockery.

Beyond a cross passage, which has had doors added to create a boot room, is a larder. Found in the oldest room of the house, it has a lovely slate flag floor and sits adjacent to a workshop and a laundry room. There is also a guest WC on this floor, with ‘Fly Fishing’ wallpaper by Lewis and Wood. The oldest window in the house is found here – its glass mottled with beautiful imperfections and bubbles – has a scribbled engraving, dated 1799. The first floor is home to another living space; a library/music room, lined with bookshelves and complete with a bolection moulded chimneypiece, with a moulded plaster plaque set in the wall above it.

The main bedroom would originally have been a solar above the kitchen, with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. Later, it was converted into three bedrooms, all linked by a long corridor. The owners have partially reinstated the scale of the original room by removing the internal walls to create a large bedroom and bathroom, with a freestanding bath. A separate walk-in shower tucked away next to fitted cupboards, as well as a separate WC. The room now benefits from the row of stone mullion windows and is wonderfully light as a result. The walls are lined with pleasing Colefax and Fowler ‘Bowood’ wallpaper.

There are three more bedrooms; the two at the end of the house share a bathroom between the rooms, which has an enamelled rolltop bath, and wallpaper by Canovas. The fourth bedroom has a walk-in wardrobe and an en suite bathroom.

The Great Outdoors 

A stone Tudor arch leads from the front of the house to the garden, where the lawn is edged with topiary balls of box. To the southeast side of the house, French doors from the garden room open to a walled garden with a terrace and lawn, all framed by floral borders and lines of pleached lime, as well as an avenue of hornbeam trees. Here there is also a rare, and listed, 17th-century stone gazebo that becomes the perfect spot for evening drinks and dinners in the summer.

A pool, which is in a brilliantly sunny position, is also sheltered by a tall brick wall and has a stone outbuilding with a pitched tiled roof containing the pool heating and filtration equipment.

An orchard provides lots of fruit in the summer and frothy blossoms in the spring. Elsewhere, raised beds form a kitchen garden, and include a bed of rhubarb, whilst two more are reserved for asparagus. There is a greenhouse and potting shed, as well as a stone lean-to, perfect for storing garden tools. A driveway to the rear of the house provides parking, alongside a double garage.

Out and About

Colyton is a charming town in East Devon, close to the county’s striking coastline. Its streets are arranged in a circle in typically Saxon fashion. The town is full of a wealth of handsome historic buildings, as well as a variety of independent shops and pubs. The Colyton tram follows the River Axe wetlands, all the way to Seaton where there is a pebbly beach. There are many bucolic rural villages nearby to explore, all nestled within the Coly Valley, in East Devon’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Renowned for exceptional open countryside and woodland, the area is a unique point where the two AONBs of East Devon and Dorset meet. There are excellent walking paths directly from the house, through open fields and woodland, up to the Prescott Pinetum and ridge opposite. A walk along the River Lim takes one down to Lyme Regis and the sea, and there are also paths across Ware Cliffs and the Undercliff. Sea swimming groups gather at Lyme (a 10-minute drive away), where calmer waters are sheltered by the arm of the Cobb, and there is also a gig rowing club, a sailing club and a boat building school.

Bridport is around 30 minutes by car. Lyme Regis is around 10 minutes’ drive away and has a great selection of independent shops, including Lyme Book Shop, a stellar fishmonger near the harbour, Papa Luca Vintage and Ryder and Hope. There is also a museum and a theatre for music, theatre, comedy and National Theatre Live screenings; it is also host to the Lyme Regis Film Society.

The area is renowned for local food producers and independently-run cafés and restaurants. Trill Farm Garden is a community of local organic market gardeners who deliver a weekly box of fresh vegetables and In My Back Yard delivers food from various nearby producers. Tom’s Lyme Regis is a restaurant on the seafront specialising in local produce and is great for a morning coffee with a sea view. Lilac’s wine bar and restaurant offers excellent food, and for pizza, there is Poco’s, which has an upstairs terrace overlooking the beach. Popular The Seaside Boarding House, with incredible views of the sea from its terrace, is a 35-minute drive along the coast into West Dorset.

The South West Coast Path is also easily accessible. Stonebarrow in Charmouth, owned by the National Trust, is a 20-minute drive away. The location also provides ease of access to the Jurassic Coast, a hugely diverse and beautiful landscape underpinned by incredible geology of global importance. In 2001 it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the outstanding value of its rocks, fossils and landforms. It remains England’s only natural World Heritage Site. The Jurassic Coast begins at Orcombe Point in Exmouth, Devon, and continues for 95 miles to Old Harry Rocks, near Swanage, Dorset.

There are some great schools in the area, including Woodroffe School, which has recently been rated as “Good’ by Ofsted, and Colyton Grammar School, one of the country’s top state schools.

The nearest train station is at Axminster, a 10-minute drive from the house, with direct services running to London Waterloo in around two hours and 40 minutes.

Council Tax Band: G

Please note that all areas, measurements and distances given in these particulars are approximate and rounded. The text, photographs and floor plans are for general guidance only. Inigo has not tested any services, appliances or specific fittings — prospective purchasers are advised to inspect the property themselves. All fixtures, fittings and furniture not specifically itemised within these particulars are deemed removable by the vendor.


The house is understood to be the family house of the Yonges, largely dating from the 16th-century. The house has a U-shaped plan, with a flint external walls, characteristic of the East Devon vernacular. The façade of the house is symmetrical, with mullioned windows. On the first floor, there is a moulded Stuart arms above the bolection-moulded fireplace. The Duke of Monmouth is said to have stayed in this house, and is thought that the arms were installed to show the family’s loyalty to their King. The house was built by John Yonge – an eminent Elizabethan merchant – and his son, Walter Yonge (1579-1649), lived at the house, where he wrote much of his renowned diary (1604-28). It was later published by the Camden Society in 1848.

Great House — Colyton, Devon
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