Friday, 23 August 2013

Dartington Hall

Yesterday we popped over to Dartington Hall to have coffee with a couple of friends in the Round House. In the old days we would have gone to the White Hart but now Dartington Hall hosts more – and more popular – events they have had to increase their catering capacity. It is sad to see the White Hart so changed but the new Round House is delightful.
The Gate House. The Roundhouse (see picture below) is to the left.

We used to go there quite often before we moved to the other side of Dartmoor but this is the first time since we came back. Marcia has been to the Cider Press – a shopping complex and restaurant run by the Dartington Hall Trust – a few times to meet up with friends but not to up to the hall itself.
The entrance to the Great Hall (this and the next picture taken by B Rochard)
These names should be familiar to you. Caroline and Prue used to pop over from The Keep and it was in the White Hart that Jolyon confronted his mother in The Prodigal Wife.
You can stay in the rooms overlooking the courtyard.
The original hall was built at the tail end of the 14th century by John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon and Duke of Exeter. He was half brother to Richard II who was deposed by Henry Bolingbroke – Henry IV – and tried to lead a rebellion to reinstate Richard. This rebellion failed and John Holland was executed and his lands, including Dartington, became the property of the crown. Sir Arthur Champernowne, Queen Elizabeth’s Vice-Admiral of the West, acquired the Hall in 1559 and the family lived there for the next three hundred and sixty six years.
When the weather is nice there is no better place for lunch than under the canopies outside The White Hart 
When Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst bought the estate in 1925 the hall and most of the other buildings were derelict. They met when Leonard was studying agriculture in the USA at the Cornell University where he was elected to be President of Cornell’s Cosmopolitan Club (for foreigners). Finding that the club was burdened by huge debts he embarked on some money-raising activities which brought him into contact with Dorothy Whitney from Washington DC.

The Elmhirsts wanted Dartington to become a centre where the arts could flourish and that, together with some additional aims, remains true under the ownership and management of the Dartington Hall Trust. Click here for their web site.

The Ways With Words festival is held here (Marcia has spoken at that festival a few times) and it is probable that the artistic influence of Dartington helps to ensure that Totnes remains to this day to be the most inclusive town I have ever known – you meet all sorts here and all are welcome.

On the way home we took to the lanes although we used proper roads going over to ensure we didn’t get lost which could have made us late. It may sound strange that we can get lost here but this area is criss-crossed by a multitude of lanes all of which look much alike. When we lived in Avonwick we used to buy runner beans grown in four huge greenhouses on a market garden somewhere in that part. Now, over a decade later, we have been unable to find it. Even if the market garden has closed down, I am reasonably certain I would recognise the big bungalow built near the entrance.

So I make no apologies for getting lost although, as you well know, we are never really lost. How can we be when we are to the south of the A38, north of the sea and somewhere between Exeter and Plymouth. Not lost – just a bit wumbled which inevitably reminds me of Roly the unwumbler in Echoes of the Dance.