The Library

Stevenstone, Devon

Overview

The Library and its companion, the Orangery, stand in the remains of a formal garden beside the ruins of the main house. Having a library in the garden remains a mystery to us, but to stay in these handsome spaces, even without the books, is an enlightening experience.

  • CotCot
  • Fire or StoveFire or Stove
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • Bath with ShowerBath with Shower

Beds 1 Twin, 1 Double

Sleeps
2 +2
3 nights
£324 equivalent to £27.00 per person, per night

Two pavilions in the remains of a grand arboretum

The Library and its companion the Orangery (which make up one one Landmark) stand beside the ruins of Victorian Stevenstone and the remains of a grand arboretum. Stevenstone was rebuilt by the very last of the Rolles in 1870, but the Library survives from an earlier remodelling of 1710-1720. Sadly we don't know who built it, but it looks like the work of a lively, probably local, mason-architect, familiar with the work of Talman and Wren. Why a library in the garden? It probably started life as a perfectly ordinary banqueting house and only assumed its more learned character later on. The Orangery, where there are two beds, stands about 100 feet from the Library Pavilion.

Carefully restored to make a handsome Landmark

By the time we first saw it, when it came up for sale in 1978, the bookshelves had been dispersed and the Library had been a house for many years with the fine upper room divided and the loggia closed in; the Orangery was about to collapse altogether. We put new roofs on both buildings and on the Library we installed a new eaves cornice carved from 170 feet of yellow pine by a local craftsman, Richard Barnett. The loggia is open again and the main room has returned to its full size. It is a charming spot to enjoy everything Devon has to offer. It enjoys landscaped grounds and a large lawn facing the Orangery.

‘What an exquisite building – who needs to go anywhere else?’

From the logbook

Floor Plan

Map & local info

The Library is close to Great Torrington, a vibrant heritage centre and welcoming ancient market town surrounded by rolling countryside. Rosemoor, a beautiful RHS Garden, is only a short distance away by car or on foot. 

Burton Art GalleryDartington Crystal and the North Devon Maritime Museum provide great entertainment and interesting information about the local area. 

Hartland Abbey and Tapeley Park and Gardens are two impressive north Devon country estates, both well worth a visit. 

For more information on things to do during your stay at The Library, 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
FAQs

Your questions answered

    What you need to know about this building

  • Does the property allow dogs?

    No.
  • How is the property accessed?

    From a short driveway.
  • What is the nearest railway station and how far away is it?

    Umberleigh – 6 miles.
  • Is there car parking specifically for Landmark guests?

    Yes – there are two parking spaces about 20m from the entrance. There is a flight of steps down from the parking area to the Landmark.
  • What type of heating does the property have?

    There is an Air Source Heating System and an open fire. There are only fan heaters in the Orangery so it may not be suitable for winter use.
  • How can I get fuel for the open fire or stove?

    Unfortunately, there is no arrangement for the purchase and delivery of logs, however details of local sources will be provided with your order confirmation.
  • What are the kitchen facilities?

    The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also an electric cooker.
  • What are the bathroom facilities?

    There is one bathroom with a bath.
  • Does this Landmark have steep, narrow or spiral stairs?

    The stairs are steep, spiral and narrow.
  • Is there a garden or outside space?

    There is an enclosed garden.
  • Are any rooms outside the main accommodation?

    Yes there are two beds (no bathroom) in the Orangery, which stands 100ft from the main building.
  • Is this a property for hardier visitors?

    Yes, the twin room in the Orangery is unheated.

    Booking and Payment

  • What happens if I can’t get to the Landmark due to bad weather?

    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.
  • How can I pay?

    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.
  • How do I create an account?

    If you have not used the Landmark online booking facility before and you wish to register in advance, you can set up an on-line account by following the instructions below:

    Go to the Landmark home page and click on Gift shop (located at the top of the home page in red).

    Select a gift (e.g. Landmark Handbook or Anniversary Mug) and complete the ‘Amount required’ box. There is no need to complete the purchase but this step is necessary in order to bring up the registration page.

    Click ‘Next Step’ at the bottom of the page.

    This will bring you to the ‘Your details’ page.

    Please complete all the fields (name, address, contact details and create an account). Click on the green ‘Create Account’ button once you have finished.

    At the top of the page headed ‘Your details’ there will be a grey box saying ‘Signed in’ and underneath this it will say ‘you are currently signed in as ….

    Here you will also have the option to ‘Sign out’. Please do so and that is your registration completed.

    Please return to the Landmark home page.

    To check your registration or update your account details at any time please ‘Sign in’ using the icon in the top right-hand corner of the home page.

    If you experience any problems in registering or setting up your on-line account please contact webmaster@landmarktrust.org.uk.
  • How do I pick up the key?

    There are various arrangements for picking up keys. To arrange to get into the Landmark, please contact the housekeeper at least two days before your stay
  • Can I pay a deposit?

    If your stay starts more than three 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 must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • How can I cancel or change my booking?

    If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • Do you accept payment in other currencies?

    At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • What if I arrive late?

    Please let the housekeeper know if you are going to arrive late and s/he will leave a key for you in a suitable place.
  • How far in advance do I need to book?

    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.
  • Do you have to be a member to book a Landmark?

    No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • Do I need a Handbook to be able to book?

    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

  • Are Landmarks accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility?

    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.
  • Are Landmarks only available as self-catering accommodation?

    Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Do you provide catering?

    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
  • Do you allow dogs?

    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.
  • Can I bring a pet?

    Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • What time can I arrive and what time do I have to depart from the Landmark?

    Arrival is from 4pm and departure is by 10am.
  • Am I insured if I break something?

    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.
  • Are Landmarks suitable for children?

    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.
  • Can I get married in a Landmark?

    Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • Can I hold a big party in a Landmark?

    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.
  • Are there televisions in the buildings?

    We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • Why are your access tracks sometimes difficult?

    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.
  • Will there be sockets for my electrical appliances?

    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 visting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).
History

The principal seat of the Rolle family

Stevenstone was, from the 16th until the 19th century, the principal seat of the Rolle family, once the largest landowners in Devon. The great house that you now see, lying in ivy-clad ruins, was the third to be built on the site. It is to the second of these, a late 17th- or early 18th-century remodelling of a Tudor brick house, that the Library and Orangery relate - part of a formal garden layout that was later swept away. We know no definite dates for any of the work, either for the main house or the two pavilions, nor the names of architects or craftsmen concerned.

They may have been commissioned in the 1680s by Sir John Rolle, who inherited in 1647 and was knighted at the Restoration, or perhaps by his grandson and heir Robert soon after he inherited in 1706. Both were architectural patrons - Robert was responsible for the colonnaded Queen Anne’s Walk in Barnstaple - and whichever undertook the task probably employed some gifted local mason/architect, who may well have been familiar with the work of Talman and perhaps Wren. Architectural details seem to indicate the earlier date, but it would still have been possible to find craftsmen to do work in the 'old-fashioned' manner 20 or 30 years later. Curiously, however, the armorial shields on the façade of the Library are not those of Sir John, nor of Robert nor either of their wives, but those of Robert’s brother John and his wife Isabella. It may have been this John Rolle who finished work on the Library, decorated the interior and at the same time built the Orangery.

So had the Library always been used as a library? Probably not. To begin with, the existence of a library as a separate room was not common before the age of the Grand Tour and Palladianism, say from 1720 onwards. But during the restoration it appeared that there had never been a cornice in the upper room, indicating that the walls had always been lined with bookcases, or at least had been so from the time that the interior plaster-work was done. Certainly by 1796 the Library contents appeared in property lists separately from those of the main house. By 1976 the bookcases had all disappeared except for a few fragments of inlaid veneer and these looked like 18th-century work. So Denys Rolle, third and youngest son of Robert Rolle’s brother John, may have been responsible. Denys was a likeable eccentric who tried to sponsor a colony of Devon farmers in Florida (nearly all of them soon returned home), a naturalist who talked to the woodland animals, who appeared to have no fear of him and a widely-read educationalist. Perhaps he needed a private retreat where no one was allowed to disturb him. It is pleasant to think of him there.

Denys’s son John died childless and the estate passed to his nephew Mark, who took the name of Rolle and who rebuilt Stevenstone in 1868-70. The Library was partly rebuilt at the same time: the roof was renewed, the front was rendered and steps were built at the back to give access to the upper room. The Orangery was reroofed in glass and became a fernery and a new garden was laid out around them.

But in 1907 Mark Rolle also died without sons. In the years that followed the land was sold and most of the great house pulled down, with the remains being occupied by troops during the War. After the War the house was broken up and the lead from the roof sold for scrap, the stables were turned into cottages and more cottages were built on the land. In the late 1940s the Library itself was converted into a house, dividing the upper room and closing in the loggia. The fireplace from the dining room in the main house was put in a ground-floor sitting room. In 1978, with the Orangery, it was put up for sale and the two buildings were bought by the Landmark Trust, as a charity that specialises in the restoration of buildings of architectural or historic importance.

For a short history of The Library please click here.

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

Restoration

The shell of the building was far from sound

Work on the Orangery began in late 1979, under the direction of the architect Philip Jebb, who had worked on many Landmark restorations. The builders were a local firm, R. Gist & Son, with help from Stansells of Taunton. First the front wall had to be shored up and the glass roof and the collapsing eaves cornice removed. It was decided not to put back the 19th-century iron roof but to reconstruct the slate roof that would have been there originally. A new cornice was made, reusing as many of the existing modillion blocks as possible. The chimney was rebuilt in stone instead of in brick.

The top of the front wall was collapsing and was taken down completely as far as the window heads. The brick piers between the windows, which were leaning badly outwards, were eased back to the vertical. A concrete ring beam was then formed to hold the shell in position, after which the top of the wall could be rebuilt and the whole wall repointed. The window frames had to be replaced, but the special draught-excluding sashes were repaired and reused. A new door was made, a copy of the original, and new shutters were made for the windows. Finally the interior was finished as simply as possible, with plain plaster walls topped by a new cornice and a slate slab floor that came from the ground floor of the Library.

In 1980 work began on the Library. The Victorian roof was dismantled and a temporary protective covering put over the building. The shell of the building was far from sound - when the render was removed, many of the bricks could simply be removed by hand and the outer brick face had not been properly tied into the inner skin. Much had to be completely rebuilt and in other places damaged or decayed bricks were cut out and new ones stitched in. The whole front was then repointed. Defective stonework was repaired where possible, or renewed using Bath stone from the Corsham Quarry. The steps at the back of the building were replaced with new ones in wood and the second of the two windows in the north wall was made into a door, to match the other one, which had been altered when the steps were built.

The roof was reconstructed to its original form, with a flat top, using mainly new timber but reusing as many of the existing slates as possible. But the glory of the new roof is the cornice. When the Victorian roof was stripped off, a few of the original modillions were found, cut back but still in good condition; much more ornate than the 19th-century ones, they had clearly belonged to a more elaborate cornice altogether. So a splendid new cornice was designed, incorporating copies of these and was beautifully made by Richard Barnett, a local carpenter and wood carver. Inside, the ground-floor arches were reopened and a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen fitted behind a new wall. Upstairs, no attempt was made to restore the main room to its original form as a library, since the details of its appearance remain unknown. It was simply restored as a fine room of early 18th-century character, with a new cornice, dado rail and window architraves. A spiral stair was built, its top forming an island bookcase. A grand fireplace surround from the contemporary dining room in the main house was put into ground floor of the Library some 40 or 50 years before and was then moved upstairs to replace the plainer original, which has been used in the Orangery, still in use today as an unheated summer bedroom.

This proved to be one of the longest-lasting restorations ever undertaken by the Landmark Trust, and to bring it to completion was a triumph for the architect and craftsmen concerned. Now it awaits you, to stay here in this remnant of the Rolles’ great wealth and prestige and to enjoy as they did the delights of Stevenstone.

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.