Venton Manor
Venton, Dartington

NGR:SX 7510 6050

First mentioned in 1242, Venton’s name means ‘marshy farm’.  Its early history is unknown, though it may have been part of the Manor of Dartington.  By the later C15, it was in the occupation of the Gibbes family, who were either leaseholders or freeholders.  Three generations of the family from the 1470s to the 1530s are well-documented, as they had a small private army and on several occasions attacked their neighbours, often driving away stock and purloining valuables.  One one occasion, they attacked the nearby village of Rattery, besieging the church and threatening to kill the Rector.  For this and other misdemeanours, they were brought before the Court of Star Chamber in London several times, the proceedings at which are recorded.  The later history of the site is more peaceful, the buildings having been used as a farm since the C18.

Description:

Extensive buildings now of five occupancies, of a once larger courtyard mansion.  These lie on a gently sloping, north-facing site overlooking a shallow valley.  The principal buildings are ranged around a rectangular courtyard, fronting the former medieval road from Totnes to Rattery, now a cul-de-sac.  This courtyard had a great hall on its north-west side, flanked by a storage barn on its south-east side; both being linked by a long service and lodgings range on the south-west side.  A curtain wall formerly containing a gatehouse, linked the hall and barn at the north-east side of the courtyard, facing the road.
Other buildings to the west include a large thatched threshing barn of C17 or earlier date, now a separate house.  A small fishpond lies in the valley to the north-east; the track down the valley passing over its dam.

Dating:

1C15.  Construction of the hall, and possibly the storage barn.

2Later C15?  Possible detached kitchen constructed at south-east end of south-west range.

3Late C15-early C16.  Parts of the service/lodgings range and the gatehouse range built, with possible modifications to the hall range.

4C17.  Kitchen constructed at north-west end of lodgings range, large detached threshing barn built to west of house.

5Circa 1700.  Western projecting end of service range remodelled, with a big upper chamber lit with cruciform timber windows.
Large terraced formal garden laid out, overlooking the house to its south-west.  Two walled gardens alongside are probably of the same date.

Conclusions:

Venton is a complex site with potential for further important discoveries.
The high quality carved stonework features suggest great wealth in the later C15 to mid-C17.  The clear historical evidence for the employment of armed retainers in the early C16 may be supported by the presence of several heated lodging chambers in the south-east range.