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A bit Downton

Updated: Jan 2

I had a message from a former student of Grenville filling in what some of the rooms were used for by the school in the 1980s. As we restore the house, we’ll have to think carefully about how far back to go – always a theme of restoration. We aren’t trying to create a school museum, but neither is there one point in the history of Moreton that we could put our finger on and say that is the point we want to recreate exactly. The house was adapted by each owner to their own needs and tastes. Clearly the house has to be relevant and usable today too, and safe by today’s building codes. But the more information we have about how the house was used, the more informed we’ll be when planning our works.

There are a few potted histories of Moreton out there, and one amateur historian’s account included this fabulous room layout. It doesn’t give a date, but sometime between the two wars seems most likely. Just like Downton. The butler’s rooms (where I can just picture Mr Carson), were in one of the oldest parts of the house, but you wouldn’t know it because they were converted into the school kitchen. The housemaids’ room and housekeeper’s room, next to the servants’ hall became classrooms.


Unfortunately there isn’t much trace left of the original usage, though we can hope to uncover a few clues as we eventually strip back the polystyrene ceiling tiles, blackboards and hardboard cupboards. There are a few fireplaces to dig out, including a huge one in the scullery, and one real gem. The bake house still has some fabulous ovens. Can’t wait to investigate these – anyone for pizza?

Hopefully we’ll be able to put together a similar room plan (or plans) from the school days. Lots of the rooms still have blackboards, display boards and lockers, which tell the story pretty well. The fire alarm panel has a giant handbook with a bunch of escape routes showing what the different rooms might have been in the late 2000s, and I think the kindergarten and primary classrooms, as well as the third floor attic rooms were quite recent additions, so there are several redesigns to map out during the school days.

If anyone wants to claim their display material, circa 2009, by the way, there’s only a little bit left. I find the tooth anatomy posters a bit creepy, but particularly like the ‘fairytale homes’ board. We might keep that. And if you scrawled your name on a wall in a dorm room….we know who you are!

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Moreton House, Abbotsham Road, Bideford, Devon, EX39 3QW

moretonhousedevon@gmail.com

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