One of Devon’s hidden gems will be open to the public for the first time in its 250-year history as part of a national heritage event.

Newly refurbished Rockbeare Manor, just outside Exeter, will open its historically important grounds and Grade I listed house from noon until 4pm on Sunday, September 11, as part of the 2016 National Heritage Open Day.

There will be a parkland nature trail, activities for the children, tours of the house and gardens and a chance to find out about the history of the property. Refreshments will be available and people are encouraged to bring a picnic and enjoy the manor’s beautiful parkland.

The National Heritage Open Day festival was established to throw open the doors to historic monuments and buildings across Europe, in particular those normally closed to the public. 

Aimée Spencer, Director of Events at Rockbeare Manor, said:

Over the last 11 months we have been working to refurbish this beautiful house to create the perfect wedding and special events venue. When we were given the opportunity to open as part of the National Heritage Days we thought it would be a great chance for local people to visit. Naturally, there has been a certain amount of intrigue surrounding the refurbishment of this prominent house.

We have taken a great deal of care to restore the house with love and attention to detail and of course our parkland and gardens will be a real attraction.

She added:

We’re delighted to be working with the countryside team from East Devon District Council to lay on some fun things for children to do, including making clay faces, creating stick men, and following a discovery trail.

Councillor Iain Chubb, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for the environment, said:

Our heritage and planning staff worked closely with Rockbeare Manor to deliver a refurbishment of the highest quality, advising on local apple varieties for the new orchard, for example. Our Growth Point and Countryside teams have partnered with the new owner to run this event, because the historic manor and landscaped parkland is such an important asset to the growing East Devon community.

Rockbeare Manor was built around 1760 for an Exeter merchant named Sir John Duntze. It went on to be sold to the Nation family in 1855 and has remained in that family ever since, passing from generation to generation.

The grounds are of great historical significance and are listed in the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. They feature a lake, formal and informal gardens, and extensive parkland which includes a seven-metre diameter oak tree, believed to be the largest oak tree in Devon and third largest in England.