Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

Check House, Seaton, Devon

Although Check House is featured in the Seaton Blue Plaques page here I decided to give it it's own page too, to enable addition of a lot more history, architecture and information, along with some more recent (and better) photos.

Originally called Calverly Lodge, Check House was built for Sir William Calverly Trevelyan and his wife Pauline, and was used as their seaside residence. Sir William had inherited the manor of Seaton, and he and his wife developed and made several improvements to the area. Pauline was a patron of the Pre-Raphaelites and they entertained many well-known people of their day, including Thomas Carlyle and Florence Nightingale. Their friends also included Tennyson, Christina Rosetti, John Millais and William Morris’s wife Jane. 

A Grade II Listed building, it comprises a large detached house in landscaped gardens, which overlook the sea, and a conservatory on the west side. There is also a 21st century extension to the east. The house itself is Victorian Gothic and was completed in 1866, probably to the designs of Benjamin Woodward, and the conservatory is possibly an addition circa late 19th century. 

Knapped flint and stone form the chequered patterns, along with dressings of red brick and stone, which looks quite striking in the sun. The slate roof is steeply pitched and gabled, with ornate ridge tiles, and the gables are decorated with shaped and pierced bargeboards, which always remind me of 'Hansel and Gretel' fairytale cottages! The window frames consist of chamfered stone with shouldered and cusped arches. I love the tiny quatrefoil window set into the exterior chimney breast, above. 

Consisting of two storeys, the plan and elevations are asymmetrical. As can be seen on the first photo at the top of the page, the west side shows a canted bay with pyramidal roof. It's quite delightfully higgledy-piggledy, and changes dramatically when viewed from even the slightest vantage point. Unfortunately, I was unable to see the south side, but apparently there is a cast iron verandah with decorative pierced spandrels and a glazed tented roof, which spans the south elevation and curves around the corner. 

Most of what can be seen is from the road, which is on the north side, and which shows the rear of the main building. The front entrance is to the east, accessed by a driveway, and this is where we see it at it's most asymmetrical and fairytale best. A gabled timber porch surrounds the door, with ornate bargeboards and finial. There is a three-light window in the gable above, another bargeboarded gable to the right of that, whereas to the left there is an exterior corbelled chimney breast topped with charmingly diagonal chimney shafts. A pyramidal roof supports the chimney...and is obligingly complete with a seagull on top!

According to the Check House website, there is an elegant staircase inside made from Beer Stone, with its balustrade entwined with lilies. That, and the verandah, call for a further visit to beg permission to take photos of.

When I first wrote this up for the Blue Plaques page I originally said that this was probably one of the ugliest buildings I've ever seen. However, I'd like to retract that statement since making a further visit to retake the photos. This time I concentrated on the original building, leaving out the extension and conservatory at the rear. And now I can see why I feel differently. The original house is quite stunning but the additions cause an imbalance by the extra square-covered walls. Maybe if those walls were kept simple they may not have detracted from the original design of the main house.

As it happens, the building is now a care home and in 2005 won the Healthcare Design Award for the best extension to an existing home! ;) 

These and two more photos can also be seen in the Photo Gallery album.

Recent Photos