Historic Preservation

  • The First Library at Powderham Castle

    Professor Pamela Hawkes and students Caroline Dickensheets and Elizabeth Trumbell examine the framing below the floor in the First Library.

  • The Stair Hall at Powderham Castle

    The elaborate rococo plaster work and vibrant blue color each represent a series of modifications to the Stair Hall at Powderham Castle over the centuries.

  • The Second Library at Powderham Castle

    Student Dorcas Corchado examines finishes in the Second Library with Professors Frank Matero and Laura Keim.

  • The Exterior of Powderham Castle

    Summer 2018 Praxis students begin with a tour of Powderham Castle with Charles Courtenay, the Earl of Devon.

Documenting an Evolving Castle: Preservation Praxis at Powderham

University of Pennsylvania Graduate Program in Historic Preservation Cornerstone Praxis, University of Plymouth Powderham Castle

Powderham Castle is located south of Exeter on the banks of the River Exe in Devon, England. The 3500-acre site, comprised of a remarkable assemblage of historic buildings and landscapes, has remained in private ownership by the same family for 600 years, yet received little study to date.  Over centuries and generations, the family has adapted their seat, prominently positioned along an important trade route on the River Exe, to conform to contemporary  fashions and to accommodate changing needs. While the core of the original structure remains, it is embedded in a number of later building campaigns in which wings and towers were added, elaborate Georgian interiors were inserted, and medieval features were re-finished and re-Gothicized. The result is wonderful amalgam of more than 600 years of architectural and family history that is no small challenge to decipher.

In 2017 and 2018, 20 graduate students and faculty from the Historic Preservation Program at Weitzman School, in collaboration with the University of Plymouth and the Earl of Devon, completed documentation on the medieval and 18th-century portions of the Castle.  The project was initiated by Professors Daniel Maudlin and James Daybell of Plymouth’s Cornerstone Praxis, who saw an opportunity to bring together scholarly expertise in a collaborative model that merged architectural history, conservation, social and cultural history, and landscape studies.

By synthesizing information from archival evidence, documentation, and archaeological building investigation, the partnership has yielded original research that enriches the understanding of Powderham Castle’s physical and social evolution. Key findings of the research—assembled by Pamela Hawkes, Professor of Practice in Historic Preservation;  Laura Keim, Lecturer in Historic Preservation; and Starr Herr-Cardillo, Research Associate, Architectural Conservation Center summarized in this document—highlight the ways in which these methodologies represent enormous potential for future investigations.

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