Subject: Boringdon Hall
NGR: SX 5390 5775
Although not mentioned as a manor in Domesday Book, Boringdon was in existence before 1087, as it was one of three holdings owned by Plympton Church given to the Bishop of Exeter by William I. These lands were later owned by Plympton Priory. The name is derived from the Old English words 'burh dun' meaning the fort on the hill, which seems to refer to the nearby Iron Age hillfort of the same name.
Plympton Priory was dissolved in the 1530s, and the Mayhew family seem to have bought Boringdon from the Crown shortly afterwards. They are recorded as having been resident at Boringdon until the late C16 when Frances Mayhew married John Parker of North Molton. The Parker family lived at Boringdon until 1712 when they acquired the nearby mansion of Saltram. After this date, they largely lived at Saltram, Boringdon being first used as a dower house, later being let as a farmhouse. After the 1940s, it fell into disrepair and was partly ruinous by the 1980s when it was re-roofed and became a hotel.
Truncated E plan C16 mansion with later agricultural court attached to north-east, sited at top of small, south-facing combe, north of Plympton. Mansion faces south-east across level area, possibly site of outer courtyard. Large subrectangular hedged enclosures to north and west, latter with remains of multiple-terraced formal garden. An associated deer park of 1699, possibly within part of a larger medieval park, lies just over the hilltop to the north-west. It contains a large medieval fishpond and a 1780s triumphal arch.
1. C15 or early C16
Basic plan of house laid out, parts of Great Hall and parlour cross-wing survive from this time. Possible detached chamber-block to north-west.
First modifications, including addition of hall oriel.
Projecting staircase wings & tower porch added, possible gatehouse adorned with lavish Renaissance sculpture, addition of extra storey to parlour cross-wing and carved granite crenellations, fireplaces, door and window frames to hall, porch & wings. Rear link wing inserted between parlour block and possible Period 1 chamber-block.
4. Probably 1639
Great Hall remodelled with high moulded plaster ceiling & overmantel with enormous caryatids, upper floor possibly inserted into oriel. Some of the carved granite door-frames may belong to this period. By the completion of these alterations, the house appears to have had 22 hearths, recorded in the Hearth Tax return of 1674, paid by Edmund Parker Esq.
Stable yard laid out to north-east, with probable stable block on east side.
Two pairs of carved granite gate piers with ball finials and alcoves, added to drives associated with house. A further pair may have replaced the Period 3 gatehouse.
Terraced gardens laid out to south-west of house, possibly with 8 terraces originally, overlooking small pond in valley below. Deer park licenced to George Parker of Boringdon in 1699, probably included rabbit warren between park and house.
6. Before 1842
Partial demolition of north-east range of mansion & creation of farmyard to north. May relate to abandonment of Boringdon as a mansion and change to farm use. Much carved work including renaissance sculptures recycled in these buildings. Dispersal of period 5 gate piers to front drive, Plymbridge Road and Fardel Farm, Cornwood (in C20).
7. Mid-late C19
Addition of several farm buildings to south and west sides of stable court.
Boringdon Hall is a remarkable mansion for Devon, where E plan houses are relatively uncommon. The additions of the c.1590-1610 period are particularly unusual and lavish, probably relating to the mansion's acquisition by the Parker family between 1558 and 1603.
The fine Renaissance carvings in particular are noteworthy, such features being extremely rare in Devon, and the fireplace overmantel plasterwork is probably the largest in the county. The terraced formal gardens and associated deer park may both be of 1699, making them an unusually accurately dated ensemble.
Robert Waterhouse, BA, AIFA; Archaeologist & Architectural Historian