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Shute House

24 January 2012 3,899 views No Comment

Shute House, Shute

Description: Shute House : Grade 2*
Date Listed: 8 May 1967
English Heritage Building ID: 88152

Location: Shute, Devon EX13 7NY

OS Grid Reference: SY25569 96978

Shute House is a large country house in a landscaped park. It is currently divided into eight separate freehold properties with a further seven properties at the Stables.

The house was built between1787 and 1790 for Sir John William Pole who was married to Lady Anne  Pole ( Anne Templer of Stover ). Some time after his marriage to Anne in 1781, Sir John William Pole changed the family surname to ‘De La Pole.’ His reasons for doing this are not known.  In 1788, Sir John William bought the Lands of the Shute Estate from the Petres.

Sir John William Pole, the builder of ‘New’ Shute House, has a memorial in Shute church:

The painting of Lady Anne de la Pole was painted in 1786 by George Romney and has an interesting history. It was sold in 1913 and reached a record price at the time at Christies auction, of $206,850. Here is the news link…


It was then sold to Alvan Tufts Fuller, who was one of the wealthiest men in America owning Boston’s dealership for Packard automobiles. He was elected to Congress and later became Governor of Massachusetts. He was a great collector of art and when he died in 1958 part of his collection was donated to The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where you can still see today the magnificent portrait of Lady Anne.

There is also a copy of the painting in Anthony House, Plymouth the home of the Carew-Pole family

We have  found another picture of Lady Anne:
and a link about the Templer family which contains a reference to the De la Pole name change

Although this link to Anne’s obituary suggests that the De La Pole name change was an ‘affectation of antiquity’ !


(For this information, our thanks go to David Cummings who with his wife Marzenna and her sister Bozena have owned the central part (No’s 4 and 5 ) of Shute House since 1984.)

The old Shute House (Shute Barton) had been in continuous Pole ownership from 1560 when William Pole bought the house from Sir William Petre and leased 160 acres of land at Shute for 1200 years.

Sir John Carew Pole gave it to the National Trust in 1959.

The new mansion Sir John built, not far from the older building, stands in beautifully wooded grounds with views out towards Colyton and the coast.

The plan of this large stuccoed house is that of a square body with two wings connected by corridors. It has a slate hipped roof, parapet rusticated quoins and stringcourses. The front north entrance has a central round-arched portico with Doric columns. There are three storeys, a basement and five bays with sash windows with glazing bars.

Low flanking quadrant walls (screening service wings) with niches containing urns
and terminating in two storey, four bay pavilions, also with rusticated quoins,
parapets and hipped roofs.

The south garden front has 3:1:3 bays left and right with full-height semi-circular bays with
sashes, some retaining glazing bars. There is a central flight of steps with cast iron
balustrade. The first floor windows have iron balconettes. Set back right and left, the
rear walls of the service wings have blind arcading. The interior contains Adam style
rooms with moulded plaster ceilings, marble chimneypieces and a staircase with wrought iron balustrade.

The house contains a private theatre of circa 1900, in the north east wing, the moulded plaster ceiling and proscenium arch have been retained

Shute School c 1955



Shute House c 1902

A local resident recounts how even in the early 20th century, tenants of the estate used to go up to Shute House 3 times a year to pay the rent, in a room which was eventually turned into a small theatre. In return, they received a cup of tea. The house had a lot of servants in those days.

Shute House 2012:

Nurse Pearse: “Shute House was a school for young ladies. Dr. Bridie was at one time the headmistress and then a Miss Freeman took over and, at the end of term when the 6th formers had done all their exams before they went home, I used to go up and give them a lecture on home-nursing. They were nice girls and always came to Shute church on a Sunday. Old Mrs Newberry was living in Shute Barton Gatehouse with her daughter who was in her sixties” ( from Brian Vaughton’s Life … as it was)

Joan Freeman: I worked with Dr Bridie until she retired in 1947 and she asked me to carry on from there. She was ahead of her time in lots of ways now. She wouldn’t have dreamt of letting the children use Christian names. We never did, and I would find it very odd. But I was used to conventional ways, much more so than she was. But she started a very friendly, easy-going school, but working hard, enjoying life, enjoying the country. That was one of the great things about the girls, partly it was wartime, and they knew their parents were glad to get them out of towns. We only had a few day girls, say 6 or 8. I suppose they were safe here already and Colyton is so good – who’d want to go anywhere else? The school was opened in 1933 and built up from next to nothing. Dr Bridie had a school in Birmingham and brought down a tiny nucleus. Miss Robert-Jones who later ran Pippins the prep school, went round lots of families to tell them more about what Dr Bridie hoped to have as a school, recruiting people. I was brought in 1941. We could only fit in about 80 beds so it was an upward limit of 80 in the summer and a few less in the winter because one kept a small room or two for flu’s and the such like. This was inevitable. And so we were round about that for a long time, and certainly not above 100. A number of them had ponies and Dr Bridie let them bring any of their pets, which was a novelty in those days. The youngsters brought their guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits galore. Not many schools then had pets and this was a great thing.

After the war, we had 4 from St Lukes, the teacher training college in Exeter. The ponies were kept down at the stables and the children did everything, get their hay, provide it, break the ice in winter. One of the trainee teachers was staggered that the girls could do all that and were made to do all that and enjoyed doing it.

The philosophy of the school was for the children to grow up as children, while they were still children. To enjoy life and to learn what one could but not to make it a chore. Dr Bridie was so successful in making it a happy place where a lot of children enjoyed being in the country even though they were far away from home. They felt safe, I suppose. And they had a lot of pleasure. Later on in the sixties children seemed to change a lot and weren’t as happy. They wanted shops and a cinema to hand and didn’t enjoy country walks.

The girls were taught to use their freedom sensibly. They were sensible in those days. On Saturday they used to quite often go up just on the Beacon. The school and Shute village mixed very little really. The girls went down to the church always on Sunday but otherwise saw very little of the village. During the war we did get a Girl’s Training Corps and four girls from the village came and joined us, which was very nice. Dr Bridie was very liberal in allowing the girls to go for lessons down in Axminster at night and going out for lectures quite late at night (bedtime in those days for a boarding school was 9pm) Nurse Pearse came up and gave us first-aid lectures and examine for home-nursing.

The girls played hockey and very bumpy the ground was. I tried to change it to lacrosse quite soon when I took over nut it was difficult to get matches. The academic quality of the school was quite good without being brilliant. The kitchen of the house had previously been turned into a theatre which was wonderful for productions of all kinds, and they were very keen on drama. It was a great interest, a great entertainment and an achievement. And it was very good for them of course. Basically we were trying to produce people who would be very useful and people who would fit in. With the wartime situation, it was the Wrens chiefly that was the popular thing to get in although a few of them wanted the Air Force.

We had a cook, Miss Daley, who came up from the village and she cycled up.- she lived right out at Umborne. Life was very different for them once electricity came in the forties. We weren’t on mains water – we had a pump for the drinking water in the kitchen courtyard and another pump which was useful for the pets. We also had a pump of our own up near the Beacon for electricity.

Shute House had a wonderful view and the 2 big rooms, which had been the family dining room and the family drawing room, were long rooms.

They were used as Dr Bridie’s study (which would take all 80 girls), her own room and the school dining room. At times she would ask everybody in for a concert and everyone would get in – the children mostly sitting on the floor.

The following article was sourced by Derek Stevens from a local paper dated April 27th 1948:

Dr. Bridie’s Tour – an exhibition at Shute School

Dr. Bridie, formerly the headmistress of Shute School for Girls, has just returned from an extended tour abroad. Her travels, which lasted more than six months, included Tunis, Kenya, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Mozambique, North and South Rhodesia, South Africa and the island of St. Helena. She had the pleasure of renewing acquaintance with several former mistresses and girls of the school and met their children. Among other places, she visited the graves of Rhodes in Matopos Hills, Kruger Game Reserve, National Park, Valley of One Thousand Hills. She went to the top of Table Mountain and to the bottom of a gold mine, was present at a session of the Union Parliament, and saw and heard Field-Marshal Smuts the Prime Minister.

An exhibition was held at Shute School on Thursday afternoon of the many purchases she had made in those lands of abundance. Among these were pure silk, African ivory, ebony, Benares ware, native (Swahili and Zulu) caps and sandals, Zulu crafts and love letters, a leopard-skin coat, wild goat rugs, and native weaving from Zanzibar. There were also embroidered handkerchiefs from St. Helena, stinkwood polished articles, ostrich feathers, snake skin bags, necklaces of all kinds, beads, shells and seeds. Besides these, there were utilitarian purchases of sheets, shoes, clothes, sweets and groceries.

Dr. Bridie went out by air, so was, unfortunately, not able to take her heavy cine-Kodak, but she has taken hundreds of photographs, which later on will be made into lantern slides for the entertainment of the girls of Shute School.

Later on when the school closed, the people who had bought the house had concerts there from time to time, so people locally came to this lovely room. There are beautiful ceilings. First of all, it was bought by one man who was going to develop it for his family, dividing it vertically. It was on 3 different floors. It must have been very awkward in some ways, because it was a long way up, eighty something steps.  When is was finally sold again, vertically divided as it still is into private accommodation, nothing had been spoilt. The people who had the old dining room and a room which was decorated by the Poles in the Chinese style and was known as the Chinese Room, that has been decorated by someone with a lot of knowledge. What was the theatre has been turned into a house by itself. It was bought by someone who was an architect and who has therefore developed it. The theatre was on 2 levels, the stage and then a sloping floor and another level. In the past,on the other side they had used one long room as a ballroom where there had been hunt dances and such like there. At Christmas time the village would come to the house. There were Christmas turkey whist drives, when the locals gave a turkey or gave poultry and suchlike for Christmas gifts to be won. When it came to the Coronation, the village came up for the coronation sports and we had a rather amusing film of the sports.

(From Brian Vaughton’s Life … as it was)

Shute House – described in the sale details as “The gracious Adam style Country Mansion” was sold by auction at the George Hotel in Axminster on Thursday 7th August 1975. Below are some of the particulars provided by Messrs. W.R.J. Greenslade & Co. Our thanks to John and Anne Dean of East Lodge who provided me with a copy of the sale details and who bought their house at the 1975 sale for £12,000 !!

( If you left click once on some of the images, they will be enlarged. Another click will make them even bigger.)

The following further points of interest, some of which were taken from Dr M.F. Bridie’s  “The Story of Shute”, were kindly supplied by Elisabeth Miller:

The Race Course: The field lying to the North of the main track over Shute Hill from Ashes Lane to the top of the Kilmington Straight was always called the race course. It may have been larger than now as the afforestation is relatively recent. (Ch 9   P143)

The Curse: Source unknown. This curse was pronounced for the building of the new Georgian House in ” a field of straight green corn”. (Ch 10   P156 – referred to again in      Ch 11   P170 and P178)

The Lady Walk: This is described as a walk up to The Beacon. Locals understand it to be principally a walk to the orchard and kitchen garden of the house (the walled garden) on the North side of Haddon Road, now part of Rowlands. (Ch 10   P 157)

The iron grilles: these were fitted on all the ground floor and semi-basement windows as a decorative addition. Another supposition for their presence is that they were fitted for the Napoloenic Wars – or even protection against burglars. (Ch 10   P162)

The Coming of the Railway:  It is said that the 9th Baronet only agreed to the railway as long as it could not be seen from the house – hence the deep cuttings – and that there should be a “halt” near enough to Shute House to bring his guests from London – hence Seaton Junction, less than a mile down the road!  (Ch 11 P173)

The water supply: There are two  large underground cisterns on Shute Hill, behind, and on land belonging to, Haddon House which were reservoirs of water (primitive header tanks?) for Shute House. There are also three brick-lined uncovered “pits” in the woodland beside The Lady Walk (on Shute House land) which must have at some stage been part of the water-supply system.

The Grey Lady: There is a legend that the woodland through which The Lady Walk passes is haunted by the Grey Lady. Folklore associates the legend with Lady Jane Grey, but, as it is questionable whether she actually lived at Shute Manor House, it maybe that another lady ( a Pole?) qualifies.

The Coach Road: Haddon Road, from Shute village to Haddon Corner (known as Betty’s Ground – the triangle of grass and trees) is still known as “The Coach Road”. It then ran along the old track ( just below the “new Road”) to Mount Hungary and on to Kilmington.

The Stables:

My thanks again to Lis Miller for taking the time to provide me with this information.

Dr Bridie describes them as extensive and in the ingenious form of a horseshoe, neatly hidden from the house in a dell, surrounded by trees. According to the late Miss Monica Broom, whose father bought the house called Betty’s ground in 1930) and other local residents, the two coach/carriage houses were used to house one travelling carriage and one lighter vehicle for local journeys. The horses would have been housed in stalls built to the ground floors of the two coach house buildings, perhaps 6 in each.

There was a covered way between the coach houses, where horses would have been tethered between use in the daytime. “Footings” have been identified for this. Stabling for 12 horses is probably about right for the size of the establishment, bearing in mind mounts for guests, hunting, social riding, as well as travelling.

The centre house was the Groom’s cottage downstairs with space on the first floor for other staff to sleep. The stable-boys would have slept above the horses on straw pallets on the bare boards. The smaller house would have housed food stocks and tack, but when the school was established in 1933, the girls were allowed to bring their ponies – there were more ponies than the stalls could accommodate so the smaller houses in the complex were also used as loose-boxes.

The approach was down the carriage drive from the House and through what is now a private garden – the steep concrete drive came with the re-development in 1980/81.

If anyone else has any infomation about and/or photos of Shute House, please do let me know. Also if you spot any errors or omissions, please inform me – Rick Wood