News >> Old Postern added to English Heritage's At Risk Register

Old Postern added to English Heritage's At Risk Register

old postern with scaffolding
Friday, 18 October, 2019

THE historic importance of the Old Postern, the home of Schumacher College for nearly 30 years, has led to it being added to the At Risk Register produced by English Heritage.

The Medieval Parsonage in Devon which dates back to the 15th Century has housed a number of well-known from the half-brother of Richard II, to the celebrated botanist William Keble Martin, as well as Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst when they first bought the Dartington Hall Estate in 1925.

The Heritage At Risk Register provides a snapshot of the health of England’s most valued historic places and identifies those which are at risk of being lost due to due to decay or damage.

The Old Postern was forced to close last year due to safety concerns around the roof however the College has been given a gift of £2 million from an anonymous donor to restore it.

Mark Taylor, Director of Ecology for the Dartington Hall Trust, which manages the Estate, said the project team are working closely with Historic England and South Hams District Council and looking forward to starting repairs very soon.

“We realise that we are in a very fortunate position, unlike many other organisations, that have valuable and beautiful buildings, in that we have the money to repair the roof.

“We will shortly be launching a fundraising campaign to fund internal repairs and improvements to the building as well as Campus development so that in 2021 the expanding Schumacher community can return to a fully restored home.

“What’s particularly exciting for us as educators who value traditional trades, is that we are also in a position to use this opportunity to train a new generation of craftspeople through this project.” In addition there will be opportunities for students and members of the public to understand more about traditional slate work in the context of a ‘live’ project. It is hoped that as many of the materials as possible used in the project will be sourced locally. Mark added: 

We’re delighted that the historic value of the building has been acknowledged by the Heritage At Risk Register.

"Preserving the character and the atmosphere of this building is important to us, particularly as we have so many international students who really appreciate it."

“For them the opportunity to study somewhere as special as this is a big part of their experience.”

The Old Postern was originally a medieval hall house, owned by John Holand half-brother to Richard II who was responsible for going to Luxembourg to get Richard’s new queen, Anne of Bohemia.

Toward the latter end of the 19C it was home to William Keble Martin, author of the iconic Concise British Flora in Colour, who made it his life’s work to paint and document every wildflower in the British Isles. He spent part of his youth at the Old Parsonage and it is believed he painted his first flowers for the book after finding them on the Dartington Hall Estate.

After falling into disrepair it was bought, as part of the whole estate, by Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst in 1925, and became the base for their “English Experiment”, a place for progressive learning and arts.

According to Historic England, over the last year 62 historic buildings and sites have been saved, largely due to finding imaginative uses for the community to provide new homes, shops, offices and cultural venues for the local community to enjoy.