Great Potheridge


Location   Great Potheridge
Year demolished   1734  
Reason   Fire  

Great Potheridge was built on the success of the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 by one of the leading figures of the Civil War, General Monk.

Though he was born in Potheridge in the parish of Merton in Devon his exemplary service took him to Spain, the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and the duchy of Luxembourg), Ireland and Scotland. His success in bringing about the peaceful return of Charles II was duly rewarded by the grateful King with a huge pension of £7,000 per annum (approx. £700,000 in today's terms), large tracts of land in North America, and a peerage; being raised as the 1st Duke of Albemarle.

The Duke now returned to Devon and set about building a house fit for his new status and wealth. The Duke spent ten years, from 1660 until his death in 1670, building his dream house - and yet it was still unfinished when he died. Built in the local brown freestone, the Duke and his unknown architect planned an H-shaped house on the grandest scale, building more a palace than mere house.

Though the Duke only enjoyed his palace for a few years his wife lived there until her death in 1734. The Dukedom had by this time already died out with the death of the Duke's only son in 1688. The question as to what would happen to this grand house was largely solved when a fire seriously damaged most of the house shortly after the Duchesses death. With no direct heir, no income and no-one to take on the task of rebuilding most of the house was demolished.

Externally little remains, though perhaps enough to show what imposing house Great Potheridge had become. Walls, stables, outhouses and a beautifully coped garden wall all hint at a greater past. The fragment of the palace which wasn't demolished became a three-storey farmhouse which contains two notable features from the house; a staircase and an overmantel.

The staircase was probably a secondary one within the house but it is grand nonetheless. The ceiling over it is divided into sections by heavy plastered ribs,decorated with fruit and flowers, which frame paintings allegorical of the Peace and Plenty following the Restoration.

The overmantel is in a panelled room downstairs which also has massive doorcases topped with curved pediments. The overmantel itself is of great size and carved in the highest relief. The whole surround is a mass of military trophies, pieces of armour, cannon, pikes, drums, trumpets and banners with the Monk family arms in one corner. In the centre is a medallion containing putti wreathed in garlands and carrying a royal crown. The work is of the highest quality with little to better it from the period in the whole of Devon. Though it's not known definitively who carved it, it is possible that it is by the same craftsman who also may have worked on the Drawing Room at the nearby Dunsland House; one Michael Chuke, who apprenticed to Grinling Gibbons.

Great Potheridge is another lost house about which so much is unknown. As yet there are currently no known images of the house - possibly because it was never finished and with the untimely death of the Duke and, subsequently, his son, it never gained sufficient fame or standing to become part of the social scene of the area, and so was never recorded.