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Chapter 7 - The Grounds of the Halls of Residence

Thomas Hall | The Duryard Halls | Barton Place | Crossmead | Lopes Hall | Hope Hall

Thomas Hall

The Manor of Duryard is mentioned in Domesday Book. It was acquired and owned for several centuries by the City of Exeter which ultimately sold it in lots towards the end of the 17th century. The main house on the estate when it was broken up was Great Duryard House, built by Sir Thomas Jefferd about 1690. This house still stands and, although considerably altered in Victorian times, is the very attractive building known since 1936 as Thomas Hall. In addition to Great Duryard House, there were in the middle of the 19th century at least two other houses of distinction in the vicinity, namely Duryard House built in 1700 and Duryard Lodge, already noted as being on the site on which Reed Hall was built.

Thomas Hall is in a particularly beautiful setting with a stream running through the grounds. A very pleasant bog garden has been made containing many waterside plants such as Rogersias, primulas and Japanese irises. One of the outstanding features of the gardens is some splendid groups of Gunnera chilensis which has leaves six feet across with stalks of appropriate size (Fig. 59). Near the bog garden are half-a-dozen plants of the Chusan palm, Trachycarpus fortunei, about 20 ft high (Fig. 61) and a large bed of bamboos.

There are some very fine trees in these grounds. Of the two Monterey pines, Pinus Radiata, the one in the north-east corner is over 100 ft-high and has a girth of more than 14 feet. There are three fine specimens of the Atlas cedar, Cedrus atlantica, the tallest nearly 70 ft high; one is the attractive 'Glauca' form. Two  trees of Cupressus macrocarpa are over 100 ft high with a girth of 17 ft; the smaller tree on the north-east boundary is outstandingly well-shaped (Fig. 62).

There are several fine wellingtonias and, near the bridge, an Eastern hemlock, Tsuga canadensis.

There are also three Exeter oaks, Quercus x Hispanic ' Lucombeana' which are more or less evergreen in habit, more like the Quercus suber parent in this respect though the bark is similar to that of Quercus cerris. The special interest of these specimens, however, is that they have clearly been grafted on to Quercus Robur (63). It may well be that these are from the original tree raised by Lucumbe as all the plants of this hybrid that he distributed were grafted.

In front of the house there is a row of six trees. At each end of the balustrade there is a round headed Californian buckeye chestnut, Aesculus californica. The paper bark maple, Acer griseum (Plate 5a), which is attractive at all times of the year, grows between the two buckeyes together with a snowdrop tree, Halesia monticola, which flowers in May, and next to it there are a spindle tree Euonymus europaeus and a specimen of  autumn flowering cherry Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis'.

The east side of house is covered by a large leaved vine, Vitis coignetiae. In autumn the very fine colouring of the leaves makes a magnificent sight against the grey walls of the house. Close by there are two good specimens of the laurel magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora. Though its natural home is Florida and the cream petalled flowers 10 inches across are bourne throughout the summer months in this country and have a characteristic scent.

In the grounds, incidentally, is one of the few walls of typical Devon cob that the University owns. 

The Duryard Halls

Duryard House was built some 10 years later than Great Duryard but the style is completely different. Today it is the focal point of the Duryard Halls - Hetherington, Murray, Jesse Montgomerie and Moberly. The original house has been carefully restored in many cases using the original bricks, and the conservatory has also been incorporated into the building as the Astor Library.

The lay-out is a fine example of landscaping for a new road was cut through the grounds and the levels of the land were altered. By this means and by staggering the buildings, uninterrupted views of the old house were retained. In effecting this, the architect has been able to leave in situ some specimen wellingtonias (Fig. 64).

The site of the Duryard Halls is sheltered since it stands a little above the frost pocket formed by the River Exe. The buttercup bush, Cassia corymbosa,  is to be found growing against the walls together with Cestrum newellii and the night scented Cestrum parqui. In the shelter of the building, there is a specimen of the Brazilian shrub Puya alpestris of the Bromeliaceae. There is also a representative collection of hydrangeas and of Penjerrick hybrid rhododendrons. In the grounds of the Duryard Halls are some of the trees planted by members of the Exeter University Club in memory of students who died in the two world wars.  

Barton Place

This house was built by a Mr Merrivale in 1797 near the site of an old farmhouse, of which the kitchen, the dairy and old courtyard are still to be seen. The house commands views of the Exe and the Creedy valleys and was originally approached by an avenue of elms from the direction of Stoke Woods. Most of these trees have been felled in recent times and their stumps can still be seen. There are still a few standing behind the house and they make a noteworthy group being the smooth leaved elm Ulmus carpinifolia, seldom seen near Exeter, though it is a native of these islands and common in the eastern parts of England.

The original owner and his bailiff laid out and maintained the gardens and most of the mature trees still standing were probably planted during their lifetime. The bailiff's name has been  perpetuated as the road on the southern boundary of the grounds is known as Wreford's Lane. In 1829 the entrance was altered and a road was constructed from the front running in a north-westerly direction. The arrival of the railway in Exeter in 1843, however, prompted the family to make a further entrance in the direction of Exeter and this is the one in use today.

The Merrivale family remained in Barton Place until 1911 and the house was bought in 1916 by Lord William Cecil, Bishop of Exeter. From 1935 it was the home of Principal Murray. It was sold to the College in 1948 and was used as a hall of residence for women until 1965. Since then it has been a residence for male postgraduate students.

Of the trees at the Wreford's Lane entrance, the first specimens of note are a fine holm oak, Quercus ilex, on the east side of the drive, and another evergreen oak, probably Quercus X hispanica 'Lucombeana', to the West in the field in front of the house. Around this field are several large London planes, Platanus X acerifolia (Fig. 65). The beech trees at Barton Place are among the best on the University Estate and are excellent specimens, though this is not ideal country for beeches. One specimen to the south of the old avenue running down to the Stoke Cannon road has a girth of more than thirteen feet and is over 90 ft in height. There is a fruiting specimen of the Spanish chestnut, Castanea sativa, growing in front of the house, and beside it is a wellingtonia, Sequoiadendron giganteum. On the rising ground behind the house are several large yews, Taxus baccata, one with a spread over by 100 ft. Among the yews is a sawara cypress of Japan, Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Squarrosa', with distinctly blue foliage. This stands some fifty feet high and has a girth of five feet. The nearby tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, reaches a height of 70 feet. The cedar in this area is a cedar of Lebanon, Cedrus libani, and is 70 ft high. Other noteworthy conifers at Barton Place are a Monterey pine, Pinus radiata, and a monkey puzzle, Araucaria araucana.


In contrast to Barton Place, the house at Crossmead on the western outskirts of the City is of little architectural interest. It was built about 1893 and some additions were made in 1922. There are, however, in the ground of 11 acres which the University acquired in 1944, three very attractive Georgian villas which were built in 1829.

Certain deciduous trees on the boundary have reached full maturity and there are various conifers which have been introduced since the original plantings. The blues spruces around the lily pond and the swimming pool are very handsome trees and there are also one or two good specimens of juniper. Unfortunately, some of the trees of the later planting are too crowded.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the grounds is the scarlet chestnuts which line each side of the main drive. These, unhappily, were planted much too close together and some of the trees are, consequently, in poor condition.

Lopes Hall

The original house, known as 'Highlands',  and seven acres of land was bought in 1930 by the University College of the South West, from a Mr Tremlett. The main wing, designed with Dutch gables by Dr Vincent Harris was added in 1933. The house was renamed Lopes Hall after Sir Henry Lopes, a generous benefactor of the University College.

The grounds are at their best in the spring when the cherry trees on either side of the drive to the hall are in flower. The older cherries on the left-hand side of the drive were part of the gift of varieties Prunus serrulata made by the Japanese government in 1937.

The Lopes Hall gardens are surrounded by a fine belt of mature trees containing a mixture of conifers and broad-leaved species. On the north side, the Hall is well screened by a line of holm oaks, Quercus ilex. On the east side of the main drive there is a group of hybrid oaks, almost certainly Quercus X hispanica 'Lucombeana'.

A recent addition to the hall is the Ransom Pickard building, opened in 1967. The trees in the neighbourhood of this building have been preserved and have now been underplanted with a collection of rhododendrons and camellias.

Hope Hall

Hope hall was, as has been noted, one of the earliest halls acquired by the College in the neighbourhood of the Streatham Estate and an additional wing was added through the generous gift of Miss Hope, to the original house 'Homefield'. When Prince of Wales Road was constructed it went through the gardens of Hope Hall so now the former gate lodge of the house is on the opposite side of Prince of Wales Road.

Like most of the Halls of Residence of the University, Hope Hall is fortunate in being situated in gardens with trees and shrubs. There are few plants in them however which have not been already noted on other parts of the Estate.

Among the trees specially worthy of note are two wellingtonias and two redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens. One of the latter was cut down about twenty years ago and a number of shoots grown up from the cut stems. This feature, unusual among conifers, has already been discussed. Other large trees in the gardens are two Monterey pines and two Austrian pines. Again worthy of note are some bay trees and a winter flowering cherry, Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis', a white beam, Sorbus aria, an Azara dentata and two specimens of Pittosporum tobira.

The annexes of Montefiore House and Lazenby House, purchased later, are so named in appreciation of the generosity of the Hon. Mrs Ida Sebag-Montefiore and of Miss Lazenby, both of whom took a great interest in the University College.

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