The Country Houses of Devon, with Hugh Meller
Hugh Meller, author of the splendid two volume Country Houses of Devon (2016), which details four hundred Devonian country houes
Country Houses of Devon describes more than 400 of Devon’s most notable country houses in lively detail. Their owners & architectural history, their estates, ancillary buildings & gardens are all included. Over 1,000 old and new photographs, drawings, maps and sketch-plans, many published for the first time, illustrate the text.
Hugh Meller spent 26 years working for the National Trust in Devon, responsible for its historic buildings, and 15 years researching the houses in these volumes. It is the first time that the county’s more obscure country houses, as well as the better-known, have been comprehensively recorded.
The English Country House, defined as a large house supported by its own estate, dates from the 16th Century. Its appearance was a signal moment in the shift from the fortifications of the turbulent Middle Ages to the great gardens and refined architecture of more settled times...
Hugh began his career as a criminal lawyer but after 6 years returned to university to read Art History, followed by an M.A. in English architectural history at the Courtauld Institute. He taught at the Open University and did a stint as architectural advisor to the Victorian Society. He wrote a book, London Cemeteries, first published in 1981, which, to his surprise, is still in print.
In 1980 he was given the job of curator for the National Trust in Devon. He was responsible for the presentation of the dozen country houses owned by the Trust in the county. They were a mixed portfolio ranging originally from medieval Bradley Manor to 20th century Castle Drogo with the later additions of A la Ronde, Coleton Fishacre and Greenway.
He worked with the National Trust for 26 years and in 1989 his book Exeter Architecture was published.
The Country Houses of Devon, published last year after 15 years toil, took rather longer than anticipated.
Hugh Meller lives on a smallholding in mid-Devon, in a ramshackle house notionally dated C1400. His wife is a publisher producing small books on building techniques using lime and cob.
Hugh’s current project involves memorials and the dead, but he says he can’t at present be more illuminating….