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May 7, 2023

DBG Summer Conference Saturday 3rd June 2023



Newton Abbot and Bradley Manor

Saturday 3rd June 2023


To be held at St Paul’s Church Hall, Devon Square, Newton Abbot TQ12 2HN

The DBG has never visited Newton Abbot despite it being one of Devon’s major towns.  Perhaps this is because, as Pevsner notes, the town has suffered from poor planning (including road systems) from the 1950s which has done no favours to the main shopping streets and ‘brutally disregarded’ traces of its unusual dual medieval origins as two separate settlements in different parishes at the head of the Teign estuary on either side of the River Lemon. The river was largely diverted underground though the town in the 1970s as part of a flood prevention scheme but still flows in the open, much reduced, through the Bradley estate.

The attractive Italianate suburban development of the E part of the town was mostly built after the arrival of the railway in 1846 is all too easily missed. Local authority, Tess Walker, will talk to us about some of this development and the local architect, J W Rowell and subsequently conduct us round Devon Square close to St Paul’s Church. She is the author of Noticing Newton Abbot (2023) collaborating with the artist Ewan Walker. Copies of the book will be on sale at the conference for £10 instead of the usual £15.

In the morning session before this tour there will also be a presentation by John Thorp and Jo Cox on Bradley Manor, the iconic and wonderfully preserved 15th century manor house on the western side of the town on a site of ancient occupation for the Yarde Family. The house is listed Grade 1. It is occupied by Alexandra and Peter Woolner, whose mother, Diana, née Firth, gifted it to the National Trust in 1938 when she was aged 30 and unmarried, along with a 68 acre estate. She did this to protect the family home and estate from encroaching development and to see that Newton Abbot residents could continue to enjoy a green space in a walkable distance from the centre of the town. This was only the second building in Devon acquired by the Trust. Diana Firth married Alexander Woolner in 1939 and was energetic in understanding the site and the building and acted as unpaid archaeologist and, at times, unpaid project manager during various phases of house repair. Apart from a brief period in the 1950s when the Woolners lived abroad, the house has been occupied as their family home ever since through many changes of NT organisation and staff. We shall visit it in the afternoon. Visiting the manor in numbers is complex as parking is limited and members should be aware that there are no loos available there. The DBG is very grateful to the National Trust and to Alexandra and Peter Woolner for opening Bradley Manor especially for us and an opportunity to see an important and rather hidden Devon house that is still a home.  If you are a member of the NT, please bring your membership card.


Getting there and Parking

The railway station is about 10-15 mins, walk from St Paul’s Church.

There is limited parking at the Church Hall.  This is a residential area with no parking to be had in the streets around that is not residents’ parking or limited to an hour. The nearest public car park with long-stay parking is in Osborne Street (see map) about ten minutes’ walk from the church hall, which is at the rear of the church. We shall need to return to our cars to get to Bradley Manor, about 10 minutes’ drive away off the A381 to Totnes. More instructions and directions the Bradley visit will be available at the meeting.


The Conference will begin at 10.00 a.m with our customary coffee and cakes, to be followed by talks.

10.30 a.m. Talks

Tess Walker – Joseph Rowell and some of his buildings

John Thorp/Jo Cox – Aspects of Bradley Manor

12.00 Lunch

A buffet lunch will be available to those who book lunch in advance [booking slip below] at the hall at a cost of £12.95 pp. Lunch can be paid for in advance by cheque or on the day by cash or cheque- regrettably we cannot at present take card payments or BACS. If lunch has been booked then it must be paid for even if you are unable to come on the day. Please book your lunch at least seven days in advance to give enough time for the caterers to prepare it.   If the weather is not good the hall will be available for those who have brought their own sandwiches


Exploration of Devon Square and Courtenay Park led by Tess Walker

2.45 Visit to Bradley Manor


For further information and a booking form, please email Jo Cox at