Treasures from Knowle to be saved before demolition

PUBLISHED: 11:40 20 February 2017

A tile at Knowle showing children on a see-saw

A tile at Knowle showing children on a see-saw


Some of Knowle’s historic treasures are set to be donated to Sidmouth Museum and displayed to the public for the first time.

A fire place at Knowle decorated with Delft tilesA fire place at Knowle decorated with Delft tiles

East Devon District Council (EDDC) – which currently uses the former hotel as its HQ, but plans to relocate to Exmouth and Honiton – will hand over a rare tiled fireplace and other tiles.

And developer PegasusLife, if goes ahead with its purchase of the site, is set to donate a block from a marble fireplace and a panel of wallpaper to the museum.

The parties made the promises in a contract that was published last month after a drawn-out Freedom of Information battle.

Removal of the artefacts will be carried out before Knowle’s demolition, although PegasusLife’s plans to develop the site into a retirement community were refused in December.

The initials of Richard Napoleon Thornton on a fireplace at Knowle, his former homeThe initials of Richard Napoleon Thornton on a fireplace at Knowle, his former home

The Sidmouth Delftware Tiles Group was formed to manage the project.

Acting chairman David Jenkinson said: “As part of Sidmouth’s heritage, these artefacts should be conserved to enrich our future.

“The National Maritime Museum, the Dutch Tile Museum, and the UK’s Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society have variously commented on the value of saving these Knowle treasures.

“EDDC is not equipped either to display them to the public or to protect them. Sidmouth Museum is a more appropriate home on both counts.”

A tile depicting a purple ribbonA tile depicting a purple ribbon

Research has shown Knowle’s tiled fireplace is a rare survivor of a British enterprise by Dutch pottery makers the Ravesteyn Brothers.

They had been made aware of British interest in handmade artefacts by William Morris, the famous Victorian designer.

The Ravesteyns’ tiles in the distinctive blue-and-white Delftware style can be found elsewhere at Knowle in an office.

The property also boasts a marble fireplace installed by Richard Napoleon Thornton, a generous benefactor in Sidmouth, who lived there from 1867 to 1876.

A tile at KnowleA tile at Knowle

PegasusLife promised to donate a block from the fireplace with his initials to Sidmouth Museum.

Visitors to the council chamber may be familiar with the wallpaper, AWN Pugin’s Gothic Lily, which is part of his design for the House of Lords. His original woodblocks were used to print Knowle’s wallpaper in 1970.

The work of removal and re-installation in the museum will be undertaken by the conservation specialist Andy French of Up-Exe.

A grant from Sidmouth Decorative and Fine Arts Society will contribute to the cost.

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