The China Tower

Bicton, Devon


The China Tower, also known as the Bicton Belvedere, is located on the Rolle Estate above the Otter estuary near Sidmouth. 

  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • Fire or StoveFire or Stove
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • DishwasherDishwasher
  • MicrowaveMicrowave
  • RemoteRemote
  • ShowerShower

Beds 1 Twin, 1 Double

4 nights from
£358 equivalent to £22.38 per person, per night

A Birthday Present

This handsome, octagonal castellated Gothick tower was built in 1839 by Louisa, Lady Rolle, as a surprise birthday present for her husband, Lord John Rolle. Victorian garden writer J C Loudon described it as ‘the best piece of architecture at Bicton’. The tower is said to have got its name because Lady Rolle used one of its rooms to display her rich collection of china.

Botanical Gardens

The main Rolle seats were here at Bicton, and at Stevenstone, where we have another Landmark, The Library. Lord and Lady Rolle were passionate gardeners and together they created fine botanical gardens and a famous arboretum at Bicton. Today, Bicton House has become a college and the Rolles’ beautiful botanical gardens nearby are open to the public.  The Rolles were an ancient Devon family who amassed vast acreages in the county through marriage and purchase. They also had plantations in the Bahamas, their wealth augmented by profits from enslaved labour and eventually by compensation after Emancipation Act of 1838. When the Rolle workers were freed, Lord John Rolles allowed them to take over his lands on Great Exuma, held by their descendants to this day.

The China Tower had fallen empty and become a temptation for local youth, so the Clinton Devon Estates, on whose land it stands today, approached us for help with its future use. The Tower sits atop a pocket of deep countryside, surrounded by heathland and pretty villages just east of the Exe estuary, between Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton. The handsome red cliffs that form part of World Heritage Site, The Jurassic Coast, are within close reach. Sir Walter Raleigh was born just a couple of miles away.

Floor Plans


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Map & local info

The China Tower sits in a wooded knoll above the Rolle Estate, surrounded by countryside and heathland. The stunning Jurassic Coast and Otter Estuary Reserve are within easy reach of here and perfect for fossil and wildlife enthusiasts to explore.  

Take a stroll around the magnificent botanical gardens at Bicton Park, which provides a range of activities for all. If you are feeling more active, follow Exe Trail cycling routes to explore the area. It is possible to cycle to Exeter Quay, where there are plenty of coffee shops, bars and antique shops to explore. 

A La Ronde, a unique 16-sided house built for the spinster sisters Jane and Mary Parminter, is close by.

Powderham Castle, still the family home of the Earl and Countess of Devon, is located just outside Exeter, beside the Exe estuary. Six hundred years of history are contained within the walls of one of England's oldest family homes.

For more information on things to do during your stay at The China Tower, please see our Pinterest page.

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.



Clear directions
What you need to know about this building
  • Yes.  You are welcome to walk or exercise your dog along the access drive between The China Tower and the main road, but due to forestry operations, pheasant rearing and deer management the estate ask that you do not enter the woodland in which The China Tower is situated.
  • Via a gravel track from the main road.
  • Exmouth – 7 miles.
  • There are two (possibly three) parking spaces alongside the priory wall approximately 20m from the Landmark.
  • There is an Air Source Heat Pump system and a solid fuel stove in the sitting room.
  • Unfortunately, there is currently no arrangement for the purchase and delivery of fuel, however details of local sources will be provided with your order confirmation.
  • To check up-to-date mobile network coverage in the area, visit* Due to the location and structure of many of our buildings, signal strength may differ to those indicated.
    * Links to other sites are provided for information purposes only.  We do not endorse any such websites and we are not responsible for the information, material, products or services contained on or accessible through those websites.  Your access and use of such websites remains solely at your own risk.  For further information, visit our website terms of use.
  • The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also an electric cooker, microwave and a dishwasher.
  • There is one bathroom with a shower.
  • The spiral staircase is particularly steep and narrow. 
  • There is a grassed platform around the tower.
  • Yes,  but we would ask that care is taken in inclement weather and that children and dogs are supervised when on the roof.
Booking and Payment
  • If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.
  • We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • The key arrangements will be included in the Further Infomation document which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • If your stay starts more than two months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy and The Bunk House at Llwyn Celyn must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • Our housekeeper will leave the key in a suitable place, the details of which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!
Staying at a Landmark
  • Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.  Further information on access when visiting Lundy can also be found here.
  • Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control.
  • Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Arrival is from 4pm and departure is by 10am.
  • We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s). If you are visiting one of our European properties we have standard European electricity sockets. If you are visiting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).
  • Landmark’s electrical systems have not been designed to provide continuous power from one socket over several hours.  If an ordinary socket is used to charge an electric vehicle, there is significant risk of an electrical fire and consequent danger to life.  Therefore, we are unable to allow electric vehicle charging from most of our Landmarks at present.

    We are working to provide Type 2 Electric Vehicle charge points at our properties where there is private parking.  Where this is available, please request this facility when booking the property to ensure the outlet is enabled on your arrival.  There is a small charge to cover the cost of electricity provided.  Please book this facility in advance.
  • No, we do not allow smoking in any Landmark.
  • Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival. Except for the Llwyn Celyn Bunkhouse.
  • Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
    Except at Llwyn Celyn Bunk House where a password is available in the property when you arrive.
  • A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide toilet rolls and a bar of soap per basin, but no other toiletries. Hairdryers are provided.

A surprise birthday gift

The China Tower was built in 1839 by Lady Louisa Rolle for John, Lord Rolle, a charming surprise birthday gift from a young wife to her much older husband.

Lord and Lady Rolle were passionate gardeners and together they created fine botanical gardens and a famous arboretum at Bicton. The Rolles were an ancient Devon family who amassed vast acreages in the county through marriage and purchase. Their main seats were at here at Bicton, and at Stevenstone, where we have another Landmark, The Library. Lord John Rolle inherited his wealth from the eccentric Denys Rolle of Stevenstone, who established plantations in the Bahamas worked by enslaved Africans. The Rolles were an ancient Devon family who had amassed vast acreages in the county through marriage and purchase. From the mid-eighteenth century, their wealth was further augmented by profits from enslaved labour on extensive estates in  Great Exuma and then by the compensation paid out by the government after the Emancipation Act of 1838. When the Rolle workers were freed, Lord John Rolle allowed them to take over his lands on Great Exuma, and these are held inalienably by their descendants to this day.

Lady Rolle built this octagonal, four-storey belvedere tower secretly on a knoll wooded with conifers, to surprise her husband on his 89th birthday. It is said that he has to be carried up the winding stairs to the roof terrace in his bath chair – from where he was rewarded with a view of Bicton House with the sea beyond. The tower gets its name from Lady Louisa’s collection of china which she displayed in one of the rooms. J C Loudon was impressed: he called it ‘the best piece of architecture at Bicton’ when he visited the gardens in 1842. 

For a short history of The China Tower please click here.

To read the full history album for The China Tower please click here.

To download the children's Explorer pack for The China Tower please click here.


Had been standing empty

The tower had no water or electricity; the ground floor originally had a range, presumably for servants to prepare refreshments, but otherwise there was just one small fireplace on the third floor. The tower was empty, derelict and with a leaking roof and mould spreading across walls when work started.

The tower was completely scaffolded and all the render carefully surveyed for cracks and repaired. Electrical cables to the tower have been buried, and air source heating installed. The parapet was re-rendered and the water repelling detailing improved. The rear service rooms were re-built on the original footprints.

A new stone window was inserted on the first floor. On the ground floor, an original flagstone floor was found beneath later screed; a new kitchen was made by the Landmark team and a tiny shower room shoehorned into the rear extension. The next two floors became bedrooms, with the sitting room on the top floor, which has windows in every available angle to make the most of the views. The Rolle Trefusis arms above the door to the stair turret were skilfully restored and the approach to the tower along Lady Louisa’s Green Drive re-surfaced. The China Tower stands ready to be enjoyed once more.

Availability & booking

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.