Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

Cliff Castle & St Elmo, Seaton, Devon

This Grade II listed building was built in the mid 19th century; it's wonderfully Victorian Gothic style, and elevated position overlooking the bay, suggesting wealth and fashionable eccentricity.

Comprising three storeys, and a Mansard attic storey, the corners and front bays are flanked by round turrets with fake cruciform arrow loops and topped with machicolations. I had to look that last word up! It means openings by which missiles could be dropped from a parapet onto the enemy below...those rampaging hoards of Victorian peasants! ;)  

The building comprises two houses, and was probably originally built as two rather than one huge dwelling. Interestingly, this was a time when our own seaside towns were becoming popular as holiday destinations due to the political situation with France. Instead of touring Europe, people with means were looking to our own shores in which to throw up Cottage Orne and other delightfully neo-rustic buildings in which to stay for the summer months. This may even have been an early property venture as lettings to entice the wealthier classes to stay and spend locally.

Now converted into flats, there are modern windows in the balcony recess of Cliff Castle, with modern bay windows to the left. The later addition of a Mansard roof houses an attic storey penthouse. St Elmo on the right, above, retains a lovely arcaded second floor. The windows consist of delighful intersecting glazing tracery, and are surrounded by projecting arches.

One source (The Book of Seaton by Ted Gosling) suggests that it was built in 1825 by the local banker and builder Joseph Good. Originally used as his own residence it was later sold, at which time he added the crenelations at the behest of the new owner. He also donated part of the land to make the new Castle Hill road, which connects with the route to Beer village.

Joseph is also credited with building Calverly Lodge and Seaforth Lodge, but as these were commissioned by Sir Walter Trevelyan and Lady Ashburton respectively, and designed by well-known architects, I should imagine that the term builder in his case refers to owning the building company contracted to construct rather than design.


Situated on a sharp corner of Castle Hill, the photos above and below show the side elevation, along with Cliff Cottage tacked on behind it.

And finally here's a view of the buildings from further down Castle Hill. The rounded wall is interesting because the flint & rubble end was originally a WW2 defence Type 24 Variant pillbox. The embrasures have been infilled, although close-up the outlines can still be seen, and it was built upon to give it more height. A wall has been tacked on to the right of it and a roof added to provide a covered parking bay.

A  few more photos can be seen along with these in the Photo Gallery album.

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