Powderham Castle’s iconic Belvedere Tower will undergo stabilising and re-roofing work later this year, a major step in rescuing the structure following a ruinous fire last century. Standing tall above the Exe Estuary, this Grade II*-listed structure has been a much loved local landmark for more than two centuries, but until recently faced an uncertain future.
Built between 1771 and 1774 for the second Viscount Courtenay, the three-sided structure was the crowning glory of a major re-landscaping of the castle grounds. The three-storey building offered unrivalled views over the Exe Estuary, providing a unique vantage point from which to view the busy shipping lanes between Topsham and Exmouth. The Belvedere served as a ballroom for the family too, with a sprung rosewood floor – a perfect venue for the entertainments of the Viscount’s thirteen daughters. The Belvedere later became a gamekeeper’s cottage and also inspired the copycat Haldon Belvedere, at nearby Lawrence Castle. Unfortunately neglect, vandalism, and a disastrous fire after World War II threw the building into ruin; it has been empty and derelict ever since and has long been on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.
Following initial preservation work carried out by the current Earl of Devon’s father, the Powderham Estate secured Natural England grant support to bring this important and fascinating structure back from the brink, and to ensure its future. The preservation work, which will commence this summer, will involve strengthening the structure itself, built originally from rendered Flemish bond brick and Portland stone, before the installation of a new roof. The work will be overseen by Phillip Hughes & Associates, working alongside Miles Webber of Savills and Natural England’s Phil Stocks, who will closely monitor the works. The Powderham Estate will work closely with Historic England and Teignbridge District Council throughout to ensure that the work will be sympathetic to the local environment and the historic landscape.
Once complete, visitors to Powderham and the Exe Estuary will be able to admire the Belvedere for years to come. Charlie Courtenay, the current Earl of Devon, comments: “This is a terrifically exciting project for Powderham and the whole community, for which the Belvedere is such a beloved landmark. This preservation work will ensure the Belvedere survives for future generations, and it allows us to renew interest in Powderham’s remarkable Woodland Gardens. We are particularly grateful to Natural England for their support, and we have enjoyed working closely with them, Teignbridge and Historic England to do this important work.”