Cawsey House, South Street

Great Torrington, Devon


Cawsey House is an elegant late-Stuart townhouse that once belonged to a wealthy merchant who commissioned one of Devon’s most accomplished plasterers to embellish its main rooms.

Free public Open Days: 7-8 September 2024

  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • CotCot
  • Mobile signalMobile signal
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • BathBath
  • DishwasherDishwasher
  • ShowerShower

Beds 1 Single, 2 Twin, 1 Double

4 nights from
£552 equivalent to £19.71 per person, per night

An early example of a merchant's wealth

Named after its original owner, merchant and Town Clerk Giles Cawsey, this Landmark was built in 1701 and was one of the first purely residential buildings to exhibit such splendour in early 18th century Devon. We think that one of Devon's most accomplished plasterers, one of the Abbots, was commissioned to model musical instruments and crisp trophies of arms amid foliage. The style of the building is a visual representation of the way merchants' lives were changing During the period. For the first time, their buildings weren't dictated by the need for the bottom floors to be used as their shops so they could now be used for entertaining as well as showing off their wealth.

Close to the North Devon coast

The location of Cawsey House means you can take advantage of its proximity to the North Devon coast and explore its many coves and beaches. A day trip to Lundy is also possible. Or there is Torrington itself, a bustling town on top of one of North Devon's steep green hills. You can pop out for a coffee or a loaf of bread in the morning or visit its weekly market, good shops or interesting museum. Torrington is a pretty, historic town and scene of a decisive battle during the Civil War.

Floor Plan


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Map & local info

Cawsey House sits in 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. Discover local walks for dogs with our friends at, the dog walks community. For more information on things to do during your stay at Cawsey House, 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.

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Essential Info
What you need to know about this building
  • Yes. You are welcome to bring up to two dogs. A charge of £20 per stay is made for each dog. Please contact booking enquiries if you have an assistance dog, for which there is no charge.
  • Directly from the street.
  • Umberleigh – 8 miles.
  • There is a parking area at the rear of the property (please note two steps from parking area to access the property).
  • There is gas fired central heating.
  • 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.
  • The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc.
    There is also a gas cooker and a dishwasher.

  • There are two bathrooms, one with a free-standing shower unit and one with a bath. There is an additional separate wc.
  • The internal stairs are not particularly difficult.
  • There is an enclosed garden but please note that we can not guarantee it is secure for dogs.
  • Yes this property is in a town, you may experience a level of noise associated with an urban location, as well as early morning and late evening activity from commercial premises.
  • 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.
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. A charge of £20 per stay is made for each dog. Please contact booking enquiries if a registered assistance dog is supporting one of the guests, for which there is no charge.
  • 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.

Cawsey House

This fine merchant’s house, with its elaborately decorated shell hood over the door, appears in nearly every book on Great Torrington and most books on the buildings of Devon. It served as offices or a club from the 19th century, but it was once a private house, and one that its builder could be proud of.

We know the name of the builder because he did not own the property but rather leased it from the ancient Town Lands Charity. His name was Giles Cawsey and he was Town Clerk of Torrington from 1698 until his death in 1712. He bought the lease in 1700 and soon started work on a new house: a rainwater head on the front bears his initials with those of his wife Margaret and the date 1701.

A renewal of the lease in 1712 records that it was a plot ‘on which is now built a very good dwelling house.’ The Cawseys were an extensive North Devon family, many of them living in the prosperous port of Bideford. Giles Cawsey was probably a merchant as well as Town Clerk and chose to build his house in the very latest fashion. Similar houses had been built in the 1690s in Bridgeland Street, Bideford, with fronts that anticipate the symmetry of the 18th century.

In these houses, for the first time, prosperous merchants were no longer living over the shop: the ground floor rooms were rather for private family use. Earlier town houses tended to be long and thin, with a yard at the side. In the 1690s they began instead to show their faces to the street with a central door and rooms on either side. In the Bideford houses the stair was still tucked away behind one of the front rooms and the main parlour tended to be on the first floor. At 28 South Street, for the first time in this area, the stairs are in the centre and the ground floor room on the left as you enter was clearly the most important in the house.

It is tempting to think that the fine plasterwork in this room and on the door hood was the work of the Abbot family of Frithelstock, near Torrington, one of whom was probably responsible for richly decorated ceilings in John Davie’s house, Bideford, now the Royal Hotel, although there is no firm evidence to prove this. To include a group of musical instruments in the design or trophies of war as on the door hood was again a mark of the latest fashion. (We had just finished restoring the plasterwork in the door hood when it was struck by a lorry. The work was re-done and has so far survived intact since!)

28 South Street remained the home of Giles Cawsey's descendants until the late 19th century. One of them, John Soley (great grandson of Giles' daughter Margaret) was seven times Mayor of Torrington between 1827 and 1865. After his death, however, his home became the Liberal Club.

In the 1920s and still owned by the Town Lands Charity, the house was subdivided for a variety of uses, which continued through the 20th century. In the 1980s, 28 South Street provided space for many groups, including a Masonic Lodge, the Red Cross, the Girl Guides and the Torrington Town Lands Charity itself. While it was thus performing a useful function in the town, the architectural character of the building was not being seen to its best advantage. With the existing tenancies coming to an end over the next few years the Town Lands Charity felt that it was time to reconsider the future.

At about the same time, the Landmark Trust had completed the restoration of the Library and Orangery at Stevenstone, near Torrington. These are of similar date to 28 South Street, and after extensive repairs, were to be enjoyed by a succession of people who would rent them for holidays, providing an income for their future maintenance. The Town Lands Charity suggested that the Landmark Trust might be interested in their building as well. While it was not actually at risk, the Landmark Trust felt that 28 South Street was a very rare survival, widely regarded by local historians as one of the most important town-houses in Devon, both for its fine plasterwork and also because it is surprisingly unaltered inside. Here, in fact, was an opportunity to recover the domestic character of a building whose only future, otherwise, was as an office. In the words of the Trust's founder, Sir John Smith, it would then ‘give people the experience, once common but now almost unknown, of quite a grand house, with a garden, in the street of a country town.’ 28 South Street was bought by the Landmark Trust in 1989, but no work could be carried out until the last of the tenants had moved out in 1990. 

For a short history of Cawsey House, South Street please click here.

To read the full history album for Cawsey House, South Street please click here.

To download a copy of the children's Explorer pack for Cawsey House, South Street please click here.


Behind the brick facade is a timber framed house

Cawsey House, 28 South Street, presents a brick face to the world - unusually constructed of two skins of bricks with the void filled with rubble. Behind this it is in fact a timber framed house. On plan the house is an odd shape, obviously built to fit an existing site, and nothing is quite square. A cobble passageway has been discovered running under the house, showing that an earlier building must have existed. A well, with a vaulted stone top, was discovered outside the back lavatory.

To everyone's excitement, the original balustrade of the stairs was found inside what looked like a modem partition. The scheme to restore the house was drawn up by the architect Philip Jebb who had worked for Landmark on many other buildings. Work got under way in 1993, mainly using our own in-house craftsmen. Sadly, Philip Jebb died in 1995, but the work continued under his successor, Alan Konya. A new kitchen was provided in the plainest room behind the original parlour, which is now the dining room. The remaining rooms provide two sitting rooms, one overlooking the garden, away from the busy street. On the first floor, apart from restoring the original dimensions of the upper hall, the main work was to reinstate the two rooms at the front (made into one in the 1920s) using evidence on the floors for the line of the partition walls and making a bathroom in the closet between.

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.